How do Electric Garage Heaters Compare to Gas?

How do Electric Garage Heaters Compare to Gas?

How do Electric Garage Heaters Compare to Gas?

Garages were once simply an area to store your car. However, now they’re so much more. This can be down to the size – garages built in British properties during the post-World War 2 boom were built for far smaller cars than exist today. As a result, very few home owners can use these garages for car storage, and now utilise the space for storage or as a workspace. Also, modern houses with double garages will often view their garages as dual function areas – as car storage and as a workshop/DIY space.

Given that garages are seldom heated – and if they are, it’s typically only on account of the fact they’re attached to a heated home – heating these workspace areas can be an issue. In addition, garages tend to be poorly insulated, draughty spaces that are only of single brick wall construction, with minimal foundations, compounding the problem.

If you’re looking for a garage heater, you’ll see that there are a wide variety of options on offer, both gas and electric. However, before deciding which type of heater you need, here are a few things to consider first:

1. The size of your garage

Single and double – and even triple – garages will all vary in size. Before choosing your heater, look at the power of heater you’ll need. Measure your garage and use an online BTU calculator to determine the amount of heat your garage needs. You may require multiple heaters, but keep an eye on the costs – not just of purchasing the units, but also running costs. According to the Centre for Sustainable Energy, a 2 kW fan heater will cost 37 pence per hour to run, while a 1.2 kw radiant halogen heater will cost 18 pence per hour to run, so if your space needs 2 or 3 heaters then the running costs can quickly ramp up over time, depending on the unit you choose.

2. When you’ll use it

Let’s face it, even our British summers can be pretty inclement, even in the middle of August. So if you’re planning on using your garage year round then it’s worth paying more to have the right heating installed. You’ll save money over time, as you’ll have lower running costs. However, if you’ll only be using the space occasionally for DIY, then you can look at lower-end portable gas and electric fan models.

3. Insulate the space

Before attempting to heat a space that’s damp and draughty, take a look and see if you can improve the insulation around doors and windows. You don’t want to pay for heat that simply dissipates from the space.

4. Power supply

This may sound obvious, but does your garage have an electrical point for plugging in a heater? If not, you can look to have one installed or – in the worst-case scenario – run an extension lead from the nearest power outlet (this isn’t advisable for infrared halogen heaters, however). If there’s no possibility of using an electrical outlet, then you’ll need to have one fitted, or to use a gas heater, either natural gas or propane.

5. Heating control

Given the very different climates that will exist within your home and your garage, you should always have a separate thermostat within your garage, if you’re running heating off of your main central heating system. If you have an electric heating system this is very straightforward, as each unit runs independently of each other. However, it’s more problematic for a gas central heating system. Also, think about whether you need frost protection – electric heaters and radiators have many built-in features such as timer settings, frost protection and climate control, meaning you have the right level of ambient heat at all times.

6. Safety

This is an important aspect of any heating solution. While portable electric heaters can pose an issue if they’re not stable and fall over, overall, they’re the safest option. Gas heaters present these same safety issues, but also present an additional hazard – carbon monoxide poisoning. Faulty gas heaters don’t burn gas completely, creating a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide gas which can lead to dizziness and even death. For this reason, you’ll need to install a carbon monoxide monitor, which will also require regular testing to ensure it’s working properly. Some gas heaters will also require additional venting.

In addition, given that many garages are also used for storage, make sure that any combustible items are at least 1m away from your heater – be that gas or electric. No portable heaters should be left unattended, so if you need the flexibility to leave the heating on for long periods, then your heating will need to be wall mounted.

So now that you’ve considered the above points, which garage heater is right for you? Here are the options available:

Fan heaters

Fan heaters use convection to heat a space – the fan passes air over heated coils, and the warm air is then blown out to heat the room. When it comes to choosing a fan heater for your garage, check the wattage and BTU output to determine the heater will adequately warm the workspace. Fan heaters can be powered by gas or electricity, and electric units can be floor- as well as ceiling-mounted. However, given that hot air rises, we’d always recommend that fan heaters be placed at a lower level – if your garage has a vaulted ceiling, that’s the area you’ll be heating with a ceiling-mounted fan.

Fan heaters are excellent for providing quick boosts of heat, but they can be expensive to run for long periods of time. If you only need occasional heat, then they’re a great option. Our advice is to look for floor models that are tiltable, that way you can direct the heat to exactly where you need it; dual heat and cooling functions are also a bonus as you can cool the space in warmer weather. Also, given that garage roofs can be the least well looked after on the property, choose heaters that are waterproof, to protect them from water invasion.

Panel heaters

These electric heaters run independently from the main property, and are great for providing more constant low-level heating. Given that they’re electric and tend to be wall-mounted, these convection heaters are also incredibly safe as there’s no risk of them falling over, and the heat itself is gentle. These units have excellent wall thermostats to ensure the garage remains at a constant temperature.

Radiant panels

These wall-mounted heaters use infrared technology to provide radiant heat. Although this type of heating doesn’t heat the air around a room, like a fan heater, the infrared heat does generate a direct beam of heat. However, you need to be careful as these types of heaters can present a safety hazard due to the intense heat they provide. Also, these heaters shouldn’t be left unattended for long periods of time so aren’t good for providing more constant low-levels of heat. Although gas-fired radiant panels are used across North America and Canada, in the UK our indoor wall-mounted radiant panels will tend to all be electric. Gas powered radiant heaters can be used to heat your garage, but these will be as portable units, rather than wall mounted.

Underfloor heating

Underfloor heating uses electrical coils or mats to provide heat via conduction, convection and radiation. If you’re installing underfloor heating under a concrete floor, be sure to install insulation below the elements. Underfloor heating comes with a thermostat, so you can easily keep your garage at a constant temperature. While this has got to be the most expensive option to install, the long-term benefits can outweigh the initial expense if you’re planning on using the garage as an extension to your home.

Tubular heaters

These low voltage electric heaters are incredibly popular both for garages and greenhouses. They have lower running costs than fan heaters and a good safety profile; also, given their cost-effectiveness, they can be left on for long periods to provide constant low-level heating, so are excellent for damp spaces.

So as you can see, heating your garage isn’t just a case of whether you need gas or electric, there are many other options to consider. We think you’ll agree however that for functionality, safety and ease of use, electric garage heaters win hands down. For more information on the best garage heaters for your home or place of work, don’t hesitate to contact us on or by calling a member of the team on 01252 560770.

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