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best way to heat a detached garage

The Best Ways to Heat a Detached Garage for Maximum Comfort and Efficiency

Freezing temperatures can make working in your garage unbearable during winter. But you don’t have to abandon your valuable space when cold weather hits. The right heating solutions can transform even the chilliest garage into a comfortable, usable area year-round.

With this guide, you’ll learn affordable ways to warm your garage for occasional use. Explore how to say goodbye to the cold and make your garage a warm and practical space.

garage with three doors and dormer windows

Key Takeaways

  • For maximum efficiency, utilize garage door seals, insulation, zone heating, and a programmable thermostat to control heat.
  • Insulating and weatherproofing the garage should come first before selecting any heating system. This drastically cuts heating requirements.

  • Match the heating system to your garage's size, building materials, budget, and intended use. Occasional use may need only a space heater, while a workshop needs robust heating.

Why Proper Heating is Essential for Detached Garages

Heating your detached garage serves several important purposes:

  • Prevents damage from temperature swings - Tools, vehicles, and other items can be damaged when exposed to freezing temperatures and humidity. Heating helps maintain a stable temperature.

  • Increases usability - With the proper temperature level, a detached garage can be used for hobbies, auto repairs, and many other purposes.

  • Avoids moisture buildup - Heating reduces condensation and moisture that leads to mildew and rot.

  • Makes the space comfortable - Heating allows you to work in the garage without having to wear winter gear.

  • Adds value - A heated garage is a big perk for home buyers if you ever sell your property.

But choosing the right heating system depends on your garage’s size, shape, insulation, and how you plan to use the space.

infrared heater attached to the ceiling

Key Types of Heating Systems for Detached Garages

There are three main options for heating a detached garage:

Radiant Heat

Radiant heating involves a heat source warming up surfaces in the garage, which then radiates heat across the space. The most common radiant heating systems include:

  • In-floor radiant heat - Heated fluid runs through pipes under the garage floor, creating an even heat distribution.

  • Infrared radiant heaters - These heaters on the ceiling or walls emit infrared radiation to heat objects below.


  • Provides even, comfortable warmth throughout the space
  • In-floor systems don't require ductwork installation
  • Long-lasting heating solution


  • Installation costs can be expensive
  • Radiant heaters take some time to fully warm up the space
  • Usually not sufficient as the only heat source for a garage

Forced Air Heat

Forced air systems use a furnace or heat pump and ductwork to distribute warmed air throughout a space. Options for detached garages include:

  • Electric furnace - Uses heating elements to warm air blown through ducts.

  • Gas-fired furnace - Heats air via combustion and a heat exchanger then blows it through ducts.

  • Ductless mini-split - An outdoor compressor and an indoor air handler connected through a refrigerant line.


  • A familiar heating system used in many homes
  • Allows flexible temperature adjustment
  • Circulates and distributes air


  • Requires installing ductwork
  • Higher upfront installation costs
  • Can feel drafty if the garage isn't properly insulated

Portable Space Heaters

As the name implies, portable space heaters can be moved and provide directed radiant or convection heat:

  • Electric space heaters - Use heating elements to warm nearby objects. Easy to install but inefficient.

  • Gas space heaters - Burn propane or natural gas for heating. Efficient but produces moisture and fumes.


  • More affordable purchase price than installed systems
  • Easy "plug and play" DIY installation
  • A good option for limited or occasional garage heating needs


  • Less efficient, leading to higher operating costs
  • Potential safety hazards if not used properly

Now that you understand the main heating system options, let’s go over the key factors to consider when selecting garage heating.

hanging garage heater

How to Choose the Best Garage Heating System

Choosing an effective and efficient heating system for your detached garage depends on several considerations:

Garage Size

The size of your detached garage determines the heating power required. Smaller, well-insulated garages may only need a few infrared heaters. Large garages will likely need a powerful furnace or multiple heating units.

Garage Use

How you plan to use your garage also dictates your heating needs. Occasional use may only require a portable heater. But a workshop or auto repair space needs an even, comfortable heat distribution best provided by radiant or forced air systems.

Insulation Levels

An uninsulated or poorly insulated garage requires far more heating power to overcome heat loss. Air sealing and adding proper insulation should be your first steps before selecting heating equipment.


Radiant flooring and furnaces have higher upfront costs. Portable heaters are more affordable initially but inefficient for regular use. Consider both purchase price and operating costs.

Here are the estimated costs of some garage heating systems:

Heating System Estimated Upfront Cost Estimated Annual Operating Cost
Radiant floor heat $6-12 per sq ft installed $200-300
Forced air furnace $4,000 - $12,000 installed $500-800
Portable electric heater $30 - $150 per unit $100-300
Infrared heater $80 - $200 per unit $50-100 per unit
Gas space heater $150 - $300 per unit $200-400

Desired Temperature

Detached garages usually only need basic heating to stay above freezing. But if you want your garage warmer for extended use, opt for systems that allow thermostat control.

Available Fuel Sources

If you don’t have access to natural gas, propane or kerosene space heaters become your primary options. Areas with cheap electricity can utilize electric furnaces or infrared heaters.

Now let’s look at the best heating solutions for some common detached garage scenarios.

forced air garage heater attached to the ceiling

Your individual situation should dictate your heating system selection. Here are great options for some typical detached garage uses:

Heating an Insulated Garage Workshop

For regular use as a workshop, insulate first then install:

  • Radiant floor heating for even, comfortable warmth
  • Infrared heaters for supplemental warmth
  • A mini-split system for maximum comfort and control

Keeping an Unfinished Garage Above Freezing

For basic cold protection in an unfinished garage, use:

  • A thermostatically-controlled gas space heater
  • Infrared radiant heaters carefully placed out of the way

Heating an Occasionally Used Garage

For a detached garage only used occasionally:

  • A portable electric space heater will suffice
  • A couple of midsized infrared heaters for quicker warmup

Maximizing Efficiency in a Heated Garage

To maximize efficiency in a heated detached garage:

  • Insulate doors and walls to minimize heat loss
  • Use silicone door seals and sweeps to prevent drafts
  • Install a programmable thermostat to control temperature
  • Only heat the garage when needed

Helpful Tips for Heating Your Detached Garage

Beyond selecting the right heating system, here are some useful tips for affordably heating your detached garage:

  • For portable heaters, always follow safety precautions like keeping away from flammables.

  • Position infrared heaters to evenly heat your main work areas, not the whole garage.

  • Use an interior garage door between the house and the garage to prevent heat loss in the garage.

  • Insulate garage doors with polyurethane foam panels. Weather-strip gaps.

  • Consider zone heating so you only warm certain areas of the garage as needed.

  • Maintain heating equipment well by cleaning and replacing filters to maximize efficiency.

When selecting a heating system, be sure to do your research and consider factors like garage size, insulation, and intended use. Refer to our comprehensive buyer's guide for detached garages to make the right choice for your needs.

radiant heating set up

Conclusion: Choose the Right Heating Option for Your Detached Garage Use

Heating a detached garage safeguards valuables from cold and moisture while making it usable all year. Inadequate heating can result in discomfort, increased bills, and damage. When choosing a heating system, factor in your climate, garage type, budget, and purpose. Proper insulation and strategic heating can make even an unfinished garage winter-ready. With the right system, your garage remains functional in any weather, but always prioritize safety and maintenance for efficiency.


Is insulating my garage necessary for heating?

Insulating your garage is highly recommended for effective heating. Insulation helps to keep the heat inside the garage and prevents it from escaping. It also helps to keep your garage warmer during the winter months.

What is the best way to insulate a garage for heat retention?

The best way to insulate a garage for heat retention is to insulate the walls, ceiling, and garage door. Insulation can be installed using fiberglass batts, spray foam insulation or rigid foam boards.

Can I use my HVAC system to heat my detached garage?

It is possible to use your existing HVAC system to heat your garage, but it may not be the most efficient or cost-effective option. HVAC systems are typically designed to heat and cool the main living areas of the house and may not have the capacity to heat a large detached garage.

Are there any space heaters that are suitable for heating a garage?

Yes, there are space heaters available that are specifically designed for heating garages. These heaters are typically more powerful and have additional safety features to withstand the demanding environment of a garage.

Can I use radiant heating in my garage?

Yes, radiant heating is a popular option for heating a garage. It provides an even distribution of heat and can be installed beneath the floor or on the walls or ceiling for optimal heating.

What is a ductless heating system?

A ductless heating system, also known as a mini-split system, is a heating solution that doesn't require ductwork. It consists of an indoor unit and an outdoor unit connected by refrigerant lines. Ductless systems are energy-efficient and ideal for heating individual rooms or spaces like a garage.

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About The Author

Andy Wu - Resident Expert

Andy Wu - Resident Expert

Andy Wu is the resident backyard products expert and hails from Atlanta, Georgia. His passion for crafting outdoor retreats began in 2003.

As a fellow homeowner, he founded Backyard Oasis to provide top-quality furnishings and equipment, collaborating with leading manufacturers.

His main focus is on sheds and generators!

In his spare time he like to hike the tallest mountains in the world and travel with his family.

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