Best Garage Heaters for 2023, Tested


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Jan 30, 2024

Best Garage Heaters for 2023, Tested

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Our guide to the best garage heaters turns your frosty workshop into a toasty paradise so you can work in comfort.

The last thing you want to worry about when working on your car is whether or not your workspace is warm. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast, a professional mechanic, or merely a garage owner who wants to turn it into a cozy space during the colder months, a reliable and efficient garage heater is a must-have.

In this roundup, we've scoured the market to bring you the best garage heaters for various needs, budgets, and preferences. We put each contender through rigorous testing, assessing heating capabilities, safety features, energy efficiency, and ease of installation.

Our Top Picks

When shopping for a garage heater, there are several factors to consider to ensure you choose the right one for your specific needs. Here are some key aspects to think about:

Determine the size of your garage and your desired temperature to find a heater with the appropriate heating capacity (measured in BTUs or watts). Larger garages require a heater with a higher output, while smaller spaces can be sufficiently heated with lower-capacity models.

Garage heaters are almost always powered by one of five energy sources: electricity, natural gas, propane, diesel, or kerosene. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. Electric heaters are generally more convenient and energy-efficient, while natural gas, propane, diesel, and kerosene heaters offer more powerful heating options. Take into account the power sources in your garage and long-term operating costs when deciding which fuel source is best for your needs.

Energy efficiency is crucial, as it directly impacts your energy bills. Choose a heater with a high energy efficiency rating to save on utility costs. Features like adjustable thermostats, timers, and eco modes can also help you maintain a comfortable temperature while reducing energy consumption.

Look for heaters with built-in safety features such as overheat protection, tip-over shut-off, and cool-to-touch exteriors. Additionally, make sure the heater you choose is certified by a reputable testing organization like UL, CSA, or ETL.

Consider whether you prefer a permanent installation or a portable heater that you can move around your garage. Permanent options like wall- or ceiling-mounted heaters typically require professional installation. Portable space heaters offer greater flexibility and can be easily moved or stored when not in use.

Check the noise level (measured in decibels) of the heaters you're considering, and opt for a quieter model if noise is a concern.

Our testing process involved evaluating garage heaters under similar conditions and assessing their heating efficiency, heat distribution, and safety features. We used a thermostat to monitor temperature changes, a thermal camera to visualize heat output, and took measurements at various locations in the garage to provide a complete overview.

Elements we tested:

We compiled our notes to decide which heaters are best for specific-use cases, narrowing down our top picks. Here are the best garage heaters, as determined by the Hearst Autos Gear Team.

The Mr. Heater Big Buddy Portable Propane Heater is a compact yet powerful heater capable of warming up to 450 square feet with its maximum 18,000 BTU output. It's lightweight, easy to use, portable, and doesn't require batteries or cords.

The unit can run on one or two 1-pound propane tanks, or it can be hooked up to larger tanks with a separate hose and filter. With two 1-pounders, the heater will run on Low (4000 BTUs) for a claimed 10 hours, Medium (9000 BTUs) for 4.5 hours, and High (18,000 BTUs) for two hours. When operated properly, the Big Buddy is safe to use indoors and, for extra reassurance, the unit has three safety systems: an emergency low-oxygen safety system, a tip-over switch, and a thermal shut-down system.

We found the heat output to be impressive considering its size. Since it doesn't have a fan, the heat mainly rises directly off the unit, but if you have lower ceilings in your garage, it should start heating up your workspace in a matter of minutes. We wouldn't suggest this for much more than a two-car garage or a shop less than 450 square feet.

Heat Hog? It almost made us want to roast a hot dog in front of this thing. In all seriousness though, this 9000 BTU propane heater is a solid choice for anyone wanting portable heat in a compact package. Similar to Mr. Heater's 'Buddy' lineup, the Heat Hog is available in three different strengths: 4000, 9000, and 18,000 BTU.

For this test, we used the 9000 BTU, which runs on either a single 1-pound propane tank or a larger propane tank with a separate adapter. Functionally, it performed nearly identically to the Big Buddy, but the Heat Hog can tilt for more directional heating. The Heat Hog also has tip-over and oxygen-depletion sensors.

Heat Hog suggests using this for areas no larger than 225 square feet and we'd agree. It's enough to heat up a single-car garage, but you'll want to jump up to the 18,000 BTU model if you plan on keeping a two-car garage warm in the winter months.

If you want a fast and versatile propane heater for your garage, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better option than DeWalt's DXH70CFAV. This machine offers a range of output and can be powered by either a standard 120-volt wall socket or a DeWalt MAX 20V battery, making it one of the more versatile units we tested.

The only assembly required was attaching the handle with four bolts. With that done, installation was as simple as connecting a propane source and plugging it into the wall. The outlet (or battery) is used to power the initial spark and the integrated fan, which pumps out heat at an impressive rate, especially at full strength.

Even at lower output levels, this unit would have no problem heating up a two-car garage (~360 square feet), and at higher levels, you could likely keep a small barn toasty if you give it twenty minutes to heat up.

This Remington 80,000 BTU behemoth is not for the faint of heart. Fueled by either diesel or kerosene and powered by a wall outlet for the integrated fan, this heater quite literally spits fire and smells as though you're standing next to an idling semi. It's also extremely heavy and lacks controls for dialing in the output—it's all or nothing.

That said, if you need a large space heated up quickly, this will get the job done. In a matter of 15 minutes, it heated up the Car and Driver garage from 53 to 61 degrees, and that was with the garage door slightly open on a 38-degree day.

This is less a garage heater and more of a dedicated workshop or barn heater. You won't want anything to be within 10 feet of this heater's flame, and you won't want to walk any closer than three or four feet. But for large areas with proper ventilation, this heater will get the job done quickly.

If you want quick, energy-efficient heat, this is our pick. Briza's Infrared Patio Heater can either be mounted in your garage or used with the included tripod stand and creates a much different type of heat.

Infrared heaters are often found in outdoor cafes and patios. They're designed to heat up objects and people quickly, with minimal energy wasted on heating up the surrounding air. The benefit of this is that very little energy is wasted; the drawback is you typically won't feel the heat unless you're directly in front of it.

We found the Briza to be incredibly effective in keeping us warm when we were in its path. However, move away from where it's pointed, and you'll quickly go back to being cold. For this reason, it's our recommendation that you only consider this if you don't mind moving it around as needed, or plan on mounting it atop or above a workbench where you might spend the majority of your time during the colder months.

If all you need to do is keep your digits from freezing while at your workbench, this Isliler Ceramic Heater is the one for you. It's not going to keep even a single-car garage warm in colder weather, but it will keep a small workbench area warmer.

The unit is practically silent and offers solid heat output considering its compact size. The integrated fan is subtle but offers just enough power to keep the air moving across the workspace, which helps keep your fingers agile when working on parts.

We conducted a thorough testing process to ensure our information about garage heaters is accurate and reliable. On a cold Michigan day, we opened the garage door to allow the temperature to drop to a consistent starting point of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensured that each heater began its test under similar conditions. After closing the garage door, we positioned the heaters in the same locations and let them run for 15 minutes. Finally, we monitored the increase in temperature inside the garage using a thermostat to determine the effectiveness of each heater.

To evaluate the heat distribution, we used a thermal camera to visualize the heat output of each heater. This allowed us to better understand how the heaters warmed up the space and whether they distributed heat evenly. Following the 15-minute testing period, we took temperature readings at various locations around the heater. Specifically, we measured the temperature 10 feet in front of the heater, the temperature of the ceiling directly above the heater, and the outside of the heater. This provided a comprehensive view of the heater's performance and potential safety concerns.

The one heater where we had to make a compromise was the Remington. Specifically, we tested this heater with the garage door cracked open to allow for proper ventilation of the exhaust. This was necessary due to the safety requirements of this type of heater. Even with the garage door open, however, it managed to, unsurprisingly, beat all of the other heaters in terms of raw output.

Automatic shut-off: This feature automatically turns off the heater if it gets too hot or if it detects a lack of oxygen in the room. This is especially important for propane or natural gas heaters, which can produce carbon monoxide if not properly vented.

Tip-over switch: A tip-over switch will turn off the heater if it is accidentally knocked over, which can prevent fires and other accidents.

Overheat protection: This feature automatically turns off the heater if it reaches a certain temperature, which can prevent fires and other accidents.

Thermostat: A thermostat allows you to set the desired temperature and will turn the heater on and off as needed to maintain that temperature. This can help prevent overheating and other safety hazards.

Cool-touch exterior: Heaters with a cool-touch exterior are less likely to cause burns or other injuries if accidentally touched.

There are several types of garage heaters available, including propane heaters, natural gas heaters, electric heaters, and infrared heaters.

The size of the heater you need depends on the size of your garage, insulation quality, and the desired temperature increase. A general rule is to use 10 watts per square foot for electric heaters or 45 BTUs per square foot for gas heaters.

It depends. Propane and natural gas heaters require proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide buildup, while electric heaters and infrared heaters can be used in enclosed spaces.

The installation process will vary depending on the type of heater you have. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and to hire a professional if you're not comfortable with the installation process.

Garage heaters are typically safe to use if operated correctly and with the necessary safety features activated. It's essential to follow all the manufacturer's safety guidelines and never leave a heater unattended while in use.

Natural Gas: Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel source that is generally less expensive than other fuels. It requires the installation of a natural gas line in your garage, but once installed, it's a reliable and efficient way to heat your space.

Propane: Propane is a liquid petroleum gas that is commonly used in portable heaters. It's a versatile fuel source that can be easily transported and stored in tanks.

Wood: Wood-burning heaters are a traditional option for heating garages and workshops. They require a constant supply of firewood, but they offer a cozy, rustic atmosphere.

Electric: Electric heaters are a clean and efficient option for heating smaller spaces, such as garages or workshops. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, and they're generally easy to use and maintain.

Diesel/Kerosene: Diesel and kerosene heaters are popular choices for commercial garages and workshops. They require either constant refueling or a fuel line to be installed, but they offer a high heat output and can quickly warm up large spaces.

Hearst Autos combines the talent, resources, and expertise of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world. The Gear Team has tested a wide variety of automotive products, parts, accessories, and gear, such as gps trackers for cars, car ramps, and mechanics creepers. We get our hands on each and every product we test. Most are purchased; some are supplied by manufacturers.

Hearst Autos doesn't need to game algorithms for traffic or promote lousy products to earn a buck. Instead, we're concerned with our legacy, our reputation, and the trust that our readers have in Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track to deliver honest opinions and expert evaluations.

Visit our Tested & Trusted page to see the very best in automotive gear. Read more about our product testing and evaluation process here.

Gannon Burgett loves cameras, cars, and coffee: a perfect combination for his Hearst Autos work. His byline has appeared in USA Today, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Digital Trends, the Detroit Free Press, and more.

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How We Evaluated Garage Heaters best garage heaters Mr. Heater Big Buddy Heat Hog DeWalt's DXH70CFAV Remington 80,000 BTU Briza's Infrared Patio Heater Isliler Ceramic Heater Automatic shut-off: Tip-over switch: Overheat protection: Thermostat: Cool-touch exterior: Natural Gas: Propane: Wood: Electric: Diesel/Kerosene: Tested & Trusted