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Garage Heater Installation, Setup, and Maintenance 101


One of the main factors that make a garage heater such an enticing option for homeowners is the fact that they're relatively easy to install and maintain for even the novice technician.

There is no need to call in an HVAC service company in most situations, ductwork doesn't need to be ran and there is very little complex wiring needed, if any.

The installation of each type of unit varies depending on how the user wants to run it, but the basics are the same.

However, if the manual that your new garage heater comes with says that you should hire a professional to help with installation, then that is what you should do instead.

Garage heaters are generally small and come with a mounting bracket that allows the unit to be secured anywhere on a wall or ceiling to leave adequate floor space.

Of course, some models are more advanced and are hard-wired into the electricity running to the garage. Then again there are other models that simply plug into an outlet and sit on the garage floor; options are a plenty.

Different types of garage heaters are installed a variety of ways. Always make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions in the installation manual that comes with your heater and ask for assistance wherever needed.

The common types of garage heaters and their different installation techniques include:

  • Electric Garage Heaters
  • Propane Garage Heaters
  • Natural Gas Garage Heaters
  • Wood Burning Stove
  • Radiant Tube Heater
  • Split / Ductless Heating and A/C

Electric Garage Heaters

g80-garage-heater-install-articleFor the most part electric garage heaters are very easy to install.

All that's really needed to make them run is an electrical outlet, although in most cases the large scale models run on 240v instead of the standard 120v wall plug-ins.

Most larger electric garage heaters are mounted on either the ceiling or the wall and often include a swivel or adjustable bracket so the heat can be dissipated where it needs to be within the room.

These electric garage heaters can really warm a room too with 17,000+ BTU's able to heat up to 500 square feet of space.

Propane Garage Heaters

Propane gas heaters are a nice alternative for when a natural gas line isn't present in the area.

  • The units don't always have to run on an electrical current and can be mounted on the ceiling or left free standing.
  • No matter where the propane heater is installed, it's necessary to have proper ventilation for the combustion exhaust, either a flue in the roof or a vent in the wall.
  • One of the other nuisances of a propane heater is the fact that the tank must be constantly refilled.

Natural Gas Heaters

Utilizing a gas line to the garage is a very convenient way to heat the space effectively.

Unfortunately the installation procedure is one of the most complex of any heater and should really be done by a professional HVAC technician.

The process involves not only hanging the large heating unit, but also connecting the gas lines and cutting a hole in the roof for a ventilation flue. Installed improperly a natural gas heater can not only be deadly, it can cost thousands of dollars of structural and water damage to the garage.

Wood Burning Stove

A garage stove is a very convenient heat source if a home is located near the woods. It's basically a free fuel source.

  • The installation isn't overly difficult but once again involves cutting into the ceiling to create space for a chimney vent.
  • Another thing that must be accounted for with wood stoves is placing non-combustible, fire-rated material behind the unit where it's placed against a wall.
  • The great thing about a wood burning stove is that once it's installed, the only costs incurred are the purchase or allocating of wood.

Radiant Tube Heat

Radiant heat is especially nice inside of a home under the floor but it can also be a viable source of warmth placed on the walls of a garage. The radiant heat is very energy efficient and warms a more thorough area which consumers love. The tubes can be either hardwired into the garage's electricity or plugged into an outlet.

Split / Ductless Heat

One of the main benefits of a split HVAC unit is that it can be used for either heat or air conditioning in a garage.

  • The process involves the installation of a compressor on the outside of a garage (nice for reducing noise) and an internal vent where the temperatures are controlled.
  • The installation involves pouring a slab outside the garage and running electricity and copper pipes between the two units and is probably best left for a professional.

shop-all-garage-300One thing to remember with most garage heaters is that you must be concerned with not only the heat coming out the front of the unit, but also the exhaust rolling out the back. Improper ventilation is dangerous and almost certainly violates building codes in your jurisdiction.

One thing that's very important to remember with garage heaters is to make sure you know how to do any auto-programming associated with the unit.

This will not only make your life more convenient and help to cut down on energy bills, it will prevent the heater from being programmed incorrectly and turning on when nobody is home, possibly causing safety issues.

There is no such thing as a maintenance free garage heater. Of course there are some that require less than others but the homeowner has responsibilities just like they do with all appliances.

There are ways to minimize the time and care needed with the heater, such as purchasing a model with a lubricated fan motor and having a dust collector installed in the garage. Also, try to find a heater that contains an air intake grill. It will prevent the debris and dirt from damaging the unit.

Garage heaters that contain these features require almost zero maintenance. The more features that a unit contains, the more expensive they'll be so consumers need to evaluate how important a low maintenance heater ranks.

Keeping things like A/C and heating units clean is a crucial part of their operation, especially in a dirt-infested area like a garage. The cleaning of the heater is relatively simple but the entire process can be tedious. Here are step by step instructions on how to keep the heating components clean:

  1. First things first, turn off the heater and allow it to cool down before performing any cleaning or maintenance. Make sure the unit has cooled entirely before you perform any cleaning or maintenance procedure both to avoid flammability and to prevent burns.
  2. Wipe the surface of the heater with a clean microfiber duster.
  3. Remove the cover of the heater. Some heaters contain a cover that is screwed to the surface in which case you will have to unscrew the cover first, then pull it up and lift it out.
  4. Next grab a vacuum and run its brush gently across the entire interior compartment. You can also use a slightly damp sponge to remove the sticky debris and dirt off the interior; however, if you are performing this step, then allow the interior to get completely dry before moving on to the next step.
  5. Clean the cover of the heater. You can do so with the help of a vacuum, a soft cloth or a microfiber duster.
  6. Once the cover is cleaned and dried, put it back on the heater.

garage-workshop-2Two of the reasons that heaters last so long is because they're well maintained during the running months but also stored properly during the warm weather.

There's no sense leaving an obtrusive heater hooked up when it's not in use, both because it may incur accidental damage and because it takes up valuable space in a garage that is frequented often in the Spring and Summer.

That being said, it is important that you store your garage heater properly so that it will fire back up optimally when the cold weather returns. Proper storage prevents rust, rodent infestation, and other damages. Follow these tips to help you store your heater in the right manner.

  • When it is time to store the heater, turn it off and pull the plug from the electrical outlet.
  • Allow it to cool down completely. Do not ever perform any storage or maintenance procedure on the heater while it is hot.
  • Remove the cover off the heater.
  • Clean the heater thoroughly both from the insides and outsides.
  • If you are using any liquid cleaner or sponge to clean, allow the heater to dry before moving on.
  • Make sure the exterior and interior is completely free of debris, dust and moist.
  • Check the parts of the heater. Check for wear and tear. If anything needs maintenance, do so.
  • Check the motor mounts and framework support. Look for any lose bolts and frayed wiring. Repair or replace as required.
  • Tighten the loose bolts and electrical fittings.
  • When the cleaning and maintenance is done, wrap the heater with a heavy plastic sheet or a cover. Make sure the heater is entirely wrapped or else the exposed part may corrode. If the cover is lose, you can use a rope or string to secure it to the heater.

Once the heater is in storage, put it and the cold weather out of your head and enjoy the warm temperatures. The unit and his friend Old Man Winter will be back sooner than expected.


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