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jwmiller33

Garage heating- propane vs electric

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I purchased my first home this last spring and am getting ready to gear up for winter. It is in rural Duluth and has a 32×32 detached garage that was built 6 years ago. It is a nice garage and is insulated, but does not have a heat source installed in it yet. I want to get it heated for this winter so I have been looking at both electric and propane heaters and still am weighing the pros/cons of both. I was wondering what the general consensus as far as cost and efficiency goes in terms of electric vs propane. I live out in the sticks so natural gas is not an option. I know it all depends on the temp set and cost of fuel source, but I was curious about the general consensus on this topic.

I do a lot of wood working as a hobby, so I want to be able to crank up the heat to get it comfortable when I am working out there. Otherwise, I just want to keep it a little warmer than outside to keep the vehicles comfortable to get into in the morning. I’m not sure what most people do as far as setting a heating temp goes in a detached garage but I was thinking of getting a programmable thermostat and set it up only heat at night – something like 5PM – 5 AM – since it wont be used during the day. Can anyone offer some examples of what they have set their garage at in the winter? I’m trying to keep the cost down and heating it 24/7 seems like a waste.

Also, my experience from fishing in ice houses has taught me that fans are key in getting the most out of your heat. Do people typically install fans in the ceiling or is the fan in the heater typically sufficient?

Also, does anybody have any suggestions on how many BTUs I should be looking at? It is 32×32 w/ 10 foot ceilings. I did a few google searches and found a few different websites that give you a suggestion based on the dimensions and intended heat level and I keep getting suggestions in the range of 36k-45k BTU which is a pretty large range. Does that seem sufficient?

Any insight/advice that could be provided would be greatly appreciated!

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Since you want to be able to warm it up quickly, I think you would want to go bigger.  

I think propane is cheaper than electric unless you go dual fuel with the electric company.  Is it Minnesota Power?   The people around me on Vermilion are either propane or dual fuel.  (mostly propane)

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Couple of thoughts -

That is an awfully large building and it would seem that you really only need to heat a portion of it above 40 degrees or so.  Why not consider closing off a smaller shop area for your wood working?  Lower ceiling, small room could be heated reasonably quickly. 

The dual fuel idea is worth checking out.  At one point utilities were offering a very economical off peak alternative.  It involved a large boiler that would use electric to heat the water at night when rates lower for this type of use.  You can then use a different fuel during the day if you need additional heat.  You may even be able to use wood as a fuel and take advantage of your scrap from woodworking.  This system may involve a larger up front cost but operating costs may be significantly lower.  I suggest checking with the local electric utility to start getting some info on what they may have to offer.

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Tom, I think the problem is that if he subtracts an area big enough for the cars and junk, that might not leave enough room for the shop.   Isn't a normal two car garage like 22 by 24?  So he would only have like an 8 to 10 foot slice for the shop. 

Propane would be the least expensive installation I would presume.   And with the low price the last few years it should be affordable.  

I think the dual fuel just uses electric to heat but at the utilities option they can turn it off and you burn propane instead while it is off.    I'm not sure if they do an off peak thing for heat as opposed to hot water.  

There are also wood burning options but they are more work.  But up north, wood is cheap.  One of those outside burners that takes big logs might work.   Probably cost more to put in. 

Or just a regular wood burning stove for working time and let it get cold for the cars.  Cold doesn't bother modern cars and they rust less if cold. :lol:

Probably more options than he wants.

Edited by delcecchi

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1 hour ago, delcecchi said:

Propane would be the least expensive installation I would presume.   And with the low price the last few years it should be affordable.  

I think the dual fuel just uses electric to heat but at the utilities option they can turn it off and you burn propane instead while it is off.    I'm not sure if they do an off peak thing for heat as opposed to hot water.  

There are also wood burning options but they are more work.  But up north, wood is cheap.  One of those outside burners that takes big logs might work.   Probably cost more to put in. 

Del is spot on, propane is your best option and its not even close. Electric will be more expensive.

The dual source discount would apply to say if you heat your home with propane and also have an elec heat pump. I have it at my current home and the discount on the 2nd meter is nice but I ended up just turning it off and had someone rewire it to run everything off of my main meter. You cant put anything you want on that 2nd meter and I would check to see if they would put a garage heater on it. I got tired of getting cycled during peak times in the summer when trying to keep my home cooled just wasn't worth the discount.

As for the wood burning options when I built my garage a few years ago and checked to make sure the new building was covered under my policy they would not cover any buildings with a wood burner. Not to say it wasnt an option but the premium goes up with a wood burner.

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   Go propane for sure.  How many BTUs. I'm sure you've already calculated the heat load but it will also depend on heating habits.

  If you keep the garage at say 45 degrees its not going to take long to heat the air up.  What takes time to heat up are all the objects in the room but again the air will be warm.    I would stick with a BTU rating close to what is recommended for the size garage.  Go too big and the furnace will cycle too often and you'll have cold and hot spots in the garage.   That also effects efficacy.

  If you allow the garage to get well below freezing and then expect it to warm up it will of coarse take longer.   1st thought is to get with a higher BTU rating to warm the air faster. It will do that but the objects in the room will radiate cold not to mention the slab would take days to warm up.  What you end up with is a garage thats not very comfortable. 80 degrees at head height and and a freezing floor, yes even with a fan circulating the air.

 Ceiling mount heater or furnace.   The Hot Dog type is and easy install.  The condensing  furnace will require additional duct work.   Heat will be evenly circulated, quieter operation, and higher efficiency.   

 

 

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How old is the furnace in the house? If it is over about 10-15 years, maybe consider getting new variable speed, high efficiency for the house, and slapping the older one in the garage. That is what I did about 15 years ago, and now my garage is heated with a 30-40 yo furnace but it works great, and I am saving energy ($$) with the high efficiency furnace in the house where I use more. (Mine is natural gas, but same thing...)

It does take up a bit of floor space and you will likely need to have a small plenum bent but cheap and easy to install. You can likely get one to fit right up to the home plumbing.

Otherwise those hanging units work pretty well and pretty easy to install. They are noisier and only blow one direction, but that is fine for garage. Mine I have insulated tube to bring heat to different areas of the garage, just run through the attic.

Good luck! A heated garage is awesome! :)

edit - I keep mine about 36 degrees all winter long, except when I am out there and can heat it to about 70 in no time at all. I have old mercury t-stat that I mounted at an angle so I can leave it set to lowest setting and it will kick on at 36 ;) 

Edited by BoxMN

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Propane hands down beats electric.  Cheap and easy to install.  Big considerations... What kind of insulation do you have?   5 different garages with the exact same dims and furnace could return 5 different operating costs.  Ceiling is a big one.  Also, I wouldn't shut it down completely.  I've found 40-50 is the sweat spot for mine, granted its attached.  But to low and you burn more fuel getting to temp then you do cycling a few times a day to maintain above freezing temps.  Unless you are really just looking for a couple times a week, then I would say kill it completely and turn it on 45 before you go out there.

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On 10/12/2016 at 11:10 AM, delcecchi said:

Since you want to be able to warm it up quickly, I think you would want to go bigger.  

I think propane is cheaper than electric unless you go dual fuel with the electric company.  Is it Minnesota Power?   The people around me on Vermilion are either propane or dual fuel.  (mostly propane)

Even dual fuel right now isn't better, at least where I'm at. Dual fuel rate for my electricity is just over $.05. I just bought LP for our fireplace at about $1.50. Considering the efficiency of even my fireplace at 83% it is still lower cost than the electric. In fact, it's even lower cost than my fuel oil forced air furnace at 80% efficient at today's oil cost.  

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