Are Propane Heaters Safe to Use in a Garage? Our Safety Tips

Propane heaters are an extremely efficient and powerful way to heat a space, but are they safe to run in a garage? I live in New England, where the winters can be long and cold. I also like working in my garage, but it’s not much fun when it’s freezing. So I did some research to find out if I can safely run a propane heater in my garage.

Yes, propane heaters are safe to run in a garage, as long as you take the time to educate yourself on various safety precautions. Be sure to have proper ventilation, follow safety guidelines, choose the right size heater, and have a general understanding of how propane heaters work.

Before you go fire up that heater, it’s important to understand some safety guidelines and be sure you’re picking a propane heater that will work best for your garage. You don’t want to just choose any heater – let’s explore further.

Garage Propane Space Heater Safety Tips

It’s important to understand how to safely use propane heaters, especially indoors. Here are a few safety tips or guidelines to be mindful of:

  1. Heater size and Garage size: Be sure to choose an appropriate size propane heater based on the size of your garage. Propane heaters combust with a large, hot flame and some are larger than others. This flame produces carbon monoxide which needs adequate space to be ventilated properly. They also need enough oxygen to be able to draw upon to combust and run properly.
  2. Research available safety features: Propane heaters come in all shapes, sizes and with different features, such as low oxygen sensors, overheat protection, automatic shutoff and high-temperature coated safety guards.
  3. Keep away from flammable materials: This might be an obvious one, but please be sure to keep your propane heater away from any gas cans or other flammable items. Also, do not spray air fresheners or other aerosol spray cleaners near the propane heater. Consult the manual for your heater, but in most cases you want to keep it 3-4 feet from anything else.
  4. Install carbon monoxide detectors: Propane heaters put off carbon dioxide, and without the proper ventilation, this can be very dangerous and potentially deadly. Having carbon dioxide detectors in the garage is a great and smart idea.
  5. Pay attention to gas smells: If you sense a strong gas smell in your garage, you may have a leak in your propane heater. Immediately stop using the heater and open windows and doors
  6. Ventilate: Crack a window or garage door to get some ventilation. This will not only help prevent carbon monoxide from building up, but also helps with distributing the heat.
  7. Read your heater’s manual: Before you use any propane heater in your garage, be sure to read the manual. They’re all different.

Choosing the Right Propane Heater

Propane heaters come in a wide variety and all work well for specific situations. There are different size heaters, measured in BTU’s. Some are big and suited for a permanent placement, while others are made portable for on-the-go use. Consider the following when choosing your propane heater:

Propane Heater Types: Forced Air, Convection Air, Wall-Mounted

There are three standard types of propane heaters, each with their pros and cons. Let’s take a look at each type:

  • Forced Air Propane Heaters: these are cylinders that lay horizontally on the ground – they look like a jet engines. These are suited best for larger garages since they have built in fans that distribute the air throughout the garage so you don’t end up with warm and cold spots.
  • Convection Air Propane Heaters: these stand up on the floor in a more vertical placement. These are better for smaller garages since they don’t use fans to blow the air like the forced air ones – instead they kind of radiate around a smaller space.
  • Wall-Mounted Propane Heaters: these can also be a fantastic solution for a smaller garage. They aren’t typically as powerful, but you can mount these up on a wall and out of the way, saving space and power. 

Power (in BTUs)

Propane heaters come in a range of power, measured in BTUs – anywhere from 10,000 BTUs all the way up to 300,000 BTUs. You want to make sure you’re choosing a heater with the right BTUs for your space.  

As a rule of thumb, small garages of around 1,000 square feet will a propane heater with a rating of 45,000-75,000 BTUs. Larger garages are better suited for a forced-air heater of at least 60,000 BTUs.

Propane Tank

Unless you have a portable heater, most larger units that you’ll be using in a garage will need a standalone propane tank to draw from. Refer to your manual for specifics, but most heaters can run off a standard 20 lb. tank that you’d use with your grill. You can also run off a 100 lb. tank or larger, if you prefer. Connect the tank to the heater with a hose and regulator.

Hose and Regulator

You’ll also need a hose and regulator to attached the propane tank to the propane heater. Many units come with a hose and regulator, so check yours. If not, be sure to pick up these essential items. 

Which Propane Heater Should I Buy?

Check out our recommended propane heaters for your garage.

How to Run a Propane Heater in the Garage

Most garages aren’t hooked up to the home’s heat system, so running a propane space heater is a great way to keep your garage warm during those cold winters. Here’s what you need to get set up.

  1. Figure out where you want to put your heater and clear some space around it. 
  2. Set up your propane heater on the floor in a stable position.
  3. Set up your propane tank as far away as possible (as far as your hose will go).
  4. Connect the tank to the heater using the hose and regulator. Insert the head of the input line into the opening on the propane tank and tighten.
  5. Plug the heater into the wall and start the fan. Let it run for 20 seconds.
  6. Loosen the propane tank valve so gas is released through the line to the heater.
  7. Ignite the propane heater. Refer to your heater manual for specifics as they can all be a bit different.

Propane Heaters vs. Electric Heaters

You can choose to heat your garage with either a propane heater or an electric heater. There are vast differences between both options. We believe propane heaters are the right choice for several reasons:

  1. Propane is cheaper than electric: Running propane is going to cost you much less than drawing off your electricity. After a long winter, this cost will add up.
  2. Propane puts off more heat than electric: Propane heaters are way more powerful than electric heaters, which helps with efficiency. You might even be able to run a propane heater at full blast and turn it off for a bit. With an electric heater, it will heat a smaller space and definitely need to be turned on at all times.

In Summary

As I said, it gets pretty cold in my garage in the winter. After the research I’ve done, it’s obvious that with the proper precautions, running a propane space heater in my garage is not only safe, but a great idea. 

If you have a 2-car garage, I would recommend a forced-air propane heater. This will provide enough power to heat your entire garage, and if you get one that’s 75,000 -100,000 BTUs, you can regulate the power to turn it higher or lower. This will give you complete climate control in your garage – almost as great as central heat! 

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