Electric Garage Heaters: Understanding the Significance of BTUs

By | 06.10.2004

If you’ve been searching for a portable heater or shopping for electric heaters for garage recently, you’ve probably seen this acronym everywhere. Every package boasting how many BTUs the heater has and claiming that is what makes it superior to other models.

Today, I’m going to break down exactly what BTUs are so that you make an informed purchase of your next garage heater. It’s easy to get caught up in the marketing hype. Now don’t get me wrong, the amount of BTUs a garage heater, especially an electric garage heater, is important. So understanding exactly what BTUs are and how they are used will help you find the right heater for your particular garage.

The first thing we’ll cover is what exactly BTU stands for; British Thermal Unit. Technically speaking, it’s a traditional unit of energy equal to about 1.06 kilojoules. What does all that mean… it’s about the same amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. I hope that made it a little better. Long story short, the term BTU is used to describe the heat value of heating and cooling systems. The higher the BTUs, the more powerful the heater.

The second thing you want to be aware of is that power isn’t everything. The higher the BTUs, all it means is that your garage heater is able to produce a tremendous amount of heat. But why spend extra money on for extra BTUs if you have a normal sized garage.

More than likely, your garage is no bigger than 500 square feet. So anything around the 15,000 – 17,000 BTU level is more than enough for your garage. If you’re trying to heat a space larger than that, you can install a traditional heating and cooling system or purchase multiple garage heaters. The multiple garage heater option may sound nice, but your electric bill will drastically increase.

So there you have it, don’t buy into the BTU hype. If you have a standard sized garage (300 – 500 square feet), look for garage gas heaters or electric garage heaters that produce a maximum of 17,000 BTUs. This will sufficient for your situation and your electricity bill won’t go through the roof.


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