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Best Way To Heat An Auto Shop?


Radiant heat is widely known as the best option to effectively heat mechanic and detail shops. Auto shop managers and owners often call us with exactly what they need: “Give me a price on a 30-foot-long radiant tube heater with 125,000 BTUs.” The number one challenge auto shops face is excessive air changes in the space because of garage doors opening and closing constantly to move vehicles.

Hot Air vs. Radiant Heat

When a shop is heated with hot air the air escapes quickly when the garage door opens. An auto shop has perhaps the most air changes of any application we work with. Conversely, a radiant heat option will sink heat into the concrete slab, tool boxes, car lifts, etc and re-radiate back into the space. This keeps more heat in the space improving efficiency.

The Auto Shop

Designing radiant heat systems for mechanic shops can be challening if it is a tight space with a low ceiling. Usually auto shops are fairly open spaces with taller ceilings, making radiant heat a great option. We typically don’t put radiant heating systems directly over car lift areas to avoid potential damage from being too close to the heater. Our most commonly used design principles are:

  1. Placing radiant tube heaters around the inside perimeter of the building.
  2. Placing radiant tube heaters in between car bays like pictured below:


Placing heaters over the tool areas can also be a great option because metal is a great absorber of heat:

Design Considerations

Our number one concern with auto shops is clearances to combustibles. We don’t want the heater damaging any vehicles, equipment and hoses, or exhaust fans mounted in the ceiling. We must advise the client to strictly adhere to the clearances for the specific unit they are considering. These clearances vary by unit – nothing combustible can be within a set number of inches from the unit. Combustible items include anything that can catch fire or melt like wood, drywall, rubber, cardboard, etc. Our employees will walk you through confirming your installation will be safe!

Strategic Use for Max Efficiency

Our biggest recommendation for auto shop owners and managers is to spend the extra $100-$150 per radiant tube heater for a 2-stage ungrade. The 2-stage units (HL3 Series and DET3 Series) were made exactly for applications like this. They have two firing stages: high fire and low fire. The high fire (ex. 150,000 BTUs) will kick on when the thermostat detects 2+ degree temperature differential from the setpoint. This most commonly occurs when the garage doors open. The unit will fire on high until the temperature is within 2 degrees of the setpoint and then automatically pull back to low fire mode (ex. 100,000 BTUs). This upgrade makes for faster temperature recovery, more comfort, less on/off cycles, and 23-50% more fuel efficiency than single stage systems. The best part is you don’t have to do anything at all. We’ll provide a 2-stage compatable thermostat that does everything for you!


Auto shops are one of our specialties and we run across them just about every day. Our employees are here to help with:

  • Determining how much heat you’ll need in a space
  • Analyzing your space to determine the best locations for the radiant tube heaters
    • We can do this using photos, videos, video conferencing, or if you are near a Great Lakes Radiant office location we can do an in-person site visit!
  • Going over Clearances to Combustibles for the selected units to make sure they’ll work for your space
  • Any other Services you might need!

Give us a call, email, or fill out our Project Details form so we can start working on a radiant heat solution for your auto shop.