Winter might be the time when your classic car or motorbike is hibernating, but many owners will be at their busiest with the spanners. With no shows or meetings until the spring and with salt on the roads, it’s the ideal time to get on with those winter projects, whether it’s a full restoration or just a bit of servicing and fettling.
The only thing that might be stopping you is the cold. It’s tricky to motivate yourself to get off the sofa, pull on some overalls and crawl around on concrete when the temperature dips.
Besides the numb fingers and aching toes making it difficult for you to work, the bits you need to work on the car will be affected too. Paints can bloom and refuse to dry, lubricants and waxes solidify, and wiring will refuse to flex.
This all means you’re going to be looking for a heater. It will make working more comfortable, meaning you’ll be able to keep going for longer and the results will – hopefully – be better.
There are a few options to power the heater, and the best will depend on the type of fuel you have access to in your workshop or garage. Using bottled gas, paraffin or even diesel are your only options if you don’t have mains electricity, but be careful to keep the space well ventilated and be mindful of condensation – especially if using paraffin.
For this test we assembled six big-brand electric powered fan heaters which are safer and suitable for the average domestic workshop or garage. We tested them in an uninsulated single garage with brick and wood walls and timed how long it took to raise the ambient temperature from 8 oC to 14 oC. To replicate a typical scene of working under a bonnet, the thermometer was kept at a distance of 1.5 metres from the heater and at a metre off the ground.
Which heater was hot stuff, and which left us cold? Read on to find the best garage heaters you should buy.
Erbauer BGP2108-25-1 – Winner
It’s the Erbauer which is in our garage right now and we use regularly to take the chill off our spanner sessions. It was the quickest to warm our workshop in the test, despite using less power than some of the rivals here.
It has a reasonably-long 1.7m cable and a sturdy frame which makes it less prone to falling over. But this also allows the whole unit to be tilted, making it easier to aim at areas you want to keep warm – whether that’s your toes, a wiring loom or a panel which is ready to be painted.
It also has two heat settings and a no-heat fan-only mode so it can be used in summer or to help extract fumes from an enclosed space. It is good value too, at less than £40 delivered.
Clarke Devil 2850
Price: £52.79 (plus £5.99 delivery)
With a whopping 2,850 watts of power, the Clarke can certainly heat up a space quickly, although it was still a few seconds behind the winning Erbauer in our warm up test, despite its hefty punch.
That power also means it will make your electricity meter spin like a Ferrari’s flywheel, and you’ll need to make sure your wiring is up to it – older plug sockets and 1950s fuse boxes might struggle with the strain.
The Clarke’s rectangular steel shell is easy to carry and store but does make it more susceptible to tipping. However, there is a safety cut-out switch if it does get knocked.
There’s a fan-only setting for summer use too and a variable heat dial rather than just two settings like other heaters here. But the fan is noisy and we can’t ignore the extra cost over the Erbauer.
Draper Space Heater 92967
The Draper might look very similar to the winning Erbauer, but in reality it’s about half the size – and has 20 per cent less power. This makes it easier to store and economical to run, but inevitably has an impact on performance too.
While it did a reasonable job of warming our garage, it was much more effective at heating a localised spot than a large space, and the temperature soon fell if we moved the fan’s blast even a few centimetres.
On the plus side, there is also a fan-only setting for summer and the frame makes it easy to adjust the direction of the airflow. We’d have liked a longer cable though.
But the Draper is only a few pence cheaper than the winning Erbauer, so unless you are really stuck for storage space there is no reason to choose it instead.
The PTC-2000 is the cheapest heater we tested and feels pretty no-nonsense. Its tough metal case, sturdy handle and large rubber-enclosed switch look industrial and seem to be designed to survive the tough conditions of a workshop well. It’s also pretty compact, so doesn’t steal too much shelf space in the summer months.
The power cable is a reasonable 1.8m long too, which makes it easier to place near to where the heat is needed. This will be needed though, as the PTC-2000 struggles to warm up the air – or anything else – which is further than a metre away. This makes it more suitable for a shed or smaller workshop rather than a car-size garage.
The Sealey is a neat little package, resembling an old-fashioned radio with a large handle and two dials to control the heat and fan speed. Crank it up to the maximum and it heats a space quickly too, helped by the second biggest power rating in this test.
As it is narrow and tall, it’s easy to knock the CH28 over but it has a sensitive cut out switch to protect it.
One of the three heater settings is ‘fan only’ meaning the Sealey can earn its keep in summer too. But you’d still struggle to get your money’s worth from the CH28. It’s the most expensive in the test by some margin, and that’s not reflected in the quality of the materials or the overall performance.
Toolstation 2kW Turbo Fan Heater
In the unlikely event that stylish looks are top of your priority list for a workshop heater, then Toolstation’s Turbo Fan will be an excellent choice. But in most other ways it is a let down.
Its jet engine-like looks and electronic buttons make it appear far more sophisticated than the rivals here, but the controls are baffling and tricky to use while wearing gloves.
More serious than that is the heating performance though. Even on the maximum setting it failed to raise the temperature in our garage by the required level, only managing to warm us by 5 oC after an hour.
It’s more use at ventilating as the fan has more puff than the smaller units in the test, but it is little use as a heater in cold weather.
Verdict: The best garage heaters 2023
The unimaginatively named Erbauer BGP2108-25-1 is the heater which is best able to get warmth to a localised area of your workshop and keep your fingers frost-free or warm up areas of the car you are working on. It looks good value too, so takes the winning spot in this test.
The Clarke is more powerful, but you will pay for it when you buy, and also when you get an electricity bill. It might be easier to store, though.
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