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How to Vent an Insulated Garage | 6 Ways

The garage might be the last place you think of when the question of ventilation is brought up, but due to the items stored in garages, they are very likely to suffer from poor air quality. Whether you ventilate your garage with open windows or soffit vents, ventilation is important for your health as well as your garage’s health, particularly when it is insulated.

Below you will find several ways to vent your garage as well as each option’s pros and cons, average cost, and how easy they are to install yourself. Federal regulations are also detailed as well as why it is important to ventilate your garage while also keeping the ventilation independent from your home.


An insulated garage can be passively ventilated using windows, soffit vents, or passive wall vents. Active ventilation (more effective) can be achieved via window fans or wall- or ceiling-insert exhaust fans. Garage venting is recommended but not required. Garage and home ventilation systems must be separate.

6 Ways to Vent an Insulated Garage

1. Windows

Ventilating your garage with windows is a great example of natural ventilation, meaning that air circulation is done through natural processes rather than mechanically. The goal of natural ventilation is to move hot air out of the home and cool air into it. 

DIY installation of windows is not overwhelmingly complex but doing it by yourself can be especially difficult due to the size and weight of windows. 

Garage interior; garage windows

Cost

To install just one window (for example, a double-paned, vinyl, casement window), the cost would be about $390. Note that this only covers one window and ventilation of your garage would improve with more windows. 

Pros

Humidity is not only uncomfortable at high levels, but it can also damage machinery and other water-sensitive items that are being stored in your garage. 

Ventilating your garage with windows is an easy and money-saving way to mitigate humidity in your garage. Continuous airflow through opened windows can decrease humidity levels without the initial and energy costs of a dehumidifier. 

As windows do not use energy or mechanical parts like an HVAC system would, they cost much less to operate. Windows require little maintenance, so you should only have to pay for their initial installation.

Cons

If the outside temperatures are above a comfortable temperature, for example, if you live in a warmer climate or if you experience warm summers, opening your windows will not cool down your garage, but instead let warmer air in. This air will be fresh but will cause your garage to be even warmer. 

The opposite also holds true for windows in your garage. If you live in a colder climate or experience cold winters, opening your windows will make your garage even more uncomfortably cold. Windows are not perfect seals and cold will leak in, even if you never open the window.

Leaving windows open can also let in various pests, from insects to rodents, especially if your windows don’t have screens.

As garages often have storage shelves, machinery, and garage doors taking up their walls, it can be difficult to find a place for a window. 

2. Window Fans

The passive movement of air through windows is not perfect for ventilation. If the goal is to cool your garage down, opening your windows to a cooler outside can let cool air enter and warm air exit, but the process is not perfect and can be expedited by window fans. 

The way they do this is by changing the direction of the fan blades to push air out or bring outside air in. Pushing air out of your garage isn’t necessarily for temperature control, but is beneficial for circulating stale, odorous, or contaminated air.

Installing a window fan yourself is very possible and quite simple. The process is fairly self-explanatory and shouldn’t even require tools. 

We have selected the following fan as the top pick in our curated list of bathroom window fans.

Exhaust Shutter Fan 300 CFM, 2 Direction Reversible Strong Airflow Wall Mounted Vent Fans, Ventilation Blower for Bathroom Attic Window Basement (8 inch / 110V)
  • Can Exhaust In Reverse -- It is a 2-way linkage type ventilation fan.In addition to exhausting smoke, it can eliminate sweltering hot air masses, and inhale cool nature wind to achieve ventilation.
  • Overheat Protection Easy Operation - with overheat protector, efficient temperature fuse, safer to useThe first pull, the fan runs and exhausts outward. The second pull, the fan reversely runs, and...
  • Durable -- High-quality wear-resistant sleeve bearing motor, which can continually work for 9,000 hours, quiet and stable.
  • Easy To Install -- Applied to vents, kitchen, bathroom, shopping mall, bedroom, living room, it comes with 33 inch power cord with plug.The detachable panel make it easy to install and clean.

Last update on 2022-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While marketed as a bathroom fan, you can still use it in the garage. Bathrooms have greater ventilation needs than garages, which means that the fan will certainly achieve adequate ventilation in your garage.

Cost

Window fans can range from $50 to $100, depending on the manufacturer, store, and quality of the window fan. 

Pros

Window fans utilize a mixture of passive ventilation and active ventilation to make the process more streamlined. You will find that the utilizing of a window fan will cool down your stuffy garage much faster than just leaving a window open. 

Vornado TRANSOM Window Fan with 4 Speeds, Remote Control, Reversible Exhaust Mode, Weather Resistant Case, Whole Room, White

If windows are already installed in your garage, the cost of improving the ventilation through the installation of window fans is fairly small in comparison to installing windows initially. 

Cons

Since window fans operate through open windows, window fans have similar cons. 

Installing a window fan means that your window is never actually fully closed. This can lead to a variety of problems, including: 

  • In the winter, cold can leak through the imperfect seams of the window fan and through the fan blades. 
  • Pollen, dust, and odors can also be brought in by your window fan, even if your window is protected by a screen. 

On the rare occasion that someone is trying to gain access to your home illegally, window fans could, unfortunately, make break-ins easier. If your window fan is not securely latched to the frame of your window or the window itself, an intruder may be able to enter your home.

Unlike venting with windows, using window fans requires electricity and will impact your energy bill.

3. Passive Wall Vents

Installing passive wall vents boils down to cutting a hole through your garage wall and installing two vents connected by some duct pipes. These vents provide a route for garage air to flow out and external air to flow in. The vents are passive, so the direction of air movement is dependent on relative temperatures and pressures inside and outside as well as wind speed and wind shielding structures.

passive wall vent

Wall vents can be installed by DIYer’s without help but the process is a tricky one. They necessitate drilling a sizeable hole through your garage wall, which requires powerful and dangerous tools as well as careful measuring. In addition, wiring and plumbing within your walls must be screened for as a first step, making the project even more complicated. 

Air vents for heating or cooling on the wall

Cost

Installing wall vents can cost anywhere from $30 to $200. This cost greatly depends on the manufacturer and the quality of the venting system.

Pros

As wall vents can close completely and are insulated well, unlike windows and window fans, wall venting allows little pollen, dust, and odors to enter from outside. 

This also means that leakage of cold air during the winter is much less of a problem, especially if your energy bills are rising due to heating your garage. 

Wall vent openings can be adjusted to stop, decrease, and increase airflow. This makes the venting process more customizable than for window and window fan venting. 

Without moving parts, passive wall vents, once installed, will only need to be maintained; they do not require electricity or another power source to function.

Cons

Being passive, they are reliant on uncontrollable factors to function. Things like wind speed and external temperatures cannot be adjusted to ensure optimal ventilation, so the quality of the air exchange between the garage and outside fluctuates.

The process of installing a wall venting system requires drilling into the walls of your garage. If a mistake is made or you decide to remove your wall venting system, repairing your walls to match their original appearance is not an easy feat. 

4. Wall-Insert Fans

A wall-insert fan is a simple mechanical way of ventilating your home. It consists of an intake vent on the inside of your home and an exhaust vent on the outside, making this a mostly one-way venting process, similar to the range hood above your stove.

Installation of wall-insert fans is very similar to that of wall vents. They both require drilling through the walls of your garage, which is an irreversible and dangerous process that requires careful screening beforehand. They are both possible for the average homeowner to install, though.

wall insert vent

Cost

Installing ventilation through a wall has a price range from $250 to $800. The shorter the distance between the exhaust and the intake vent, the less the project will cost, meaning that if the venting goes straight through your garage wall, the cost should be on the lower end of the spectrum.

The Panasonic WhisperWall bathroom fan is a good option, and it’s a through-wall option, so you eliminate the need for long stretches of ductwork.

Sale
Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall Bathroom Fan, Thru-the-Wall Ventilation, 70 CFM
  • UL listed for through-the-wall application
  • Includes 10-inch galvanized sleeve and steel exterior hood
  • UL listed for tub/shower enclosure when GFCI protected
  • This Panasonic wall mounted ventilating fan uses a propeller fan driven by a capacitor motor. The motor is designed for extended service life with reduced energy consumption. It also incorporates a...

Last update on 2022-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

However, if you cannot vent through the wall, you can find other options in our curated list of wall-mounted bathroom fans.

Pros

As wall-insert fans are a largely one-way process, they will allow even fewer outdoor contaminants into your garage. This includes odors, pollen, and dust. 

This means that wall-insert fans are also less likely to allow the infiltration of freezing air in the winter than wall vents. 

Garages can be dangerous places because of their contaminated air. Exhaust ventilation means that contaminated air will be quickly removed from your garage.

Cons

One aspect of keeping the air in your garage, as well as your home, safe and fresh is allowing outside air to replace stale inside air. An exhaust system does not allow this and the air will be pulled from any place that it can be. Sometimes this is outside; other times it can be from the ceiling, crawlspaces, and adjoining rooms.

If you are not opening your garage door to allow fresh air in, the air quality of your garage may suffer with this system in place. 

5. Ceiling-Insert Fans With Ducts

Ventilation done through the ceiling and through ducts is very similar to wall venting but in this case, there is more flexibility as far as where the exhaust vent will be. 

As venting through the ceiling requires ductwork, DIY installation would be very complex. It is possible to install ductwork yourself but you could save time and stress by hiring a professional. 

Ceiling insulation, ventilation system air ducts

Panasonic are our top choice for exhaust fans, and they have a great model, which should function effectively in your garage:

Sale
Panasonic FV-0511VQ1 WhisperCeiling DC - Bathroom Exhaust Fan with Speed Selector - SmartFlow Technology - Quiet Energy Star-Certified Ceiling Fan - White
  • Bathroom ceiling fan with a 4-inch or 6-inch duct adaptor; ideal for new construction and renovations
  • This bathroom ceiling fan delivers quiet, powerful, and precise spot ventilation while removing moisture and pollution
  • Built-in Pick-A-Flow airflow selector allows you to select an airflow of 50, 80, or 110 CFM for your vent fan with the flip of a switch
  • Single-hinged Flex-Z Fast bracket provides flexible, fast, and easy bathroom ceiling installation

Last update on 2022-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Cost

Accounting for the fan components as well as the more complicated ducting that comes with venting through a roof, the cost of installing ceiling-insert fans would be about $350 to $950. 

Pros

Unliked wall venting and wall insert fans, the location where the exhaust vent will be is more flexible when venting through the ceiling. Exhaust can be vented through the roof, soffit, or wall.

This is especially important when venting through a wall might be unpleasant or difficult. For example, when the exhaust is vented in an area that is often occupied or if the homeowner would rather not drill through the walls of their home.

Due to the fact that hot air rises, a ceiling intake vent is ideal for removing hot air from your garage. This lessens the burden of mechanical ventilation since hot air would naturally rise into your ventilation system. 

These fans can be an ideal choice for hot and humid climates like those found in California.

Cons

Like all ventilation systems that operate mechanically, operating a ceiling-insert fan system requires electricity and will raise your energy bills. 

The installation prices are higher for venting through a ceiling than if you were to vent through your garage walls. 

6. Soffit Vents

Soffits, the area under the eaves of your roof, can be used to supply fresh air to your attic, but they can also be used to passively supply fresh air to your garage

soffit vent with relatively large round holes

The process of installing vents in your soffit can be done yourself as long as you are comfortable with handling a circular saw on a ladder. For this reason, safety precautions, such as safety glasses and someone to stabilize the ladder, are highly recommended. 

soffit vent

Cost

The estimated cost of installing soffit vents is about $315 to $465. If your roof does not already have soffit installed, the price goes up for installing soffit as well. 

Pros

While other outdoor vents can be clogged in various ways, it is very unlikely for soffit vents to become clogged as long as they are maintained well.

Venting through the soffits of your home is a discreet and minimally invasive way to vent fresh air into your garage.

Cons

Soffit vents are made for taking in air rather than venting it out. For the best air quality in your garage, it is important to have an exhaust vent incorporated into the system as well. 

Moist air can accumulate in this system, which can damage the roof, soffits, and siding of your garage. 

Soffit venting would be ideal for a separate garage with its own roof. It is possible in other situations but would require quite a bit of ducting. 

Garage Ventilation Must Be Independent of House

While weighing the information above as you decide how you’d like to ventilate your garage, it is also important to note that the ventilation in your garage must be independent of your home’s ventilation. 

According to Section M1601.6 of the IRC:

“Furnaces and air-handling systems that supply air to living areas shall not supply air to or return air from a garage.”

This is because garage air can contain an abundance of contaminants from various different sources. There’s carbon monoxide from car exhaust, gasoline, and various strong chemicals, such as fertilizers and pesticides. 

Garages can also be sites for home improvement projects. Fine particulates from sawing wood as well as paint fumes can have adverse effects on health and make for poor air quality. 

Ceiling air ventilation and wall fan coil unit diagram

With all of these factors that reduce the quality of the air, it is important that this contaminated air is not distributed to living areas as this could cause health problems, especially for those with preexisting conditions. 

In response to the contaminated air associated with garages, there are regulations to mitigate health concerns related to air quality. 

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends:

“Ventilate attached garages with a 100 cfm (ducted) or 80 cfm (un-ducted) exhaust fan, venting to outdoors and designed for continuous operation.” 

If continuous operation is not possible or is inconvenient, the EPA also states that a fan with automatic controls can replace continuous operation as long as it is active while the garage is occupied and one hour after it is vacated. 

Importance of Garage Ventilation

  • Fumes from paints, pesticides, fertilizers, and other strong chemical substances can cause health concerns when exposed for a long period in an unventilated garage.
  • These fumes can seep into the home through gaps and cracks. 
  • Unventilated garages can experience a build-up of car exhaust, which contains carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas, that is colorless and odorless, making it very hard to detect. 
  • Carbon monoxide easily seeps into the home from the garage. 
  • Heat can accumulate during the summer months, which can make the garage an unpleasant place to be.
  • Not ventilating the stored heat from a garage can cause energy bills to rise as the heat infiltrates the home and requires the air conditioner to work harder.
  • Cars can bring in unwanted moisture to the garage from rain and melting snow. If the garage is unventilated, the moisture will accumulate.
  • Moisture can damage your garage’s flooring. 
  • Moisture can also damage machinery kept in the garage as well as storage items.

Sources

https://www.bedsonreps.com/blog/posts/pros-and-cons-of-natural-ventilation-systems

https://airflowacademy.com/garage-ventilation-options/

https://modernize.com/windows/replacement-cost-calculator

https://knowtheflo.com/window-fan-vs-box-fan/

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-window-fans/

https://homesteady.com/how-8365812-install-window-fan.html

https://ventilation-system.com/series/wall-vent-ps

https://images.thdstatic.com/catalog/pdfImages/23/23f817af-cc77-429f-afd9-fa276389febf.pdf

https://homeguide.com/costs/cost-to-install-bathroom-exhaust-fan#:~:text=Cost%20to%20vent%20a%20bathroom,type%2C%20and%20exterior%20siding%20material.

https://www.ezpzroofing.com/ventilation/soffit-vent/

https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/heating-and-cooling/roof-ridge-vent-installation/

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/heating-cooling/21017397/improving-attic-ventilation

https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/article/dont-let-your-garage-make-you-sick

https://codes.iccsafe.org/content/IRC2021P1/chapter-16-duct-systems#IRC2021P1_Pt05_Ch16_SecM1601.6

https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2014-08/documents/building_codes_and_iaq.pdf

https://www.danleys.com/blog/does-your-garage-need-to-be-ventilated/

https://www.detmersons.com/why-garage-ventilation-is-important/

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