Best Portable Heater – Reviews and Buying Guide 2019

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pertable heater

A portable heater makes it easy to take the heat where you want to be. That is its purpose.

A portable electric heater is ideal for indoor use or for heating a dry, covered space. A portable propane heater is better suited to outdoor use, though a few are rated for use in confined spaces.

Our list of Best Portable Heaters includes all three types – Electric, propane for outdoor use and indoor propane heaters.

We start with our Best Portable Heater list. It includes brief reviews and an opportunity for you to purchase the right one for your needs at the lowest current price.

Our Portable Heater Buying Guide follows. It has comprehensive information for readers undecided about portable heater features, pros and cons, what to look for in a portable heater and much more.

The Best Portable Heaters

Here are the best heaters and why they make the list.

      Image                    Product

​Mr. Heater F232000

  • 4,000 to 9,000BTU, 225 sq. ft
  • Auto shut-off if tipped over
  • Indoor/Outdoor Use

Best Propane

TRUSTECH Fan+Heater 2 in 1

  • 750W + 1500W
  • overheating & tip-over Protection
  • Fan + Space Heater

Best Electric

Mr. Heater F274830

  • 4, 000- to 18, 000-BTU, 450 sq. ft
  • Tip-Over Protection
  • detects low oxygen levels

Best for Camping

​STANLEY ST-60HB2-GFA

  • Up to 60, 000 BTUs
  • For Ventilated Spaces
  • Push-Button Piezo Ignitor

Best For Garage

​Mr. Heater MH18CH

  • 6,000 , 12,000 and 18,000 BTUs
  • Auto low oxygen shutoff
  • CSA Certified. Outdoor Use Only

Best for Outdoor

AmazonBasics Mini Heater

  • 500W
  • Tip-Over Protection
  • 4 colors, 1.5lbs

Best Small

Unique Heat Space Heater

  • 1500W, output of 5200 BTU
  • Tip-Over & Overheat Protection
  • Remote control, Timer, Air cleaner and filter

for Large Rooms

Overall Best Portable Propane Heater

#1 Mr. Heater MH9BX Indoor Portable Propane Heater

Mr. Heater portable propane heater models dominate the market. There are several on this list. They heat safely and dependably. The outstanding ratings and reviews don’t lie.

  • Pros: Safe for indoors. Adjustable 4,000 to 9,000 BTU. Tip-over shutoff. Low-oxygen shutoff. Fold-down handle.
  • Cons: Some reviewers have said the company has poor customer service. However, very few of these units have problems.
  • Weight: 9 pounds
  • Best Use: Any location up to 200 square feet. Ideal for hunting shanties, blinds, sheds, camping and garage use.

Others:

  • You might also like the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Carry Bag. The heater and bag make a great gift for anyone on your list!

Overall Best Portable Electric Heater

#2 TRUSTECH Air Circulator Fan Portable Space Heater

This portable electric heater gives you 12 months of use with the fan for warm weather and the space heater for cool months. It has 2 heat settings: 750/1500 watts.  

  • Pros: Heater with fan. Fan-only mode. Tip-over and overheat shut-off protection. 3-position angle adjustment.
  • Cons: Does not have a GFCI shutoff. If you use it in the bathroom, keep it well away from water.
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Best Use: Bedrooms, offices and anywhere as a personal heater.

Best Portable Heater for Camping

#3 Mr. Heater MH18BRV Indoor Portable Propane Heater

This unit is indoor-safe and heats up to 18,000 BTUs – twice as much heat as most portable heater units. That’s why we chose it as the best portable heater for camping. Fan runs on battery or AC adapter.

  • Pros: 4K/9K/18K BTU settings. Safe indoors. Auto tip-over and low-oxygen shutoff. Easy Piezo spark lighting.
  • Cons: A little heavy.
  • Weight: 17 pounds.
  • Best Use: Tents, RVs, outdoors, cabins, garages, large blinds and shanties. Rated for up to 450 square feet.

Others:

  • This Mr. Heater portable propane heater runs off two 1lb cylinders. This 12ft. Big Buddy Hose with Regulator allows you to run it off a 20lb or larger cylinder.

Best Portable Heater for Garage

#4 Stanley ST-60HB2-GFA Gas Forced Air Heater

This unit delivers as much heat as a small furnace! The shape and fan allow you to focus the heat. Ratings are extremely high for the best portable heater for garage use.

  • Pros: 60,000 BTU max. Adjustable heat. Compact with carrying handle. Hose and regulator included. Piezo ignition.
  • Cons: We recommend a small amount of ventilation and having a CO monitor nearby. Electricity required for the fan.
  • Weight: 12.1 pounds.
  • Best Use: Garages, barns, construction, pavilions, outdoors.

Best Portable Heater for Outdoor Use Only

#5 Mr. Heater MH18CH Radiant Cabinet LP Heater

This 18,000 BTU portable propane heater includes a hose and regulator. Heat settings are 6K, 12K and 18K BTUs.

  • Pros: Tip-over shutoff. Overheat shutoff. Wheels for portability. Piezo ignition. No electricity needed.
  • Cons: SHOULD NOT be used without ventilation due to carbon monoxide dangers.
  • Weight: 22.6 pounds.
  • Best Use: Decks and patios, tailgating, ventilated barns and similar settings up to 450 square feet.

Best Small Portable Heater

#6 AmazonBasics 500-Watt Ceramic Personal Mini Heater

This portable electric heater is perfect for personal warming as you sit at your desk or on the couch. It has a fast-heating ceramic coil.

  • Pros: Uses 1/3 as much electricity as larger space heaters. 4 color choices. Tip-over shutoff. It is super-light.
  • Cons: Don’t expect it to heat more than 80 square feet (8x10).
  • Weight: 1.5lbs.
  • Best Use: Personal space. Under a desk or on a desktop or table. Very small bedroom.
We reviewed 5 of the other top small portable heaters in our Mini Space Heater Reviews and Guide.

Best Portable Heater for Large Rooms

#7 Unique Heat Infrared Home & Office Space Heater

Infrared heats objects, not air, so efficiency is improved. This portable electric heater stays cool to the touch, so safer for kids and pets. No fire risk.

  • Pros: Remote control. Tip-over and overheat shutoff. Timer. Air cleaner and filter. Comfortable handles and wheels too.
  • Cons: Higher cost than most space heaters.
  • Weight: 16 pounds.
  • Best Use: This might be the best portable heater for home use. It heats up to 1,000 square feet, so ideal for large areas and small apartments.

Others:

  • If this unit costs more than you want to spend, we recommend the AmazonBasics Portable Space Heater 1500W with an attractive wood cabinet as the second best portable heater for large rooms. It is more affordable.

Guide Section

Our goal with this portable heater guide is to provide you with research that will help you make a buying decision you’re very happy with.

Here’s the Navigation Guide to the information you want.

Features to Look for in a Portable Heater

Propane vs Electric Portable Heaters

Portable Propane Heater Types

Portable Propane Heater Safety

Portable Electric Heater Types

Portable Electric Heater Safety

Portable Heater Best Practices

Features to Look for in a Portable Heater

The best portable heaters have a stable base, safety features and are lightweight. There are performance features to consider too.

A Stable Base

In our pro opinion, this is the most essential feature. Why? Because if you’re going to be moving the heater and setting it down on a variety of surfaces, stability is important.

Thick carpet, garage floors, decks and patios, the lawn or woods can all be uneven. The best portable heaters are the least likely to tip over.

This is one reason that no tower-style portable electric heaters made our list. They tip too easily.

Safety Features

All electric space heaters made now are equipped with tip-over switches that turn them off.

But safety goes beyond that.

Also research whether the:

  • Unit shuts down if it overheats
  • Heater has a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI or GFI) which immediately turns off the unit if it contacts a significant amount of water

See our Safest Space Heater, Reviews and Guide page if you want to research this topic in detail. There is a list there of the safest space heaters too.

Propane models should have:

  • An oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) that shuts off the unit if the oxygen level in the room drops to an unhealthy level
  • An overheat shutoff
  • A tip-over shutoff
  • A steel wire cover over the burner

For indoor use, the portable propane heater should burn so clean it doesn’t produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide. These are sometimes called vent-free or blue flame portable propane heaters. Heaters that need venting have orange flames.

Safety reminders:

  • Do not use a portable propane heater indoors unless the box and/or information clearly states it is safe for indoor use.  
  • Do not use an extension cord with any portable heater. Extension cords can get very hot or spark. Either malfunction can cause a fire.

Weight

If you’re going to be carrying a heater, it shouldn’t be the heaviest you can find, right? Amazon and other retailers list the weight of the heaters for comparison purposes.

Many of the cabinet style portable electric heaters have excellent features, but they’re heavy.

Some of the heaters we considered for the best portable heater for large rooms weigh close to 25 pounds! That’s a lot to carry from room to room – or carry up the stairs.

The unit we chose weighs 16 pounds. Weight was one of many considerations along with quality, performance and features, but a significant one.  

Pro tip: Some large room portable heaters have wheels or casters that make it much easier to move them.  

Performance Features

There are many options that optimize comfort, convenience and efficiency when using a portable heater. Most of these are found on portable electric heater models. A few portable propane heater units have some of them.

Digital thermostat: These are more precise than a dial-type thermostat. You usually have to experiment with dials to learn the right setting for the amount of heat you want.

Oscillating fan: Those with this feature oscillate from about 50 degrees to 85 degrees. Heat is evenly distributed in the room with oscillation.

Timer: This is the best way to ensure efficiency. If you forget to turn off the portable heater, the timer will do it for you. This is also a safety feature.

Fan-only mode: The TRUSTECH Air Circulator Fan 2 in 1 Portable Heater in our list of the best portable heater models is a good example of this. The fan can be run without the heater for cooling in warm weather, white noise or circulating heat already produced.

Multiple heat settings: A portable electric heater might have two settings, with 750 and 1500 watts the most common. Some portable propane heater units have two or three heat settings. 4,000, 9,000 and 18,000 BTUs, for example, like the Mr. Heater MH18BRV Big Buddy Indoor-Safe Portable Propane Heater reviewed above.

Remote control: Life is easier with remotes! The best remotes have all the functions the digital display has.

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Propane vs Electric Portable Heaters

Is an electric portable heater better than a portable propane heater? Or is it the other way around?

The “right” answer for you depends on how you intend to use the heater.

Here is a comparison using pros and cons of portable propane heaters and portable electric heaters.

They are followed by our conclusions.

Portable Propane Heater Pros

  • Immediate heat when lit
  • The potential for much more heat, and heating areas up to 1,000 square feet vs just 150 square feet for a 1500-watt portable electric heater
  • Lower fuel costs: Running a heater on propane costs less than running it on electricity, for comparably sized models
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    Cost is competitive with electric portable heaters
  • No electricity is needed: Many use radiant heat rather than a fan
  • Provide some light too, for example during a power outage at night

Pro tip: You’ll save 60% or more on fuel if you use a 20lb (or 30lb) propane cylinder rather than 1lb bottles to fuel your heater. Look for a portable propane heater that comes with its own hose and regulator. Two good options from the list above are the Stanley ST-60HB2-GFA or the Mr. Heater MH18BRV Big Buddy LP heaters.

Even if you have to buy a hose and regulator, the cost is less than $35. You’ll soon make that up if you use the heater a lot.

Portable Propane Heater Cons

  • Propane consumes oxygen, so if there is no ventilation, low oxygen levels can develop. As noted, look for a portable propane heater with an Oxygen Depletion Sensor that will shut it off if this occurs
  • Moisture is a byproduct of combustion, so using a propane heater where moisture is already a problem might make it worse, for example, encouraging mold growth
  • Severe burns can be caused, since most propane heaters are hotter to the touch than portable electric heaters
  • Carbon monoxide is produced by some propane heaters, and that can cause death in a confined space
  • Pilot lights often go out at elevations above about 5,000 feet

Portable Electric Heater Pros

  • Light and easy to move
  • Quick heating on ceramic portable electric heaters
  • Most have more features than propane heaters like timers, digital controls, fan-only mode and thermostat

Portable Electric Heater Cons

  • Energy costs are higher
  • More fires are caused by portable electric space heaters than most other heat sources
  • They are indoor heaters, mostly. Electric heaters have little use outdoors and limited reach in a space like a garage

Pro tip: Read our Safest Space Heater Guide before buying or using a portable electric heater.

The Bottom Line: Electric vs Propane Portable Heaters

  • A portable electric heater is best for most indoor settings, especially when you’re heating 150 square feet or less.
  • A portable propane heater is best for outdoor settings and large indoor settings (ventless units only), construction sites, garages, barns and similar.

Portable Propane Heater Types

We covered this topic in detail in our Propane Space Heater Buying Guide.

But here is a summary of the three main types of portable propane heater.

1. Forced air heaters: These units are like little furnaces with a powerful fan to push heat out of the unit. Most cannot be used indoors. They are best suited to ventilated garages, outbuildings, shanties and blinds, decks and patios.

2. Convection heaters: Vent-free, indoor propane heaters are convection heaters. They create a blue flame that is very hot. Heat is distributed by a small fan. Their ideal use is in large areas.

3. Radiant heaters: These units don’t have a fan. That is an advantage, because they don’t require electricity. The heat they create emanates out from them. They’re best for smaller areas or large areas, when you don’t need to heat the space quickly.

Portable Propane Heater Safety

We’ve discussed the safety features to look for in a portable propane heater: ODS (low-oxygen) sensor, tip-over shutoff and overheat shutoff. Those are equipment features. These propane heater safety tips are for using the unit.

  • Never use a portable propane heater indoors unless it is designed for indoor use. This is a “repeat,” but it is very important.
  • Keep a 3-foot barrier between the heater and anything combustible. The barrier should be 5 or more feet if the heater is near a bed. Covers falling off the bed can quickly ignite if they contact the heater.
  • Clean dust and debris out of the heater to prevent them from burning and being blown into the room where they can cause a fire.
  • Keep the propane portable heater covered when not in use, so dust and debris won’t accumulate in it.
  • Do not leave the heater unattended.
  • Keep small kids and pets away from the heater.
  • There should always be some ventilation like an open window, partly opened door, open tent flap, etc., when using in a confined space.
  • If using a cylinder for fuel, keep the cylinder as far away from the heat as possible.

Portable Electric Heater Types

There are three common electric heater types: Ceramic heaters, infrared heaters and oil-filled radiant heaters.

1. Ceramic heaters: These are the most common. Ceramic heating plates use resistance electric heat to warm up fast. The ceramic retains heat for improved efficiency. Most, like the AmazonBasics 500-Watt Ceramic Small Space Personal Mini Heater in our Best Portable Heater list are very compact. Even 1500-watt units are small. They’re affordable too, with prices starting at about $15.

2. Infrared heaters: The heat is created by bulbs and dispersed by soft metals like copper. Quartz is used too. These units are efficient because they heat objects, not the air. We noted this in our review of the best large room portable electric heater, the Unique Heat Infrared Home & Office Whole Room Space Heater.

3. Oil-filled heaters: These units look like mini radiators, usually tall with fins. There is oil in the fins. When heated, the oil continues to radiate out heat even after the power is turned off. We did not include oil-filled space heaters in our list because they are heavy and they tip easier than other types – two traits not suited to portable heaters.

Portable Electric Heater Safety

There is a lengthy list in our Safest Space Heater Reviews and Guide, but here is a summary of safety tips for portable electric heaters.

  • Use electric heaters indoors or in covered, dry locations.
  • Only set them on flat, level surfaces.
  • Keep a 3-foot space from anything burnable including bedding and furniture.
  • Don’t leave the heater unattended.
  • Unplug the heater when not in use.
  • Don’t use an extension cord, and if the heater cord is damaged, throw away the heater.
  • Never tape a tip-over post to ensure the heater continues to run (on thick carpet, for example).

Portable Heater Best Practices

We’ve covered the safety tips for both portable electric heater and portable propane heater models.

There are just a few more tips to for efficient, high-performance heating with a portable heater. Use one for:

Special-use Heating

Portable heaters are ideal for providing heat where no other heat source is available.

Supplemental Heating

There are areas in any home or commercial building that aren’t adequately reached by the central heating source. Maybe it’s the furthest bedroom from the furnace or a basement bonus room that doesn’t have a heat grate or radiator.

A portable heater is an excellent choice for adding a little more heat to space that isn’t quite as warm as you’d like it to be.

Emergency Heating

If your power goes out during cold weather, a portable heater can keep you warm or, in freezing weather, keep pipes from freezing and bursting.

One of the best portable electric heater models from the list above would be a good choice for emergency heating when you have a generator that can power it.

One of the best portable propane heater units in the list can be used if you do not have a generator. Choose one that is indoor-safe.

Not Designed as the Sole Heat Source

Portable heaters are designed for special uses, supplemental heat and emergency heating, but not to be the only heating in a home or business.

Prolonged use of a portable heater can produce several negative affects including:

  • Greater risk of fire
  • Potential risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Higher energy costs than a gas furnace or heat pump would produce

Stick to the intended use for your portable heater, and it will serve you well. That’s the goal we had in mind in researching, reviewing and selecting the best portable propane heater and portable electric heater models in our list.

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