Of all the space heater types that are available, one of the most versatile in terms of how and where you can use it, are propane space heaters.
These come in several sizes, have lots of different designs, and they can be used in many locations. These include inside the home, in garages and workshops, offices, and they are also ideal if you need a heat source when camping, caravanning, or for your motorhome.
In this article, we are going to assess five of the best propane space heaters which are currently available. We'll go through their main features plus highlight what we liked and disliked about each model. Our buyers guide to propane space heaters will give you further advice on how to select the right one for your needs.
PROPANE HEATER NAME
7.7 X 13.4 X 15 INCHES
15.2 X 20 X 24.6 INCHES
5 X 12 X 15 INCHES
23.8 X 11.2 X 27 INCHES
16.1 X 17.5 X 23.2 INCHES
MAX. HEAT OUTPUT
2 HEAT SETTINGS
3 HEAT SETTINGS
3 HEAT SETTINGS
Reviews of The Best Propane Space Heaters
If you are looking for a small portable propane heater which you can take just about anywhere, then you might want to consider this one from Mr. Heater.
Its weight, size and large fold-down carry handle make it one of the most adaptable propane space heaters you can buy given that it can be carried to wherever it is needed.
It can be fueled using a small 1 lb. canister which screws on to the inlet adapter or if you purchase the appropriate hose and regulator it can be connected to larger propane tanks.
In terms of heat, it can get up to a respectable 9000 BTUs, which should be enough to heat most small spaces or rooms, and if you need less heat than the maximum, it can be turned down to just 4,000 BTUs output.
Getting it started is achieved using the electronic ignition button and once started you can adjust the position of the heater so that the heat is directed to where it is needed. It also has low oxygen and tip over cutoff safety features.
Things We Like
Things We Don't Like
The robust metal exterior of this propane space heater suggests that it is ideal for use in workshops and garages where it can stand up to the occasional knock. That is not to say it cannot be used in the home, as its red and black coloring makes it very distinctive.
It can certainly produce a lot of heat given that it is rated up 18,000 BTUs, and the fuel source for this can be a small propane bottle housed in the back of the heater, or a larger tank which would obviously be connected externally. The hose and regulator are both supplied with the heater.
The heater is started using a push-button electronic ignition system, and once lit you can adjust the heat level to any one of three heat settings using the control dial on the side.
If you need to move the heater to a different room, it can be pushed along thanks to the casters underneath. One word of warning is to be careful if you lift it with the handles as edges of the handles are quite sharp.
Things We Like
Things We Don't Like
If you have very limited space but still need to heat that space, then this little propane heater could be the answer. Its diminutive size and its weight, which is one of the lowest we have come across, mean, not only will it take up very little room, but it is also very portable. You can also wall mount this propane heater if you don’t have enough floor space for it.
This is a catalytic propane heater which radiates heat up to around 3,000 BTUs. Obviously not the highest output, but enough to heat the small spaces we mentioned previously. These could include a caravan, a small workshop or office and even a tent.
To get started you simply press the ignition button and it should be up and running in no time, albeit it can be a bit noisy at first. The heat is adjusted using the thermostat dial which can adjust the heat between 1,600 and 3,000 BTUs.
An important safety feature is a cut-off valve which prevents propane from leaking should the ignition not operate. Note that the legs are optional extras, but they are useful in helping to direct heat upwards.
Things We Like
Things We Don't Like
Those of you who need a space heater for a small room in your home and fear that a propane heater may appear unsightly or too 'industrial' for a lounge or living room should take a look at this one from Mr. Heater.
It is small and compact, and you have options to either have it standing on legs, which are included, or mount it on a wall, using the included kit. Either way, its design would grace any home especially as it is white in color, which is neutral, and should complement any decor and furnishings.
Despite its small size, it can belt out an impressive 20,000 BTUs so there should be no issues in respect of being able to heat most small to medium-sized rooms.
It is started electronically, and once alight you can vary the heat output using the control dial. The main safety feature is a cutoff switch which activates should it detect low oxygen levels.
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Things We Don't Like
This propane space heater is very distinctive thanks to its all-black exterior and this coupled with its cabinet design means it is suitable for use in multiple locations such as the garage, an office, lounge or dining room.
It can be fueled by a propane tank of up to 20 lbs. and this can be housed and kept out of sight in the heater's back cabinet. Should you wish to move the heater at any point it is easy to do so thanks to its casters which allow you to wheel it around. Once in place the casters lock to prevent unwanted movement.
It is easy to start using the ignition button and thereafter you can adjust the heat level to three different settings using the heat control dial. The maximum output is 18,00 BTUs, with the others being 12,000 BTUs and 6,000 BTUs.
For safety, there is an oxygen depletion cut off, and a tip over safety cut off, although the latter can be somewhat over sensitive
Things We Like
Things We Don't Like
Main Features to Look for In Propane Space Heaters
It will often be the case that you want to use your propane space heater in more than one room or location. While most of them are lightweight, there are size differences between them so assess what suits you best. Also look for those which have casters or handles as these are very easy to move.
Most of the better propane space heaters have electronic ignition which means you simply press a button and the heater lights up. Some may take more than one attempt, so you may have to be patient. There are some more basic propane heaters which are lit with a naked flame, so you will either need matches or a lighter to start these.
3. Heat Settings
As we've mentioned elsewhere it will not always be the case that you need or want to run a heater at its highest heat setting. This is when those with multiple heat settings have an advantage as you can adjust it down to whatever heat level is most comfortable. Others may have two or three settings which are normally designated 'Low', Medium', or 'High'.
4. Safety Features
We have covered these in some detail in the safety section. but suffice to say the more safety features any propane heater has, the better. You should at least be looking for it to have an Oxygen Depletion Sensor, and a Tip-Over cut off, if you plan to have it sitting on the floor.
Most propane space heaters are designed to sit on the floor, however, there are some which also give you the option to mount them on the wall. This might be particularly useful to you if the room you plan to use it in has very limited floor space. Whichever way you decide on in relation its positioning, ensure the heater has plenty of clearance and is not near anything which might be combustible.
Staying Safe with Propane Space Heaters
As you would with any type of gas appliance, a propane gas space heater needs to be used with care and with due consideration of any safety advice which pertains to its operation. Generally, they are very safe, and accidents are rare, but nevertheless, to ensure you do find yourself at risk of one of those rare accidents, you should take note of the following information.
It is likely that any propane space heater you buy will have one or more safety features already built into them. When considering which propane heaters, you are going to buy, make a note of which ones any individual model has. The most common safety features are as follows:
1. Tip Over Safety Cut Off
Many propane space heaters are portable, they tend to be small, and most of them sit on the floor, rather being wall mounted. This makes them prime targets for being kicked, bumped into or knocked over accidentally by you or others who are not paying attention to what is around them.
If such as accident should occur there is a sensor inside the heater which detects it and immediately cuts off the supply of propane gas. This ensures that you do not have a heater leaning or lying on something which is combustible. It also stops gas flowing if the flame goes out as a result of the heater falling over.
2. Low Oxygen Cut Off
An oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) in gas heaters has been known to save countless lives and, in many scenarios, they are compulsory when larger gas heating systems are being installed.
The reason they are important is that when gas, an in this case propane gas, heaters are on, they produce small quantities of carbon dioxide or CO2. If the levels of CO2 rise, then it has the effect of reducing the amount of oxygen which is present. In small and confined spaces this can be dangerous, and potentially deadly, due to the risk of suffocation.
To prevent any such risk, propane space heaters are fitted with an ODS sensor will turn it off if it detects that the level of oxygen has reached a certain low level.
3. Temperature Cut Off
In some propane space heaters, there is a cut off device which activates when the temperature it senses reaches an upper level. This prevents overheating and reduces the risks of damage to the heater or materials nearby combusting due to high temperatures.
Assessing the Heat Output Required from Propane Space Heaters
One of the confusing aspects of choosing any type of heaters is that the heat output is often stated using different units. In some cases, you will see it in terms of the room size the heater is capable of heating, you will also come across heaters rated by wattage, and finally, there are BTUs, or 'British Thermal Units ' to give them their full title.
If you want to compare a heater rated in BTUs with one rated in watts, then the simple calculation is that 1 watt is equivalent to 3.41 BTUs.
For propane space heaters, most manufacturers rate their products in BTUs which allows us to make a like for like comparison between them. Bear in mind that you do not always need to go for the heater that has the highest BTU heat output because it may not be necessary to go that high for the size of the room you are trying to heat.
With the heaters we have reviewed the top BTU rating ranges from just 3,000 BTUs all the way up to 20,000 BTUs. In each heater, you also have adjustable heat settings which means it will not always be outputting its highest capability.
To work out what you need for a specific room size the calculation you need to make is relatively simple. You first measure the room and then determine what the total area of it is. So, a room which 15 ft x 15 ft has an area of 225 feet.
You then take this figure and multiply it by 20 to give you an estimate of the BTUs required to heat it, so in our example, that would be 4500 BTUs. The best advice is to go for one which is slightly higher so here we would be looking for heater with a minimum output of 5,000 BTUs.
What Are the Different Types of Propane Space Heaters?
Although propane space heaters are obviously fueled by propane gas tanks, the way in which heaters subsequently heat the space or room they are sitting in can differ. There are main types which are normally available, and these are forced air, convection and radiant heaters.
Forced air propane space heaters are usually used in garages, outhouses and workshops. The main reason they are not used in the home is due to how loud they are when in operation, although they could be in an emergency, such as a power outage, if you can put up with the noise.
The way they work is that the propane gas is lit and heats up the internal heating elements. As with normal convection space heaters a fan turns quickly and blows air across the heating elements and out into the room to heat it up.
The principles behind how a radiant heater works are based on waves of heat emanating from the heat source and an object or person which is in the direct path of those waves absorbing the heat. It is the same principle upon which we receive heat from the sun.
Compared to other propane heater types, radiant heaters are normally very quiet as there is no fan running, and therefore they are very popular for use in offices and living rooms.
If your propane space heater has a blue flame, then it is highly likely to be a convection heater. The heat from these flames is blown into the room by a small fan, although these fans are much quieter than those in forced air propane space heaters.
Convection propane heaters are more suitable for heating larger spaces as the warm air is distributed over a bigger area compared to radiant heat which is more localized.
Connecting a Propane Gas Tank to Your Propane Space Heater
A propane space heater obviously needs to be fueled by propane gas which comes in tanks or cylinders. For smaller heaters that use cylinders it is simply a case of removing the seal and then screwing it directly on to the heater fitting. There are not normally any hoses and regulators required for these cylinders.
For propane gas tanks to be connected to a propane space heater you will need to other pieces of equipment which are the gas hose and the regulator. It will not always be the case that these are provided when you purchase a propane space heater so check the details to see if they are. If not, you will need to purchase these separately, albeit they are relatively inexpensive.
Here is step by step guide to fitting a propane gas tank safely to a propane space heater
#1 Place the tank next to, or in, the heater's cabinet if it has one, and remove the seal which is usually made of plastic.
#2 The regulator and the heater heat adjustment dial must be set to 'Off'.
#3 Place the heater inlet connector into the outlet connection of the propane tank.
#4 Twist the inlet connector counter-clockwise to start tightening it. Note that this is the opposite way that would normally tighten a bolt thread.
#5 When you have the connector tightened fully, turn the tank valve to the left to start the flow of gas to the heater.
#6 Listen for any 'hissing' which might indicate a gas leak.
#7 Smell for any gas leak. The smell which indicates a propane gas leak is the same as rotten eggs.
#8 Whether you are connecting a propane gas cylinder or a propane gas tank you should always carry out a 'bubble test' as follows
#9 Mix some liquid soap with some cold water and pour a small amount around the propane gas connection
#10 Look for any small bubbles, and if any appear it means that some gas is escaping. This video shows that even the professionals use this test.
The great appeal of propane space heaters is they can be used in so many more locations than most other space heaters can. This is particularly true of the Mr. Heater MH9BX Portable Buddy Propane Heater which we regard as the best propane space heater of the ones we reviewed.
Its design is such that it can just as easily used in a lounge as it could in the garage, and whichever one it is, the heat output of 18,000 BTUs should ensure that anyone in those locations will be warm.
The casters make it easy to move around and you can be assured of safe use thanks to the ODS sensor and tip over cutoff switches.