Take heat where you need it with this portable propane heater from Mr. Heater. The Buddy weighs just 9 pounds but packs a punch with a max output of 9,000 BTUs, enough to heat a 225 square-foot room or a large tent. With its rugged design and large handle, the Buddy can go anywhere you go. It also has a bevy of safety features, including a low oxygen shutoff and tip-over shut off. Power and portability make the Buddy an excellent option for a wide variety of heating needs.
The Best Non-Electric Heaters for Cozy Warmth
Keeping the patio in use long after the days of summer have gone, making that cold room toasty, and prepping for winter storm power outages are all excellent reasons to invest in a non-electric heater.
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- Best OverallMr. Heater Buddy Portable RV Radiant HeaterCheck Latest Price
- Runner-UpDyna-Glo RMC-95C6B Indoor HeaterCheck Latest Price
- Kerosene PickSengoku KeroHeat 10,000-BTU Indoor/Outdoor HeaterCheck Latest Price
A mid-winter ice storm has knocked out the power on your block, and the temperature on the thermostat is plummeting. With the power company sidelined by impassable roads, you are left to fend for yourself. Are you prepared? Get prepared by investing in a reliable non-electric heater that will keep your family toasty when your HVAC system can’t.
- BEST OVERALL: Mr. Heater Buddy Portable RV Radiant Heater
- RUNNER-UP: Dyna-Glo RMC-95C6B Indoor Heater
- KEROSENE PICK: Sengoku KeroHeat 10,000-BTU Indoor/Outdoor Heater
- BEST NATURAL GAS PICK: Mr. Heater 30,000 BTU Vent Free Natural Gas Heater
Before You Buy a Non-Electric Heater
Before you consider purchasing a non-electric heater, it’s important to understand their limitations. A non-electric heater shouldn’t replace your home’s primary HVAC system.
Attempting to use a non-electric heater as the main source of heat for a home presents several hazards. Gas heaters can produce high carbon monoxide levels in your home, which can cause illness and even death if not carefully monitored. Non-electric heaters also use an open flame and fuel, creating a potential fire hazard.
For these reasons, non-electric heaters should never be left unattended for long. If you’re looking for a primary heat source for your home, you’ll need to shop for an HVAC system.
Types of Non-Electric Heaters
Non-electric heaters fall into three different categories: propane, natural gas, and kerosene. While all three will do the job when it comes to providing heat, they each operate differently. Understanding which works best for your needs is key to making the right decision when purchasing a non-electric space heater.
All non-electric heaters produce radiant forced air or convection heat.
- Radiant heaters generate infrared heat using metal tubes that radiate heat, which warms the room. With radiant heat, the closer you are to the heater, the warmer you get.
- Convection heaters function by heating the air around them. They are tower-shaped and emit heat in all directions.
If you’re a football fan, then you‘ve likely seen propane and kerosene forced-air heaters warming the sidelines of games played in sub-freezing temperatures. Forced-air heaters have a distinctive cannon shape and function by blowing heat in one direction. They are mighty but noisy, which makes them attractive for commercial use but impractical for home use.
Propane heaters come in various forms, ranging from the tower-shaped outdoor heaters to smaller portable heaters. Propane heaters use refillable tanks and canisters ranging in size from 16-ounce canisters to a 20-lb tank.
Because the fuel comes in small canisters, radiant propane heaters can be small and portable. You can even mount some models on the wall.
Kerosene burns efficiently and heats very quickly, making kerosene heaters an ideal option for supplemental home heating. Like propane, kerosene heaters fall into three categories: radiant, convection, and forced air.
Kerosene heaters use liquid kerosene, which is available at most home improvement stores. Unlike propane, which uses a spark for ignition, kerosene requires a wick.
Nearly half the homes in the U.S. use natural gas as their primary heat source, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If you’re in that half, then a natural gas non-electric heater might be for you.
Natural gas heaters function similarly to propane heaters, but instead of needing a tank, they tie directly into your home’s gas line. This set up eliminates inconvenient trips to refill a propane tank. However, if you do opt to use natural gas, you sacrifice the portability of your heater, which you must install close to a fixed gas connection.
Do keep in mind that you cannot hook up a propane heater to a natural gas line. Only install heaters designed for use with natural gas to a natural gas line.
What to Look for When Buying the Best Non-Electric Heater
Before purchasing a non-electric heater, it’s important to think about what size and type of heater best fit your needs. Manufacturers rate heaters for indoor or outdoor use. Weight is also an issue, especially if you plan on moving the heater from location to location. Also consider tank size, as this will dictate how often you’ll need to refuel the heater, and power, which determines just how much space you can expect the heater to warm up.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Use
Determine whether you plan to use the heater indoors, outdoors, or both. Outdoor-only heaters create intense bursts of heat that won’t quickly dissipate into the surrounding air. As such, they are significantly more powerful than indoor heaters, which benefit from four walls and a roof.
Energy is measured in British thermal units (BTUs). Whereas 5,000 BTUs might be adequate for indoor use, an outdoor heater may need more than 40,000 BTUs to keep an open-air space warm.
You can use many portable non-electric heaters indoors and outdoors. Make sure to check the heater’s ratings before making a purchase.
Weight and Portability
Decide what you want out of a non-electric heater: a heater for a dedicated space or a unit you can move from place to place. Knowing how you plan to use your heater can help you determine whether to look for a portable or stationary unit.
Portable heaters weigh anywhere from 20 pounds to as little as 5 pounds, and are available as radiant, convection, or forced air varieties. Many portable heaters feature impact-resistant construction and large handles for easy transport. Some even come with carrying cases.
Larger non-electric heaters, such as the powerful tower heaters you find on backyard patios and in outdoor eating areas at restaurants, weigh upwards of 70 pounds, not including the 20-pound tanks that power them. While these are not portable, most have wheels that allow you to reposition them. Other permanent heaters include kits that enable you to mount them on a wall or to the floor.
Tank size determines just how long your heater will work before it’s time to replace the fuel.
- Kerosene heaters have tanks that hold liquid kerosene. A kerosene heater with a 1-gallon tank will provide about 14 hours of use before needing more fuel.
- Propane works differently. Because propane gas is a compressed liquid, it comes in tanks that attach to the heater via a valve and hose. Larger heaters use a 20-pound tank, which provides about 10 hours of use. Portable propane heaters use 16-ounce canisters, which last about three hours.
Whereas most kerosene tanks include fuel gauges, most propane tanks do not, making it difficult to know just how much remains in the tank.
It’s best to take the Goldilocks approach when selecting a gas heater: A heater with insufficient power will leave a room too cold, a heater that is too powerful will make it too hot. You want a heater that’s just right.
More BTUs mean more heat output. Most manufacturers also rate their indoor heaters by square footage. For example, an indoor heater with a maximum BTU of 9,000 can heat up to 225 square feet.
Outdoor-only heaters, such as tower-style patio heaters, can have a BTU output higher than 40,000. Indoor and portable heaters typically have an output of around 5,000 BTUs.
While it’s tempting to get the most powerful heater you can afford, you might regret it. A heater with a high minimum BTU output will quickly overheat a smaller space, making it challenging to regulate the room temperature. Unless a sauna is what you’re after, make sure you pay attention to square-footage ratings when deciding which heater will give you that just-right temperature.
Our Top Picks
Propane, kerosene, natural gas, indoor, and outdoor: our top picks include non-electric heaters to suit your needs.
With its 23,000 BTU rating, this little powerhouse can heat 1,000 square feet of space for up to 12 hours on a single 2-gallon tank, making it an excellent choice for those looking to warm a cold bonus room, basement workshop, or garage. Its high power output also makes it an excellent option for emergency heat during power outages. Features include a battery-operated one slide ignition, a one-touch off switch, and a tip-over shutoff.
Tremendous heat output and portability make Sengoku’s KeroHeat a versatile option that can perform both indoors and out. Despite its diminutive size at less than 2-feet tall, the KeroHeat boasts a powerful 23,500-BTU output. That’s enough to heat a 900 square foot room or warm a patio on a brisk fall day. A sizable 1.9-gallon tank holds enough fuel for up to 14 hours of service, while metal grills and an automatic shut-off add safety. Other nice features include an electronic ignition and an easy-to-read fuel gauge.
For raw heating power, it’s tough to beat this natural gas heater. With 30,000 BTUs, this convection heater can make a 1,000 square-foot space toasty. In addition to being powerful, it’s also versatile: You can mount it to the wall or the floor. Features include a thermostat that enables easy temperature control and an automatic low oxygen shut-off valve. Customers are also attracted to its design. With its narrow profile, fireplace looks, and visible flames, this is a heater you won’t mind displaying in any living area. For those without a natural gas hookup, the Mr. Heater 30,000 BTU heater is also available in a propane version.
The Advantages of Owning a Non-Electric Heater
Whether you choose propane, natural gas, or kerosene, portable or permanent, indoor or outdoor, a non-electric heater is a useful appliance to have in any home.
It can supplement your home’s HVAC system, providing heat for those underserved cold spots in your home. Non-electric heaters can also extend the season of your outdoor living space, allowing you to enjoy that deck or patio year-round.
Most importantly, non-electric heaters function as a valuable emergency heat source when your home’s HVAC system is put out of commission by a power outage, keeping your family warm while you wait for the power to return.
- Supplements your existing HVAC system
- Provides an alternate heat source during a power outage
- Makes unheated living space useable in cold weather
Safety Tips for Using Non-Electric Heaters
Because non-electric heaters involve fuel and flames, it’s essential to follow certain safety guidelines and consider only models with standard safety features. A non-electric heater should have tipping and low-oxygen sensors that shut off the heater when triggered. A safe heater will also have a shield that prevents contact with an open flame, such as a glass window or metal grate.
Even with these safety features, it’s also essential to follow some common-sense practices when using a non-electric heater. Make sure to place the heater in a low-traffic area to prevent people and pets from bumping the unit. Set up non-electric heaters on even ground to avoid fuel spills or flame exposure. Also, allow for a buffer of at least 3 feet between the heater and flammable materials.
- Only purchase a heater with built-in safety features
- Allow for a buffer of at least 3 feet between flammable materials and the heater
- Make sure the heater sits on even ground
- Keep the heater out of high-traffic areas