Propane heaters are an incredibly effective way to quickly heat a medium to large space using liquid propane as a fuel. The efficiency of these heaters has rapidly increased over the years. These days many models boast a near 99 percent efficiency, which allows you to enjoy them inside or outside of your home.
Finding the best propane heater for your purposes depends on how you will use it, where it will be used, the heat output you need, and the important safety features that will help keep you and your family safe and warm. Take a look at some of the top products below to start your search for the best propane heater for your home.
- BEST OVERALL: Mr. Heater F232000 Portable Buddy Heater
- RUNNER UP: Mr. Heater Vent-Free 20,000-BTU Propane Heater
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: Dyna-Glo Workhorse LP Forced Air Heater
- ALSO CONSIDER: Mr. Heater 60,000 BTU Portable Propane Heater
What to Consider When Buying a Propane Heater
Before choosing the best propane heater for your patio, garage, or home, take a look below to learn about some of the most important shopping considerations that can help you select a heater that suits your needs.
Propane heaters must have the pilot light ignited before the unit will produce any heat. Keep in mind that igniting the pilot light requires the gas to be turned on. These units typically have one of three different ignition methods: manual ignition, push-button ignition, and continuous ignition.
- Manual ignitions require you to light the pilot light with a long match or a barbecue lighter. Propane heaters with this ignition type are usually more affordable.
- Push-button ignitions are the most common ignition option. After turning the gas on, push a button for the indicated amount of time so that an integrated sparking mechanism will light the pilot light.
- Continuous ignitions are more common on large, commercial propane heaters. This style of ignition will automatically begin sparking when the gas is on. This feature prevents the hazardous build-up of propane gas that can occur if the delay is too long between sparks. After the pilot light is lit, the continuous ignition stops creating sparks.
One of the main benefits of having a propane heater is that they are usually portable. It’s relatively easy to take the heater with you to another room, to the garage, or to the outdoors. However, if you have one or two main locations in mind for your heater, the product needs to be suited to those main areas.
The best outdoor heaters are powerful enough to deal with the rapid dissipation of heat that will naturally occur in a wide-open space. If you want a great camping heater, you can choose from a large outdoor option, or you might be better off with a handheld propane heater that will keep you warm instead of heating the entire area around you.
Propane heaters intended for indoor use need to ensure that they are not putting hazardous fumes into the air, and these heaters need to have a large number of safety features to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and reduce the risk of fires.
Portability is one of the features that sets propane heaters apart from electric or natural gas heaters, but not all propane heaters can really make the claim that they are portable. Some propane heaters that have built-in fans or other electronic components will typically need to be plugged into a power source, despite their main fuel being propane.
If portability is a key factor for you, then a propane heater that doesn’t need an electrical power source is a better choice. A smaller size and a carrying handle will make it easier to pick up and move around. However, if you need a larger heater for commercial or industrial applications, you can find powerful propane heaters that sit on a set of wheels. The wheels make it easier to move the heater around your space.
Whenever you are using any type of heating device, you need to be certain that you are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure that you aren’t putting yourself or anyone else at risk. This includes the proper storage of propane tanks and adequate ventilation when the heater is in use. There are other safety features to consider like overheating protection, a tip-over mechanism, and an oxygen depletion sensor.
- The overheating protection feature senses the rising temperature and shuts down the heater to prevent damage to the room or any flammable objects and to stop internal damage to the heater.
- Tip-over mechanisms protect you from the risk of fire if the heater falls over. The impact activates this feature, turning off the heater so that it cannot start a fire by igniting any nearby items, like carpeting or curtains.
- An oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) is designed to measure the available oxygen within the local vicinity. If the oxygen level drops below a specified point the heater will automatically turn off to allow the oxygen to increase and prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The heat output of a propane heater is normally measured in British thermal units (BTUs), with each BTU equal to the heat it would take to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. The BTU rating of a propane heater can range widely from as low as 3,000 BTUs to higher than 300,000 BTUs. The best BTU output for your heater will depend on how and where you want to use it. Outdoor heaters naturally require a higher heat output.
Before deciding on a product, measure the room that needs to be heated. To help you figure out which heater is best, most manufacturers list the BTU output and include the approximate square footage that is appropriate for the heater. For example, a heater with a maximum BTU of 10,000 may heat a space of approximately 250 square feet, while a unit that has a maximum of 18,000 BTUs will have no problem with 450 square feet.
Size is a factor that can impact where you use the heater, how it is set up, and whether it’s portable or stationary. A small heater can be picked up and carried around without a problem. It also can usually be used both indoors and outdoors without producing harmful fumes because these smaller heaters tend to burn fuel at a slower pace.
Large propane heaters can take up a lot of space, which can become a safety hazard if they are too close to flammable objects in the room. Their size also may affect the placement in the room, or it may limit the product to outdoor use. However, a larger propane heater is able to hold an equally large propane tank so you won’t have to replace it as frequently as the fuel in a small heater.
Our Top Picks
The following propane heaters were selected for quality and price, with a focus on the shopping considerations mentioned above.
From Mr. Heater, this portable propane heater has an attractive design, with a sturdy, fold-down carrying handle that makes it easy to pick up and take wherever it’s needed. The heater has a BTU range of 4,000 to 9,000, making it capable of heating up to 225 square feet of space. Reduce the temperature or reduce the intensity of the heat output in a smaller space.
You can easily connect a one-pound tank of propane using the swivel-out regulator, then swivel it back into place so that the heater remains as compact as possible. This heater is able to burn propane at a near 100 percent efficiency, which makes it an option for indoor applications. It also has a tip-over safety mechanism, and an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) that ensures the oxygen level never drops to a dangerous point.
For many DIYers, the garage is the only space available for working on projects. Losing that space to cold temperatures is avoidable when you can use this propane heater to heat a space of up to 450 square feet The heater has three heat output settings including a low setting of 6,000 BTUs, a medium setting of 12,000 BTUs, and a high setting that reaches 18,000 BTUs.
The propane heater has a space in the back designed to accommodate a 20-pound propane tank so that you can move the entire unit around easily on the four attached swivel wheels. This product also has several safety systems, including a tip-over safety mechanism and an ODS sensor to automatically shut down the heater if the oxygen level gets too low.
This forced air propane heater is able to heat any space much faster than a radiant heater. This is because the unit can produce up to 125,000 BTUs. Instead of allowing the heat to radiate out naturally from the heater, a heavy-duty fan pushes the heated air out where it rapidly warms the surrounding air.
If 125,000 BTUs is too hot for you, know that the heater also can be reduced to 70,000 BTUs, allowing you to save propane and avoid overheating. On the highest setting, this propane heater can heat up to 3,100 square feet and it connects to a tank of liquid propane (not included) for fuel.
This propane heater has a forced-air system that blows heat at a maximum of 60,000 BTUs so that your space heats up quickly. It also has a built-in temperature control, giving you the ability to raise or lower the heat output. Best of all, thanks to its QBT Technology, this Mr. Heater unit operates more quietly—about 50 percent more quietly—than many comparable propane heaters.
The Advantages of Owning a Propane Heater
There are many advantages to owning a propane heater. One of the defining features is that these heaters are typically fueled by a portable container of propane, giving you the freedom to carry them with you from room to room or even take out into the middle of the woods when you go camping. Unless the heater has a built-in fan unit, you won’t have to be tethered to a power outlet with this heater.
You also get the benefit of cost savings when you invest in a propane heater. This is because the average cost of electricity is higher than the average cost of propane. With a propane heater, you have a wide range of heat output options that can increase well beyond the capabilities of an electric or natural gas heater, allowing you to rapidly heat up large, outdoor spaces.
- Unless your heater has a built-in fan unit, propane heaters don’t normally need to be plugged into a wall, allowing you to move the heater wherever you need it.
- Propane is more cost-effective than electricity for heating an area, so you save money with this style of heater.
- You won’t be able to get the same high heat outputs from electric heaters or natural gas heaters as you can from a propane heater.
FAQs About Propane Heaters
If you still have questions about propane heaters, read below to find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Q. Can you get carbon monoxide poisoning from propane?
If the propane heater is not being used in a well-ventilated location, it can begin to give off carbon monoxide, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning in a matter of minutes. If you are using the heater in a larger enclosed space like a garage, make sure that you have a carbon monoxide detector installed to warn you of any danger.
Q. Is it safe to have a propane heater in a bedroom?
No, it isn’t generally considered to be a good idea to have a lit propane heater in your bedroom because it will quickly burn up the oxygen in an enclosed room and begin to produce carbon monoxide. Alternatively, you may fall asleep while the heater is on, which is how the majority of fires caused by heaters tend to start.
Q. Do propane heaters need ventilation?
Yes, propane heaters need proper ventilation to ensure that you don’t get carbon monoxide poisoning. If you are using the heater in your home, make sure that there is a source of fresh air, like an open window, and have at least one carbon monoxide detector nearby so that you know if you need to turn the heater off and leave the area.
Q. How do you light an indoor propane heater?
Light a propane heater by following these simple steps.
- Turn on the propane tank.
- Adjust the knob on the front or side of the heater to the “Start” or “Light” position.
- Push the knob in and hold it to send gas to the unit. Continue holding the knob in for 30 seconds to ensure adequate gas flow.
- Press the igniter button firmly until you hear a click. You may need to press it more than once on some heaters.
- Adjust the control knob to the desired temperature.