There are many reasons for someone to buy the best propane heater, from an outdoor grill space for you and your family, to a busy commercial construction site or even indoor heating needs. In this article, we will look at every aspect of propane heaters including the benefits of propane heat, a buyer’s guide and even a few troubleshooting tips for you do-it-yourselfers.
You’ll learn about how and why a propane heater can be the perfect answer for your heating needs. But, before we get into all that, let’s start with the basics.
What is a Propane Heater?
A propane heater is a type of heating unit that burns propane to heat a space or room. A propane tank, or tanks in some models, are attached to the heater, or in the heater, for use as fuel.
Many modern units use a Piezo (automatic) ignition switch to ignite the gas without the use of an open flame. More basic models still make use of flame (manual) ignition, much like a camp stove or bunsen burner.
- Commercial or Residential
There are a lot of great reasons to choose a propane heater, and we’ll let you know all of them later. The variability of heaters available and the versatility of the gas makes them a great choice for private individuals or commercial businesses.
Propane heaters can be used outdoors, with some models safe even for indoor use. Propane also heats better than electricity, and is cheaper, meaning it is an obvious choice for anyone with heating needs.
- Where Can You Use the Propane Heaters?
This variety means that there is a propane heater on the market that can be used in almost any setting. They are great for construction sites, tailgate parties before a local event, or even at home or in the garage, as many units are safe for indoor use.
What are the Different Varieties of Propane Heaters?
Propane heaters come in different strengths, types and sizes. We will broadly discuss it below. Let’s know the difference between Freestanding and Attachment.
- Freestanding and Attachment
There are two overarching types of propane heaters; freestanding or attachment. As the name implies a freestanding unit is a heater which incorporates the propane tank into its design, meaning that the tank would be inserted somewhere into the heater.
An attachment model is much more compact than a freestanding unit, and often simply screws on to your tank of propane.
As mentioned above, the two main types of propane heaters are freestanding or attachment. As with most other things, there are differences between two varieties.
More Varieties of Propane Heaters: Besides knowing the types of propane heaters, you also need to aware of the specific types of propane heaters that are made to use in a specific situation. Some propane heaters are mean to use indoor and some are for outdoor. Let’s discuss more about these propane heaters and their features.
- Outdoor Units: There are many propane heaters made to warm outdoor areas. Both commercial and residential outdoor heaters are available on the market. Many commercial designs incorporated a ‘mushroom’ head to disperse the heat. In this model, the heat would be evenly spread in a 360-degree circle, emanating from the heating unit. These units are popular for restaurants and construction sites.
- Indoor Units: Any propane heater can be safely used outdoors, but not all of them can be used indoors (more on that below). There are far fewer indoor models on the market than outdoor models. Most are very small (compared to others) and portable, making these very popular with residential use.
Features: Before you buy think about what features appeal to you. Do you need to haul the heater from place to place? Many portable units are available, especially attachment rigs.
Are you comfortable using a manual (flame) ignition? Or would you prefer a Piezo (manual) design? Both are widely available.
What Are the Benefits of a Propane Heater?
There are LOTS! First and foremost, let’s discuss why propane heaters are preferable to electric heaters.
- Save Money
Propane heat is less expensive than electric heat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Even heating an entire home is known to cost more to heat with electricity than propane. So, especially for private use, propane makes financial sense.
- Hotter Than Electric Heat
Electric units (commonly known as space heaters) heat a particular space using convection, much like an electric furnace heats a home. This method of heating is common, but not without drawbacks.
Convection heat warms the air around it to make an entire space hot. Propane heaters use radiant heat to warm you up without heating the surrounding air.
Only living being (humans or animals) are affected by radiant heat, so each and every BTU will work to warm your body. The result is more warmth for you, as the heater is not working to heat you as well as the air around you.
This is especially effective outdoors, where convection units would heat the air, only to see the air (and warmth with it) blow away in the wind.
- Don’t Worry About Lingering Odors
Propane gas is also clean-burning, so you will not notice any smelly odors, and won’t have to worry about toxic fumes. That fact also means that certain models may be safely used indoors.
While some gases can be volatile, propane is very safe to use. It is eco-friendly, approved as an alternative fuel in the Clean Air Act of 1990, and is insoluble in water. In fact, it is not harmful to soil or water.
- Doesn’t Produce Toxic Gas Like Other Fuels
Most fuels produce many harmful emissions, but not propane. In fact, the only byproducts released by burning propane are natural, and most are not harmful at all.
- Longer Life Span
Propane is also long-lasting; its half-life is almost infinite, meaning that no matter how old your propane gets it will still work. This also means that at no time will unused propane gas become unstable, meaning dangerous or vulnerable to unwanted ignition.
- Quiet and Clean Operation
Especially on construction sites where communication is key, no one wants a noisy machine around. Propane heaters are even quieter than mice, and of course, there are no odors associated with burning propane.
- Customer and Eco-Friendly
As a gas, propane will also not cause a mess; it cannot pool on the floor if spilled or leave a residue. Even if a leak were to arise, propane will not ignite when mixed with air until reaching a whopping 940 degrees Fahrenheit (505 degrees Celsius). Also, since propane doesn’t produce harmful byproducts, your heater will not negatively affect the ecosystem.
Propane can be used in a vast number of ways, like heating an outdoor space, heating a home, fueling a stove or even gassing the grill. Anywhere heat needs to be produced, propane is there.
How Much Propane Will My New Heater Use?
That depends on the unit, how large of a tank is used/needed and how often the heater is used.
So, unfortunately, we will need to do some math (sigh). Divide number of gallons by 4.23. Multiply that result by 91,500. Divide that result by the number of BTUs your unit produces
The final result will be how many hours your propane heater will burn without replacing the cylinder
So, let’s say we had a 100-gallon tank, and our heater produced 80,000 BTUs.
100/4.23 = 23.6
23.6 * 91,500 = 2,159,400
2,159,400/80,000 = 26.9925
You can use your unit for almost 27 hours without changing tanks.
What Size Do Propane Heater I Need?
That depends on your unique heating needs. Obviously, if you only need to heat a small indoor space there is no real reason to purchase a commercial propane heater that can warm an industrial warehouse.
Determining your exact BTU requirements depends on two factors; how large of a space do you need to heat and what climate do you live in?
The reasoning is simple, as a larger space will inherently need more heat, and a colder climate will require more warmth. From there you can use our handy-dandy math formula to get your answer.
Square footage * BTUs required for climate zone = Total BTUs needed
For example, if someone wanted to heat a 500-square foot space in Kentucky. Use this reference to find the climate zone and corresponding BTU requirements.
500 (square feet) * 40 (BTUs for that climate) = 20,000 BTUs needed
For the above example, we used the minimum BTUs for that climate zone (40), but you can use the maximum for the area (45). A good guide to whether you want to use the minimum or maximum is to think about how many blankets you sleep under.
If you are a person who is always hogging the blanket, use the maximum for your area, but if you are a person who is always throwing the blanket off, use the minimum. So, for someone who likes it hot, the above example could look like this: 500 (square feet) * 45 (maximum BTUs for climate) = 22,500 BTUs needed.
What Are the Best Ways to Ignite Different Types of Propane Heaters?
First, open up the valve control handle on the propane tank. You have to do it by turning it in the circular motion. After that, push the handle in and then turn to the “Light” or “Start” position.
Now, push and grip the handle in order to release the propane valve and transfer gas to the unit. Then hit the igniter knob on the heater so it completely closes and creates a sound. On some heaters, you may have to press the knob couple of times.
You should continue holding the control handle when the burner lights, and lastly, adapt the control handle to the preferred heat setting. You have to do that by holding the handle for about 30 seconds.
Some models must be lit using a match or lighter. For such units, first, find the ‘Light Here’ label, or consult the owner’s manual to find the correct area. Then, switch the knob to medium heat and place your match or lighter at the correct position. Depending on the model, you may then have to adjust the flame.
What Are 5 Great Propane Heaters?
- Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater
This heater features an adjustable heat setting that can output anywhere from 4,000 to 9,000 BTUs, and rated for spaces up to 225 square feet. Safety features include an auto-shut-off safety feature that turns the unit off if it is ever tipped over, as well as oxygen sensor which turns the unit off levels of oxygen, are low.
This is also a very portable unit as it includes a handle to make travel easy. The heater is also safe for indoor use, separating it from many other models on the market today. Also features a Piezo ignition, eliminating the need for open flames.
- Very portable
- Indoor or outdoor use
- Piezo ignition
- 9,000 BTUs is not as high as other models
- Designed for use with 1 lbs. propane tank and additional parts must be purchased to use larger tanks.
2. Dyna-Glo TT15CDGP 15,000 Liquid Propane Tank Top Heater – CSA
This attachment unit produces 9,000 to 15,000 BTUs of heat for the customer in a very compact body and includes three heat settings. It easily heats a 15-square-foot radius around it, making it a great option for outdoor use. It is designed for use with a 20 lbs. propane tank, and features a manual ignition.
Safety features include a tip switch, to shut the unit off if tipped, and a safety shut-off valve to stop the flow of gas when the flame is extinguished. This is a small, lightweight (3.4 pounds!), portable option for heat on-the-go.
- Compact (small and lightweight)
- 28-48 hours of burn time depending on heat setting
- Outdoor use only
3. Mr. Heater MH18B, Portable Propane Heater
This model makes use of 4,000 to 18,000 BTUs of heat and can warm the area up to 300 square feet. The unit is also safe for both indoor and outdoor use. The heater has an auto-shut-off safety feature to prevent fires, as well as a low-oxygen shut-off safety to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
This unit can be used up to 108 hours and has a blower to help circulate heat, which is powered by D cell batteries or an A/C adapter that is available at extra cost. Three heat settings are included, as is a handle to make travel easy.
- Indoor or outdoor use
- Piezo ignition
- A/C adapter is not included, so customer may have to rely on batteries to keep blower active
- Designed for use with two 1 lbs. propane tanks must pay extra for the adapter for larger cylinder
4. Dyna Glo, RA18LPDG, 18,000 BTU Propane Cabinet Heater
This heater makes use of 6,000 to 18,000 BTUs to heat a fantastic 600 square feet around it. This model also features a Piezo ignition, three heat settings and uses a 20 lbs. propane tank, so you won’t be changing cylinders all day. You can also use it indoors!
The unit can burn for a whopping 64 hours, and comes on wheels to help with the 16-pound load. Safety features include a built-in oxygen depletion shut off to prevent carbon monoxide build-up.
- Long burn time
- Piezo ignition
- Indoor or outdoor use
- Heavy (16 lbs.)
- Bulky (14.8 in x 15.5 in x 23.4 in)
5. Texsport Deluxe Bulk Tank Infared Propane Heater
This attachment propane heater can throw up to 10,000 BTUs of heat from on top of your 20-pound tank. It features an on/off adjustable control valve to change heat settings, as well as turn on and off. As with most attachment models, it is lightweight and very portable.
This unit is outdoor safe, so you can make use of its portability in the great outdoors. It is made from steel, making this unit very durable and reliable.
- Compact (small and lightweight)
- Good heat output for size
- Flame ignition (customer must be comfortable near open flames)
- Outdoor use only
How Do I Safely Use My Propane Heater?
Propane heaters are very safe to use, as long as they are used properly. However, if used improperly, the main danger that could potentially come from the use of propane is Carbon Monoxide.
Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, tasteless gas which causes serious illness in humans, including the possibility of falling into a coma, experiencing cardiovascular collapse or even death.
Propane itself is safe, however, CO is a natural byproduct of combustion, meaning that carbon monoxide is produced whenever anything is burned.
- Propane Heater Safety Guide
Rest assured, however, that such injuries stemming from propane use are few and far between. In fact, since the early 1990s, fewer than 100 injuries resulting from propane use have been reported in the United States.
How can you keep those numbers down? Here are some good habits to practice!
- Safe Outdoors
The best way to avoid CO is by using your propane heater outdoors. The reason is that there is plenty of oxygen outdoors to counteract the effects of carbon monoxide. All propane heaters are safe to use outdoors, however, not all may be used indoors.
- Harmful Indoors
Only some propane heaters are approved for use indoors. However, propane heaters are required to be labeled with plenty of safety information, so it easy to tell which units are safe inside.
NEVER USE A PROPANE HEATER INTENDED FOR OUTDOOR USE INDOORS!
- Camping Dangers
ANY enclosed space is considered indoors when it comes to propane heater safety. Therefore, tents and any other temporary structure are unsuitable to be heated by an outdoor model.
Consider a lone hiker camping outdoors who brought along a propane heater to warm their tent. CO would replace oxygen in the tent, and the camper would expose themselves to the risks of carbon monoxide.
- Propane Heater Safety by Size
Purchase a propane heater that is appropriate for what you are using it for. Carbon Monoxide is a natural byproduct of combustion, so anytime something is burned, CO is produced. The larger the unit (more BTUs), the more gas is created. If a customer buys a unit which is too large for their project, it will inevitably release more CO gas than if a smaller unit was used, especially in confined areas.
So, by purchasing the appropriate size unit, you can avoid excessive CO byproduct. Remember to use our formula to calculate how large of a unit you need!
How to Install a Wall Propane Heater?
Many propane heaters do not need to be mounted to use; in fact, for many people this portability is appealing. However, many customers may wish to mount their new unit on a wall.
Follow these easy steps to mount your new heater.
- First, you must determine the best place for your unit. The tank will be stored outdoors, so make sure there is nothing in the way on either side of your wall. It is helpful to mark the exact area you wish to use.
- Next, grab your drill and make pilot holes (if desired), or screw your mounting bracket(s) directly into the wall. You can place your heater on the mount now to determine how it will hang, and adjust if needed. Also, remember to mark the area where your hose will go.
- Drill out the hole needed for the hose, and thread the hose through to ensure a tight fit. Next, you can permanently mount the heating unit on the bracket(s) and secure it.
- All that’s left to do is to connect everything, go outside, turn on your propane tank and test your new mounted propane heating unit.
How to Connect a Low-Pressure (LP) Propane Tank to a Water Heater?
- Place your cylinder ten feet away from your water heater, resting on flat, stable ground and dig a 12-inch trench between tank and water heater. Apply paste to both sets of threads on your 10-foot pipe, and affix both ends to the proper connection points.
- Smear paste to each end of your 20-inch pipe and affix to the 10-foot pipe. Place assembly in the trench, apply the paste to nearest threaded pipe to a water heater and install shut off valve. Put paste on the threads of a male pipe-to-flare adapter and then screw into the top of the gas valve. Apply paste to the nipple, affix to water heater control box, then smear the other side of the nipple and lastly thread on the female pipe-to-flare adapter.
- Screw the flare-to-flare elastic gas piping into an adapter and into the upper side of the shutoff valve after applying paste. Thread one last elbow to the propane tank end of the assembly. Smear paste onto threads of the male pipe-to-flare adapter and then screw into the open part of the elbow.
- Smear paste over the threading on pipe side of the pressure regulator and then screw into the open side of the pipe-to-flare adapter. Apply paste and secure one end of flare-to-flare elastic regulator connection onto opening part of the pressure regulator.
- Screw another side of regulator joint into propane tank outlet. Open propane tank valve, which is basically a rounded handle that can be found on the top of the tank. Now shut off the valve to the water heater in order to pressurize the line.
How Long Does a Propane Heater Last?
Just like one would imagine, a propane heater which is used in only the lowest setting will preserve its fuel for longer. Conversely, higher settings will use more propane faster.
When used on the lower settings, most models will last for 15 hours. Meanwhile, when used on higher settings propane heaters will burn for 9 hours or so.
My Propane Heater is Hissing; What Does That Mean?
A ‘hiss’ coming from your heater means that somewhere it is losing gas. Most hissing noises can be attributed to two main causes, neither of them serious.
First, it may be loose or blocked ‘bleeder’ valve. A bleeder valve is also known as an overpressure release valve, or just release valve. As those names suggest, it is useful for releasing unwanted pressure from building in the system. These valves are sometimes not closed all the way by accident, so often this hiss can be silenced by turning the bleeder valve clockwise (to the closed position).
Second, it may be the relief valve actuating. Similar to the bleeder valve, the relief valve is a safety measure to allow pressure to be released. Sometimes on hot days, the propane expands inside the tank, causing the relief valve to open (actuate), and release excess gas.
How Do I Clean a Propane Heater?
Just like with anything else, after using your propane heater will get dirty. Fortunately, cleaning is easy. Whenever performing maintenance on a propane heater, the first step is to turn the system off completely. Also, make sure that your unit is cool to the touch.
- For large flat areas, a clean rag may be used to clean dust or any common particulate. Find areas may require a small brush to remove dust.
- Always use gentle strokes when cleaning your propane heater.
- The cover panel may be removed and wiped clean with warm water. Be sure to dry thoroughly with a rag or towel, and place the panel aside to finish drying.
- A small vacuum can be used to clean the inside your propane heater, but a small brush is preferred for this task as well. Use gentle strokes, especially near sensitive components, like the oxygen sensor.
- When finished, replace the cover panel you set aside earlier, and your unit is ready to heat again.
What If There Is Something Wrong with a Propane Heater?
- Typical Heater Operation
Aside from leaky bleeder valves and properly functioning relief valves, a few other things may go wrong with your propane heater over time. If you are having the issue getting your heater to properly heat, the problem is often with the pilot. No, not an airline pilot. Here a pilot is responsible for keeping the heat flowing in your propane heater.
Without it, or at least without it in working order, your unit will not function and must be replaced. Issues with heat or heat distribution can also be caused by a clogged gas pipe.
- Standing Pilot Problems
Certain pilots, called standing pilots, must be sitting in a certain place to function. These can be seen through a window under the gas control knob; they are about one-inch-tall and colored blue.
If it is not fully exposed (looks small), flickers, is split or burns orange or red, it needs cleaning. This can be accomplished by placing a needle in its eye (at the tip). If your pilot does not stay lit, you may have to replace the thermocouple.
- Adjusting and Replacing the Thermocouple
The thermocouple is a safety feature to prevent the release of unburned gas. The pilot heats the thermocouple, but if the thermocouple does not remain hot enough the pilot will be extinguished as a safety precaution.
Often this happens because the thermocouple is too far away from the pilot; if this is the case, you can simply push the component closer to the pilot.
- Electronic Issues
If your propane heater has a blower, you may look down the blower upon ignition and see a spark, as well as hear a click. If no spark or click occurs, the unit may have electrical problems. If your heater sparks but doesn’t ignite, the tank may be empty or turned off. If fuel is flowing fine, clean the aperture of the gas valve with a needle.
Propane heaters are practical and portable, making them appealing to individuals with heat needs. They also produce more heat (and better heat) than electric units, making them appealing to commercial businesses.
Now all you have to do is click the links above, and get your brand-new propane heater today!