When it gets extremely cold, such as in the heart of winter, the furnace alone may not meet your heating needs, even in a small home.
Many people will buy a few space heaters to offset the problem. A few also bring in heated mats and heat pumps for supplementary heating. Often, it depends on the budget and where you need the heat, among other factors.
If you’re looking for a low-cost heating solution for a large area, especially outdoors, a convective propane heater would be an excellent choice.
Compact, quiet, and incredibly energy-efficient propane convective heaters stand on the ground or install on an exterior wall and gently add valuable warmth in a 100% natural process that doesn’t rouse dust or create noise. Read on to find out more about these heaters and how to identify a good one.
What is a Propane Convection Heater?
A gas convection heater, also known as a gas convector, is a gas heater that distributes heat via air circulation. These heaters are built like any other gas heater, consisting of a gas burner, air filter, and thermostat. What’s most noticeable, though, is the absence of a fan.
Propane convection heaters burn propane fuel, generating tons of heat. The air then moves out of the convector through natural air movement as new (cold) air enters the heater – again through natural convection.
How Do Propane Convection Heaters Work?
Convection heaters take advantage of natural convection to take in cold air from the bottom and release warm air around the heater’s top.
The law of convection states that warm air (being lighter) will always rise, allowing colder (denser) air to take its place at the ground/floor level. In convection heaters, the air is heated, effectively increasing its buoyancy. The now-lighter air then “rises” out of the convector.
As the warm, light air leaves the convector, cold, denser air enters at the bottom. This cold air is then forced past gas flame, absorbs some of the heat, becomes light, and leaves too. The cycle continues this way until the temperatures inside the home reach the set levels.
Convector heaters are typically installed along the perimeter of rooms to block the downward draft caused by the cold outside wall cooling the air next to it.
It also helps counteract transmission losses. The heaters are typically mounted at floor level along an exterior wall and under windows. This way, rising warm air from the heater blocks the cold “downdraft” air.
As the warm air rises and blocks downdraft, it also provides a curtain that serves as a buffer to prevent heat loss from the rest of the home to the cold walls.
Benefits of a Propane Convection Heater
Convection heaters are typically smaller heaters (than traditional home heaters) designed to heat individual rooms, though some can be substantially large.
Often permanent installations, they offer multiple benefits over forced-air heating systems. Some of the key advantages include;
More even Heating
The convective heater is one of the best at ensuring even heating. Since the warm air naturally rises to the ceiling and back, there are no cold spots.
The heating is even more effective when a convection heater is paired with a central furnace. The convective heater will help cover cold spots towards the ceiling that often cause heat loss.
Convective heaters are often contrasted with fan-forced systems when it comes to noise. While fan-forced heaters make lots of noise owing to the fan blowing action, convective systems don’t contain any fans, thus are extremely quiet. There’s also no risk of broken fans or clogged motors making even louder noises.
The absence of fans and blower systems makes convection heaters a lot easier to maintain than fan heaters. Fans tend to break down at will.
From dirt clogging the motor to broken blades, they can be straight out annoying. Above all, the motor needs regular oiling to keep running smoothly. Convective heaters save you from all that trouble.
Cost less than Radiant Heaters
Radiant heaters are also very quiet and extremely energy efficient. However, they tend to be pricier than regular heaters.
If you’re on a budget and looking for a reliable way to add supplemental heat to your home, a convective heater is a much more affordable option than radiant heaters. Fan-forced heaters are generally more affordable, but the noise issues make them less desirable.
Drawbacks of Convective Heaters
Despite the multiple advantages, however, propane convective heaters (and convective heaters in general) come with a few downsides, including;
They are not very Efficient in Large Spaces
As we’ve mentioned, convection heaters rely 100% on air movement to disperse heat throughout the room. Now, imagine a day when there isn’t much movement in the air!
The heat will still move to the ceiling and back to the floor – but at a very slow pace. Under such circumstances, if the convective heater is the primary (or only) heater in the room, it may be hard to achieve and maintain the desired temperature settings.
Considering the installation requirements, a convective heater is usually not very safe because the kids and pets are always running around the house.
This creates a risk of burning if the heater housing becomes too hot. Such a heater, running on propane, creates even greater safety issues that must be considered carefully to avert any dangers.
Things to Consider When Buying a Propane Convection Heater
Most of the factors you need to consider when buying a convective propane heater are the same ones that apply when buying any other space heater. They include;
Size (in BTU)
The size of the heater you’ll need depends on your heating needs. How big is the space you’re looking to heat? You’ll need to measure it to determine the area in square feet. Secondly, how much do you need to raise the space’s temperature?
Temperature rise is the difference between the desired temperatures and current temperatures. For complementary heating, you need 30-60 BTUs per square foot.
The best heaters are energy efficient, and this applies to propane convective heaters as well. You want a unit that consumes very little energy per unit time and converts nearly all the fuel into useful heat.
So, check the label to see if there are any efficiency ratings, including AFUE ratings and Energy Star Certifications. An Energy Start certified heater is always a reliable, efficient unit.
A durable heater is characterized by two things – the build materials and the warranty. A heater built from metal materials is guaranteed to last much longer than one with plastic components.
Regarding warranty, always prioritize the “fine print.” Although you want a long warranty, the range of damages covered is even more important.
Convenience features are controls and functions that make the heater easier to handle and use. One of the first things to consider here is the presence of a thermostat.
Also, is it an in-built or wall-mounted thermostat? Additionally, look out for convenient control panels. Digital controls are more convenient than manual controls. Timers are another worthy consideration.
Even the best propane convection heaters pose a level of risk to the home and its occupants. For one, propane is a flammable fuel. Secondly, there’s always the risk of carbon monoxide.
Also, the heater can overheat or get tipped, creating significant burn and fire risk, respectively. You want to make sure that the heater has proper features to avert these risks.
Safety Tips When Using a Propane Convection Heater
Propane heaters are generally safe. The government has guidelines regulating the design and use of these appliances to promote safety. Additionally, propane convective heater manufacturers are well aware of the risks and always take steps to minimize any risks.
Nevertheless, you still need to use the heaters with extreme caution. The following are several tips to consider;
- Ensure sufficient ventilation: Propane heaters burn a significant amount of oxygen when running. The result is that there’s always the risk of oxygen depletion. This is especially true if you’re using the heater in a small, confined space with little ventilation. Make sure there’s proper ventilation.
- Ensure proper placement/installation: The propane heater must never be placed atop a flammable object such as wood. Also, make sure it’s installed away from flammable objects, such as curtains and furniture.
- Ensure sufficient clearance: Installing the heater away from flammable objects isn’t enough. As long as the heater stays in your home, make sure there’s adequate clearance around it. The recommended distance is at least three feet from any flammable objects.
- Install an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS): Even if the heater comes with an in-built sensor, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Purchase a wall-mounted ODS to help monitor oxygen levels in the room. The ODS should sound clear and recognizable alarms if the oxygen levels become dangerously low.
- Consider overheating protection: Overheating creates the risk of burns, especially for kids and pets. The best propane convection heaters feature an automatic shut-off valve that turns off the unit if overheating is detected.
- Store the fuel tanks safely: Propane tanks are best stored outside the house, in an enclosed area such as the garage, shed, or basement. Keep the storage area cool, below 120°F, and away from spark-producing materials. Only bring them inside when it’s time to start heating.
- Can You Use a Propane Convection Heater Indoors? Yes. You can use propane convection heaters inside the house as long as you observe the safety tips discussed above.
Best Propane Convection Heater
The following are some of the best propane convection heaters for large applications. Remember that most of these units are specifically for outdoor use.
1. Mr. Heater Corporation Model F270500 Propane Heater
The Mr. Heater mode F270500 packs a big punch in a small package, utilizing natural convection to quickly warm-up areas up to 5,000 square feet. It’s also easy to set up.
Just hook the supplied 10-foot propane hose and regulator assembly to a 20-lb propane tank (sold separately), and you’re done. Piezoelectric ignition makes ignition even easier than the assembly process.
The unit runs for 29 continuous hours on a full 100lb tank and is completely quiet and odorless. The heater is equipped with a thermo-electric safety valve to shut the gas off if the flame goes off.
- An incredible 27-200k BTU output
- Ideal for up to 5,000 square feet
- Durable stainless steel construction
- Hose and regulator included
- CSA certified
- Strictly for outdoor use
- No built-in thermostat
2. Dura Heat LPC80 50-80k BTU Propane convection Heater
The model LPC80 from Dura Heat is another very powerful convection heater. The “trash can” heater delivers up to 80,000 BTU/hour at maximum heating capacity, making it ideal for worksites, shops, and garages.
The round design ensures 360-degree heat distribution, while the rugged build guarantees extreme durability.
The unit doesn’t need electricity and assembles with ease. It can connect to a 20lb propane cylinder but best works with larger tanks. A 40lb tank can keep the heat on for up to 17 straight hours. It comes with multiple safety features.
- Powerful 50-80k BTU output
- Ideal for up to 1,900 square feet
- Collapse design for easy portability
- Safety shut-off built-in
- 11-foot hose and regulator included
- Manual controls
- Strictly for outdoor use
3. Pro-Temp PT-80V-LPC 80,000 BTU Variable Propane Heater
The Pro-Temp PT-80V-LPC is like a bonfire without an open flame. Whether in barns, warehouses, or the garage, it delivers more heat than you could need.
Indeed, it’s recommended for spaces up to 1,800 square feet. Thanks to the 360-degree convection heating, the warmth travels quickly and in all directions.
The unit works best with a 100lb propane tank. A single refill lasts about 36 hours, and there are multiple heat settings so you can select a heating level that best meets your needs. You don’t need electric power to operate the heater. It also used piezoelectric ignition for greater convenience.
- Powerful 80k BTU output
- Ideal for up to 1,800 square feet
- Collapsible outer shell for easy setup
- 10-foot hose and regulator included
- Manually controlled
- The price is a bit high
4. LB White Workman 225 Plus 225,000 BTU LPG Convection Heater
Another extremely powerful heater, the Workman 225 Plus from LB White, is a 225,000 BTU convective heater ideal for workspaces where electricity isn’t readily available.
It weighs only about 17 pounds for exceptional portability and comes in a single-piece barrel, requiring no assembly. The enclosed stainless steel burner provides superior wind resistance.
Key performance features of the Workman 225 plus include effortless piezoelectric ignition and 360-degree heat output. The direct-fired heater is 99.97% fuel-efficient, 100% test-fired, and CSA certified in the US and Canada.
- Powerful 225,000 BTU heater
- Durable stainless steel build
- A 10-foot hose comes standard
- 10 PSI regulator included
- Requires 3x100lb propane tanks
5. Remington Model R-410A 5,000 Sq. Ft. Propane Heater
Finally, the Remington model R-410A convection heater is a powerful outdoor heating solution designed for the largest applications possible.
It can effectively warm a 5,000 square foot area. For context, the average home is about 3,500 square feet (all rooms included).
Aside from the incredible heating capacity, you’ll also love the durable, rugged stainless steel construction. The heater is also equipped with an overheat protection function and utilizes the ever-convenient piezoelectric ignition. Flame cutout and a thermocouple are the other notable features.
- Generates up to 200,000 BTU/hour
- Variable heat settings
- Lightweight and versatile
- Heavy-duty steel construction
- Most expensive on this list
- No thermostat
Propane convective heaters are another wise addition to the home heating arsenal as they help eliminate cold spots, especially around the ceiling, that may cause heat loss.
The larger ones are also excellent for outdoor applications. The best part is that the absence of fans makes convective heaters extremely quiet and easy to maintain. They are also reasonably affordable.
If you’re searching for a secondary heat source to complement your furnace, you should strongly consider getting one.