Propane prices have been on a downtrend recently. According to multiple sources, including YCharts, prices are down about 1.08% compared to the same time last year.
This is excellent news considering that markets projected the prices to go up following the Covid19 stay-at-home.
Overall, the prices are expected to remain stable throughout the year and, barring unforeseen events, throughout 2021.
For this reason alone, if you’ve been thinking about getting that extra space heater for your home, a small propane heater would make perfect sense.
The rest of this guide is designed to help you evaluate low-capacity propane heaters to determine the one that best suits your needs.
Let’s begin by reviewing some of the best small propane heaters. We’ve picked these units based on performance (BTU output), convenience features, and safety features, among others.
Smallest Propane Heater
What’s a Propane Heater?
Propane heaters are space heaters that generate heat by burning propane fuel. The fuel is contained in a tank and can be ignited using automatic or manual ignition. Propane typically exists as a gas. However, when used in heaters, it’s compressed into a liquid.
Most propane heaters employ what’s known as piezoelectric ignition. A material, often quartz crystal, with the property to develop electric potential when pressure is applies is housed in a mechanism that allows striking using a spring-loaded hammer.
This action sparks the material, generating a flame. An element within the heater, often porcelain, spreads the flame out in a pattern and evenly disperse the heat.
Something else that even the smallest propane heaters have is a pilot light. The pilot light is a small flame designed to light the main burner relatively quickly rather than illuminate the unit from scratch. It burns pretty much continuously, though it doesn’t use a lot of fuel.
Benefits of a Propane Heater
We’ve already mentioned the low fuel prices. What you may also want to know is that propane is a lot cheaper than electricity. Some studies report that you can save up to 30% on your heating bills per year. Aside from the running costs, propane heaters stand out for the following reasons;
- Propane heaters are extremely versatile: The smallest propane heaters can be used practically anywhere inside the home. You can buy one for the basement and use it in the garage, barn, etc., without any challenges.
- Propane is a very safe gas: Propane cylinders are 20x more puncture-resistant than gasoline, ethanol, and methanol containers. If there’s a leak, the added odorant makes it easy to detect it and act appropriately.
- It’s an invaluable tool in emergencies: In an emergency where your electricity is knocked out, propane heaters can be a life-saver. Since they don’t need electricity to function, you can conveniently use the propane heater until the power returns.
- Propane is a high-energy gas: Propane has a higher octane rating than the gas you use in your car. Also, propane heaters can produce and maintain heat levels closer to over 115°F, which is much higher than electric heaters that keep the air around body temperature.
- Environmentally friendly: Finally, propane is very environment-friendly. It burns cleaner than any fossil fuel and doesn’t contaminate groundwater or soil. It also has a low carbon content, thus produces minimal emissions.
Propane vs. Electric vs. Natural Gas Heaters
A lot of people shopping for propane heaters like to compare them with electric and natural gas models. How does propane compare to the other two fuel sources and, in the end, which is the best out of the three energy sources?
Propane vs. Natural Gas Heaters
Let’s begin by comparing LPG with its close cousin – natural gas. The first thing you need to know is that propane is the purer of the two fuel sources.
While natural gas comprises several gases, including butane, ethane, and methane, propane is separated from these other gases. Remember that natural gas also contains substantial amounts of propane.
Secondly, concerning heating power, propane is also more potent. One cubic foot of propane produces about 2,516 BTU, whereas a cubic foot of natural gas only generates around 1,030 BTU. This makes propane at least twice as powerful.
The only area where natural gas triumphs is pricing. It’s not easy to compare the prices since propane is measured in gallons while natural gas is measured in cubic feet. However, you’ll usually pay around 4x for propane than natural gas to generate the same amount of heat in BTUs.
Propane vs. Electric Heaters
Propane is, however, cheaper than natural gas. You’ll pay about twice as much to get the same level of heat from an electric heater compared to a propane heater. Some studies even suggest that in the end, propane heating is 3x less expensive than electric heating.
Another critical difference between the two is the degree of warmth. As mentioned earlier, propane heaters can keep the home at over 115°F (most maintain indoor temperatures at 130-140°F). An electric heater, by comparison, can only maintain indoor temperatures at around 98°F.
Finally, propane is also more dependable. We’ve mentioned that these heaters can step in during emergencies. Another thing is durability. On average, propane heaters last 5-10 years longer than their electric counterparts.
Interestingly, electric heaters are even more common than propane heaters. The two main reasons are prices and maintenance. Electric heaters are more readily available and much cheaper than their propane counterparts.
The smallest electric heaters cost under $50, while you need at least a few hundred propane heaters. Electric heaters are also practically maintenance-free.
Are Propane Heaters Safe for Indoor Use?
This is a question a lot of people ask, given that propane is a hydrocarbon. The answer is – yes. But, only if the heater is used correctly.
Otherwise, there’s the risk of;
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
According to the U.S. government, there are at least 15 carbon monoxide poisoning incidents related to propane or natural gas in the country. This might not seem like a big number, but it tells that carbon monoxide positioning from propane heaters is a real possibility when using propane heaters.
Propane leaks can also cause fire explosions. Although these incidents aren’t as many as CO poisoning cases, a propane related fire is still reported about every other day within the country, according to the U.S. government.
Propane Heater Safety Tips
Fortunately, you can significantly reduce the chances of propane leaks, thus preventing related poisonings and fires. Consider the following tips;
- Use indoor-rated heaters indoors: Never use an outdoor propane heater indoors if the manufacturer doesn’t say it can be used indoors. The reason is that some outdoor propane heaters are safer outside because of unlimited ventilation. There isn’t as much ventilation inside the house.
- Choose the right-size heater: It makes little sense buying a 60,000 BTU propane heater for your small reading room. Moreover, it creates an unnecessary safety risk. Instead, determine your heating needs in BTU and buy a heater that isn’t too far from that figure.
- Always install an ODS: An Oxygen depletion Sensor (ODS) tracks oxygen levels in your home and alerts you if dangerously low levels of O2 are detected. Even if the heater has a built-in ODS, it helps to install the second one if the in-built sensor fails.
- Use the heater away from combustible items: A vital advantage of the smallest propane heaters is that they can be carried along everywhere you go. Just make sure that the heater isn’t placed next to flammable materials, such as curtains, furniture, bedding, and towels.
- Never leave the heater ON unattended: This is what causes most fires. Turn off the heater when you leave the room. You can turn it back on when you need it. Also, always check that the heater is off before you go to sleep.
- Take care to prevent tip-overs and overheating: A small propane heater on the table can be toppled or knocked over, creating a fire risk. The heater can also get extremely hot during operation. Choose a heater with built-in mechanisms to address both problems.
- Look out for safety approvals: Finally, a safe propane heater is one that’s been tested and approved by recognized agencies such as the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) and Intertek.
Other Factors to Consider When Buying a Small Propane Heater
You’ve decided that you want a small propane heater, and we’ve also discussed the safety considerations. So, what else should you look out for when shopping?
Small can mean anything from 1,000 BTU to 12,000 BTU. What size, exactly, would be ideal for your application? The rule of thumb is to get 30-60 BTU per square foot.
Ideally, you want to stick around the 30-40BTU/square-foot mark unless you’re shopping for a propane heater for poorly insulated spaces such as the basement or garage.
Small propane heaters can mount on the wall or ceiling or stand on the floor. The ideal installation option will depend on, among other factors, the intended application.
Are you buying it for patio use, the basement, or the barn? Make sure you select an installation type that guarantees safety during the application.
Propane heaters are some of the most energy-efficient. Many convert 90% or more of the fuel into useful heat, losing only 10%. However, that doesn’t stop you from hunting for the most efficient model. To this end, consider the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. A higher AFUE means a more efficient heater.
Style and Other Features
Finally, the best propane heaters are fitted with multiple convenience features to make your work easier. A few things to consider include handles for easy mobility and overfill protection devices (OPD). A built-in thermostat and multiple heat settings are also worth considering.
1. Mr. Heater F215100 MH4B Little Buddy 3800-BTU Propane Heater
The portable Little Buddy model F2215100 from Mr. Heater is a 5-pound, 11 x 11 x 11-inch propane-powered heater that generates 3,800 BTU of gentle heat per hour. It’s rated indoor-safe and designed for small spaces, up to 95 square feet.
Other vital qualities of the unit include the simple controls and impressive run time. A straightforward on/off button allows you to turn the unit on or off with unmatched ease.
It operates on a disposable 1-pound propane tank that runs for up to 5.6 straight hours on a single refill. The heater requires a four-inch clearance on all sides for adequate ventilation.
Two safety features, an accidental tip-over switch, and an oxygen depletion sensor are built into the heater to keep you and your family safe at all times. However, you must be aware of all problems associated with Mr Buddy Heater before you can buy it.
- Powerful 3,800 BTU heater
- Simple on/off control button
- Multiple safety controls
- 1-year warranty
- Best for spaces up to 95 square feet
- Not for use in motorized vehicles
2. Mr. Heater F274800 MH18B Portable Propane Heater
Another excellent choice when shopping for the smallest propane heater is the lightweight 2.75-pound model F274800 liquid propane heater that connects directly to a one-pound tank and can generate up to 18,000 BTU on the high setting.
A lower setting (4,000 BTU) is also available. This makes it the perfect choice for medium-sized spaces, up to 450 square feet.
The heater features an integrated fan to disperse the warm air throughout the room thoroughly and employs radiant heating to a degree to ensure the ultimate indoor comfort. Two swivel regulators allow you to adapt the disposable gas cylinder to a remote gas supply with the purchase of a single hose and filter.
An oxygen depletion sensor, easy-control manual push-and-rotate knob, and piezoelectric ignition are other notable features. It’s approved for indoor/outdoor use.
- Powerful 18,000 BTU heater
- Tip-over auto-shutoff
- Low-medium-high heat controls
- Ideal for up to 450 square feet
- Propane tank not included
- Manual controls
3. Mr. Heater 4,000 BTU MH4GC Golf Cart Heater
The model MH4GC from Mr. Heater is designed for the tiniest spaces in mind. As the name suggests, it’s one of only a handful of heaters that you can safely use in the golf cart. It even has a built-in cup holder for increased convenience in the golf cart.
Top features of the MH4GC include a wind-resistant burner and pilot system for easy ignition and optimal heat output even on the windiest days. It also features a safety tip-over switch and a low-oxygen shutoff system.
The 4,000 BTU heater connects directly to a one-pound propane tank and weighs about 5.9 pounds. It’s designed for outdoor use only and backed by a one-year limited manufacturer warranty.
- Powerful 4,000 BTU output
- Tip-over auto-shutoff
- Built-in oxygen depletion sensor
- Ergonomic carry handle
- One-year warranty
- Indoor use strictly prohibited
- No thermostat
4. Texsport Sportsmate Model 14223 Portable Propane Heater
The 14223 heater from Texsport is a 9 x 9 x 7.2-inch 3,000 BTU heater designed for golf carts, fishing boats, and other cool outdoor activities such as ice fishing. It features a durable stainless steel burner and has a pressure regulator on/off control valve or convenient temperature control. A molded plastic cup holder is built-in.
This extremely lightweight heater (it weighs a mere 2 pounds) can also be used in dome tents to serve up to five people. An aluminum reflector safety grid ensures efficient use, while an auto-shutoff valve that cuts off fuel if the flame goes out provides ultimate protection.
A tip-over shut off feature is built-in for additional safety. You’ll also love the paddle-foot plastic base, which holds the 16.4 oz propane bottle.
- Provides up to 3,000 BTU
- Durable stainless steel burner
- Flame-out auto-shutoff protection
- Pressure regulator on/off control
- Indoor use not allowed
5. Dyna Glo TT360DG 40,000 Liquid Propane 360-Degree Tank Top Heater
The patent-pending Dyna Glo Model TT360DG is a 360 degree 40,000 BTU heater that warms in all directions. It’s also the smallest 40k BTU heater in the market, measuring just 8.9 x 8.9 x 20.7 inches and weighing less than 4.5 pounds.
The high heat output makes this heater an excellent choice for large spaces, up to 1,000 square feet. Variable heat control allows you to adjust the output gradually as you wish. Stainless steel heat reflectors and a rust-proof chrome guard are the other notable features.
This heater is match-lit and comes with multiple safety features, including a safety shutoff valve that cuts the gas supply if the heater tips over. A 2-screw assembly process and quick-connect hand wheel mean you can begin heating in no time.
- Powerful 40,000 BTU
- Low-Medium-High settings
- 1-year warranty
- CSA certified
- Manual ignition
- Outdoor use only
6. Dura Heat TT-360 Propane (LP) 360 Degree Tank Top Heater
Another tank-top heater on the list, this time from one of the industry’s best-known manufacturers Dura Heat, the model TT-360 heats in a 360-degree fashion, allowing the heat to reach every corner of the room.
It’s also an extremely powerful heater at 40,000 BTUs. Multiple heat settings mean you can adjust temperatures to meet your specific needs.
The heater features a high-efficiency stainless steel heat reflector to ensure cost-effective heating and a rust-resistant chrome safety guard to protect the people nearby. A mercury-free tip-over shutoff valve and accidental shutoff protection are the highlight safety features.
Designed for outdoor use only, this heater is easy to set up and operates for up to 14 hours on a 20-pound propane tank. It measures 9.25 x 9.25 x 17.5 inches and weighs a paltry 4.87 pounds.
- Powerful 40,000 BTU
- Ideal for up to 1,000 square feet
- Multiple safety features
- Easy setup
- No wind protection
- Manual ignition
7. Mr. Heater 50,000 BTU Forced Air Heater, Multi-Fuel
The highest-rated heater on this list at 50,000 BTU, the model F270255 unit from Mr. Heater is a 4-gallon heater that provides up to 10 hours of continuous heat on a single refill.
A high-output fan ensures that you’re getting maximum heat while multiple safety features, including an auto-shutoff, provide maximum protection.
Equipped with enclosed motors and large, glove-friendly controls, the heater uses several other fuel options, including kerosene, JP8 (Jet-A Fuel), and filtered 1&2 fuel oils. It’s designed for spaces up to 1,200 square feet.
The unit can be assembled in five minutes out of the box and operates even in the coldest temperatures. It’s backed by a 1-year warranty.
- Multi-fuel heater
- Powerful 50,000 BTU output
- Multiple safety controls
- CSA certified
- The housing gets extremely hot
- Strictly rated for outdoor use
8. Hiland LP-195C Portable Tank Top Propane Camping Heater
Finally, the model LP-195C from Hiland is a durable tank top heater constructed from stainless steel and aluminum.
It generates 3,000 BTUs at maximum heating capacity, making it ideal for smaller spaces. However, you’re guaranteed reliable performance, utmost safety, and long useful life.
Key features of the LP-195C include the extractable cylinder base, which ensures stability, and an anti-tilt switch for safety.
You’ll also love that it’s a very compact heater, measuring a mere 12 x 12 x 19 inches. It’s also extremely lightweight at just 1.45 pounds. This makes it the perfect propane heater if you’re going camping or fishing.
There’s no mention of a warranty from the manufacturer. However, returns are allowed. It’s also worth mentioning that some assembly is required to get the unit up and running.
Otherwise, the heater is very attractive, reasonably priced, and CSA certified for your peace of mind. It attaches to a one-pound propane tank.
- Very lightweight at about 1.45 pounds
- Durable steel-aluminum construction
- Convenient extractable cylinder base
- CSA certified for safety
- Manual ignition
- Strictly for outdoor use
The smallest propane heaters can still be valuable in various heating applications around the home. For one, they are incredibly portable, often fitted with handles for easy mobility.
Secondly, propane doesn’t require electricity, making these heaters invaluable in emergencies. Combine these two factors alone, and you realize how beneficial it would be to invest in a small propane heater.
However, it’s imperative to find the right heater. Never use an outdoor-rated heater inside and always ensure sufficient clearance when heating. Above all, always follow best practices to ensure safe heating throughout.