Cabins, especially log-house cabins, can make a beautiful extension to your home. They add a one-of-a-kind “guest house” to your property and can serve as the perfect getaway whenever you feel bored in the main house.
Unfortunately, the cabin also tends to get quite cold during the cold weather. If yours is a log-house cabin, it can become freezing cold during the winter weather.
A vented propane heater could be just what you need to turn that cabin into an all-year fun spot. Vented propane heaters are low-cost (compared to other heating options), simple to install & use, and incredibly energy-efficient. They also come in varied styles and designs, adding a degree of charm to any living space.
Vented Propane Heater For Cabin Comparison Table
What is a Vented Gas Heater?
A vented heater has a venting system (usually in the form of a small pipe) through the back designed to serve as an exit path for exhaust gases. In most cases, the pipe exists through the wall, though sometimes it can vent through a chimney.
The bottom line is that these heaters provide a mechanism for exhaust gases to leave the fire chamber. Vent-free heaters don’t have this mechanism.
Advantages of Vented Gas Heaters
There are two main benefits of buying a vented heater over an unvented/vent-free model;
- Safety: This is by far the biggest advantage of vented gas heaters. No gas combustion process is 100% efficient. The process always results in at least a few exhaust gases, some of which are poisonous. In the case of propane heaters, one of the poisonous exhaust gases is carbon monoxide. A venting system provides an exit mechanism for these toxic gases.
- Meets most code requirements: A quick check will show you that vent-free heaters aren’t allowed in most countries/states because of the inherent safety risk. By contrast, vented heaters are not only allowed but also encouraged by most administrations.
Types of Vented Propane Heaters
There are two main types of vented propane heaters, i.e., direct vent and B-vent models. Here’s what you need to know about each option.
- Direct vent heaters
The more popular of the two, direct vent heaters use a venting system designed by the manufacturer. Also, the venting system takes in air, and an exhaust system gets rid of any gaseous by-products. It’s also worth noting that direct vent heaters feature closed cooling systems, meaning that the heater won’t use up the home’s air for combustion.
- B-vent heaters
Also known as natural vent heaters, B-vent heaters require that you manually install a vent pipe running through your home and exiting through the roof. They also depend on the air in your room for combustion. Of the two types, they are less expensive. However, they are also less efficient compared to direct-vent heaters.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Vented Propane Heater
Price is the first thing that comes to mind when shopping. However, don’t forget to consider the following factors too;
The power capacity of a propane heater is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). For cabin heating, you’ll need at least 5,000 BUTs, though you’d need more for a larger space. The Department of Energy recommends 20 BTU of heating energy for every square foot of living space though most experts say you need 40BTU/Sq. Ft.
First off, it’s important to understand that vented heaters lose some heat through the venting pipes, thus aren’t as efficient as vent-free models. Despite that, you should aim to get the most efficient propane heaters you can find. Anything above 95% efficiency is considered exceptional.
Radiant or Convectional Heating?
Radiant heaters heat objects directly. Convention heaters, on the other hand, heat the space surrounding the heater, then objects (such as you) absorb warmth from the heated air. Radiant heaters are more efficient, but convention heaters are better for warming large spaces.
What features has the manufacturer included to make the heater safe for use? Does it have an oxygen depletion sensor? What about an automatic shut-off mechanism? Other features to look for include cool-to-touch surfaces and compliance with national/international standards.
Mounting a Vented Propane Heater
There are several types of ventless propane heaters. This installation guide focuses on wall-mounted models. Proceed as follows;
- Choose where you want to install the heater: The best place to install a wall-mounted propane cabin heater is on the cabin’s back wall. This way, the heat generated is pushed towards the door. Determine the height where you want to install the unit and mark the point for the vent pipe.
- Screw the mounting bracket onto the wall: Hold the bracket against the wall over the area where you marked the vent hole. Then, insert screws and secure the bracket onto the wall.
- Drill the vent hole: Use a drill bit to make a hole through the wall. Depending on the size of the wall, this process may require significant effort.
- Place the heater into the brackets: As you do this, remember to slip the vent pipe through the hole you drilled earlier. Make sure the setup is secure and level.
- Connect the heater to the propane tank: This is accomplished by connecting the hose pipe coming from the heater to the one from the propane tank. You may need an adapter.
Once all the connections are secure, you can turn on the propane tank and then start using the heater by clicking the ignition button as necessary.
Safety Tips when Using a Vented Propane Heater
The safety of vented propane heaters starts with the features we mentioned earlier. Choose a heater that has an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS), automatic overheating shut-off, and that’s approved by ETL, Intertek, and other national/international standard organizations.
For additional safety;
- Consider professional installation
- Use standard venting pipes
- Keep the propane tank outside
5 Best Vented Propane Heater For Cabin Reviews
1. Rinnai EX17CT 16,700 BTU Direct Vent Wall Furnace
The Rinnai EX17CT is by far one of the best direct vent wall heaters money can buy. It comes with an exceptional output range, generating 16,700 BTU/hour at maximum capacity, which makes it ideal for medium-sized spaces (around 450 sq. ft.). However, it can also prove an excellent supplemental heating source in larger areas.
Something else you’ll love about the Rinnai is the controls and safety features. First off, the EX17CT features a built-in programmable thermostat. The thermostat shows temperatures in either Celsius or Fahrenheit – the choice is yours. Even better, it’s a programmable thermostat, meaning that you can set the temperatures you desire, and the heater will implement automatically when the time comes.
The safety features, meanwhile, include a control panel locking feature that prevents undesired operation. It can prove especially valuable if you don’t want the kids to tamper with your heat settings.
- Stylish, modern design
- 16,700 BTU/hour of power
- Several safety features
- Programmable thermostat
- Mounting hardware not included
- Most expensive product on this list (costs over $1,000)
2. Martin Direct Vent 8,000 BTU Propane Wall Heater
- WARM, ADJUSTABLE HEAT – Keep living or work spaces heated with a direct vent wall heater with room thermostat that lets you monitor your heat dispersion.
- BUILT-IN THERMOSTAT (Low - High Dial) - 8,000 BTU
- STYLISH & CLEAN ENERGY – A sleek fireplace design, our direct vent gas heater produces safe, clean energy that’s economical and aesthetically pleasing.
- QUICK & EASY INSTALLATION – Connect our heater to a gas fitter and it will heat your living space effectively with low maintenance required. (The wallʼs thickness cannot be less than 4-1/2” (11.5 cm) nor can it exceed 12-5/8” (32 cm).)
- CERTIFIED QUALITY – Heavy-duty grill made with die-cast aluminum and glass ceramic window for more safety, Product is certified for use in the USA and Canada.
The 8,000 BTU Martin direct vent heater is a smart, ultra-quiet propane heater that produces balanced room temperatures without any wastages. It’s characterized by its decorative glass-ceramic window through which you get to enjoy a beautiful blue flame view.
Some of the highlight features of the heater include a large heavy-duty, die-cast grill that allows for better heat flow. However, the heat doesn’t affect the back of the heater, which remains at room temperature throughout. The other major feature is the room thermostat that, once set up, maintains the set temperature at all times even during thermal variations.
The ceramic heater is lightweight at just 29 pounds. It’s also easy to install. All you have to do is connect the heater to a gas fitter, and you’re ready to start heating your cabin.
- Adjustable thermostat
- Highly efficient ceramic heater
- Glass-ceramic window
- Clean, natural energy
- Ideal for smaller spaces (under 400 sq. ft.)
3. Mr. Heater F260550 Big Maxx MHU50NG Dual-Fuel Heater
- 50,000 BTU per hour heats up to 1250 sq. ft.
- Powered exhaust allows for vertical or horizontal venting
- Easy outside access to thermostat and A/C terminals and gas connection
- Natural Gas to Liquid Propane conversion kit and 2 angle brackets for ceiling mount included
- Minimum 8 ft clearance from floor to base of heater required; Limited 3 year warranty on parts and burners and 10 year warranty on any defects in the heat exchanger
So far we’ve only looked at heaters for small and medium-sized cabins. If your cabin is much larger, at 1,000 square feet or more, you’ll need something bigger – like the Mr. Heater Big Maxx. This 50,000 BTU heater is ideal for spaces up to 1,250 Sq. Ft. and can be vented horizontally or vertically. It’s primarily a natural gas heater but features dual fuel-technology that makes it usable with propane too.
Some key features of the Big Maxx include spark ignition with a self-diagnostic control module, two angle brackets for ceiling mount, and easy external access to power. The unit doesn’t come with a thermostat but has the necessary wiring in case you decide to install one (it’s recommendable).
The best thing about the Big Maxx, however, is its long warranties. You get a 3-year factory warranty on all parts and burners, and a 10-year warranty on any heat exchanger defects. Not many manufacturers can come close, let alone match that.
- An incredible 50,000BTU/hour
- 3-year warranty on all parts and burner
- 10-year warranty on heat exchanger defects
- Durable Spark electric ignition
- Gas conversion kit included
- Low-profile design
- Thermostat sold separately
4. Martin Direct Vent 11,000 BTU Propane Wall heater
Another Martin heater, this 11,000 BTU direct vent heater, delivers warm, adjustable heat to keep your living spaces cozy and livable. A built-in thermostat makes it possible to fine-tune the indoor temperature as you desire. Two heat settings are provided, i.e., Low and High.
The unit’s design style easily stands out. It’s efficiency and energy-saving qualities being other major selling points. It’s also an easy-to-install heater that slips effortlessly into the gas fitter. The manufacturer, however, advises that your wall’s thickness must not be less than 4 ½ inches or more than 12 5/8 inches.
The heater features a heavy-duty grill made from die-cast aluminum and has a ceramic glass window for safety reasons. It’s certified for use in the US and Canada.
- Large, heavy-duty die-cast grill
- Easy to install
- Simple to maintain
- Built-in room thermostat
- Ideal for smaller rooms
- A bit on the expensive side
5. Ashley Hearth DVAG11L 11,000 BTU Direct Vent Propane Heater
Finally, Ashley Hearth DVAG11L is the most affordable on this list and perfect for zoned heating. It costs under $400 and weighs 41.7 pounds.
The DVAG11L direct vent propane wall furnace has an 11,000 BTU input and is designed to heat up to 375 square feet.
The manufacturer designed this unit to help homeowners save space thanks to the adjustable vent assembly that adjusts to fit walls from 4-1/2 in. to 10 in. thick.
This direct vent furnace is completely sealed inside, away from all contact with room air to prevent heat loss and direct clean, safe heat when and where you need it the most.
During combustion, the required air is drawn from outside through the vent into the chamber while the combustion products are vented directly to the outside. Only clean, gentle heat, in continuous circulation, is delivered into the room. Windows and doors stay closed because no room air is used for combustion.
- Heats up to 375 sq. ft.
- Up to 11,000 BTU heat input
- No complicated venting to purchase or install – complete kit is included
- The sealed burn system is perfect for bedrooms and living spaces.
- A safety pilot with a built-in pressure regulator completely stops the gas flow if the pilot is extinguished.
- It can be a little hot to the touch on the top third, so put it up a bit on a wall away from small kids or pets
Vented propane heaters are an excellent option for cabin heating, whether as the primary heat source or for supplemental heating. They are less expensive than most similar-rated heaters, fairly efficient, and use propane, which is not only low-cost but also very clean-burning. Just makes sure to pick the right heater capacity depending on the size of your cabin size.