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How do I Choose the Best Propane Heater?

By Ron Marr
Updated May 16, 2024
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Choosing the best propane heater depends largely upon the size of the space you wish to heat. They are usually intended to heat small spaces, outbuildings, shops, garages, or areas that have not been well insulated. Many times, people will place a heater in a back bedroom of their home, or in a small office.

There are several different varieties of propane heaters. The forced air version includes a fan, generally powered by an electric motor, that circulates the heated air into a room. These models are sometimes referred to as torpedo heaters, as they tend to be long and cylindrical in design. Forced air propane units have a wide range of heating capacity, providing from as little as 10,000 to over 500,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of energy. They can be mobile and transportable, or permanently installed in a fixed location.

A radiant heater includes neither a fan nor any other type of air circulating mechanism. In most cases, a heating element is simply attached to the top of a portable propane tank. Once the element is ignited, this type of propane unit provides heat for the immediate area in which it is located. Campers who wish a little extra warmth while in the great outdoors often bring along this type of heater. This model often includes some sort of thermostat with which to control both temperature and propane pressure.

Yet another version is the convection heater. It works in a somewhat opposite manner to the radiant heater, as it is geared to quickly raise the temperature of the area in which it is placed. The temperature then drops little by little, at which point the heater can once again be allowed to release a burst of heat. Of the aforementioned three styles, the convection heater is probably the least efficient. On the other hand, it will allow you to warm up more quickly.

Before purchasing a propane heater, you should always perform a bit of research to determine if it is adequate to heat the intended area. The necessary statistics are readily available from manufacturers, and the last thing you should do is buy a heater that is too small. Most heaters will be labeled as to the appropriate square footage for which they were designed, but these figures usually assume an open space with no walls.

If possible, purchase a larger heater than that which you think you need. You can always turn down the thermostat or shut the unit off if a room becomes too warm. If the heater is too small, however, the only solution is to either wear a coat or purchase a second heater.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By SarahSon — On Aug 28, 2012

My husband has a propane garage heater. He does a lot of mechanical work out in the garage and this makes it much more bearable for him.

Having a heater like this is nice because you only need to run it while you are using it. It also doesn't take long to heat up a small area like the garage. It never gets really hot in there, but it does get warm enough where he can work comfortably.

By sunshined — On Aug 27, 2012

We take a propane radiant heater with us when we go camping. I like to camp, but really don't like to rough it all that much.

If I can have some of the creature comforts I am used to at home, it makes the experience all the more pleasant.

Our favorite time to camp is in the fall, and the evenings can get pretty cool. This is the best time to have a little bit of extra heat. It also makes crawling out of bed in the morning a little easier as well.

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