What is a Portable Furnace?

Kate Monteith

A portable furnace is a small heater that is used to heat the air, usually in a specific indoor zone. Portable furnaces are a good choice for localized warmth at a very low fuel cost. A portable heater can be a cozy companion in a cold room, especially when only one area needs warming. That is why they are also called zone heaters or space heaters.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

A portable heater is specifically made to warm the nearby air and objects. They can be quite efficient in a confined space. The smallest ones can be tucked under a desk at work, keeping the heat fairly well confined to one user. The larger ones can be used to heat a chilly bedroom or children’s play area.

There are several different designs in portable furnaces available, and most of them operate by electricity, or a combination of electricity and fuel. Some designs can be rolled into place on wheels, others are simply placed directly on the floor in a convenient spot. A portable furnace can be a thin, upright unit that heats a large living space, or a squat little box that is used for a small area of warmth. Some portable furnaces even look like real fireplaces, complete with a choice of mantles and a flame that looks quite convincing.

Unlike central heating, portable furnaces use very little electricity to operate. One style known as a radiant heater runs electricity through thin wires wrapped around insulators made of porcelain. The heated wires become very hot, but they are fully protected from fire hazard by an outer shell of fireproof material. Radiant heat furnaces are considered very safe for children and pets.

One variety of portable heater is made expressly for use in a garage or shop. Known as a forced air heater, it not only warms the surrounding air, but also circulates the hot air with a fan. This type of portable furnace works with a combination of electricity to run the blower, and a combustible gas, such as kerosene, fuel oil or propane to heat the air.

There is another type of portable furnace that works strictly on propane gas. It is perfect for football games, camping, fishing, and other outdoor uses. A portable propane heater is also great in case of an electrical outage, as no electricity is ever needed.

A few of the more expensive portable furnaces can come fully loaded with some pretty sophisticated features. Some models have LED readouts and programmable thermostats. If the heater accidentally tips over, a safety switch shuts it off immediately. Another great feature is the ability to adjust the thermostat with a remote control. This feature provides the ultimate portable furnace luxury: turning up the heat on a chilly morning without leaving the comfort of a warm bed.

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