Heater Buyer’s Guide

Indoor heaters. Outdoor heaters. Kerosene. Propane. Electric. When it comes to instant warmth, there’s a lot to choose from. So which one is right for you? Our Heater Buyer’s Guide will help you find the right style and size for your needs.

Step 1: Choose Your Fuel

Electric Heater 2


Electric heaters are among the most affordable and easiest to maintain. They come in a very wide range of sizes — from compact units designed to heat smaller rooms, to shop heaters, to fireplace-style units designed to keep a large living room warm.


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Propane heaters are more powerful and work faster than electric heaters, but because they use an open flame, they should only be used outdoors or in areas with excellent ventilation. They vary in size from small tank-top models to wall-mounted units and permanent fixtures, so it’s easy to find the right one for just about any job. Our propane heaters range from 3,000 to 400,000 BTUs.


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KeroseneKerosene Heater

Kerosene heaters utilize a wick to soak up and burn kerosene. They are typically portable, and capable of producing over 200,000 BTUs without the need for dedicated ventilation. They are capable of heating large areas like garages and warehouse, and can be used for home heating in the event of a power loss (depending on state laws). Our kerosene heaters range from 50,000 to 210,000 BTUs.


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WoodWood Stove

Wood stoves provide effective heat while cutting fuel costs, but require dedicated ventilation. Some stoves burn either wood, wood pellets, or coal, and some even offer the benefit of a top cooking surface. Wood and pellet stoves are available in a wide variety of sizes capable of heating small cabins to modern homes.


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Natural GasNatural Gas Heaters

Natural gas is one of the cheapest fuel options available, generally costing 20% to 50% less than the equivalent amount of electricity or propane. They require a gas hook-up and permanent installation, but often don’t need venting (depending on state laws).


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PLEASE NOTE: It’s always a good idea to check state laws before you purchase a heater. Many states have banned unvented kerosene heaters for use in the home and several have banned the use of unvented natural gas heaters.


Step 2: Things to Consider

Electric Space Heaters: Convection vs. Infrared

  • Convection heaters work by blowing warm air, and are the most common kind of electric space heater. Warm air circulates to fill the entire room. Convection heaters work best for rooms that need constant heat.
  • Infrared heaters (also called radiant heaters) emit warmth to other objects, as opposed to heating the air like convection heaters do. Infrared heaters are perfect for open rooms and rooms with high ceilings, and work best for short bursts of heating.

Combustion Space Heaters: Indoor vs. Outdoor

Propane and natural gas heaters are a viable choice for emergency heating in the event of a power outage, but there are some things to consider:

  1. Heaters marked as “outdoor only” burn fuel faster than indoor heaters, and should never be used inside homes, tents, campers, etc.
  2. Indoor-safe propane and natural gas heaters always have an Oxygen Depletion Sensor that automatically shuts the unit off when airflow is reduced to unsafe levels.


Combustion Space Heaters: Vented vs. Unvented

Considerations regarding safety and legality need to be made when considering a combustion (propane, kerosene, wood, natural gas, etc.) space heater:

  1. Vented units are designed to be permanently installed next to an exterior wall so that a flue can be installed. Vented units use outdoor air for combustion.
  2. Unvented units use indoor air for combustion, and vent the by-product (carbon monoxide, etc.) into the room, so care should be taken to ensure that air flows in and out of the room. Unvented heaters should never be used in mobile homes or airtight houses. Check state laws, as some states ban unvented combustion heaters.


Features to Look For

There are a number of safety and convenience features to consider:

  • Programmable thermostats allow you to program a desired temperature. The unit will turn off and on to maintain the desired temperature, saving money and power.
  • Programmable timers allow you to program the heater to turn on or off at a specified time. You can have the heater turn on before you wake up in the morning and turn off after you go to bed without having to touch it.
  • Wheels and handles help with portability
  • Tip-over switches automatically turn the unit off if tipped over, an essential safety feature.
  • Overheat protection shuts the heater down when the built-in sensor detects a pre-determined temperature.


Step 3: Choose the Right Size


What kind of BTU output do you need? It all depends on the size of the space and how much warmer you want it to be. We put together this handy cheat sheet to make it easy:

1. How large is the are being heated in cubic feet? Calculate area dimensions as follows: Length x Width x Ceiling Height = Total Cubic Feet

2. How much does the ambient temperature need to be increased? Calculate as follows: Desired Temperature – Current Temperature = Desired Temperature Increase

3. Calculate the BTUs required to achieve your desired temperature. Calculate: Total Cubic Feet x Desired Temperature Increase x 0.133 = BTUs required.

This should give you a good idea of what you need.

We also put together a simple sizing chart to give you a rough estimate:




We hope this helps make your buying decision!


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4 Responses to “Heater Buyer’s Guide”

  1. Avatar

    Buford Norville

    I would love to have one of the Big Buddy Portable Propane Heaters. I have Entered to win one on Facebook and I sure hope I get Lucky and Win it. Thanks Sportsman’s Guide for the Chance to WIN!!!

  2. Avatar

    Catherine B.

    We are looking for some type of heating unit for our garage as it is unheated and we do a fair amount of activities in there during the winter (woodworking, reloading). This “Heater Buyer’s Guide” has helped a bit in our research. Thank you.

  3. Avatar

    Joe S.

    Thanks for the info need one for my garage.

  4. Avatar

    Tulsa Hunter

    I am looking for a BATTERY POWERED portable heater to take out in a deer blind. Anyone know such a device ?