Are Mr. Heater Buddy heaters any good? Everybody recommends Mr. Heaters all the time. So, I bought one.
Together we will have a look at how good they really are.
I am going to be extra critical in this article and pay attention to all the fine-grained details that other websites leave out.
Let’s uncover the truth about Mr. Heater!
Quick answer: Mr. Heater Buddy heaters are not good for everyone. They get over >1,000°F. Their protection grid can’t prevent fire. And on a 1-pound propane bottle, a Mr. Heater lasts only for 5.4h on the lowest setting. So, they don’t last a full night unless you bring a larger propane tank.
However, these issues are present in all propane heaters with the same heat output.
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters don’t have any moving parts, which makes them last for decades. They need minimal maintenance and are very easy to fix (no electronics). Buddy heaters are solid and don’t have any easy-to-break parts.
I own a Mr. Heater Buddy, so this whole article is a case study. I even did an indoor fire experiment (further below in the article).
After reading the whole article, you’ll know exactly whether a Mr. Heater Buddy will be of use to you or not.
At the end of this article, you will find a table with different activities and whether a Mr. Heater Buddy is good for the respective activity or not.
Why Mr. Heater Buddy heaters might not be for you
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters are not for everyone. They have a few drawbacks, which we will look at in this section.
Don’t worry. Instead of just telling you about issues, I am also going to present you solutions for the respective issues!
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters look like infrared heaters, but actually, most of their heat goes up the top air vents. So, they emit hot air which rises straight upward.
Of course, the front heating panel glows hot red, so there is some infrared radiation. But most of the heat leaves the heater in form of hot air.
OK… But why is this important to know?
The heat distribution of a space heater is important when you want to use it in large rooms, or outdoors.
Infrared heaters, for example, emit most of their heat as radiation. So, you can point an infrared heater at yourself, and you feel warm, no matter the size of the room.
Convection heaters (which work by emitting hot air), however, heat the entire room.
If you need an outdoor heater, convection heaters are pointless.
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters are a mix of infrared and convection heaters. The front heating panel emits infrared radiation. And the top vents emit convective heat.
When you initially turn on your Mr. Heater Buddy, it immediately emits hot air (convective heat). But it takes some time for the heating panel to heat up. Only then you will also feel some infrared heat.
For me, this heat distribution was unexpected, since Mr. Heater Buddy heaters look like infrared heaters.
That’s however, not a problem as long as you use your Mr. Heater Buddy heater indoors, in RVs, in a cabin, or in a tent.
If, however, you go for outdoor activities in open spaces, expect to waste a lot of heat energy.
Examples are heating an open perch while hunting, heating your seat by the side of the river while fishing, or heating guests at an outdoor party.
What’s a better way to portably keep warm in open spaces?
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters are perfectly fine for heating indoors and other closed spaces (RVs, cabins, tents, closed perches).
They don’t work well when you heat open spaces because a lot of heat is lost as hot air which the wind carries away.
To heat open outdoor spaces, I recommend using a propane heater with a larger infrared component, such as a patio heater. Or, if you need a portable heater, then I recommend investing in good clothes, and insulation for your seat. And you can get this pack of 40 hand warmers (click here to view it on amazon).
Handwarmers are a lot more energy efficient than propane heaters since they rely on conductive heat transfer (which is heat transfer through touch).
Another issue with Mr. Heater Buddy heaters is their safety. Of course, indoor propane heaters are not the safest kind of space heaters.
And this has nothing to do with the Mr. Heater Buddy specifically. It’s just a downside of propane heaters you should be aware of before buying.
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters have exposed heating elements. The heating panel of a Mr. Heater Buddy heater is a perforated ceramic tile.
The holes let burning propane pass through. Each hole emits its own tiny flame. All of those flames add up and heat the ceramic tile.
It gets so hot that my laser thermometer showed an “out of range” error.
This means they are at least 1,000°F hot.
A metal grid protects the heating panel. But the metal grid itself gets incredibly hot as well. I can’t touch it without burning my fingers.
The front of the Mr. Heater’s metal grid even reads “CAUTION HOT”. But, unfortunately, anyone who needs this info, such as kids and pets, can’t read.
So, the metal grid does not seem to protect from the heat at all. Yes, I can’t touch the flames easily. And I can’t easily grill a sausage on the ceramic heating tile.
My point is, however, that you can still easily burn your fingers. And you can still easily ignite objects around you.
Let’s do an experiment:
Can a Mr. Heater Buddy ignite something?
I turned on my Mr. Heater Buddy and held a piece of paper at the metal safety grid.
Initially, the paper did not catch fire, because the heater was not hot enough yet.
But after a minute, the paper caught fire!
I tried different positions around the heater. And the front-top part of the heater seems to be the most dangerous.
This makes sense since that’s where the propane flame rises.
So, it’s very important that you don’t use your Mr. Heater Buddy in tight places. In this case, I think about tents. If you place a Mr. Heater Buddy in the corner of a tent (under a tilted tent roof), then I guarantee you it will burn a big hole into your tent.
Instead, you should always place your Mr. Heater Buddy where there’s plenty of space for the heat to distribute.
You should leave at least 2 feet of space in front and 2 or 3 feet of space on top of a Mr. Heater Buddy.
What’s the point of the metal grid?
So, if Mr. Heater Buddys can ignite things, even though there’s a safety metal grid, then what’s even the point of that grid?
It only makes a Mr. Heater Buddy appear safer. But actually, it does not change anything.
Another reason there is a grid is that it’s a great spot to mount add-ons, such as a cooking grate.
Of course, the grid is still a safety feature.
But it’s just not as capable a safety feature as it initially appears to be.
I think the main point of the metal grid is to protect the perforated from blocking. For example, imagine you run your Mr. Heater buddy next to your sofa where you’re watching a movie.
Suddenly, your snack bowl drops and, coincidentally touches the perforated ceramic heating tile. Because your snack bowl is plastic, it immediately melts and blocks the propane flame.
Then, you pull the plastic off the heating panel and the Mr. Heater explodes (because so much unburned propane accumulated around the extinguished heating panel area). When you lift the melted plastic, some holes catch fire which causes a chain reaction.
The point of the metal grid is to prevent uncontrolled gas extinguishing followed by reignition.
Carbon monoxide emissions
Another potential safety issue with Mr. Heater Buddy propane heaters is possible carbon monoxide emissions.
There was, however, an experiment where someone placed his Mr. Heater Buddy heater in a closed RV and let it run for 2 hours.
The carbon monoxide levels were zero, which is very surprising since propane combustion burns oxygen.
When there is a lack of oxygen in a closed room, carbon monoxide forms.
This problem, is, however, oftentimes only a theoretical one. Carbon monoxide only forms if the propane reaction does not have access to any oxygen. If there is no oxygen in the air, in your room, the burn sucks additional air into your space.
It does not matter whether you are in a closed room, RV or tent. There are always air gaps for oxygen to enter.
So, unless you intentionally block all the air gaps in your space, your Mr. Heater Buddy won’t emit carbon monoxide.
What can you do to improve a Buddy heater’s safety?
The metal grid does not protect from fire. And you also can’t guarantee that your Mr. Heater Buddy does not emit carbon monoxide.
The only real protection against these things is you. You have to reasonably use your propane heater.
Always leave space in front and on top of the heater. And, to prevent carbon monoxide production, vent your room occasionally.
Also, you should get a carbon monoxide detector you trust. I recommend this Kidde carbon monoxide alarm (click here to view it on amazon).
It’s a one-off expense. But it can save lives!
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters are designed for portable use. In really portable scenarios, such as hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and especially when it’s just a one-day trip you usually don’t bring large gas tanks with you.
Instead (and that’s what a Mr. Heater Buddy is designed for), you use it with a 1-pound propane bottle.
A Mr. Heater Buddy lasts for only around 2.4 hours on such a one-pound propane bottle on the high setting (9,000 BTU/h). That’s not a lot.
On the medium setting (4,000 BTU/h), a Mr. Heater Buddy lasts for 5.4 hours on a 1-pound propane bottle.
Of course, that’s not the fault of the brand Mr. Heater. That’s just basic physics. If you want to get a specific amount of heat from propane, you have to burn a specific amount of propane gas.
Still, the heating duration of Mr. Heater Buddy heaters is not very good. The biggest drawback is, in my opinion:
A Mr. Heater Buddy does not last a full night on a 1-pound propane bottle.
You don’t even need much heat at night. So, all Mr. Heater would have to do, is add a lower heat setting to the portable Buddy heaters.
For example, if there was a 2,000 BTU/h setting, then a Mr. Heater could last for 10.8 hours on a 1-pound propane bottle.
This would be a huge improvement for everyone who relies on a Mr. Heater to heat overnight.
Currently, you have to connect a bigger bottle (with a hose) to the Mr. Heater so you can heat for a full night without changing bottles.
I am sure the Mr. Heater company is not ignorant of this issue. Likely, they can’t add this feature as you can’t guarantee a full propane flame at such low settings. But who knows! Maybe in the future, we will get low propane heater settings.
Of course, Mr. Heaters last a long time on large 20lb tanks. But you have to bring these larger tanks everywhere you go.
This leads to the next issue: The target market. What are the target customers of Mr. Heater propane heaters?
Mr. Heaters are marketed as portable propane heaters. However, as soon as you need real portable heat, such as for trekking, kayaking, and other multi-day activities, propane heaters are useless.
For these activities, investing in proper clothing and sleeping bags is much wiser. They don’t need any refueling.
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters are only suitable for semi-portable heating, such as cabins, RVs, or workshops.
These are places where you carry around your heater, and where you always have access to a larger gas supply.
This does not mean that Mr. Heater products are bad. It just means that they are partly marketed toward an audience that should better rely on other products.
Incompatibility with UK and EU gas bottles
Another downside of Mr. Heater products is their incompatibility with UK and EU gas bottles. It’s confusing when you buy a propane heater and your national propane bottles don’t fit.
Now, you might argue that Mr. Heater heaters are US products.
But imagine buying a product from an overseas brand (such as a smartphone, a car, or whatever). Then, you expect it to fit your country’s standards. You want the plug and wall outlet to fit. And in a car, you want to have speed readings in miles per hour instead of kilometers per hour.
Interestingly, Mr. Heater only sends out heaters compatible with US gas bottles.
How to make a Mr. Heater compatible with your gas bottle
To make a Mr. Heater compatible you need an extra adapter to convert the US to your UK or European gas connector.
Oftentimes, a connector is included in the package. Vendors don’t want returns. But some vendors don’t care to include it. So, you have to get your own connector.
That’s not a real issue. But some people don’t know about it, get a Mr. Heater without an adapter and then wonder the first cold night in their RV why their propane bottle doesn’t fit the heater.
Why Mr. Heater Buddy heaters are great
That was a lot of criticism! I really tried hard to find flaws with Mr. Heater propane heaters.
Still, they are my all-time favorite portable propane heaters.
( I hope it did not shine through until now )
Ideally, you should be surprised now. At least, this was my goal.
Mr. Heater propane heaters are actually great heaters. And if you are looking to buy one, here are some very good reasons why they should be your first choice.
The first aspect I want to highlight is a Mr. Heater Buddy heater’s design.
The Buddy heaters are around for a few decades and they remain mostly unchanged, even though everything changes around us continuously.
Mr. Heaters are a timeless product. They looked good 10 years ago and they will look good in 10 years.
There’s nothing fashionable about a Mr. Heater Buddy. So, it never ages.
And on top of that, the design of a Mr. Heater makes sense.
If you have a look at a Buddy heater, you see that it does not have a single thin piece protracting from the heater body. It appears very round.
Additionally, all the parts, including the handles and the rounded “roof” covering the propane bottle are very thick.
As long as you use your Mr. Heater reasonably, none of the parts will ever break. They look and feel very solid and hard to damage.
Of course, if you throw your Mr. Heater down a cliff, something might break. But that’s your fault.
A Mr. Heater will easily survive table drops, accidental impacts, bouncing around in a driving RV, or sawdust exposure.
No moving parts to wear down
Mr. Heaters Buddy heaters don’t have any built-in moving parts. Some space heaters have a built-in fan to distribute the heat.
In a Mr. Heater, nothing moves.
And still, it is perfectly able to distribute the heat through convection and radiation.
A heater that has no moving parts does not age. Moving parts cause friction. And friction wears down parts with time.
Additionally, moving parts tend to collect and compress dust over time, which can prevent heat distribution and reduce the perceived energy efficiency.
If you’ve ever cleaned an old desktop computer’s built-in fan, you know what I mean.
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters literally last for decades without breakdown.
At least, they don’t break down because of any parts breaking. The only thing that prevents a Mr. Heater from lasting forever is dust and dirt accumulation.
But this is also very easy to fix:
Easy to fix and maintain
Mr. Heater Buddy heaters don’t break down easily. And most of the time when your Mr. Heater does not light, it’s very easy to fix.
Since Mr. Heaters doesn’t have any built-in moving parts, there is no breakdown due to friction. This, in turn, means you don’t have to maintain a Mr. Heater that much.
The only (frequently occurring) thing that stops a Mr. Heater from working is when the pilot light is clogged.
This can happen when oil accumulates in the pilot light gas line. The oil in the gas line oftentimes comes from large propane tanks. If you run your Mr. Heater propane heater without a gas hose filter, then after some time (it could be months or even years), the gas line will clog.
And that’s not even the fault of the Mr. Heater company. If you blow oil from your gas tank (or also from the gas hose) into your Mr. Heater, you can’t expect it to continue working reliably.
Luckily, you can prevent this problem very easily.
If you use a large gas tank, which you connect through a hose, then use this Mr. Heater Buddy and Big Buddy gas filter (click here to view it on amazon). The filter prevents oil buildup in your Mr. Heater.
To remove that’s already accumulated in your Mr. Heater’s pilot light, use a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol to clean the pilot light gas opening.
That’s about all the maintenance you have to do with a Mr. Heater!
Of course, theoretically, other parts can break as well, but that’s very unlikely since they are not exposed to oil or friction.
Material choice optimized for weight and safety
The material choice of Mr. Heater Buddy heaters is ideal.
The middle section of a Mr. Heater Buddy heater is made of metal (I think it’s aluminum).
The side sections of a Mr. Heater is plastic.
Now, you might say “Full metal is better!”. However, metal is heavy. So, to save weight, Mr. Heater uses it only where it is really needed.
Because metal withstands very high temperatures, the middle section needs to be metal. And because the sides are not exposed to high temperatures, they are made of plastic.
Additionally, the plastic protects the propane bottle (or propane hose) attached to the heater, since it insulates much better than metal.
Imagine running a full-metal propane heater and after a few minutes, all of the metal components get hot enough to blow up the propane bottle or gas line.
Plastic does not conduct heat well.
So, the material combination of plastic and metal in a Mr. Heater is perfect.
Should you buy a Mr. Heater Buddy?
I told you a lot of negative and positive things about Mr. Heater Buddy heaters in this article. So, should you buy this Mr. Heater Buddy (click here to view it on amazon) now or not?
I’d say this:
|Location or Activity
|Is a Mr. Heater Buddy good?
|High-altitude road trip
This table summarizes all the findings from this article in a “yes” or “no” answer.
Basically, I recommend Mr. Heater Buddy heaters only in situations where you don’t have to carry the heater and the gas supply yourself.
For example, you can place your heater in a cabin, and occasionally get a gas tank refill by car. The situation is similar for RVing and other indoor use cases.
However, as soon as you go for outdoor trips where you carry all of your belongings, don’t carry a Mr. Heater propane heater with you.
It does not work. Mr. Heater propane heaters are too large and heavy to carry around. And this does not even include the gas supply and gas refills in remote locations.
Mr. Heaters are perfectly crafted portable propane heaters. They are easy to maintain and they last for a very long time.
However, they are not the safest kind of heater. They get hot enough to ignite things.
So, use your Mr. Heater Buddy reasonably.
I’d say as long as you’re using your heater reasonably and you don’t have small kids or pets around, Mr. Heater propane heaters are perfectly safe.