You are looking for a vented propane heater that does not use electricity? Unfortunately, they don’t exist.
In this article, I am going to explain to you why you can’t find a vented propane heater that does not use electricity (for off-grid heating) anywhere.
And then, we’re going to check what you can do about it. Freezing is not an option!
Quick answer: Vented propane heaters always need electricity to power their built-in fan which blows waste gases through the vent. Propane heaters that don’t require electricity to run are always ventless. The best ventless propane heater without electricity is a Mr. Heater Buddy heater or a wall-mounted Dyna Glo propane heater.
Why vented propane heaters always use electricity
Vented propane heaters always need electricity to power the built-in fan that blows waste gases out through the vent.
Additionally, they usually have a built-in electric thermostat, and some have electric safety mechanisms such as overheat protection.
However, the fan blowing gases out through the vent makes electricity necessary.
Personally, I think it would be totally feasible to build non-electric vented gas heaters. Just like wood stoves, you could burn the heat source, which in turn is vented through a chimney.
And probably that’s the point.
Without electricity, you need a chimney, which creates suction through the stack effect.
And if you already have a chimney at home, or in your cabin, why should you use a vented propane heater over a wood stove?
So, that seems to be the logic:
- Toxic waste gases need a vent
- For suction through the vent, you need either an electric fan or a chimney
- In the first case, you already have electricity at home. And if you have a chimney, you might as well use a wood stove.
Vented propane heaters that work without electricity don’t exist because there is no market for them.
How can you heat without electricity instead?
There are three ways you can work around this problem. All of them involve tradeoffs.
Ventless propane heater
All propane heaters that work without electricity are ventless. Ventless propane heaters are perfectly safe for indoor usage.
And, as long as you use a ventless heater properly, there is no reason to prefer a vented heater over a ventless heater.
My favorite ventless propane heater is this Mr. Heater Big Buddy propane heater (click here to view it on amazon).
The Mr. Heater Big Buddy provides up to 18,000 BTU/h of heating power. That’s more than enough to keep even large rooms warm in winter.
And, of course, you can also heat uninsulated off-grid places with the Mr. Heater Big Buddy.
Even though it’s a portable heater, you can connect it to large propane tanks. So, you won’t ever run into a gas shortage.
The Mr. Heater Big Buddy is a ventless propane heater that does not need electricity.
So, the only drawback in comparison with your vented off-grid heater (which does not exist), is that you have to vent your room occasionally.
Propane combustion creates water vapor and (if your room lacks oxygen) potentially carbon monoxide. By opening the window every couple of hours for a few minutes you reduce the risk of toxic gas emissions to zero.
There were experiments where RV owners ran the Mr. Heater portable heater overnight in a fully sealed RV and it did not emit any toxic carbon monoxide.
Mr. Heater propane heaters are very safe. So, if safety was your reason to get a direct-vent heater, you don’t have to worry about running a Mr. Heater.
Portable propane heaters are my first recommendation because they are very safe. As long as you use them responsibly, they are just as safe as any other heater.
Alternatively, if you need more heating power than that, I recommend getting this 30,000 BTU Dyna Glo wall-mounted ventless propane heater (click here to view it on amazon).
The Dyna Glo is a great ventless propane heater if you are looking for a long-term heating solution.
Since you can wall-mount it, it doesn’t take up floor space. The only downside is that it’s not really portable due to its size.
The best way to heat a room without electricity is a wood stove.
Wood stoves never emit toxic gases since they are vented (through the chimney).
And wood is incredibly cost-effective. You can estimate that the long term cost of a wood stove is about a third of that of a propane heater, assuming that both heaters produce the same heat.
That’s because the cost per BTU of heat of wood is about a third when compared to propane.
So, wood stoves are objectively the cheapest way to heat.
Fun fact: A wood stove is essentially a vented gas heater that does not use electricity. Because the fire that is produced in a wood stove is essentially burning gas coming from the wood.
Anyways, the downside of running a wood stove is that preparing wood is more work than propane.
And wood stoves need installation.
For occasional heating in an off-grid cabin, garage, basement or shed I’d still recommend using a ventless propane heater.
Vented propane heater (that needs electricity) plus generator
The only true way to have a vented propane heater in a place without electricity is to get a vented propane heater and power it off a generator (or any other electricity source).
Vented propane heaters don’t use a lot of electricity, because the main energy source is still propane. You can estimate about 100W.
So, you can also use a weaker electricity source such as a solar panel, charge a battery with it, and connect the battery with an inverter to produce the AC voltage your vented propane heater needs.
The problem with this approach is obvious: Off-grid electricity generators are expensive.
And so are solar panels and inverters.
And on top of that, they are heavy and take up lots of space, and are hardly portable.
Also, for just 100W of power that a vented propane heater needs, generators, and solar panels as electricity sources are completely unjustified.
If you already have a fuel-based (or even better: a propane-based) generator at home, then you can hook it up with a vented propane heater and heat your room.
However, getting a new generator merely for powering a propane heater is not really feasible.
Unfortunately, there is no vented propane heater that does not use electricity. To heat off-grid places, I recommend using a ventless propane heater instead.
Personally, I prefer portable propane heaters such as the Mr. Heater Buddy models.
But you can get any propane heater you like. They all work roughly the same.
Ventless propane heaters don’t need any electricity to run and are the simplest option for off-grid heating.
They don’t need any installation or ductwork.
Alternatively, if you need a long-term heating solution, I recommend getting a wood stove.
Wood stoves are time-tested. There is a reason humans use them for thousands of years already.
Wood stoves heat throughout electricity outages. And you don’t depend on gas suppliers.
In emergency situations, you can go to the woods and chop your own wood.
Wood stoves are the only true emergency off-grid heat source.