What it is:
Propane heat can take many forms, some that can be used to heat a tiny home and some that shouldn’t be, here are a few:
#1 – Freestanding radiant heater connected directly to the tank – Don’t Use (more below)
#2 – Ventless wall mounted (or on a rolling stand) flame – Possible
#3 – Ventless wall mounted (or on a rolling stand) radiant – Possible
#4 – Ventless or vented fireplace – Possible
#5 – Vented Dickinson Stove – Possible
How It Works:
Propane is an easily accessible and relatively inexpensive way to heat a space. It is a colorless and odorless gas but, because it can be toxic, flammable and deadly they bind it with an odor which is easily detected. Propane is a byproduct of natural gas processing among other things and works about the same as natural gas but is packaged into a fairly portable package making it great for tiny housers. All of these heaters work about the same, there is a regulator that controls the amount of gas that is released and a flame that burns off the gas. That flame produces heat.
Things to be cautious of:
A propane cylinder should never be kept indoors, you’ll notice the caution against option #1 above, this places the propane cylinder indoors and keeps the open flame at knee level generally, these are great to heat outdoor tents, etc. but should never be used indoors.
All flames use oxygen when burning, if your tiny home is well sealed you will need to crack a window to allow oxygen to enter the space so that you can breath as well.
With any combustion heat there is the possibility of carbon monoxide building up, this is especially important in such a small space ALWAYS use in conjunction with a carbon monoxide detector. It’s a good idea to have a propane and smoke detector as well!
Some units require a vent some don’t. Some units require a 100# minimum tank while a few can work on a standard 20# tank (typical BBQ size), follow manufacturers recommendations.
Follow all clearance requirements which will be noted in the user manual and may be larger than anticipated.
If not combined with a fan you may want to supplement with a small fan to circulate the heat around your space increasing efficiency.
Propane is an easily accessible, relatively cheap, portable method of heating a small space. It is not tied to the power grid which means you will have heat even if the power goes out for days (pretty important!). The heating units can be small/compact and in many cases can mount directly to a wall, minimizing the square feet they require which is critical in a small space.
Propane can have a lot of harmful/deadly effects if not used properly. There is generally a risk of fire with propane heat when not used properly. The units get hot to the touch and so may be hazardous to kids and pets if placed in reach.
Make sure you size your heater appropriately, what works in southern California will not always work in Minnesota. For example sake, I (www.minimotives.com) have used a 10,000 btu propane wall heater in Boise, Idaho which worked very well to heat my 196 s.f. space in 15-30 degree weather. I have found that I use about one 5 gallon tank of propane a month to heat my space at that rate.
This is a collaborative site, if you have something to add/correct leave a comment! If you have some words of wisdom on any of the methods mentioned feel free to share in the comments!