Non-Electric Space Heaters

Updated on April 4, 2016
Mr. Heater non-electric space heater.
Mr. Heater non-electric space heater. | Source

Heating Without Electricity

Non-electric space heaters can be life savers. As part of disaster preparedness, and for survival during a power outage, you will want to consider an off-grid source of heat in your living space during cold winter weather.

Electric heaters may be the most common and simplest-to-use portable heaters, but the electricity required to run them is often quite expensive. Also, electric heat will be worthless if the electric power goes out due to a storm or other disaster.

A portable non-electric heater can be both a life saver in an emergency and an effective supplement to back up your primary heat source. When cold winter weather hits, be ready with a heat backup that runs on an alternative fuel source, such as propane, natural gas, or kerosene.

Here you'll find a review of the best units on the market, based on consumer reports, Amazon reviews, and personal experience.

Do Electric Space Heaters Save on Energy?

Electric heaters might not be the best choice. According to Consumer Reports (Feb. 10, 2010), claims for electric heaters don't add up:

Manufacturers of electric space heaters want you to believe that using one of their devices will lower your heating bill. Lowering your home's thermostat(s) and using your main heating system less in tandem with a space heater--called zone heating--will cut your utility bill. (Every degree you lower the thermostat(s) can save you about 2 percent on your heating bill.) But keep in mind that based on current national average prices and adjusting for the energy losses due to burning a fuel, heating with electricity is about two and a half times more expensive than heating with gas, the most common heating fuel in this country.

We have little control over the utility companies. Gas or electric, they can raise prices at any time. A power outage leaves us vulnerable.

It is best to have a Plan B of some kind ready. These non-electric space heaters can make a HUGE difference for you and your family.

Don't wait until the power goes out

to find an alternative source of heat.

We all need a back-up alternative.

Pros and Cons of Non-Electric Space Heaters

Consider these advantages and disadvantages of non-electric portable heaters.

PROS: These heaters' biggest advantage is they will work during a power outage or anywhere at all where you need heat. Kerosene heaters use a dual-combustion system that burns cleanly and efficiently. Both propane and kerosene are inexpensive alternative fuel sources that may be purchased ahead of time and stored safely. Non-electric space heaters are useful for camping or in any situation where electric outlets are not available. Some also use them to avoid high utility bills for electricity use.

CONS: Non-electric space heaters are considered less safe than electric heaters, mainly because handling gas can be dangerous. Consumer Reports recommends their use only in emergency situations. Still many use non-electric space heaters in many situations quite safely. Use them as directed. In order to use most of these heaters indoors you need to VENT them! Be safe.

Types of Alternative Space Heaters

The most common alternatives to portable electric heaters are gas and kerosene heaters. Gas heaters can be powered by either natural gas or propane.

Disposable propane tanks (bottles) are easy to use and best for emergency situations. Keep at least two bottles of the disposable propane tanks for minimum preparedness for a power outage.

A propane heater can also be hooked up to much larger permanent (not disposable) tanks. When you purchase a propane heater, the unit will include a hose attachment and regulator.

Kerosene heaters will burn fuel slowly and efficiently. A gallon of kerosene can last 12-16 hours, which is longer than a wheelbarrow full of wood. Kerosene heaters are a great solution for camping, trailers, basements, or garages.

Beware: Some portable gas heaters, called "ventless" or "vent-free," can be very hazardous. They draw air from inside a room to feed the combustion of fuel, and release combustion waste back into the same room. They pose risks including suffocation from insufficient oxygen and carbon monoxide poisoning. Using these ventless heaters indoors is risky, and in fact illegal in some states including Massachusetts and California.

Safety Guidelines for Non-Electric Portable Heaters

While space heaters do offer consumers an important alternative heat source, they come with some safety issues and concerns. Propane and kerosene heaters usually have an open flame, which means they may blow out in windy places. Also they do emit carbon monoxide so they must be used vented. Additional risks are associated with handling fuel.

DO check with local regulations before using a non-electric heater and follow safety guidelines and instructions provided by the manufacturer. If these heaters are used indoors, particular attention must be paid to safety.

Tips for Using Portable Heaters

  • When buying a heater, make sure it has the UL mark, which stands for United Laboratories. This means the unit was tested by an independent laboratory.
  • Turn your non-electric space heater off before leaving a room or going to sleep.
  • Always supervise children and pets when using a space heater.
  • Don't use a space heater to dry clothes.
  • Allow heater to cool down completely before adding fuel.
  • IMPORTANT! Turn off the fuel FIRST, let the remaining fuel burn off, and then turn off the unit. More about that below under Mr. Heater.

Pricing and Suggested Brands and Models

Non-electric heaters are available in many brands and price ranges.

Propane heaters cost from $80 to $250. The Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Propane Heater (featured below) is a recommended brand in this price range.

Kerosene heaters run from about $150 to $350.

Natural gas heaters run from $130 to $230.

Of all the types of heaters reviewed, this reviewer recommends the Mr. Heater brand for any category of non-electric space heaters. They are quality built and flexible.

Propane Heaters

This "Mr. Heater" propane unit gets RAVE reviews and compliments for its safety features.

Important: When you use this heater with a 20-pound propane bottle and accessory hose, you MUST shut the tank off first, before the heater, and let the heater run until it burns off all the fuel in the lines. That's because if you just turn the knob off, propane gets trapped in the accessory hoseā€”not good for the unit.

High-pressure propane sitting in the rubber hose will chemically react with the rubber and leach out a light oil that will build up and work its way into the heater, clogging up both the regulator and the control valve.

Consider purchasing the gas line filter, because it will catch this oily residue. This protects the combustion components of the heater and eliminates safety issues described above.

Fuel Needs: Two disposable propane tanks will burn for six or seven hours on the low setting. Also you must have two of the disposable cans on hand in order to run it on high at all; it does not say this in the manual. On the high setting, those TWO canisters will last at least three hours.

Both the gas line filter and the disposable propane bottles can be purchased via Amazon at a reasonable price and with free shipping too (with a minimum purchase).

Kerosene Heaters

Questions & Answers

    Comments: Do You Use a Non-Electric Space Heater in Cold Weather?

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      • profile image


        9 months ago

        We have propane heat never had it in a home before. What back up heat would you recommend ? does it say on if the electricity goes out

      • profile image


        19 months ago

        These are not alternatives for apartment dwellers. These sources still require ventilation which means that in an apartment you have to open windows to ventilate. Defeats the purpose of trying to keep warm. Why is this not brought up in this article. I have the Mr. Buddy and it is very clear in the instructions to have ventilation. I suspect it is the same with the kerosene heater. Sorry to dampen the hopes but CO2 is nothing to full around with. If you need to ventilate to use it you take away it purpose of keeping you warm in an apartment.

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        cook for without elec.+gass+

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        4 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        This lens has some great tips and ideas. We'll be using the lens when we look for a heater

      • SusanDeppner profile image

        Susan Deppner 

        4 years ago from Arkansas USA

        When we rebuilt our house we included a gas fireplace, a great choice that we used during our recent ice storm and three days without power. It kept our house at 73 degrees (warmer than we usually have it) and our gas bill was very reasonable. If we had to choose another heater, it's good to know about these propane and kerosene alternatives. I appreciate your reviews!

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        Uhm, I use it when the cold weather hits us.

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        Definitely something to consider if you live in a cold climate and don't have a generator.

      • Baddew Fibes profile image

        Baddew Fibes 

        4 years ago

        Really informative lens and nicely set out. Thank you!

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        These would be really handy in a power cut.

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        Cool! This thing can bring anywhere you are, a non electric thing. Fantastic.

      • CrossCreations profile imageAUTHOR

        Carolan Ross 

        4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

        @SavioC: Yep, those who camp in wintertime use them in tents and campers. I never go camping in cold weather so have never done this, but do know some of those crazy kind of people. *wink*

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        I didn't even know these existed... dear Gosh woman, I live in a hole.

      • SavioC profile image


        4 years ago

        Great product since its non electric hence can be used outdoors too. Nice share.

      • CrossCreations profile imageAUTHOR

        Carolan Ross 

        4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

        @anonymous: No, you live in a tropical climate where folks won't likely ever need non electric space heaters. And YES I am jealous! *wink*

      • Cynthia Haltom profile image

        Cynthia Haltom 

        5 years ago from Diamondhead

        I have used a kerosene heater before they are very efficient and it requires some practice to fill one. I found the heat produced kept us cozy and warm the winter the heat went out when I was living in the north.

      • pigwear profile image


        5 years ago

        Very well put together lens. Also a very practical lens in this day and age! Great job.

      • GeorgeDornty profile image


        5 years ago

        Great lens!

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        I do sometimes

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        Nothing like a nice kerosene heater in the winter :)

      • TonyPayne profile image

        Tony Payne 

        5 years ago from Southampton, UK

        We used to have a propane heater years ago, and it chucked the heat out, plus it was quite efficient to run in the winter. Great for keeping the conservatory warm too.

      • Elsie Hagley profile image

        Elsie Hagley 

        5 years ago from New Zealand

        Nice lens. We have always got our log fire. Plenty of timber on the farm. Getting our woodshed filled up now ready for winter in New Zealand about May. Blessed

      • TarahFlesch profile image


        5 years ago

        Space heaters have definitely saved me some $$$ this winter!

      • jamesdesalvo lm profile image

        jamesdesalvo lm 

        5 years ago

        I had a kerosene heater when I lived up north in Japan. The thing smelled to the high heavens. Some of these choices seem a lot better. Great lens.

      • CrossCreations profile imageAUTHOR

        Carolan Ross 

        5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

        @MEDerby: minus 40 degrees? Oh my, that is serious cold. You most definitely need a non electric space heater - or two. Stay warm!

      • Totus Mundus profile image

        Totus Mundus 

        5 years ago

        I like the idea of these, always best to be prepared.

      • CrossCreations profile imageAUTHOR

        Carolan Ross 

        5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

        @anonymous: I do too. The thing is that even though manufacturers are supposedly required by law to disclose the origin of a product, many do not do this and it does not seem to be monitored at all. So initial searches often get results that are not accurate. The difference here is that this site is monitored regularly with ongoing research, so correction are made accordingly.

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        I checked out Mr. Heater at two different stores and at both locations they were made in China. I try my best to buy USA and it really irks me when I get bad information.

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        Informative lens. thanks.

      • MEDerby profile image


        5 years ago

        Excellent information. I live where it gets down to minus 40 and am looking for a safe non-electric heat source for a power outage.

      • WriterJanis2 profile image


        5 years ago

        This is a great idea to have during the winter months.

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        I like these Non-Electric Space Heaters

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        I think you should have a non electric space heater as back up. Power outages have the worst timing and could come in the midst of winter

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        Having a non-electric back up is very important. A few winters ago we had a terrible ice storm that knocked the electric out for days and we had no source of heat. We had to climb into bed under covers and stay put the entire time. We live so far out in the country that we were cut off from everyone, no cell phone service area, the phone lines were down, it was down right ancient the way we had to live for days. No way to cook, heat, or do anything.

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        I have one of the Kero World kerosene heaters and love it. It comes in handy when the power goes out, or just to take a chill out of the room I'm in. Everyone should have some back-up heat supply, never know when we will need it.


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