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Portable Propane Heaters

Updated on December 2, 2010

Big Buddy Portable Propane Heater

Big Buddy a Portable Propane Heater

People looking for a safe portable propane heater to heat their homes can find it in Mr. Heater’s Big Buddy.

Of course the real test of any propane heater is how consumers judge it, and in the opinions of many Amazon users the Mr. Heater MH 18B Portable Big Buddy Heater is the best value for the money.

The majority of reviewers on Amazon gave this propane heater 4 or 5 stars for quickly heating an average-size room in about 30 minutes to a comfy 60 degrees or so.

Said one Amazon reviewer: “My Big Buddy kept 300+ square feet of living space toasty warm overnight on low or medium settings on 2 full 16.4 ounce bottles of propane.”

Judging a Portable Heater

Portable propane heaters are judged by:

1) Heat output

2) Efficiency

3) Cost

4) Ease of use

Let’s briefly go over each point.

Heat Output

Big Buddy warms rooms.

Again, let’s rely on people who own and use this heater. You can read all the reviews for Big Buddy on Amazon’s website.

Here’s an Amazon reviewer illustrating the heat output and efficiency of the Big Buddy:

He writes that in the morning, he fires up the Big Buddy to the max 18,000 BTU. In about 20 minutes, the room is a comfy 60 degrees. Then he dials down to the mid-setting - 9,000 BTUs - for a half hour until the room hits 65 degrees. Then he sets it on  low - 4,000 BTU - until the room is 70 degrees. For the rest of the day, the room remains comfortable by varying the output between 4,000 BTU and just the pilot light.

This explains the practical use of Buddy Heater’s three BTU settings. The settings you use, of course, will depend on your individual circumstances, such as size of the room and outside weather conditions.

Overall, the impression most reviewers leave is that Big Buddy will maintain a typical room at a comfortable 70 degrees.

The portable heater also performed well in heating large tents, fishing shanties, boats and mobile homes.


Big Buddy heats for 9 days on one tank.

Propane heaters are very efficient, burning 99% of the fuel. This propane heater is designed to run on the small 16 oz. propane bottles. (That’s why the Big Buddy is called a “portable propane heater.”) Usually, though, people don’t bother with these small bottles.

Instead, they opt to buy the 20 lb. refillable propane tank, a quick release 12-foot hose and a fuel filter that hinders the build-up of propane residue in the line. Be forewarned that this residue can damage various parts in this heater. This issue is covered in detail below.

Mr. Heater claims that one big tank will heat up to 400 square feet of space for up to 220 hours with the heater set on low. That’s about 9 days.

The small propane bottles will run Big Buddy from 3 to 12 hours, depending on the BTU setting. One reviewer said a single small tank will last 3 1/2 to 5 hours with the heater set on low.


Big Buddy costs about $45 per month in fuel to heat a 400 square foot space.

The initial investment costs are:

The propane heater is $99.99 at Amazon.

The Mr. Heater hose with regulator and quick disconnect is $48.87. You can buy a hose without the regulator for about $25. You must buy the filter if you buy the rubberized hose without the regulator.

The Mr. Heater fuel filter will add another $7.49 to the cost.

The cost for the refillable tank varies from region to region, but figure around $40 to $50 to buy your first 20 lb. tank. Refills will run from $10 to $20, again depending on your region. Both Lowes and Home Depot handle refills/exchanges.

You might consider buying a four-pack of 1 pound disposable propane bottles for back-up in case the big tank runs out. A four-pack will run about $10.

If we take Mr. Heater’s claim that Big Buddy can heat a 400 square foot space for about 9 days on the low setting, and you pay around $15 per propane refill, you’ll spend a tad over $45 per month for heat.

Ease of Use

This heater gives you heat where you need it and when you need it.

Hooked up with two disposable propane bottles, “Big Buddy” weighs around 15 pounds, making it easy to move from room to room. That’s about half the weight of an equivalent Kerosun Omni. So if you need instant heat in a room, this propane heater will do the job. Amazon reviewers use this heater in settings where portability is important, in everything from ice fishing shanties and tents to boats and hunting cabins.

“One of the best things about it is the fact that it can be moved anywhere I am working,” wrote one Amazon reviewer.

Emergency Heat

If the electricity is down, Big Buddy can heat you up.

This portable heater did the job of heating homes during power outages. Several reviewers wrote of using this propane heater when ice storms or winter weather knocked out power.

One reviewer wrote that the heater “earned its keep” when a power outage hit on the weekend after a strong winter snowstorm hit and dropped temperatures down into the 20s.

Another reviewer related that he borrowed a Big Buddy, and it kept the front rooms “comfortably warm.”

Mr. Heater Fuel Filter for Portable Buddy and Big Buddy Heaters

Big Buddy Fuel Filter

Consider buying this filter if you’re going to run Big Buddy off a large propane tank connected by a rubberized hose. The filter is not needed if you connect with the plasticizer hose or the hose with a regulator.

An Amazon reviewer explained that this filter catches the oily residue that builds up in the hose. If this residue is allowed to enter the heater, it can foul various parts in the heater and render it inoperable.

Owners of this heater are also warned to follow precautions to prevent the residue build-up.

What are the precautions?

The reviewer wrote that it’s imperative to turn off the tank first, and let the heater run until it burns off all the fuel in the line. If one turns the heater knob to the off position, propane will be trapped in the accessory hose.

As the high pressure propane sits in the rubber hose, it will chemically react with the rubber and leach a light oil. “The oil will build up and quickly work its way into the heater, clogging both the regulator and control valve,” said the reviewer.

Hose with Regulator and Quick Disconnect

Hose with Regulator and Quick Disconnect

Here's the regulator hose to hook up the Big Buddy directly to your 20 lb tank. No fuel filter is needed with this hose.

(Propane heater hoses are covered in detail at the link in the "Propane Heater Accessory" section below. Please read it carefully as all hoses are not created equally and buying the wrong one can cause problems.)

The regulator reduces the high pressure of 1.3 gallon tanks and larger to low pressure.

It has a hand wheel for tightening. The female connector fits any standard 3/8-inch male SAE fitting.

This hose gives you 1/2 PSI through the hose at any given time instead of 100 PSI that other hoses provide. This provides much safer conditions should a leak in your hose occur.

Its overall length is 12-feet.

Mr. Heater Optional 6Volt Power Adapter for Big Buddy Heater


The Mr. Heater fan designed to direct heat into the room drew the most criticism. One reviewer likened it to the tiny fan in your computer. Some complained that it’s noisy. It takes four D cell batteries to operate. Or you can buy Mr. Heater’s power adapter.

Another solution?

“I have a six inch fan propped up behind and toward the top of the heater to blow the rising heat around the room.” Ah, American ingenuity. Solves any problem.

Other Features

Big Buddy has a low oxygen sensor and a tip-over automatic shut-off.

There are key-shaped rear mounting holes for wall mounting.

A built-in Piezo starter makes for easy starts.

Dissatisfied Users

The most dissatisfied comments came from users trying to heat garages. Of course heating any garage in a Michigan winter is a challenge. Those situations are best suited for outdoor flamethrowers that blast 100,000 BTUs on the target.

Many negative comments landed around the years 2007 and earlier. Big Buddy was subject to a recall for a faulty valve by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2005.

So be forewarned that buying a used heater could be one that was never sent back to the company for repair.

It appears the company has solved the problem and the new Big Buddy routinely earns four or five star reviews.

Answers to Questions

Call 800-251-0001 for Mr. Heater’s customer service.

If you need manuals and data sheets, answers to FAQs or a trouble shooting guide, Mr. Heater has a help page you can visit.

So find a blanket, get your sweetie snuggled up close and your dog curled by your feet.  But don’t forget your Big Buddy. These four will keep you toasty all winter long.

The heating season starts soon.

Propane Heater Accessories

Buying the right accessories for your portable propane heater will help assure your heater lives a long and maintenance-free life. Plus it saves money. For example, buying the right propane hose will save you hundreds of dollars each heating season. Learn about which accessory you need for your portable propane heater.

Mr. Heater F232025 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Portable Radiant Heater

Camping Heater and Outdoor Heater

If your needs don’t require 18,000 BTUs of heat, you might consider looking at the Mr. Heater F232025 MH9BX Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Portable Radiant Heater.

Amazon sells it for $79.95.

This outdoor and camping portable propane heater sports all the advantages of the Big Buddy but is designed for heating smaller spaces like tents, fishing shantys, cabins and hunting shacks. Sportsmen and campers seem to love this heater. You can read their reviews of this camping heater at this link.

Single Tank Top Heater

This is a propane heater you mount directly atop a 20 pound propane tank. The Mr. Heater MH 12T Single Tank-Top Propane Heater has three settings - 8,000 BTU, 12,000 BTU and 14,000 BTU. You can read a review about this propane tank heater by clicking the link.

Amazon sells it for $43.84.

Also in the above review is information about the two and three burner tank-top propane heaters.


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