Top 10 Reasons to Pick Envi Heater Over Propane Marine Heater

Envi electric heater

Envi electric heater

After a recent tiny house workshop in Portland, one of the participants followed up to ask why I prefer my Envi electric heater over a Dickinson Propane Marine Fireplace. I gave him my top 10 list and realized I should share it here, too.

1) Electric heater is silent. Propane heater fan makes lots of noise and it doesn’t seem to heat well without the fan on.
2) Electric heater is so slim and unobtrusive most people don’t even notice it. Propane heater takes up considerably more room and requires clearances.
3). Electric heater can be installed in moments and packed away for the off-season (though I probably won’t bother). Propane heater is mounted there permanently, even during the off-season.
4) Electric heater requires a nearby outlet but no other pre-planning. Propane heater requires a gas line run to the spot and planning during the design for proper clearances.
5) Electric heater requires no venting or penetrations of the house’s thermal envelope. Propane heater requires penetrations through the roof.
6) Electric heater uses 475 watts of electricity and in the Pacific northwest most electricity comes from renewable sources (dams have their own issues, but still…) Propane heater requires fossil fuel.

Dickinson Propane Boat Heater

Dickinson Propane Boat Heater

7) Electric heater does not exacerbate my slight pyrophobia. Propane heater is sometimes tricky to light so flame makes me kinda nervous.
8) Electric heater is cool or warm to touch but not hot. (I do occasionally hang a towel on a hook above it to pre-warm the towel.) Propane heater gets hot so I can’t set things on top of it, but there’s a nice little flat top on it so it’s very tempting to set things down there!
9) Electric heater can be plugged into a timer. Propane heater cannot be plugged into a timer. Electric heater can also be left on when I’m not home or need to run an errand so that the house is warm when I get back. Propane heater can’t be left on when I’m away.
10) Electric heater retails at $130. Propane heater retails at $1119.

The main advantage of the propane heater over the electric heater is ambiance. The flickering flame is cool! So I run the electric heater and light candles for ambiance.

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24 Responses to Top 10 Reasons to Pick Envi Heater Over Propane Marine Heater

  1. Diane says:

    Fantastic list, thanks! I too fear fire, having been through two house fires as a child. And I love how the electrical heater has such a slim profile. It just sounds so much less complicated than the marine stove.

  2. karin says:

    Well, you have convinced me! I was set on the gas heater but I plan to have a solar array capable of providing more than enough electricity, so it only makes sense to go electric. Thanks, Lina!

    • Little Life says:

      Hi Karin, glad you found the post helpful. I know people who have gone with other heat systems that worked better for them, but it sounds like electric is a good option for you as it is for me.

  3. Zboatman says:

    While reasons 2-9 are valid and for the most if building a new home should be strongly considered. The big question would be how reliant you want to be on electricity. If that is not an issue then moving away from the Dickinson makes sense. I would challenge you on number one though, the way the stove was designed was to heat a boat cabin which generally is between 30 and 70 sq ft. Once the stove is fired up then you would turn the fan down till you can not hear it any longer but it is still pushing air. If you can hear it then it is simply turned up too high.

    • Little Life says:

      Zboatman, thanks for setting the record straight about the noise of the heater. It never seemed to get the place warm enough without the heater running full tilt, so I didn’t realize that it’s supposed to be turned down once it gets going properly. I agree that being reliant on electricity is problematic for some people and in some places. That may be one of the trickiest things about a mobile home. Whereas with a fixed house it’s important to design for the site with a tiny house you never quite know where it might end up, so it’s hard to pick the most appropriate technology. How did you go about making those choices for your house?

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  5. Cathy says:

    I’m wondering if this heater would be sufficient in an off grid situation. I only need heat at night (solar during the day). I’m in Nebraska so it does get cold here, I do have 500 amp hours of storage. Thanks

    • Little Life says:

      Hi Cathy,

      The trick with this heater is that you leave it on all the time. It warms everything in the room and helps maintain at the set temperature. So it doesn’t sound like it would be a good option for your situation. It sounds like you’re doing a passive solar design. Have you figured out your glass and mass ratios?


      • Cathy says:

        I actually have a Dickinson marine solid fuel heater, plus I’m building a window solar heater to heat on sunny days (which are most days). So the tiny house will be warm during the day. I was hoping to turn this heater on cloudy days when I’m not home and at night to keep house from getting too cold through out the night.

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  8. Barbara Landers says:

    What is the cost of having the electric heating on 24/7?

    • Little Life says:

      Hi Barbara,

      Well, it depends quite a bit on where you are (cost of electricity), how big the space is that you’re heating (amount of heat required), and how efficient your space is. It’s really pretty reasonable where I live and in the small spaces I inhabit. It’s certainly not the best choice everywhere or for everyone, so it’s best to do what makes sense in your situation.


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  10. Rita says:

    I just found this post and loved it. I want to build a tiny home and have solar power so I wondered about a heater. I don’t like gas/propane AT ALL and I worry about fumes, explosions, etc… I’m just in the learning process about all the componets involved so this was very helpful.

    • Eric H. says:

      The Dickinson heater is what I use on my boat and have for several years. If it were not safe no skipper would ever install one on their vessel. It’s safer than electric and to heat for 7 hours takes less than 1lb of gas. If the flame goes out the gas automatically shuts off, if the oxygen level gets too low it shuts off. The electric heater still builds up CO2 levels and because it has no meter in a tiny house you are more likely to die for carbon monoxide poisoning from the electric heater than you ever would the Dickerson heater exploding. A lot of the fears expressed in the original article are some that have been addressed by the manufacturer and the product has an impeccable safety record. Electric heaters are far more dangerous than propane heaters and more expensive to boot.

      • Little Life says:

        Dear Eric,

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your propane stove. It seems we have different experiences on several of these points. I’ve found a heater that works well for my purposes and you for yours. I’m glad to hear you’re pleased with your heater and I wish you all the best!


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  12. Sweet says:

    looking to buy a heater for my tiny space, its 14 X 12 and wanted to get a Dickenson propane heater, but now wonder about noise, will solar run the fan, and or electric heaters discussed here? Or the Woodstock Soapstone Cottage Mini…anyone have this model yet and can anyone report on the compared performances? Medicine

    • Little Life says:

      Hi Medicine,

      I did find out that the fan on Brittany’s Dickenson was broken which was why it was so loud. She’s since had it fixed and she says its much better now. I would still go with the Envi heater for the other reasons I listed.

      Solar could probably run the fan as long as you have enough sun to power your batteries. This is not my forte, so you’ll need to do some calculations.

      I am not familiar with the Woodstock Soapstone Cottage Mini. Has anyone else out there tried it?


  13. Crystal says:

    Hi there:

    I was just wondering if you still like your heater? The various reviews I’ve seen on these types of heaters is that they crack within 2ish years. How’s yours holding up?


    • Little Life says:

      Hi Crystal,

      I do still like my Envi heater very much! It’s unlike several of the other heaters with a similar design and I haven’t heard of anyone having trouble with their Envi heater cracking. I’m using mine for the third winter now and I haven’t had any issues with it!


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