Guide to Portable Battery Powered Heaters – Tent Heaters, Heated Blankets, etc.

Looking for an easily portable heater solution for when you go camping or to use in your RV that runs on batteries? Well, you may find out from researching online that finding a battery-powered heater is not as easy as it seems. They aren’t very common because current battery technology isn’t advanced enough to make them viable over other portable heaters that run on propane or kerosene.

While backup batteries are a great solution for providing electricity on the go to many electronic devices that we take with us, such as cellphones, laptops, and lights, when it comes to heaters, the amount of power required can be so substantial that the size of the battery required to run a heater makes it become difficult to transport, as well as drastically increasing the cost.

TIP: While battery-powered heaters are not easy to find, you can create makeshift battery-powered heaters by combining a traditional plug-in heater with a portable backup battery. Click here if you want to go straight to finding out how to choose a battery-powered heater.

Do Battery Powered Heaters Exist?

Searching online for “Battery Powered Heater” will result in multiple online shops like Amazon and Target showing heaters, however, none of them turn out to actually be battery powered. So what gives? Why can’t we find any battery-powered heaters easily online?

The first thing to know about battery-powered heaters is that while you can find some models available, such as the EcoFlow Wave 2, they’re commonly produced. So yes, battery-powered heaters exist, but there are so few of them available and they’re very expensive, so usually an alternative option like propane or kerosene is usually more affordable and practical.

EcoFlow Wave 2 Battery-Powered Heater
Photo of an EcoFlow Wave 2 being used in a living room. Photo courtesy of EcoFlow.

You can however create makeshift battery-powered heaters by combining a standard plug-in heater with a portable backup battery that can be purchased separately.

With that said, let’s talk more about portable heaters in general and what options are available.

Types of Electric Heaters

When it comes to heaters, there are many options available. From space heaters that radiate heat and warm entire rooms to electric blankets and hand warmers that comfortably fit in a backpack or inside a pocket. Depending on the situation you’re going to be using a heater you may opt for one over the other. Going camping and need to heat your entire tent? Look into space heaters. Going to a baseball game and want to keep warm in the bleachers? Take a look at battery-powered hand warmers.

Space Heaters (Ceramic vs Infrared)

Space heaters come in two common forms: Ceramic and Infrared. Ceramic heaters, which are more common, heat small coils or heating elements and warm the air around them. Most models have an internal fan that blows the hot air out and brings cold air into the heating elements, slowly warming the room it’s in. On the other hand, infrared heaters produce heat through radiation and provide instantaneous heat to whatever is directly in front of it, regardless of the temperature of the air, and do not use circulation.

Each one has its pros and cons, and each serves different purposes. Depending on how you will be using it, you may opt for one over the other.

Ceramic

Ceramic heaters, as I mentioned above work by converting a fuel source into energy that heats up elements that in turn heat the air around them. Typically a fan inside the heater circulates the air, by pulling cold air over the heating elements and pushing the hot air out. Ceramic heaters take longer to heat up / cool down, and will slowly warm the space it’s in. Because they rely on warming the air around the heating elements to transfer heat, they are not the best option for outside use or in poorly insulated spaces.

Infrared

Infrared Heaters work by producing radiant heat through infrared waves. Think of when you have been to a restaurant and sat outside, you’ll notice the heaters are keeping you warm but the outside air is always cold. This is because the heater is not heating the air but producing infrared rays that your body absorbs. Infrared heaters produce heat and cool down quickly, but they will only warm what is directly in front of them. So if you place an infrared heater in a room, don’t expect the entire room to warm up over time. Unlike ceramic heaters, these are great solutions for use outside or in large spaces where you only want to keep yourself warm and do not need to heat the entire space.

Heated Blankets

Space heaters are not the only solution for keeping warm. Electric blankets are another option and can be a lot lighter than space heaters. If you do not need to heat an entire room and just want to keep yourself warm, a heated electric blanket is a great solution. The major difference between a space heater and a heated blanket is that you will only find electric ones that require either a battery or outlet to be plugged into.

Heated Hand Warmers

Similar to heated blankets, heated hand warmers are another great option for staying warm while being space conscious and discreet. Heated hand warmers are simply little stone-sized devices that fit in your pockets that you can hold onto, or keep in a jacket to stay warm. Unlike heated blankets, these are the most portable option as you can typically find ones that are charged or activated through chemical reactions. I’ve even recommended using heated hand warmers to defrost frozen propane regulators. Due to their small size, it’s easy to keep a few hidden away in your glove box or in a backpack just in case you need them.

Most exothermic reactive hand warmers come in two types: ones that produce heat by oxidizing metal, and the other by crystallizing salt. Hand warmers that use oxidation to produce heat create large amounts of heat quickly, and can only be used once. On the other hand, hand warmers that work by crystallizing a salt through nucleation sites on a metal chip, and can be used more than once, but they produce less heat. These types of hand warmers can be “reset” by heating them up in boiling water, which dissolves the crystallized salt, allowing them to be used again and again.

Alternatives to Battery-Powered / Electric Heaters

While this article is written about electric and battery-powered heaters, it wouldn’t be fair to not discuss the alternatives and why you might choose a different fuel source. While electric heaters are great due to how lightweight and portable they are, they do have their downsides that other types of heaters overcome, notably how long they can run when compared to a battery-powered heater.

Propane Heaters

Propane can be stored in gas tanks in various sizes, allowing you to store more fuel and keep a heater running longer than a battery could. If you’re in a situation where electricity may not be available or can be intermittent, such as on an off-grid home using solar to generate power, having a propane heater can ensure that even without power you can stay warm.

Propane heaters typically work with small, 1lb propane tanks, however, longer hoses can be purchased to allow you to connect to 20lb or larger tanks. Assuming you have a 5,000 BTU heater (equivalent to a 1,500-watt heater) and a full 20lb propane tank, you could expect to run the heater for a whopping 85 hours. To achieve that with a battery, you would need a 130,000 watt battery, which isn’t something you are going to find. So you can see that with propane, even though you need to carry around a propane tank, the propane is going to last a lot longer than a battery will, as well as cost a fraction of the price. For example, where I am a 20lb tank refill is around $20. Even just a 5,000 watt battery, which would only run a 1,500 watt heater for ~3 hours will cost hundreds of dollars.

Kerosene Heaters

Similar to propane, kerosene heaters can produce large amounts of heat efficiently, even more so than propane, since a gallon of kerosene contains around 130,000 BTUs, whereas propane only contains roughly 90,00 BTUs per gallon. Using the example from propane, the same amount of kerosene (4.7 gallons, since a 20lb propane tank has 4.7 gallons of liquid propane in it) would allow you to run a 5,000 BTU heater for 122 hours as opposed to propane’s 85 hours. The main difference between using propane or kerosene is its storage and availability. Kerosene has a shelf life of 2-5 years, whereas propane can be stored indefinitely. Kerosene can also be harder to acquire than propane, depending on where you live, and storing large amounts of it can be difficult and possibly even illegal.

Battery Powered Heater vs Alternatives

As you can see, there are other options available for deciding what fuel source you want to use for your heater. While electric heaters offer a lightweight and intuitive setup, propane heaters and kerosene heaters can be the better option if your electricity is unstable or sporadic, or you will need to provide heat for extended periods of time.

Choosing The Right Battery-Powered Heater

Assuming you decide to go with a battery-powered heater over the alternative options like propane or kerosene, there are a few things you’ll need to determine before you purchase one.

What Rating of Heater To Get (500 watt vs 1,500 watt)

The first step to determining what heater you should purchase is understanding the what wattage rating you need. If you’re trying to heat a small two-person tent, you can get away with a much smaller heater than if you needed to heat a master bedroom or garage. Generally, you want at least 10 watts per square foot of space you are attempting to keep warm. However, many factors such as insulation, the number of people in the space, and your temperature requirements, you may need to increase this number.

Below are some examples of spaces and what size heater I would recommend:

Location Wattage BTU
Two-Person Tent 200-500 700-2,000
RV 500-1500 2,000-5,100
10×10 Bedroom 1,000-2,000 3,400-6,800
Garage 2,000+ 6,800+

What Size Battery To Get

The size of the battery that you will need to operate a portable heater will depend on two main factors: the heater wattage consumption and the power surge of the heater. All heaters will be rated by their wattage requirements, such as a 1,500-watt heater. The power surge, or startup power, is how many watts the heater needs to initially turn on.

Heater Wattage Consumption

The wattage consumption of a heater is directly related to how much heat it can produce. Due to the laws of thermodynamics, all heaters rated for a certain wattage will output the same amount of heat. So that heater you see online that is listed as 1,500 watts for $150 is going to output the same amount of heat as a 1,500 watt heater listed for $50. The only difference will be the quality of materials used and the features available.

For personal space heaters, I would not recommend anything less than 200 watts, and even that is very low, something closer to 500-1,000 watts is going to be a lot more versatile. Even better, try to find a space heater that has low and high settings.

Note: Just because all heaters with the same wattage rating output the same amount of heat does not mean all heaters are manufactured equally. I strongly urge you to always buy a heater that contains auto shut-off features like tip-over shut-offs and overheating protection.

Power Surge

The power surge (also referred to as starting power) is the required amount of power an electronic device needs to operate when first being turned on. Similar to air conditioners and refrigerators, when turning on an electric heater it will require a substantial amount of electricity in order to turn on. For example, if you have a 1,500-watt heater, while it will only consume around 1,500 watts when running, it may require 2,000 watts the first few seconds of being turned on.

How Long Can A Battery-Powered Heater Run?

A battery-powered heater can run as long as the battery has enough charge to maintain operating wattage. To determine this you simply need to divide the battery capacity by the wattage rating of the heater.

Battery Capacity / Heater Rating = Running Time

So for example, if a heater requires 200 watts to operate, a 1,000-watt battery will be able to run the heater for 5 hours. (1,000 / 200 = 5). Below are some examples of general heater ratings and battery capacities.

Heater Rating 1,000 Watt Battery 2,000 Watt Battery 3,000 Watt Battery
500 Watt 2 hours 4 hours 6 hours
1,000 Watt 1 hours 2 hours 3 hours
1,500 Watt Cannot Operate 1.3 hours 2 hours
2,000 Watt Cannot Operate Cannot Operate 1.5 hours

Most common space heaters that can be plugged into an outlet operate at 1,000-2,000 watts. Meaning that if you wanted a 1,000-watt heater to run for 5 hours you would need a battery with a minimum power supply of 5,000 watts.Because the heaters require so much power, and you typically want to run a heater for multiple hours, this is where the idea of battery-powered heaters starts to fall apart. While you might be spending $50 on a 1,500 watt heater, the cost of a battery large enough to operate it for multiple hours will quickly get into the hundreds of dollars.

Ready, Set, GO!

Once you have figured out what size heater and battery you need, you’re ready to buy the two items and get your makeshift battery-powered heater running. I hope this information was useful to you, and please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.Thank you for reading and God Bless!