As more of us are doing our jobs or attending school from home this winter, maximizing available workspaces is becoming a priority. A natural gas space heater can provide a convenient and affordable way to bring warmth to a garage, workshop or basement.

Manufacturers offer many different types of space heaters that use natural gas as the fuel source. These units are not one size fits all –– there are many types with different features designed for different living spaces and needs.

To help you find the heater that’s best suited for your home, Walton Gas breaks down the details you need to know.

What types of space heaters are available?

The selection of gas space heaters falls into three main categories: vent-free, direct vent and b-vent. These heaters are more like a furnace than a fireplace. The primary function is efficiency over flame aesthetic. In some models, there is no visible flame.

The heating capacity of a gas space heater is determined by its BTU output. BTU stands for British thermal units. So, the higher the BTU rating, the more heat your space heater will provide.

Vent-free wall heaters are the most compact space heaters.

Vent-free wall heaters (starting at $120)

Vent-free wall heaters are the most compact space heaters. They use oxygen from the room and vent directly into the room.

Vent-free heaters come in two categories:

  • Blue flame heaters are ideal for insulated spaces. These economical units typically operate around 99.9 percent efficiency. They heat the air in the room, so one drawback is that the air in front of the heater can become uncomfortably warm. These heaters are not ideal for rooms with high ceilings.
  • Infrared (or radiant) heaters rely on infrared heat waves to warm objects in a room, rather than the air. The objects, in turn, emit heat. These heaters radiate heat more evenly and farther than blue flame heaters. They are a good choice for larger rooms and those with high ceilings.

Features typical in a vent-free model:

  • Available in 6,000, 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 BTU ranges.
  • Wall mount or free standing (with the purchase of an optional floor stand). Floor stands are useful if you want to move your heater to different locations.
  • Sensor that shuts down the pilot light if low oxygen level is detected.
  • Manual shut down for pilot light.
  • Push-button ignitor to easily re-light the pilot light.
  • Less expensive models feature an on/off switch for operating the heater. Pricier models have thermostat controls that can sense the temperature in the room and cycle the heater on and off to maintain your desired range.
  • An optional accessory blower helps to quickly distribute warm air. The heaters don’t require electricity to function, but the blower needs a 120-volt power source.

Direct-vent wall furnaces are the most efficient vented heaters.

Direct-vent wall furnace (starting at $650)

Capable of heating more square footage than vent-free models, direct-vent wall furnaces are the most efficient vented space heaters. A burner heats air inside a completely sealed combustion chamber. The chamber then heats the surrounding metal cabinet, which radiates heat to the room.

As their name implies, all models include a venting system, which requires the unit be mounted to an outside wall of the home. These heaters feature near silent operation.

They can connect with a wall thermostat, making “set it and forget it” operation possible.

There are three primary kinds of direct-vent furnaces:

  • Conventional is the simplest with the lowest maintenance. A blower is optional.
  • High efficiency operates more like a central air unit, using a convection fan to distribute heat. It uses a spark ignition instead of a pilot flame and requires a 120-volt power supply.
  • High-efficiency counterflow is recessed into the wall, meaning it takes up less space. This style pulls air from the ceiling, heats it and then releases it at floor level. Available in both standing pilot and electronic ignition models.

B-vent heaters have the advantage of not requiring installation on an exterior wall.

B-vent wall furnace (starting at $900)

B-vent heaters draw air from the room itself for combustion and vent the fumes to the outdoors. They have the advantage of not requiring installation on an exterior wall.

Because the type of venting is their chief difference, b-vent wall furnaces are generally similar in appearance and options to direct-vent wall furnaces.

Call a pro

To ensure you select a space heater that is properly sized and appropriate for the room where you wish to use it, consult with a natural gas appliance professional before making a purchase. Know your room size and heating goals to find the appliance that best suits your needs.

No matter which model or style of natural gas space heater you choose, professional installation is necessary for safety. You’ll need a professional installer to connect the unit to your existing Walton Gas line and install a ventilation system, if one is required. You’ll also need to install a carbon monoxide detector in the room where your new space heater is located.

For models that use electricity, you may also need to invest in adding an outlet if one is not already available in the space.