Sep 30, 2013

A Gas Heater to Consider for Your Tiny Home

Well, it's beginning to get into the heating season again, so let's do a quick comparison of the popular Dickinson boat heaters with another small gas heater you may not be familiar with.  Dickinson Boat heaters became more or less the gas "fireplace" de rigor in tiny homes pretty much ever since people saw Jay Shafer using them in his Tumbleweed Tiny Homes many years ago.  He never seemed to have any complaints, but then again, he lives in California, not the frigid north.  I don't know what the temperature was where Jay lives when I originally wrote this on the last day of winter, 2013, but where I was in upstate New York it was 19 degrees (F), snowing, and breezy to boot.   

Lately I've seen reports from a few folks who are underwhelmed by the heating power of Dickinson's  small stainless steel heaters.  I thought I'd call your attention to an attractive alternative made by Woodstock Soapstone Company of West Lebanon, New Hampshire. I should say at the outset though that it ain't cheap, and while it is small, I'm sure that the Dickinson boat heaters are lighter.  I'm not endorsing any of these heaters, but for me the model pictured directly below is more up my aesthetic sensibility alley than the Dickinson models.

Photo credit: Woodstock Soapstone Company
They call this model the Mini Franklin gas stove.  This diminutive heater looks great in my opinion. It weighs-in at 65 pounds and it can be configured to burn propane or natural gas.

If you look at the photo of it above without any context, it looks like it could be four feet tall.  The photo below provides the context to appreciate just how tiny this fireplace really is.  

Photo Credit: Woodstock Soapstone Company
 Some of this little gas heater's specifications appear in the chart below.

Image credit:  Woodstock Soapstone Company
It is difficult to do a fair comparison between Woodstock's Mini Franklin gas stove and Dickinson's propane boat heaters, but never-the-less I will attempt to do so.  Just for reference, below is a photo of a typical Dickinson propane boat heater.

Photo credit: Dickinson Marine
Let's start by comparing size and space heating ability.  Dickinson has two models that are popular with the tiny house crowd, the Newport P-9000 and the Newport P-12000.  They both look similar and have a clean, modern, utilitarian appearance.  If small size is your main concern then Dickinson is the way to go.  The P-9000's dimensions are 8.5"w x 14"h x 5.5"d.  Its BTU output is from 5,500 to 7,500 per hour, which they claim is adequate for about 100 sq. ft.  The P-12000's dimensions are slightly larger at 10"w x 16"h x 7.25"d, and it has a BTU output  7,000  to 9,200 per hour, which they say will heat 144 square feet.  Both models are equipped with a blower to help spread the heat around, and both are direct vent models that bring in outside air through a double walled exhaust vent for combustion.  Neither adversely affects indoor air quality.

The Mini Franklin has a more traditional appearance.  It's pretty small at 14.5"w x 17"h x 14.5"d, but that's still significantly larger than either Dickinson model, especially depth-wise.  Its stated BTU output range is from 5,740 to 8,200 per hour.  Woodstock claims it will heat spaces up to as much as 450 sq. ft.  It doesn't have a blower, but like the Dickinson models it too is direct venting and therefore it won't adversely affect indoor air quality or create drafts by pulling replacement air in from around the edges of doors and windows.  I don't know how to reconcile Woodstock's claim of heating a larger area with fewer BTUs  than that of the Dickinson P-12000, especially given that the Woodstock model doesn't have a blower, but maybe one of my astute readers can answer that question in the comments below.

One other thing about the Mini Franklin, it's available in 5 colors: black, blue, grey, brown, and charcoal.

Not sure how many square feet your tiny dream home has?  It's an easy calculation if your floor plan is rectangular.  Multiply the outside length of the building by its outside width.  For example if your tiny home is 8'-0" x 20'-0" then you have a 160 sq. ft. home (lofts and porches don't count because porches aren't conditioned spaces and lofts in tiny homes are often tough to sit up in, let alone stand up in).  I know that I count the walls, which aren't useable space, but that's how I do it.  If you want to be stickler about it then measure the overall inside length and width and multiply them instead.

The most recent prices I found for the three propane heaters are...

P-9000                 $699.00
P-12000               $789.00
Mini Franklin    $1,149.00

Check these links for current prices:

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