Mr. Heater Big Buddy Review

For those looking for a great emergency heating source this winter, check out the Big Buddy Heater by Mr. Heater.

To give you some background, my house is currently heated by a pellet stove. Even though it’s very efficient and heats the house nicely, the obvious issue is that it doesn’t work if there’s a power outage. As a backup I do have a wood-burning stove that I could install if there were an extended grid-down situation, but I wanted to have something that could be set up quickly and easily for short-term emergencies as well as a temporary solution until I would need to install the wood stove.

There were four things I was looking for: 1. It had to be propane fueled. 2. It needed to be portable. 3. It had to put out at least 10,000 BTU and 4. It had to be safe enough to use indoors. What I found that met all these requirements was the Mr. Heater Big Buddy heater. Here’s my review:

Setting up the Big Buddy Heater

Out of the box, the Big Buddy sets up very easily. It’s a simple matter of hooking up two disposable 1lb propane bottles (the ones that are typically used for camping applications) on either side of the heater, turning on the pilot light and firing up the heater.

Fitting a 20lb propane tank

Along with the Big Buddy, I also purchased a propane-tank adapter and hose. It actually accommodates two hoses to be fitted to the heater, allowing you to hook up two 20lb (or larger) propane tanks. The obvious benefit is extended run time. For example, two 1lb bottles will give you around 3 to 12 hours of heat (depending on what setting it’s on), whereas the two 20lb propane tanks last for 50 to 220 hours (again depending on the setting).
If you’re considering purchasing one of these hoses be sure to read my recommendations below.

Testing the Heat Output

Since I haven’t had this heater for that long I haven’t been able do any extensive testing but my initial impression is that this heater seems to put out a good amount of heat. There are 3 heat settings — low, medium, and high — which give off 4000/9000/18000 BTUs respectively.

With last night being in the early 20s (Fahrenheit) I thought I’d test it out for a few hours; so I ran this in a medium sized room (around 200 square feet) and it kept the room at a comfortable 73 degrees.

Features

  • Battery or A/C powered blower fan for versatility
  • Low, medium, and high heat level control knob for steady temperatures
  • Key-shaped rear mounting holes for wall mounting
  • Built-in Piezo starter for easy starts
  • Automatic shut off for accidental tip-over and fume safety

Likes and Dislikes

Here’s a list of the good and bad:

Positives

  • Propane Fueled: Propane is one of the most stable fuels around. The great benefit of that is that it will store for many years without degradation.
  • Portable: Since this heater is lightweight and can be carried quite easily, it makes for a great bug-out heater. Also, it simplifies moving it around in different areas of the house in an emergency situation.
  • High Heat Output: With a maximum output of 18000 BTUs, the Big Buddy puts out a lot of heat for such a small unit. It easily fits my requirements for an emergency heater.
  • Can Be Used Indoors: For the most part, this heater is safe to use indoors. Even though the heater comes with a low-oxygen sensor that will shut the unit off if the sensor is activated, I would still recommend using a Carbon Monoxide alarm in the area where you are running this heater.

Negatives

  • No AC Adapter: I don’t understand why they don’t provide the power cord for the blower fan. Instead it’s another “accessory” that you have to shell out money for. What a waste.
  • Can Clog if Not Careful: See my comments under the advice section

Some Words of Advice

The most common issue I’ve read about that people have found with this heater is that the regulators and control valves get clogged when running a 20lb tank. As one reviewer mentioned, this can be avoided when you ensure that you always shut the tank off first, then let the heater run until it burns off all the fuel in the lines.

If this procedure is not followed, the high PSI coming from the propane tank will get trapped in the accessory hose causing it to chemically react with the rubber and leech out an oily residue. This oil will clog both the regulator and control valve essentially ruining your heater.

In case you happen to forget to follow the above procedure, I highly recommend you purchase either the gas line filter that will catch the oily substance or a hose that comes with a regulator which lowers the PSI and prevents the chemical leeching (this is what I did).

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38 Comments»

Comment by Jason
2011-01-20 14:43:45

If you buy the inline filter, (about $15) it will supposedly stop the clogging problem.

I just bought one of these heaters as a backup as well, I’m very impressed.

 
Comment by Jason
2011-01-20 14:45:08

sorry, i missed that part of the article… LOL

Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2011-01-21 11:42:24

np. :)

 
 
Comment by DaveyBoy
2011-01-20 21:31:12

I have been looking into getting one of these for a year or two, but haven’t yet sprung for it. I think this review has answered most of my questions. I was wondering, if anyone has used/heard any thoughts on the lil’ buddy or whatever the smaller verion of this heater is. There was an ad on craigslist for a big buddy and lil buddy both for $85 that I didn’t get but now wish I would have. I’m still looking for the best option if I was going to heat one or two rooms. Any thoughts would be great.

Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2011-01-21 11:45:31

Davey,

I was also considering the little buddy. The reason I didn’t buy it is that at its max (9000 BTUs) it was slightly under what I needed. For one-room heating I’m sure it would be more than enough since I was able to heat my medium-sized room on only 4500 BTUs, but if you want it for two rooms, i would recommend springing for the larger Big Buddy. Just my 2 cents.

 
 
Comment by DaveyBoy
2011-01-20 21:31:44

P.S. The carbon monoxide detector is a great idea.

 
Comment by DaveyBoy
2011-01-21 12:57:11

Thanks for the prompt response. I had another question, did the one room get too hot and the other a little cold, or did you move the heater, or do you have enough circulation to make it uniform. I live pretty far North, and it gets cold here, so we have lots of blankets. I figure candles/lanterns will put out a little heat in each room so with blankets to bundle in, we won’t need a ton of heat. Propane isn’t a problem, just finding our which heating setup will be best, a few smaller ones or one big one small, etc. Thanks again.

Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2011-01-21 20:38:56

DaveyBoy,

After testing just the one room I tried putting it in the hallway facing the two rooms I wanted heated. This did a pretty good job of heating both rooms to the mid to upper 60s (keep in mind that the heater was still on the lowest setting. I’m sure if I tried it on medium or high it would have been more than enough.

Keep in mind that this is also radiant heat. So it helps to be facing the objects that you want warmed up. Even though it does have a blower fan, it’s most effective as a radiant heater.

 
 
Comment by Lance
2011-01-21 21:14:13

First, invest in the Big Buddy, not the smaller version. The difference in BTU output is enormous. Second, I would not get a “used” Big Buddy because the person who owned it may not have followed the correct procedures for proper care; namely, failure to shut off the propane tank (if you use a 20lb tank, which I highly recommend) BEFORE turning off the unit causes oil to build in the line, which will eventually be forced into the heater. This will cause damage which may not be obvious at first, but it will begin to stink and misfire, and the next stop is the trash can!

You can pick up a new Big Buddy for under $80 if you search online, and have a little patience to get a deal. For example, Amazon was selling the Big Buddy for $129 just last week, but now has them for $77.99 as I write this. I searched for 2 weeks before finding the right deal, but it was well worth the time and wait. I bought mine from Grainger for $85, but they had a $30 rebate, so it only cost me $55 (a steal!). I purchased the 12′ hose (for 20lb tank hook-up) and line filter, too, which added $18 to the bill. And, I found an online purchase code at couponcabin.com (might have been retailmenot.com) for free shipping!

Now for the best part – the Big Buddy packs a big bang for the buck! I use it to compliment my central heating. I have mine set on an 18″ x 24″ wood board (1/2″ thick) because the floor immediately in front of the heater gets really hot – not dangerously hot, but hot enough! The board extends about 12″ in front of the heater, which is all you need.

Anyway, I have an open floor plan so the living room, kitchen, breakfast nook, and dining room are pretty much open to eachother, totaling 520sq feet of floor space. It wasn’t long after I got my Big Buddy that I came home after being away for a few days to a very cold house (54* degrees… I’m a southerner, so that’s bone chilling). It was probably about 35-40* outside. Normally, it would take at least 45-60 minutes to get the area up to 70* degrees in that situation with just central heating. I turned on the central heating and set the Big Buddy to “HIGH”, and in 22 minutes (yes, I timed it) the central heating thermastat read 70* degrees, and it turned off. Once I get the area up to 70* degrees, I turned the Big Buddy down to “MEDIUM” and that was it – toasty for the next 6 hours! If it’s more than 40-50* degrees outside, I will set it to “LOW” once I get the area up to 70* degrees, but “MEDIUM” if it’s colder than that. For those bitter cold evening I will crank it up to “HIGH” every once in a while for 15-20 minutes, and then turn it back down to “MEDIUM”. The central heating rarely ever turns on when I use this technique. Once, as an experiment when it was about 30* degrees outside, I left the Big Buddy on “HIGH” after getting the area up to 70*, and after 2 hours on “HIGH” it was 78* degrees in the living area.

Propane usage is the last thing I have to say something about. I have timed my propane usage on different settings, and here’s the deal: You can plan on a 20lb propane tank lasting 23 hours on “HIGH”, +/- 3 hours. Now, I realize that 20-26 hours is quite a gap, but that nothing to do with the Big Buddy, or you, or the temperatures. It has EVERYTHING to do with where you get your tank filled up. Where I live, it’s $18-22 to refill a 20lb. tank, depending on where you go. Many places will rip you off by only filling a 20lb tank 75-80% full (“It seems full”), but charge you for a full tank. If you pay for 20lbs of propane, you should get 20lbs, not 16.4lbs or 17.2lbs. You need to find some blogs and read about other’s experiences with refilling stations in your area so you know where to go for your refills. Trust me, this little bit of extra research will pay huge dividends when you consider how many times you will need to refill. You could be saving $3-$5 everytime by avoiding the ripoff refill stations. Also, some places offer repeat customer cards where you fill up 6 times, get the 7th refill for free. So, that’s another $20 you are saving

So, yeah, buying the Big Buddy was the best purchase I have ever made!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-01-21 21:26:39

Lance,

Great comments and insights. I appreciate the detail and obvious research and testing you’ve done with your Big Buddy. I look forward to using this heater more often.

 
 
Comment by Robert
2011-01-22 14:47:11

I’m not sure why, but I cannot see the review, all I can see are the comments. Really want to read the review.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-01-22 15:25:02

Sorry about that Robert. I’m not sure what happened but the code got a bit garbled and erased the post. It should be all set now.

 
 
Comment by Patrick
2011-01-22 17:02:26

HI,I just got one and it is great. There is so much caution about using a large tank in your house what do you think? I have been going through the 1b tanks and am considering buying the refill coupler do you have an option on that? Also if you buy the 20 lb tank cable with a regulator do you still need a filter? Thanks for the review it really helped. I really appreciate your taking the time to give me any advice. Cheers,

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-01-23 19:34:19

Patrick,

As a rule I try to avoid using the larger tanks (20lb +) in my house. For that reason, I purchased the refill coupler sold by Mr. Heater, and it does the job of keeping the big tank out of the house because it’s used primarily as a fueling station. As such, I definitely recommend it. However I’m not completely turned off to the idea of using it indoors — especially if needed in an emergency.

As for the tank hose with the regulator, Mr. Heater says that the filter is not needed since the PSI is lowered to the point where the chemical leeching of the hose does not occur. If you’re using any other type of hose, you’ll definitely need the filter. If you’d rather be absolutely sure that no contamination occurs, I would recommend getting and using both.

Hope that helps!

 
 
Comment by Patrick
2011-01-24 22:48:17

Thanks for taking the time to reply to me, Much appreciated!

 
Comment by DaveyBoy
2011-01-26 23:06:07

I just wanted to make everyone aware that refilling 1lb. propane cylinders can be dangerous, and may be illegal (I know it is illegal to sell one that is refilled). I just wanted to let you guys know as an FYI, but not nanny state, brow beat, you! Thanks again for the review.

 
Comment by James
2011-01-28 00:00:46

I wish that I could relate. I live in South Texas and I am in a t shirt with the window open @ 10:00PM on Jan 27. It very well could hit the 90′s next month. When you find a good air-conditioning unit that uses propane (they used to exist, haven’t seen one in a while) please do a review on that!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-01-28 11:31:34

Yeah, I hate you right about now (especially since it took about 4 hours to clear my driveway yesterday of all the snow — and I used a big snowblower!).

 
 
Comment by John
2011-09-25 21:15:58

I just wanted to let your readers know that I placed a post on the tiny house blog about indoor air quality in tiny houses. I discussed this type of heater.

Any open flame or fire inside of a home that is not vented is flirting with danger.

I’d encourage the readers using fuel to cook, heat or heat hot water inside of a home, RV, tent of living space to find out all you can about CO. A silent and deadly killer.

Here is the link:
http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house/tiny-houses-and-indoor-air-quality-part-1/

Stay safe

J C

 
Comment by Carrie
2011-09-27 11:48:59

Thanks all of you for your thoughts on this as we have been wanting to purchase one of these. Thanks for the review TA! Now when I go to purchase one, I will know what to get. Thanks! :-)

 
Comment by Shirley Burgess
2011-11-08 12:40:59

I have a lil’ buddy and it works well to keep pipes from freezing or one room warm. I would buy the hookup for the larger propane tank though. It is kind of a pain to keep changing out those little tanks.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-11-09 07:44:23

Agreed. I purchased the hookup and a fuel filter and it works great.

 
 
Comment by Justin
2012-01-05 21:27:11

I recently purchased a Mr. Heater Big buddy. i am interested in purchasing a 20 lb. tank but i am not sure what i need to heeok it up. does any on have a part number or item number of what i will need.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-01-06 18:10:34

Hey Justin,

You’ll need the Mr. Heater Hose with Regulator. That’s what I purchased and it works great (you’ll need to buy two if you are hooking up two 20lb tanks).

 
 
Comment by Big Buddy Heater
2012-02-06 14:08:50

If you’re still looking for the Big Buddy Heater, this website offers one that meets US standards as well as one that meets Canadian standards. Not only does it have both heaters, the hose is also available. It’s a very extensive website, giving you the ability to also compare it with other heaters that serve the same function.

 
Comment by Leo
2012-11-05 03:33:18

I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your blog. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it
much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often.

Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Outstanding work!

 
Comment by =Mark
2012-11-15 16:31:51

Keep in mind that if you purchase the 12 ft. Mr. Heater hose with Regulator and Quick Disconnect coupling that not only will you not need the inline fuel filter but it is impossible to use it as the filter connection is threaded and the heater connection is a quick connect.

 
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2013-06-12 00:07:49

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web site everyday since it gives feature contents, thanks

 
Comment by Justin Case
2013-12-17 02:14:37

I bought the Big Buddy on your recommendation just before a cold front hit a couple of weeks ago.
I was freezing as I hooked up the tank and got it fired up. It didn’t take but a minute to realize this thing could save your life in the most dire conditions.
It’s not cheap to run. I have been through 2-20 gal and 6 cans in 2 weeks but this has been my only source of heat and I have been warm running it on low most of the time.
Kick this puppy on high and set it in the bathroom and you are good to go in 5 minutes.
I just bought a 250 gal propane tank and will have it hooked up tomorrow or so.
I will have my furnace back but my new Big Buddy is certainly going to vampire the big tank and save me money there. No more freezing on hunting trips, no more not working in the shop ’cause it’s too dang cold.
I doubt you could carry it in but it would make you more friends than you could imagine at a cold high school football game. On the sidelines they should be mandatory.
Ok, Ok, yeah I like the heater.
I don’t know if it saved my life but it sure saved me a lot over hotels.
Great blog and website Erich. Thanks for the recommendation.
I’ll be back.

 
2013-12-19 07:35:17

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