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.
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.