Portable Garage Heater Review: Mr. Heater vs NewAir

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It’s time for another duel, this time between two portable garage heater brand leaders: Mr. Heater versus NewAir. In the metaphorical ring today we have the Mr. Heater MH9BX Portable Buddy Heater F232000, which is advertised as “North America’s Most Popular Portable Propane Heater.” But can this product really be a better buddy in the workshop than the contender competing today: the NewAir G56 Electric Portable Garage Heater? We’ll compare the two feature by feature to find out, with this convenient chart to start things off:

FEATURE Mr. Heater MH9BX NewAir G56
Power Source Propane Electricity
Max Heat Output (BTUs) 9000 19107
Coverage Area (Sq. Ft.) 200 560
Automatic Shut-Off No Yes
Tip-Over Switch Yes No
Thermostat No Yes
Certifications CSA ETL, UL, CUL
Price $85 $165

Mr. Heater MH9BX Portable Garage Heater


Design & Portability

MH9BX Portable Buddy Garage Heater
The MH9BX is lightweight at 10.6 pounds.

The Mr. Heater MH9BX is designed to be portable. On top of the heater is a fold-down handle for carrying and saving space when not in use. The appliance is lightweight at 10.60 pounds and measures 7.7″L x 13.4″W x 15″H. This small footprint is great for cluttered garages and indoor workspaces where operating room is limited. There’s a single control dial to start the heater and a swivel-out propane fuel connection.


Power Source

Mr Heater Propane Portable BuddyThe MH9BX is a radiant heater that runs on liquid propane. In other words, it’s an unvented, gas-fired portable heater that only requires adequate combustion and ventilation air to operate. That makes this appliance truly portable in the sense that it isn’t tied down by an electrical cord running to the garage outlet. The regulator swivels out and connects directly to a disposable 1 lb propane cylinder that has a No. 600 valve connection.

The propane garage heater can also be hooked up to a remote 20 lb propane cylinder, if the cylinder is located outdoors. For this set-up, you have to use a specific Mr. Heater hose, along with a fuel filter. No fuel cylinders are included with the heater, and neither are the aforementioned hose and filter. This means you’ll have to shell out extra money beyond the initial purchase for the fuel containers, and then, of course, for the fuel itself.


Heat Output and Coverage Area

The Mr. Heater portable garage heater is designed to be used in enclosed areas, such as garages and workshops, and settings such as storage buildings, barns, sheds, job sites, tents, and more. It works better indoors than outdoors, and it does need to be kept away from flammable/combustible materials. There are two heat output settings — “Lo”, which is 4,000 BTUs per hour and “Hi”, which is 9,000 BTUs per hour. The latter equates to a 200 square foot coverage area, so that’s the maximum space you’ll be able to heat.

That maximum coverage area is a little small, considering that a standard two car garage is usually at least 500 square feet. This portable heater would be more effective for compact applications, and could provide immediate warmth to its user, but workers in big garages would not be able to rely on it to stay completely comfortable.


Temperature Control

Mr Heater Buddy Portable Garage Heater Control
Buddy Garage Heater push knob control

As noted above, the Mr. Heater portable garage heater only has two heat settings and does not have a thermostat. This appliance is controlled by a pilot knob with 4 options: Off, Pilot, Lo, and Hi. Start-up is quite easy with the heater, since you just have to push down and rotate this knob to the pilot setting, and then release it. There’s a Piezo ignition mechanism that automatically sparks to life and ignites the propane, no electricity needed.

While using this portable propane heater is simple enough, it’s not very dynamic in terms of providing calibrated heating. This makes the appliance somewhat inefficient and cost-ineffective, since you can’t adjust heat output and fuel usage more precisely to the surrounding environment.

At the 4,000 BTU setting, the garage heater uses 0.044 propane gallons per hour, while the 9,000 BTU setting uses 0.099 gallons per hour. That means a 1 lb cylinder bottle will last about 5 hours on low and about 3 hours on high. With a 20 lb cylinder, you would get 48 hours on low and 110 hours out of it on high.


Safety Features

The Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater is decently safe. It has an integrated tip over switch that automatically shuts the heater off if it gets knocked over. This is a nice feature for busy environments where there’s a wide range of lifting, bending, stooping, carrying, and more.

If you’re also working at high altitudes, this heater has a low-oxygen safety shut-off. On the other hand, it does not have a high limit safety shut-off, so you will have to worry about the heater overheating in any environment. This is inconvenient in workspaces when you don’t want to have to dedicate attention to an appliance.

The portable garage heater is also indoor-safe, but if you use it without adequate combustion and ventilation air, as mentioned above, it can emit excessive carbon monoxide. While is does get hot during use, there’s a wire guard on the front that limits exposure to the ceramic heating element. In terms of safety certifications, this product only has a CSA listing, so it hasn’t been tested by multiple independent parties.


Price

Buddy Propane Portable Garage Heater
The Buddy can be costly in terms of labor to operate.

Out the door, the Mr. Heater MH9BX Portable Garage Heater costs less than the NewAir model we’ll be looking at — you can find it for about $85 online. However, if you fuel it with disposable propane tanks, you’re going to end up spending quite a bit over the lifetime of the product. Using a refillable 20 lb tank will cost you less, but don’t forget that you have to buy the required accessories. In this case, expect to spend about $25 on the Mr. Heater propane hose assembly, along with $10 for the filter. That puts you at around $120 total.

In terms of whether propane is cheaper than electricity, it really fluctuates. Historically propane has been a more inexpensive fuel source, but costs have increased in recent years and vary widely across the country — just like the cost of electricity. The best way to decide which is cheaper is to check out the price per propane gallon in your local area and then compare this against your kilowatt/hour rate. Chances are, the costs will be pretty comparable.


The Bottom Line

This portable garage heater is great for workshops that have limited electrical outlet access. It’s also compact enough for cluttered shop spaces and is really easy to use. On the other hand, it doesn’t have a very impressive heating coverage area, and it has limited heat settings. Also, it’s more expensive than it first appears to be when you start adding in accessories, and you also have to account for the labor time spent getting the propane and changing the tank. Overall, the Mr. Heater MH9BX Portable Buddy Heater is best used in temporary or small garage spaces, but would be inconvenient for long-term usage in high-activity large garages.


NewAir G56 Electric Portable Garage Heater


Design & Portability

NewAir G56 Portable Garage Heater
The G56 is also lightweight at 16.6 pounds.

The NewAir G56 Portable Garage Heater is specifically designed to heat garage and workshop areas, and can easily be moved around within those areas. It should not be used inside homes. It has a carrying handle on top and doesn’t need to be hardwired, which many electric garage heaters require. It comes with a 6 foot long power cord and weighs 16.60 pounds, so it’s a few pounds heavier than the Mr. Heater model. With dimensions of 11.00″L x 10.50″W x 14.00″H, it’s only slightly bigger in volume.

The front of the garage heater has a thermostat dial control, along with a power indicator light and a button to control the heater’s fan settings. This unit can be set on the floor or tabletops, and while it has an overall larger footprint than the other appliance, it’s still highly portable overall.


Power Source

NewAir G56 Electric Garage Heater PlugThis is an electric garage heater. It uses 240 volts and 5,600 watts, and pulls 23.4 amps. It also has a NEMA #6-30P 250V 30 amps plug, which means it must be plugged into a NEMA #6-30R 250V 30 amps receptacle, which can be found in many garages. However, since no adapter is available for this blade configuration (and none should be used), you are more limited in terms of power source than the Mr. Heater product. No additional components need to be purchased to power the NewAir G56.


Heat Output and Coverage Area

The NewAir G56 puts the Mr. Heater MH9BX to shame when it comes to heat output and coverage area. The NewAir model has a 19107 BTU output, a 236 CFM airflow to circulate the warmth around the garage, and a 560 square foot coverage area. That space is more than double the capacity the Mr. Heater can work in. These numbers are much more suitable for garages, shops, and workspaces. And since the NewAir is portable, you can move it around within an area for optimal distribution of heat.


Temperature Control

The NewAir G56 has a temperature range of 45° all the way to 95°, which is controlled via a single pole thermostat. The thermostat knob can be turned almost 360º with a “Low” indication on one end and a “High” indication on the opposite end. You can set the thermostat anywhere in this range, which means you can calibrate the heat much more precisely versus just the 2 settings on the Mr. Heater portable garage heater. However, it is rather inconvenient that the NewAir G56 dial doesn’t have any increment markings on it beyond the Low and High text.

NewAir G56 Portable Garage Heater Control
The G56 has a thermostat knob and fan rocker button.

The G56 also has the option to cycle on and off while still maintaining the set temperature. Once the garage achieves the warmth level you want, you can simply turn the dial counterclockwise until it clicks, and the heater will automatically cycle ON/OFF, thus saving energy. As with all single pole thermostats, to shut the heater off completely, you have to turn the dial all the way to Low and then actually unplug the appliance.

This electric garage heater does have a dedicated button for fan settings, with an option for the fan to operate at all times, or for it to cycle on and off as needed to maintain the ambient temperature. That means that other than the lack of markings on the manual thermostat dial, the G56 is very convenient for efficiently heating up workshops and maintaining the desired temperature.


Safety Features

Unlike the Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater, the NewAir G56 electric garage heater does not have a tip over switch. This is primarily because it’s a square, squat heater that isn’t top-heavy and so isn’t at high risk for getting knocked over. However, it should still be placed somewhere in the garage where there isn’t a lot of hustle and bustle, since it does get hot during heating.

Importantly, the G56 does have overheat protection, which means it’s smart enough to shut off if it gets too hot. For example, if a ton of heat is suddenly generated nearby, it would turn off to prevent a fire. The G56 has ETL, UL, and CUL certification, and so has been verified by independent parties to meet certain safety standards.


Price

Although the NewAir G56 comes with a higher apparent price tag than the Mr. Heater portable heater, you don’t have to spend money on any other components after your initial purchase. And with the automatic ON/OFF temperature and fan control, it does heat efficiently. Add in the fact that you can adjust the output to a minute level, and the G56 is a pretty cost-effective heating appliance, especially for workshops and garages. It also requires less labor time to use, which means less wasted money.


The Bottom Line

Portable Garage Heater
The G56 is a better choice for most garage and workshop applications.

The NewAir G56 is intended to work hard in workshops. It’s a durable garage heater option, with a steel construction and black powder coated finish. If you have limited access to electrical outlets, it might not be a good fit for you, but if you do, then it’s an excellent, portable option for warming bigger spaces efficiently. The bottom line is that the NewAir G56 is a better portable garage heater than the Mr. Heater MH9BX, but the latter might be a good choice in some workshop spaces where electricity isn’t an option.


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