How to Build a Propane Radiant Heater: A Comprehensive DIY Guide

Building a propane radiant heater can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to heat your indoor or outdoor spaces. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential components, safety considerations, and step-by-step instructions to help you construct a reliable and efficient propane radiant heater for your needs.

Selecting the Propane Tank and Regulator

The first step in building a propane radiant heater is to choose the appropriate propane tank and regulator. The tank size will depend on the heater’s usage and power requirements. For occasional or light-duty use, a 40-pound propane tank may be sufficient, while for constant or heavy-duty use, a 100-pound tank is recommended.

The regulator is a crucial component that controls the high-pressure gas exiting the propane tank and reduces it to a safe, low-pressure level for the heater. When selecting a regulator, consider the BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating of your heater and choose a regulator with a compatible flow rate. As a general guideline, a 40,000 BTU heater would require a regulator with a minimum flow rate of 1.7 CFM (cubic feet per minute).

Preparing the Copper Tubing and Fittings

how to build a propane radiant heater

The heating element of a propane radiant heater is typically made from copper tubing. When selecting the copper tubing, consider the diameter and length required for your specific heater design. A common size for propane radiant heaters is 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch copper tubing.

In addition to the copper tubing, you’ll need various fittings, such as elbows, tees, and unions, to connect the tubing and create the desired heating element shape. Ensure that all fittings are compatible with the copper tubing diameter and are rated for use with propane gas.

Constructing the Heating Element

The heating element is the core of the propane radiant heater. To build it, follow these steps:

  1. Cut the copper tubing to the desired lengths using a tubing cutter or a hacksaw.
  2. Assemble the copper tubing and fittings to create the desired shape for the heating element, such as a straight line, a U-shape, or a coil.
  3. Solder the copper fittings and joints using a propane or MAPP gas torch and lead-free solder. Ensure that all connections are secure and leak-free.
  4. Attach the heating element to a sturdy frame or support structure, such as a metal bracket or a stand.

Incorporating the Reflector

To maximize the efficiency of the propane radiant heater, you’ll need to add a reflector. The reflector is typically made from a highly reflective material, such as polished stainless steel or aluminum, and is positioned behind the heating element to direct the heat outward.

When designing the reflector, consider the shape and size of the heating element, as well as the desired coverage area. The reflector should be positioned at an optimal distance from the heating element to effectively redirect the infrared radiation.

Ensuring Proper Ventilation and Safety

Proper ventilation is crucial when building a propane radiant heater to prevent the accumulation of harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide. Ensure that the heater is installed in a well-ventilated area, with adequate airflow and access to fresh air.

Additionally, incorporate safety features, such as:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors to monitor the air quality
  • Automatic shut-off valves that will stop the gas flow in case of a malfunction or power failure
  • Proper insulation and heat shielding to prevent fire hazards

Before using the propane radiant heater, thoroughly test for gas leaks by applying a soapy water solution to all connections and fittings. If any bubbles form, it indicates a leak that must be repaired before operation.

Customizing the Heater Design

The design of a propane radiant heater can be customized to suit your specific needs and preferences. Some variations include:

  • Ceiling-mounted infrared tube heaters
  • Patio heaters made from repurposed propane tanks
  • Portable or freestanding radiant heaters

When designing your heater, consider factors such as the desired heat output, coverage area, and aesthetic appeal to create a solution that meets your requirements.


Building a propane radiant heater can be a rewarding DIY project that provides efficient and cost-effective heating for your indoor or outdoor spaces. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can construct a reliable and safe propane radiant heater tailored to your specific needs. Remember to prioritize safety, proper ventilation, and thorough testing throughout the building process to ensure a successful and enjoyable project.