Do Electric Space Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?

Can electric heaters make you sick? Do electric ovens produce carbon monoxide? Can electric heaters cause headaches? We will answer all your question in this below article.

The struggle to remain warm during a crisp winter night is very real. While many of us are blessed with central heating systems in our homes and offices, sometimes these systems are not able to hold in the heat in our rooms as well as we would like them to. It’s a good thing space heaters exist!

Space heaters are able to direct heat in a small, focus area in a room, thereby keeping us consistently warm through the night. But is it safe to keep a space heater turned on while we sleep?

There’s plenty of debate surrounding the health hazards posed by space heaters. Some people believe space heaters are a major source of carbon monoxide poisoning and should be avoided at all costs. Others believe the claim to be a myth propelled by technological pessimists. So what’s the truth? Do space heaters produce carbon monoxide? Let’s find out.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide also known as CO is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is emanated when fuels like wood, charcoal, gasoline and propane are burned. The concentration of CO eventually begins to accumulate inside a room that is not properly ventilated and can reach dangerous levels.

Living inside an enclosed space with a high concentration of CO fumes can cause poisoning among individuals. Continually inhaling the fumes can replace the oxygen in our blood stream with CO. This could lead an individual to feeling faint and weak. If the affected person isn’t immediately removed to a room with more oxygen level, they can die from CO poisoning.

The bone of contention here is that CO is an invisible and odorless gas so people often do not realize they are being affected. This is why CO is often called the ‘silent killer’.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

CO is a lethal gas because it binds itself to the hemoglobin molecules inside our blood stream. If and when CO molecules attach themselves to our red blood cells, they leave no room for oxygen molecules to enter the bloodstream, leading us to become oxygen deprived. Some common symptoms of CO poisoning include:

  • Headaches
  • Feeling faint or weak
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Shortness of breath and panting
  • Heaviness in the chest
  • Bodily pains
  • Unconsciousness

Do space heaters produce carbon monoxide?

Well, yes and no. You need to specify the type of space heater that you’re using to answer this question.

Fuel-based space heaters

Any kind of fuel burning space heater will produce carbon monoxide. For example, gas heaters make use of natural gas to produce heat, leaving behind CO as a waste product during the combustion process. Some other examples of CO producing heaters include those that burn wood and kerosene. Non-electric water heaters, charcoal grills, fire hearths, ovens, oil or propane based furnaces are all capable of producing high levels of CO that could lead to poisoning.

Oil radiator heaters

Contrary to popular belief, oil based radiator heaters do not produce CO. This is because oil here is not being used as fuel, rather it’s being used as a heat conductor. When the radiator is filled with oil, it absorbs heat in a way that does boil or burn it as fuel. Hence, we can confidently say that the heat produced through oil radiators is perfectly safe and CO free.

Electrical space heaters

Generally, electrical space heaters do not produce CO. This is because they do not burn any kind of combustible fuel to produce heat. An electric space heater produces heat by flowing electric current into a metal or ceramic coil inside it. Therefore, carbon monoxide poisoning is not an issue with electric space heaters.

How to detect the presence of CO inside a room?

There are a handful of devices that you can use to determine the concentration of CO inside a room. The rule of thumb is to know if you’re using a space heater that burns any kind of combustible fuel. For example, if you’re using a heater that’s burning gas, propane or kerosene then you should ideally invest in some kind of CO detection device.

There are CO alarm devices available on the market that alert you on the level of CO concentration in your room. They work similar to how smoke detectors work. When CO levels reach a dangerous level, the detector will sound a high pitched bell as an indicator. This will allow you enough time to switch off the heater and get outside the room together help. CO alarms can be life savers in homes that make use of fuel-based space heaters on a frequent basis.

However, if you’re using electrical space heaters then you can heave a sigh of relief. Electrical appliances will not emit any CO so a detector device will not be needed.

How to Check for Gas Leaks In Home : Home Safety


Inspect a space heater thoroughly before purchasing one. Families with pets or young children should particularly make sure the space heaters they use are CO free. Electric space heaters with ceramic coils are a great option. These are usually boxed inside a cool, plastic case that isn’t too hot to touch, thereby reducing the risk of accidental skin burns.

If you’re using a fuel based space heater, then make sure you operate them in a well-ventilated area. Tight, enclosed and stuffy rooms not only increase the risk of CO poisoning but also have the potential to ignite a fire.

Although you’ll find most modern space heating devices equipped with the latest safety features, it is advised that you do not sleep with the heaters turned on. Heaters that aren’t installed properly can leak CO and other toxic fumes in a room and such errors are naturally much harder to detect when you’re asleep.

1 thought on “Do Electric Space Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?”

Leave a Comment