Between harsh winters and power outages, more people are purchasing propane space heaters. These heaters are commonly used for all sorts of outdoor events, such as neighborhood barbecues. But what about indoors? There are some valid concerns about using these heaters indoors, but that does not mean they are completely dangerous. After reading this article, you should have a clearer idea about propane heater safety.
To properly discuss this topic, it would be worthwhile to address the dangers of incorrectly using propane heaters. Of these concerns, the greatest cause for worry is carbon monoxide (CO2) poisoning. Propane has a distinct smell, so if there are any leaks, you will be able to identify them immediately, but carbon monoxide has no color or scent and, thus, hard to detect. Excessive exposure to carbon monoxide can cause death. Even relatively light exposure can result in symptoms resembling the flu.
Understanding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
As mentioned before, carbon monoxide exposure is quite dangerous. The gas essentially fights against oxygen in the blood. When poisoning occurs, carbon monoxide succeeds in replacing oxygen in the blood cells. As the amount of oxygen declines and carbon monoxide increases, the victim can be rendered unconscious.
In the event that you use a propane space heater, there are some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning you should be aware of. These would be:
Extreme amounts of exposure can also result in cardiovascular collapse, a coma, or even death. However, these are worst case scenarios. If you feel as though you are suffering from poisoning, quickly switch off the heater and immediately go somewhere with fresh air.
Though, in the name of fairness, it would be important to point out that carbon monoxide poisoning from propane heaters is not a particularly common occurrence. It is an understandable concern but not inevitable. In fact, it is actually quite preventable.
Seeing as the issue of carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable, it is worthwhile to mention the various precautions that you can take when using a propane space heater. You can easily minimize potential dangers by following these helpful steps.
First and foremost, you should install a carbon monoxide detector. Since identifying the gas can be hard, these detectors do all the work and keep you informed about the current CO2 levels in the room. If the level exceeds a certain threshold and reaches a dangerous concentration, the detector will alert you immediately.
Apart from this, you need to regularly inspect your heater for gas leaks. If you are unsure of how to test for leaks, do not worry as it is quite simple. You merely need to check the parts of the heater such as hoses or connection points. You need to make sure that they are not damaged in any way.
During your inspection, you might suspect a leak. If this is the case, you can use soapy water over the various parts (such as the cylinder, hoses, connection points, and the unit itself) and listen closely. If you can hear a hiss and the cylinder does not feel warm, you might have a leak. Do not switch on the heater at all if there is a leak.
Irrespective of leaks, you should make sure that you are not leaving your propane heater on unattended. Only switch it on as needed. This will help you save money and keep you safe. Remember to switch off the gas supply as well, not just the heater.
Lastly, think carefully about where you place your heater, especially if you have children or pets. There should not be any flammable materials near it. This includes other gas tanks; your fuel cylinders should be stored outside and not near the heater. Also, make sure the heater is not placed too close to your carbon monoxide detector or else you will get inaccurate readings.
Research the Heater
While there are safety measures that you can take, you also need to be mindful when you purchase your heater. When buying a propane space heater, you should be well-informed. For example, some propane heaters are designed with indoor use in mind, but most others are primarily for outdoor use. When you make your purchase, pay close attention or else you are taking a big risk.
Propane heaters that are specifically meant for outdoor use require a lot of fuel and should never be used indoors or in any enclosed spaces. This is because of how much carbon monoxide they generate. When used outside, there is enough oxygen in the air, so there are no ill effects. In smaller, enclosed spaces, this is not the case and can be a health hazard.
After making sure that you are purchasing an “indoor” propane heater, there are some safety features that you need to pay attention to. The following is a list of some features that should be included:
- Easy ignition systems
- Manual shutdown
- Heat-resistant burners
- Low-pressure burner system
- Locking burners
- Tip-over safety switch
- Lightweight body
- Rain- and wind-resistant shields
- Oxygen depletion system alerts
Of these features, the oxygen depletion system or ODS is the most important one. This is a feature that is built into the heater and tracks the oxygen levels in the room. If the amount of oxygen becomes dangerously low, it will alert you, allowing you to prevent any dangers.
After all this discussion, the final verdict is that propane space heaters can be used indoors. There are some models that are engineered to be “indoor friendly.” While there are some justified concerns, these can easily be extinguished by taking the relevant safety measures. Propane heaters are like any other heater, so if something goes wrong, it is because they were not used properly.
Ultimately, the benefits outweigh the potential concerns, so purchasing indoor propane space heaters can be completely safe. What adds to the appeal of these heaters is that they are portable, so it is hassle-free to take them on camping trips or move them around.
Additionally, because they convert propane into infrared heat, there is no wait time. You get to feel warm and toasty right away, which really comes handy during particularly harsh winters. Another benefit of infrared heaters is adjustable heat settings and directional diversity. Propane space heaters are actually among the best heating options available, though this requires you to be mindful of the type of heater you buy (make sure it is meant for indoor use) and take the relevant precautions.