Propane heaters, a popular alternative form of energy, are available in different types and sizes for a variety of uses. While many people have concerns about the dangers of propane heaters, these units are safe if used properly and in the right place.
You should only use a propane heater in a well-ventilated area to prevent the build up of carbon monoxide (CO), a tasteless, odorless and colorless gas. Anything that burns fuel gives off CO, including kerosene lanterns, propane stoves and heaters, and idling vehicles. People frequently use portable propane heaters to heat garages, sheds, construction sites or individual rooms when other heat sources are not available. Good air circulation prevents CO buildup.
Propane heaters are safe as long as they are installed, operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Read the operating directions and packaging before operating any portable propane product. As an extra precaution, always open a window to allow fresh air to circulate when using a propane heater indoors.
Propane is a flammable fuel. Fires and explosions can occur if you use the heater improperly or carelessly. Be cognizant of fires or burns that could occur if you get too close to the heater or touch the hot surface area, heating element or flame. Keep flammable objects at a safe distance from a propane heater.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
You can easily mistake symptoms of CO poisoning for the cold or flu. Warning signs include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, sleepiness and confusion. Carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, which can result in loss of consciousness and death. Alcohol consumption and drug use may also increase the effects of CO poisoning.
Propane can emit hazardous CO if improperly used in a closed environment, such as a tent, truck cap, RV or camper. Because sleeping individuals are unable to recognize the slow advance of CO symptoms, the risk of death is much higher. Wearing adequate clothing, using a thermally rated sleeping bag, or consuming extra calories and fluids to keep warm at night are safer alternatives than using a propane heater in a closed space.
Use an indoor-safe heater or a heater with an oxygen depletion system that automatically shuts off the heater if the oxygen level falls below acceptable standards. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and storage.