Many people believe that propane heaters are slow to heat and that using them indoors will result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
In fact, many people believe that these heaters are dangerous to use indoors.
Can you use a propane heater indoors?
This article debunks a prevalent myth by distinguishing fact from fiction (plus a few other issues surrounding the use of propane heater indoors).
Are propane heaters safe to use in garages and can they be used indoors?
In a nutshell, yes! The heater is extremely safe to use in a garage, workshop, or other enclosed location.
Consider an indoor propane heater an important part of your winter arsenal that could even save you money in the long run: it is not only significantly less expensive to run than an electric heater, but it also heats up rooms quickly.
Most importantly, indoor propane heaters are completely safe to use if all handling instructions in the owner’s manual are followed.
To be honest, these units have accumulated so many safety features over time that you have a near-zero chance of causing an accident or other harm when using them.
To put it another way, despite the numerous safety concerns raised by the use of propane, technological advancements have made these appliances extremely safe and efficient.
Below are some of the design improvements that have made these accessories as safe as other heaters, despite the threat of poisonous gases (read carbon monoxide) and other emissions:
Propane heaters have a few basic qualities that make them safe to use indoors.
• Automatic shutoff—Most models have an automatic fuel shutoff to reduce the risk of a fire starting if it tips over (the flame goes out once it tips over). For your peace of mind, some models automatically shut off when the pilot light goes out.
• Oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) – If this sensor detects unusually low oxygen levels, the heater is turned off immediately. Another gas replaces oxygen when it falls below 18.5 percent oxygen (by volume) or when it falls below 21 percent (normal). It’s possible that this is carbon monoxide, which can kill you.
• Overheat protection- When the appliance overheats, as well as if propane is flowing in but the heater is turned off, this feature will turn off both the heater and the propane. This can aid in the prevention of unintentional fires.
These are just the most basic safeguards that make propane heaters safer for indoor use; some manufacturers provide additional safeguards, so do your research.
CMP (Carbon Monoxide Poisoning)
Another common misconception is that you’ll be exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning (which means you’ll almost certainly die!).
Propane heaters, like oil and natural gas-fired heating systems, will always emit carbon monoxide as a by-product (as they burn).
And, yes, data supports the existence of CMP:
For example, according to a 2006 Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) analysis, LP/propane-fueled heaters were responsible for 19 deaths in 2006.
Similarly, in 2014, fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by heating systems accounted for 39% of all carbon monoxide poisoning deaths (about 64 deaths).
Investigators have frequently discovered that the accidents are caused by the improper use of a propane heater indoors.
The most common cause of CMP is not properly venting a space heater while it is in use; if not properly vented, the appliance vents carbon monoxide (and other potentially toxic fumes) into the room, causing problems (the oxygen in your room is slowly used up).
However, as previously mentioned, newer models include an oxygen detection system (ODS) that turns it off when oxygen levels fall below a safe level, so the problem is becoming increasingly rare.
Even older models without an ODS should be safe to use if they’ve been properly vented.
So, how much ventilation does a propane heater require?
The key to lowering the risk of CMP is to have a well-ventilated space.
To put it another way, there is no set recommendation other than to open as many windows and doors as possible, wide open, to adequately ventilate the garage (or other space).
Sure, it can get quite cold, but it’s critical to strike a balance because, well, the risk is too great!
To be certain, consult your owner’s manual for ventilation recommendations.
Tips on how to make a propane heater safer to use indoors
The following steps, when combined with the things/procedures mentioned above, can make a propane heater much safer to use indoors:
• Install carbon monoxide detectors to reduce CMP risk- These devices detect CO and, in some cases, smoke and alert you in a variety of ways, including by sounding a loud alarm. Place it in the best possible location. Here’s an illustration.
• Watch for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as nausea, dizziness, and a throbbing headache, which could indicate a gradual increase in carbon monoxide levels in the air. Turn off the propane heater and, if possible, open all doors and windows. If you think you’ve been exposed, you should also see a doctor.
• Never leave the heater unattended—leaving it unattended might be dangerous. Before leaving the room or going to bed, turn it off.
• Keep it upright when storing and moving it- In general, these heaters should be maintained upright at all times.
• Make sure it’s in good working order—repair and replace any broken pieces as soon as possible, including the tip-over switch if it’s broken.
So, Can you use a propane heater indoors?
Yes, indeed! You certainly can, as explained in this book. These units offer a variety of characteristics that make them safer and more efficient to operate in a garage, workshop, shed, and other locations.
If that is what you wanted, you may go ahead and look around for an appropriate unit – just make sure it’s the right size for your room/space.
Last but not least, before using your indoor propane space heater, read the manufacturer’s indoor usage safety instructions carefully (for your own gain, please implement all of them).