It’s happening again… The leaves are turning, the mercury is dropping, and every store north of the equator has space heaters in stock. They are so tempting. They promise so much and are inexpensive to buy. But be aware of the dangers of heating rooms with space heaters, because there are some very real safety issues at stake.
Almost one in ten US households contain a kerosene heater, and approximately half of those have no chimney at all (Consumer Product Safety Commission). If you own a kerosene space heater or are considering buying one, be sure to read on and discover the risks you are taking by operating one inside your home. Additionally, make sure to check your home insurance policy to ensure use of a portable heater does not void your fire insurance.
There are two main dangers associated with operating a kerosene heater: Fire and Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Use of an improper fuel can result in fire or explosion, but aside from that, you must be hyperaware of your home and its contents while operating a portable heating device. Maintain a clearance of at least 36 inches from all combustible materials, and never use flammable solvents, aerosol sprays or lacquers near the heater. Of course you should never operate a space heater in a room that also includes flammable liquids (such as gasoline) or is very dusty.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
If a heating unit is not cleaned and maintained regularly, it may produce high levels of Carbon Monoxide as a byproduct of the fuel burning process. Consult the manual of the devise to determine how frequently you should have it serviced and make sure to stick to that schedule, even if the unit seems to be functioning well.
Always ensure your heating unit vents the by-products of combustion to the outside. Only operate space heaters that are vented outdoors and that have been installed and maintained by a professional. Never operate an unvented heater in your home, the risk of serious harm or death is too high. Even if you own a sleek, new, top-of-the line model, it is still not advisable to operate an unvented heater inside your house because of the risk of high levels of carbon monoxide.
Although portable space heaters are a popular solution for warming drafty parts of the house during the cold months, they are very dangerous and should only be operated with great care. If you use a vented space heater, we recommend that you have it serviced regularly and that you keep the heater far away from combustible materials such as furniture, curtains, etc. to prevent fires. We do not recommend that you buy or operate an unvented heating unit inside your home as the health risks are too high.
If you have ‘problem’ rooms in your house it is likely that your home is inadequately insulated and sealed. Rather than pouring money into keeping problem rooms warm with space heaters, a better (and safer) solution is to have a home energy audit performed to fix the underlying problems.