Can you use a propane heater indoors?There are plenty of myths around propane heaters- some people believe that they’re slow to heat and that you will be risking carbon monoxide poisoning when used indoors.
In fact, in many instances, folks claim that these heaters are unsafe for indoor heating.
So, can you use a propane heater indoors or should you stick to electric heaters?
Here we look at this common myth, separating fact from fiction (plus a few other issues surrounding the use of propane heater indoors).
Can you use a propane heater indoors? and are propane heaters safe in garages?
In a word: absolutely! The heater is very safe for garage, workshop, and other enclosed spaces use.
In fact, consider an indoor propane heater an essential part of your winter arsenal that could even save you money directly down the line- It is not only significantly cheaper to run compared to an electric heater, but it also easily heats up rooms fast.
Most importantly, indoor propane heaters are completely safe to use provided that you observe all handling directions as outlined in the owner’s manual.
To be honest, a lot of safety features have been added to these units over time to the extent that you have next-to-zero chance of causing an accident or other harm when using them.
In other words, despite the plethora of safety concerns people express (because of the use of propane), technology advancements have made these appliances extremely safe and efficient.
Below we look at some of the design enhancements that have made these accessories as safe as other heaters come despite the risk posed by poisonous gases (read carbon monoxide) and other emissions:
Basic features that make propane heaters safe to use indoors
- Automatic shutoff- Most of the models come with an automatic fuel shutoff to reduce the danger of starting a fire in case it tips over (the flame goes out once it tips over). In some models, the unit shuts off immediately the pilot light extinguishes for your peace of mind.
- Oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) – The heater is also put off instantly if this sensor detects unusually low oxygen levels. When oxygen drops to 18.5% oxygen (by volume) or below from 21% (normal) another gas replaces it. Worryingly, this can be carbon monoxide, which could kill you.
- Overheat protection- This will at once turn off the heater and propane when the appliance overheats as well as if propane is flowing in, yet the heater is inactive. This can help prevent accidental fires.
These are just the most basic protections that make propane heaters safer for indoor uses- some manufacturers offer more safety features so shop around well.
A word on CMP (Carbon Monoxide Poisoning)
Another common myth bandied about is that you’re likely to expose yourself to carbon monoxide poisoning (which means a nearly assured death!).
Admittedly, propane heaters will always release carbon monoxide as a by-product (as they burn) – but so do oil and natural gas fired-heating systems.
And yes, even data shows CMP is real:
For example, data from a 2006 analysis by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows that 19 fatalities in 2006 were attributed to LP/propane-fueled heaters.
Likewise, in 2014, heating systems-related CMP fatalities stood at 39 percent of all carbon monoxide poisoning related deaths (about 64 deaths).
However, investigators have oftentimes found that the accidents are a result of improper use of propane heater indoors.
Specifically, the most noted source of CMP is failing to vent the space heater while in use- if note vented correctly, the appliance vents carbon monoxide (and other potentially toxic fumes) into the room leading to problems (the oxygen in your room is slowly used up).
But as mentioned, newer models have ODS installed to shut it off when oxygen falls below a safe level so the problem is becoming increasingly rare.
Even those older models without an ODS should be safe to use as long as you have properly vented it.
So, how much ventilation do you need for a propane heater?
The key to reducing the risk of CMP is to have the space very well-ventilated.
In other words, there’s no fixed recommendation- simply open as many windows and doors as possible, wide open, to sufficiently vent the garage (or other space).
Sure, it can be exceedingly chilly but it is important to try to strike a balance because, well, the risk is too high!
To be sure, we encourage you to check the ventilation guidelines in your owner’s manual.
Propane heater safety tips- How to make a propane heater safer to use indoors
The following steps can make a propane heater much safer to use indoors (observe them along with the things/procedures we have mentioned above):
- Add carbon monoxide detectors to lower CMP risk– These detect carbon monoxide (CO) and in some cases smoke and alert you in various ways including setting off a loud alarm. Install it in the most suitable location. Here is an example.
- Be on the lookout for telltale signs of carbon monoxide poisoning– Symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and a throbbing headache could point to a gradual rise in carbon monoxide levels in the air. Turn the propane heater off and open all doors and windows if you notice them. Also consult a professional doctor if you suspect you have been exposed.
- Do not leave the heater unattended- Leaving it unwatched could be disastrous. Turn it off before going out of the room or when going to bed.
- Store and move it while upright– In general, these heaters should be kept in an upright position at all times.
- Ensure it is well maintained- Repair and replace any faulty parts on time including the tip over switch, if defective.
So, can you use a propane heater indoors?
Yes! As explained in this guide, you absolutely can- plenty of features have been added to these units to make them safer and efficient to use in a garage, workshop, shed, and more.
You can, therefore, go ahead and shop around for an ideal unit – make sure it’s the correct size for your room/space- if that is what you had in mind.
One last thing: Don’t forget to read the manufacturer’s indoor use safety instructions carefully before using your chosen indoor propane space heater (for your own gain, please implement all of them).