Even though propane space heaters have improved over the years and many newer safety features have been added, they can still be very dangerous to use in a home. Every year, there are many deaths and injuries which result from problems that arose when a propane space heater was used in a home. Even following all of the operational guidelines does not guarantee that there will be no problems when using a propane space heater. Here are some of the dangers associated with using a propane space heater in the home.
One of the most obvious problems that can occur with a propane space heater is fire. Today’s propane space heaters are usually equipped with switches that will automatically shut off the motor if the unit is knocked over, but that does not totally eliminate the possibility of a fire occurring. The propane is highly flammable and this type of space heater is built to burn it in a special way to produce the heat. However, if not handled properly or if there is a propane leak, the space heater could burst into flames and the fire would build quickly as it consumes the rest of the propane. A propane space heater should be checked regularly for leaks. In addition, refueling should always be done outside or in a well ventilated room to prevent the fumes from filling the air in the room and being ignited with any type of spark.
A less obvious, but very deadly problem that can arise when a propane space heater is used is the depletion of oxygen in the air. This usually occurs when the propane heater is not properly vented. In order to burn the fuel, this type of heater must have oxygen as part of the combustion process. Ventilating brings oxygen to the propane heater from outside of the room and expels the carbon monoxide that is produced. Without proper ventilation, the propane heater will use all of the available oxygen in the room to continue burning the propane fuel and replace it with the carbon monoxide.
Without a properly functioning carbon monoxide detector in the room, this gas is not easily noticed because it has no odor, no taste, and no color. Few people actually recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning because they can easily be mistaken for symptoms of the flu or simply being tired. The common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, nausea, headache, weakness, confusion, and sleepiness. Once the latter two symptoms set in, it is usually too late because the people cannot get themselves to a source of fresh air in time to save their lives. Most models of propane heaters are now equipped with built in oxygen depletion sensing monitors. These sensors take readings of the oxygen level of the air surrounding the propane space heater. If the oxygen level in the room drops too low, an alarm will sound and usually the motor on the propane space heater will automatically be turned off to prevent further depletion of the oxygen in the room.