Safe use of propane heaters? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Just saw a propane heater you stick on a 20lb tank of Propane. Looked like a bigger version of a camping heater I have (which works with the little (1lb?) bottles.

If a house is cold, and I have a fireplace, is there any way to use a propane heater indoors (big OR little)? I understand the CO is an issue, so how (if possible) can I vent (again, I have a fireplace - if that would help). I WILL NOT have electricity in this scenerio, so no fans...

How about a kerosene heater as an alternative? How do you vent those? I'll get a battery-powered CO detector, but with two little ones, I don't want a problem with CO.


-- Anonymous99 (, December 27, 1998


For residential use, kerosene looks to me to be the clear winner. Aladdin lamps provide quite a bit of light and heat by themselves and can be supplemented with heaters like the Kero-Sun brand that are designed for indoor use and are UL approved. There are some serious safety issues involved but mostly it's just common sense. Don't store gallons and gallons of kerosene indoors. Crack windows a half inch or so in rooms where the lamps or heaters are being used. Keep flammable objects away and definitely not above the units. Use CO monitors. Don't leave lit lamps or heaters unattended or accessible by unsupervised small children or pets. Keep plenty of fire extinguishers handy. Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate. Do not ingest kerosene. Do not play "Watch Me Juggle" with Aladdin lamps. Etc. ;-)

Here's a list of kerosene heater safety tips I got off the net:

1. Only 1-K kerosene is used and it is bought from a dealer who can certify that the product is 1-K kerosene. _____ _____

2. The heater is placed out of the path of traffic areas such as doorways and hallways. _____ _____

3. Kerosene is stored outdoors, and out of the reach of children in a tightly sealed, preferably blue plastic or metal container, labeled "kerosene." _____ _____

4. No attempt is to be made to move the heater if flare-up (flames outside the heater cabinet) occurs. The fire department is called immediately. _____ _____

5. The heater is used in well ventilated rooms. _____ _____

6. The heater is turned off while sleeping and is never left operating unattended. _____ _____

7. The heater is placed at least three feet away from anything that might catch fire such as clothing, furniture, curtains, etc. _____ _____


* Check with your local fire marshal regarding local and state codes and regulations for using a kerosene heater.

* NEVER USE GASOLINE. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of fire.

* Use properly labeled containers. It reduces the likelihood of mistaking gasoline for kerosene.

* Place heater so it will not be knocked over or trap you in case of fire.

* Use 1-K kerosene because grades other than 1-K contain much more sulfur and will increase sulfur dioxide emissions, posing a possible health problem. If you buy kerosene from a gasoline station make sure you and/or the attendant are using the kerosene pump, not the gasoline pump.

* Never fill the heater while it is operating. Always refuel the heater outdoors to prevent spillage on floors and rugs which could later result in fire ignition.

* Keep the room in which the heater operates ventilated (e.g. door open or the window ajar). This will prevent an indoor air pollution problem and minimize health problems. Kerosene heaters are not usually vented.

* Keep flammable liquids and fabrics away from an open flame.

* Never try to move the heater or try to smother the flames with a rug or a blanket if a flare-up occurs. Activate the manual shut-off switch and call the fire department. Moving the heater may increase the height of the flames and cause leakage resulting in personal injury.

-- YourFullName (, December 27, 1998.

Point to ponder:


ALL FLAME (or glowing mantle or catalyst) devices CONSUME OXYGEN, PRODUCE BOTH CO and CO2.


-- Chuck a night driver (, December 28, 1998.

Either propane (tank mounted, as you described) or kerosene heaters are much more effective and "useable" from a convenience standpoint than a fireplace.

Ventilation and safety as mentioned above.

A drawback of a conventional fireplace that most people don't consider is that the existing warmed room air is being drawn up the chimney with the heated combustion air. Cold air is puuled into the room from elsewhere in the house, so the net effect is an overall house that may actually be colder in outlaying rooms, with one area around the fireplace that is warm until you open the door to go get more wood. Then the room cools off .....

So a stove insert (or stand-alone stove) are much more efficient and effective at heating a room than a fireplace.

A drawback of kerosene and propane is that they are "non-renewable" locally. (You can't get kerosene or propane locally, without an infrastructure or shipping or distributor) Therefore, I'm using both kerosene and propane (upstairs and downstairs), but have a fireplace insert to backup the non-renewable heaters if problems last too long - say more than 3-4 weeks based on good county government preparations in *my* area . "Your gas mileage will vary."

But I don't intend on using the stove unless absolutely neccesary.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw GA) (, December 28, 1998.

In reference to using a propane heater connected to a 20lb tank:

I discussed some of the safety issues with a friend who distributes propane. Issue #1 is gas leaks. Leaks can occur around fittings, as a result of overfilling the tank and from defective relief valves. In addition, if a tank is filled at cool temperatures and carried into warm temperatures indoors, a properly-working relief valve can vent gas into the room. Propane *tanks* should not be stored or used inside homes at all. Issue #2 is CO and CO2 buildup, but the precautions already suggested (crack a window) are adequate.

-- Elbow Grease (, December 28, 1998.

Good point Elbow. Leaks around gas fittings can be checked for (and should checked for periodically) using a strong soap suds solution. Brush or spray the solution onto the fittings and watch for clusters of bubbles. This would indicate that the fitting/tube needs to be tightened. If tightening does not eliminate the leak, the fitting (and possibly the supply tube/pipe) must be replaced.

-- Arnie Rimmer (, December 28, 1998.

My local propane dealer would not sell me a unit to heat a home with. He believes that a wood stove is the only reasonably safe way of doing it. There have been far too many instances of CO poisoning with people using propane indoors. It's one thing if you have a proper home unit that has the adequate venting installed, however most people think that a portable unit will work and their are dangers with that. First of all, it is not safe to have a propane tank indoors so you need to have a line installed to the tank outside. Secondly, although opening a window will provide ventilation, I wouldn't want to risk my life on it. If you forget just once to open the window, or one of the kids closes it because it's letting in too much cold air etc., the game might be over. If you insist on using portable propane heaters in the home, you'd better be sure you have a good working carbon monoxide detector in place.

-- Craig (, December 30, 1998.

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