Can Electric Heaters Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Electric heaters do not produce carbon monoxide as they do not burn combustible fuel to create heat. Simply put, the components and the mechanism of an electric heater ensure that carbon monoxide is not an issue. Still, there are several safety concerns related to electric heaters that should always be considered when purchasing or using one. 

Many people feel confused when choosing the right heater for those cold winter nights. While an efficient heating system is important, safety is also one of the main priorities for consumers. Electric heaters are considered one of the most risk-free options with low health hazards. Plus, they are affordable and portable too.

 So, let us take a detailed look at how electric heaters work, their major benefits, as well as the different types available.

How do Electric Heaters Work?

Simply put, these heaters mainly rely on electricity. All electrical heaters have one main component- the electrical resistor. An electric heater produces an electric current that heats its nichrome wire component. These wires are also referred to as ‘heating coils.’ 

As the current passes through the resistor, electrical energy is converted into heat. Hence, this system is also known as a resistance heating unit. 

Some electric heaters also have built-in electric fans in them. The purpose of the fan is to draw in cold air from the room, pass it through the heating element, and then push out warm air. This is also a great way to heat a room by having added air circulation quickly. 

Without a fan, the air enters the electric heater from below, passes over the heated coils, and then releases from the top. Electric radiators mostly work in this way.

What Kind of Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas that can be fatal when inhaled. This is because it can stop blood cells from absorbing oxygen. Essentially, it is a colorless and odorless gas which often makes it hard to detect. 

So, what kind of heaters would produce carbon monoxide? The simple answer is that any heater that burns fuel like gasoline, wood, or kerosene will indeed produce carbon monoxide. Granted, these heaters are super-efficient in immediately heating a room. Plus, they look nice as well. 

However, fuel-burning heaters pose a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and require more checks and maintenance. During the combustion process, the molecule is created while the fuel is burning.

 Gas is also left behind as a waste product, especially when there is a small space or lack of open air. You would also need a chimney attached to the heater to ensure that the harmful gases are released outdoors. 

The following types of heaters are most likely to produce carbon monoxide:

  • Gas heaters (propane or natural)
  • Wood stoves
  • Kerosene Heaters
  • Traditional fireplaces fuelled by burning wood or gas-fired ones

You should also know about other home appliances that produce this poisonous gas. Some of them are:

  • Hot water heaters (non-electric)
  • Oven or gas stove
  • Charcoal grill
  • Gas, propane or oil furnaces, or boilers

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning In a Room

Since it is not always possible to detect a gas leak quickly, it would be useful to know the major symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Here is what happens when you breathe in this deadly gas: 

The carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream and binds to the hemoglobin, forming carboxyhemoglobin. This means that the oxygen atoms are now unable to attach to the hemoglobin. As your blood cannot carry the oxygen, the body’s cells, tissues, and functions start to fail. 

It is quite common for carbon monoxide to start with flu-like symptoms. Some major symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Dizziness, or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest Pain
  • Confusion
  • Imbalance or loss of control 
  • Memory issues
  • Fainting or unconsciousness

If more than one person in a room or building starts to exhibit the above symptoms, you may suspect carbon monoxide and take action accordingly. 

What to do After you’ve been Exposed to Carbon Monoxide

In case you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, you need to act quickly. First, do not panic. Instead, quickly open up windows and doors to facilitate ventilation. You should also stop using any electronic appliances and switch them off. 

Immediately leave the building and get fresh air. If there is an affected individual, you may perform CPR if necessary. Remember to call 911 as soon as you can. 

Do not go back to the affected area until the service professionals assure you that it is completely safe. 

Do you Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector with an Electric Heater?

Carbon monoxide detectors are extremely useful when you have a heating appliance that uses natural gas, kerosene, fuel, wood, or propane.

However, no carbon monoxide is generated with an electric heater, so you do not need to invest in a CO detector.

Safety Precautions to Take when Using Electric Heaters

Despite the overall safety of using an electric heater, there can be several situations where this appliance can cause serious harm or danger. You must know how to use an electric heater correctly.

First, never leave young children or pets unattended while the electric heater is being used. The appliance gets extremely hot and can cause severe burns if touched.

To ensure safety, it is best to plug the electric heater directly into a wall outlet. It is not advised to plug the heater into an extension cord, as this can overheat and result in a fire.

Another crucial tip is always to keep your electric heater in an upright position. Do not try to lay it flat, as this can be very dangerous.

You may want to look for electric heaters that come with a built-in sensor to inform you in case the heater is not in its intended position or is knocked over. The sensor also helps by not allowing the heater to power on unless it is in the correct, upright position.

You can use your electric heater outdoors, but with a few safety precautions in mind. If there is rain or even a slight mist in the air, there is a risk of electrocution due to the moisture. Plus, it can also damage the heater. 

There is also a fire risk if you operate your electric heater near flammable materials like furniture, bedding, or curtains. 

Although many overnight electric heaters have recently emerged, it is ideal not to leave your heater on while you are asleep. This can be a potential safety hazard. Plus, the heated air can dry out your nasal passages and skin. 

The bottom line; you must be well-aware of the safe practices required to use an electric heater and truly benefit from it. 

What are the Safest Electric Space Heater Types?

We have established that electric space heaters are the least dangerous of all heater types as there is no open flame or fuel.

Well, did you know that even among electric space heaters, some types are known to be safer than others? Generally, you need to look for an electric space heater without exposed heating elements like coils or bulbs. The lesser exposure to heat there is, the safer your electric heater will be. 

Some options you may want to consider are:

Ceramic heaters: The heating coils are covered by a ceramic material, minimizing the chance of contact or burns.

Hydronic heaters: Heated water is used in these units, and the system is perfectly enclosed

Oil-filled heaters: In an enclosed area, heat-conserving oil is warmed and radiated through the heater. 

Mesh-covered heaters: With exposed coils or heating elements, a secure mesh screen can help make the unit safer by preventing direct contact. 

Wall heaters: As these heaters are installed on the wall, the heater is secure in its place, and there is minimal chance of knocking it over or getting into accidents. 


Without a doubt, electric heaters are becoming more innovative and efficient over time, due to which they are now a popular choice. All you need is a stable power supply, and you can quickly turn an uncomfortably chilly room into a warm, snug place to relax. 

The main perk of electric heaters is the security and safety they offer. Plus, these heaters are also better for the environment compared to gas heaters. 

You can use your electric heater with confidence, but remember to follow the proper guidelines and correct manner of usage. It is also a good idea to ensure good airflow in the room. 

There is a huge variety of electric space heaters available in the market. We recommend you do your research before picking yours and look at all of its components, especially if you have children or pets. We hope you are now well-informed and ready to purchase your new heater for a relaxing and comfy winter.