Propane heaters are an ideal supplemental heat source in homes, offices, and other premises. They are relatively easy to operate and can be carried from one place to another. Generally, propane heaters are designed to be used outdoors. However, there are specific types of propane heaters that you can comfortably use indoors.
Yes, propane heaters can pose a carbon monoxide risk when used in rooms without adequate ventilation. So, if you want to heat inside your home or office, choose an electric heater instead of propane heaters because they need oxygen to breathe.
Are propane heaters safe to use indoors?
Propane heaters are safe to use indoors if you follow basic safety instructions. It would be a good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home before you begin using propane heaters indoors. You may also ensure that no combustible material gets into contact with your propane heater.
Can you get carbon monoxide from a propane heater?
Yes, you can get carbon monoxide from a propane heater. The carbon monoxide comes from incomplete combustion of the propane in the heater.
Do propane heaters need to be vented?
Propane heaters do not need to be vented. However, they need a good supply of oxygen when they are running. Therefore, if you choose to use your propane heater indoors, ensure a good supply of air into and out of the house.
How do propane heaters work indoors?
There is nothing unique about how propane heaters work when placed indoors. Propane heaters are portable heating devices that burn propane to produce heat energy. They have various features that define how they operate.
Once the connection to the fuel cylinder has been established, the heaters burn the propane to produce heat and other products of the combustion process. All propane heaters have a small component called the element.
The element helps to spread the flame of the burning propane across the heater body. In addition, some propane heaters have blowers. The function of the blowers is to spread the heat and circulate it in a large area. Finally, you can use the controls to change the heating performance of your propane heater.
Why do propane heaters produce carbon monoxide?
Propane heaters produce carbon monoxide when incomplete combustion of the LPG fuel. Propane heaters are supposed to burn the propane using oxygen completely. This process should produce water and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is not as toxic as carbon monoxide.
However, if there is not enough oxygen, the combustion process produces carbon monoxide in addition to carbon dioxide and water.
Typically, for complete combustion to take place, the ratio of air to propane should be 24:1. If this ratio is not attained, no complete combustion takes place. Also, no carbon monoxide is produced.
You cannot detect carbon monoxide because it is an odorless and colorless gas. Carbon dioxide has a characteristic pungent smell.
Propane combustion requirements
Propane combustion occurs between the limits of flammability. These are the percentages of the constituent parts of the mixture of propane and water for the combustion process.
The lower flammability limit for propane combustion is 2.15%, while the upper limit is 9.6%. This means that for the mixture of propane and air to be combustible, the percentage of propane should be at least 2.15.
Ideally, there should be 4% of propane in the mixture for the combustion process to be complete. The burner’s flame will turn bright blue if you attain this mixture. No carbon monoxide shall be produced from the combustion process if the mixture of propane and air contains 4% propane.
Complete propane combustion
Complete propane combustion occurs when all the propane in the air and propane mixture is burnt. The mixture should contain neither less propane nor more for this to happen.
For example, if the mixture contains 4% of propane, then all the propane will be burned. This allows what is called clean burning of the propane fuel. The process of complete combustion produces carbon dioxide gas and water.
Incomplete propane combustion
Incomplete propane combustion occurs when the mixture of air and propane is not ideal. If there is very little propane in the mixture, the mixture may not even ignite in the first place.
There must be at least 2.15% of propane in the mixture for it to ignite. If there is a lot of propane in the mixture, the burner’s flame will turn yellow.
Moreover, there shall be a lot of soot produced from the unburnt propane. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully regulate the propane percentage in the mixture of propane and air to get complete combustion.
What is carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a medical emergency condition that occurs when one has a gas concentration in their system of at least 35ppm.
Carbon monoxide begins to replace oxygen, which we use for breathing. The red blood cells in our blood actively pick up oxygen from the lungs and transport it all over the body. When they encounter carbon monoxide, they will pick up the molecules and move them around the body.
When the body has a carbon monoxide concentration of about 3,000 ppm, a person may die within 30 minutes. If the concentration rises to 5,000 ppm, a person may die within five minutes.
Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas. Therefore, carbon monoxide poisoning can quickly occur without detecting it early enough.
However, you can tell a case of carbon monoxide poisoning by observing the following signs.
- Headache. A severe headache occurs because less oxygen is reaching the brain. The brain is a massive consumer of oxygen. When one is exposed to carbon monoxide, little oxygen reaches the brain. The brain quickly detects this change in its oxygen supply, resulting in a headache.
- Dizziness. This is another vital sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. Dizziness occurs because the brain cannot function properly when it does not have the oxygen required.
- Nausea. If you are exposed to carbon monoxide for a few minutes, you will begin to experience a nauseous feeling. This sick feeling occurs because the entire body fails to function correctly due to the shortage of oxygen.
- Unconsciousness. When carbon monoxide poisoning becomes severe, one becomes unconscious. This is a dangerous sign because it may turn tragic within no time.
Can I get carbon monoxide poisoning from burning propane?
You can get carbon monoxide poisoning from burning propane if the mixture of the propane and air is not ideal. The mixture of propane and air should contain 4% propane for the combustion of the fuel to be complete.
If the combustion is not complete, the process produces carbon monoxide gas. The production of carbon monoxide gas from the incomplete combustion process causes carbon monoxide poisoning.
It would help if you also were cautious when burning propane because you can neither smell nor see carbon monoxide gas. It is only after some minutes of being exposed to the carbon monoxide that one begins to feel the signs of the poisoning.
Can I get carbon monoxide poisoning from burning LPG?
You can get carbon monoxide poisoning from burning LPG if the LPG in the mixture is not in the correct ratio. This means that all the devices in the home that burn LPG may cause carbon monoxide gas. This may happen even when the device is not installed correctly.
In other instances, burning LPG may produce carbon monoxide gas if the device malfunctions. When the carbon monoxide escapes into the atmosphere after a while, it may cause poisoning. People who indoors end up breathing it into their systems.
You may be able to tell that there is incomplete combustion of LPG gas by looking at the color of the flame. When the color of the flame is reddish or yellowish, this may signify incomplete combustion of the LPG gas.
Tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from propane
Although carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the significant hazards people face in homes with devices that burn fossil fuels, it is possible to prevent this hazard. Here are some simple tips that you can use to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from propane.
Install carbon monoxide alarms
Carbon monoxide alarms will go off when they detect carbon monoxide in the air. Installing these devices, especially near sleeping areas, can go a long way in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. The devices detect minimal amounts of carbon monoxide gas.
Therefore, they help prevent gas accumulation in the air, primarily if the gas leakage occurs at night when everyone is asleep.
- Check all appliances that burn propane thoroughly every year. Make it a routine to check all your heaters and any other device that burns propane. The comprehensive check enables you to detect any severe technical fault that may have developed in your appliances. This gives you the chance to either replace the appliance or repair it and prevent the production of carbon monoxide gas.
- Use devices that are approved for burning propane indoors. Choose heaters approved for burning propane indoors if you need to do this. Not all propane heaters can be comfortably used indoors. The ones that can be used indoors have specific security features to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Propane heater safety tips
It is possible to use your propane heater safely indoors. Here are a few tips to help you use your propane heater safely.
- Do not place anything at the top of the propane heater. The heaters become pretty hot when they are running. Placing substances on the top of a hot heater may cause a fire if the device is combustible.
- Keep combustible materials away from your heater. Plastics, paper, and fabrics should be as far away from the heater as is permissible.
- Always switch the heater off when you are not at home. It is not a good idea to leave your heater running even when you are not around.
Propane heaters produce carbon monoxide gas. However, you can prevent the production of carbon monoxide gas by your propane heater by ensuring that the mixture of air and propane is ideal. This will help you get a clean combustion process. As a precaution, install carbon monoxide gas alarms in your home.