Is It safe to use propane heater in tents and garage? Indoor safety Guide

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can propane heaters be used indoors are they safe

Propane heaters have a lot of advantage over electric heaters. Propane is a very efficient fuel which is easy and use and store. It is also a clean fuel with minimum emissions which makes it one of the favorite fuels for outdoor enthusiasts.

The propane-fueled appliances are easy to maintain and according to Petro[1] costs half as much as electricity in terms of cost per thermal unit. In addition to that, propane heaters can also be used during a power outage or natural calamity, which is a huge plus point.

So can the propane heaters be used indoors, let’s find out.

Can propane heater be used indoors

Short answer: No, never. Here is why.

burning of propane heaters
propane heaters

The propane heater works by burning propane as fuel to produce heat. The propane needs oxygen to be able to burn and produces carbon monoxide along with other harmful gases as a byproduct.

A room is a closed environment. Using the propane heaters indoors can lead to all the available oxygen in the room being used up in burning propane and you are left with little to no oxygen to breathe.

On top of that, the room fills up with carbon monoxide which is a very dangerous gas to inhale and has a very negative effect on our body which can sometimes lead to life-threatening situations.

Using the same propane heaters outdoors are totally safe as there is an abundance of open space and an unlimited supply of oxygen. The resulting gases like CO can also disperse away quickly.

Rich burn can make the matter worse

The right amount of oxygen is required for an ideal burning of fuel. When the oxygen in the room is already used up the propane heater goes into “rich burn” where the fuel(propane) is available in abundance and the oxygen is low.

It results in a higher rate of carbon monoxide emission and can bring down the oxygen concentration to even lower levels.

Carbon Monoxide and its dangers

Carbon monoxide is produced as a byproduct of burning fuel gases (propane in this case). What makes it so dangerous is – it is a colorless, odorless gas which can only be detected using special sensors.

How carbon monoxide affects your body

The carbon monoxide slowly builds up in your body and replaces oxygen in your bloodstream. It can result in critical tissue damage and your body shuts down. The first thing to do in case of carbon monoxide poisoning is to get some fresh air and seek emergency care.

Most of the carbon monoxide poisoning cases occur during sleep. Using carbon monoxide detectors is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe from inhaling a high concentration of carbon monoxide.

Symptoms – Carbon monoxide poisoning

Here are some of the common symptoms of Carbon monoxide poisoning. Source: National safety council[3]

  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusing
  • Blurred vision
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness

Other dangers of using propane heaters indoors

Propane heaters use an open flame to generate heat. Which means it is very easy for the nearby objects to catch fire. The heat can also melt nearby objects so it is really important to take all safety precautions.

It is also very important to get full maintenance of the propane heater by a certified professional to make sure everything is working fine and there are no leakage.

Indoor safe Propane heaters for home and garage

There are propane heaters available in the market – which are indoor safe. They come with special features like catalytic combustion and have filters which minimize carbon monoxide emission. They also come with sensors which automatically turns off the heater when high levels of carbon monoxide or reduced levels of oxygen are detected.

Before you get a propane heater for indoor usage, it is important to make sure they are identified as indoor safe. In no case, you should bring your patio heater indoors. It is also very crucial to carefully read the manufacturers operating instructions before using any indoor propane heaters.

Here are some examples of indoor safe heaters.

Mr. Heater MH18B indoor safe heater

indoor safe propane heater example one
image source: Mr. Heater

Mr. Heater MH18B is one of the top-rated indoor heaters. It is compact in size and equipped with all the necessary safety features like – low oxygen detector and tip-over sensor. You can find out more about Mr. Heater MH18B and read customer reviews on Amazon.

Can propane heaters be used in tents, RVs, and vans?

The short answer is no. Tents and vans are small closed spaces with way too many flammable objects around. Under no circumstance, you should try to put normal propane heaters inside them.

If you really want a heater, go with electric. But since you are camping or living off the grid RV life, the electricity is in limited supply and these electric heaters chew up power really fast. This is where catalytic heaters can come into rescue.

Catalytic heaters for safe indoor heating

camco olympian catalytic heater
image source:

Catalytic heaters are propane (LP Gas) fuelled heaters which have special catalytic components which substantially suppresses the carbon monoxide emissions. These are so far the safest types of heaters for indoor uses.

The catalytic heaters like Camco Olympian Wave-3 are a little expensive than the normal propane heaters but they are well worth the price considering the safety they provide.

Check out some other great options for safe tent heaters for camping in the cold.

Essential safety guide – Carbon monoxide detectors

Even if you are using an indoor safe propane heater, it is a good idea to get a carbon monoxide detector.

Your heater may get old and the sensors may malfunction or get damaged due to being very near to the heat source. A separate Carbon monoxide detector can be your second layer of defense.

How to keep yourself safe

Here are some of the basic instructions you should take care before using an Indoor Propane heater.

  • Make sure your heater is indoor safe
  • Carefully read the instructions on the box
  • Use heaters with a tip-over safety
  • Normal outdoor heaters should never be used indoors
  • No unauthorized accessories should be used/attached to them
  • Know the symptoms of CO poisoning and if you feel someone is affected – immediately turn off any source of CO and move to fresh air.
  • Make sure you have proper ventilation and keep the doors and/or windows open
  • Do not leave the propane heater unattended around children or pets
  • In no case let children handle propane heaters
  • Do not place the heater near flammable objects
  • Choose a gas heater that is the right size for your room
  • Do not use the heater for drying clothes, shoes or any other item
  • Clean the filter regularly to maintain proper airflow.
  • Get it inspected periodically by a professional and do not try to disassemble it yourself
  • Do not use the heater in small closed spaces like a bathroom, sauna or room used for sleeping
  • Install the carbon monoxide detector
  • Only run when needed
  • Use other methods to stay warm
  • Shut down and let it cool off before refilling or changing the propane tanks

Resources (all links open in new tab)

[1] Why choose Propane – Petro
[2] Carbon Monoxide – CDC
[3] Carbon Monoxide poisoning – National safety council
[4] LPG gas heater safety – Elgas

image credit – Leon Brocard


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