Small portable heaters can provide localized or emergency heat for homes, cottages and service buildings. Kerosene heaters require good judgment and safety practices. This publication answers typical questions about kerosene heaters, lists positive and negative aspects, and suggests practices to follow when using a portable unvented heater.
What are the hazards of using these heaters in homes?
This type of heater produces an open flame in a confined area, which creates three recognized hazards. It:
* lowers the quality of the air you breath by reducing available life-sustaining oxygen and increasing poisonous carbon monoxide;
* increases the risk of burns from direct contact or from ignition of aerosol sprays, lacquers, or other flammable gases; and
* increases the risk of fire.
Do I really have to have an open window or keep a door ajar to use these heaters safely?
Yes, you really should provide outside air. According to the Canadian Standards Association, ventilation should be four times greater per 1,000 Btu/hr for unvented heaters than for vented heaters. Furnaces connected to chimney flue draw outside air into the house (by infiltration) as air moves up the chimney. Unvented heaters do not. Providing outside ventilation is a reason for concern since we try to make our homes airtight.
Opening a door to an adjacent room may not provide enough ventilation in an airtight house with very low air exchange rates. This could result in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) and other by-products of combustion. Battery-operated CO detectors with alarms will alert you to dangerous levels of CO, and should be installed in any enclosed area where a kerosene heater is being operated.