Can Space Heaters Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Yes, space heaters can potentially cause carbon monoxide poisoning if they are not used properly. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can be produced by combustion appliances, including gas space heaters, if they are not vented properly or if there is a leak or malfunction in the appliance.

Inhalation of carbon monoxide is the most common form of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide, when it’s in your bloodstream, causes a lot of deadly side effects. It prevents the usage of available oxygen by the body’s organs, which shuts down the complete functioning of the human body if the fumes are inhaled for long enough. Carbon monoxide inhalation can harm your heart, brain, and other vital organs. In our present-day conditions, the most common way to fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning is through unvented space heaters in your living space. 

The main energy source for an unvented space heater is with the help of combustible fuels. In the process of generating heat, the heater lets out some gases. And here comes the problem, instead of letting out the residual gases outdoors, it pumps them out into your living space. This mixture of residual gases can contain toxic fumes and carbon monoxide. 

But are all unvented space heaters dangerous? No, they are not. This life-threatening issue only arises when the heater is not installed properly or working up to the mark. If you look at the newer models of heaters, they tend to have oxygen sensors. The main purpose of these sensors is to detect when the air oxygen levels are decreasing, and if there is a decrease, the heater is automatically shut down. On the other hand, this life-saving feature is not seen in older versions. Purchasing a newer model and ditching your older heater is a good idea. 

How do I know if my heater is leaking carbon monoxide?

Heaters or furnaces are a standard investment; you purchase them once and enjoy the benefits for years. But, if you’ve used the heater for quite a while now and it’s facing a few issues, you should get rid of it. When there is damage in the heater, it might start to leak carbon monoxide. Your heater consists of an essential element called the heat exchanger; a crack in the heat exchanger usually results in a carbon monoxide leak. 

If you’re someone with a heater at home, it’s always better to be cautious to prepare for the worst-case scenario. So, when is there a carbon monoxide leak? 

  • If you suspect a carbon monoxide leak, first check the soot of the heater. If there’s a yellow, black, or brown stain, it is carbon monoxide and other toxic fumes leaking out. 
  • Also, if there’s a yellow flame, it is a sign of fumes leaking out. 

What causes carbon monoxide poisoning?

When carbon monoxide fumes enter the blood flow, it results in carbon monoxide poisoning. As soon as carbon monoxide enters your body, it stops the flow of oxygen to the parts of the body. If you’re exposed to the fumes for too long, the complete oxygen supply to almost all organs stops. With time, the entire functioning of the human body stops, and it starts to shut down. These days, exposure to carbon monoxide fumes is mostly through space heaters. 

Overusing space heaters in your living area might result in the fumes of carbon monoxide being released. If these fumes are pushed out gradually, the poisoning starts with small symptoms like throat, eye, or nose irritation, flu-like symptoms, headaches, etc. Make sure these heaters are minimized, and switch to a newer version if you use an older model. 

Safety Tips To Reduce the Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from a Space Heater

Heaters that use electricity as their main energy source is of no danger when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning. Heaters that require and use fuel are the main risk factors. To help you be cautious, here are a few safety precautions you can take care of. 

1. Running large-sized heaters or running a heater for long hours and overusing it can produce nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other harmful fuels.

2. Ensure the space heater is only used in properly ventilated areas. Areas with little to no ventilation increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

3. Turn the heater off when you exit the room. Avoid going to bed with the space heater still on. Do not place the heater anywhere near a sleeping person. 

4. Get a carbon monoxide detector installed in spaces where you’re more prone to use the heater. 

5. Opt for an inbuilt oxygen sensor when purchasing a space heater. These sensors turn the heater off immediately when a drop in oxygen levels is detected. 

Disadvantages Of Space Heaters

Space heaters are paramount in colder regions, but their risk factors undermine the practical benefits. Below are some of the major disadvantages of space heaters. 

1. Space heaters are a major fire hazard; they can easily cause fires. So, it is advised to use space heaters only in ventilated indoor spaces for a short period. If there’s any furniture in close contact with the heater, move it away, as it can catch fire if something goes wrong with the functioning of the heater. 

2. Temperature rise in space heaters is very quick, which might result in a fire outbreak. 

3. Space heaters cause the air around them to dry out. This results in skin irritation, irritation of your sinuses, rashes, and nosebleeds; milder effects might include dry lips. 

4. Space heaters can sometimes be extremely noisy, which results in disturbed sleep cycles. 

5. Besides the disadvantages, indoor space heaters also have extra expenses. 

6. Space heaters need to catch up in the effectiveness sector too. Space heaters, in general, irrespective of whether they work on fuel or electricity, effectively provide heat only to a limited space. They cannot be your only heat source; you need a substitute heat-providing system. 

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, space heaters can be a great way to stay warm and save on energy costs, but they can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning if not used properly. It is important to understand the dangers of carbon monoxide and the safety practices that need to be followed to reduce the associated risks. Additionally, certain disadvantages to using a space heater must be considered when considering its use in your home.

Lastly, an important question remains: how long can you run a kerosene heater indoors? With this in mind, it’s always best to err on the side of caution; seek advice from professionals before using a kerosene heater inside, and always keep CO detectors active near your heating appliances if you go this route. Stay safe, and don’t let unexpected hazards creep up on you.

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