Don't Use Outdoor Gas Heaters Indoors
Just DON’T do it.
That is the simple message for people who are thinking about using an outdoor LPG – propane gas heater indoors.
Indoor gas heaters are extremely safe.
Outdoor heaters used outdoors are also very safe.
However, using an outdoor propane gas heater indoors is a really bad idea that is both dangerous and potentially fatal.
Can You Use a Propane Heater Inside?
You can use a propane heater inside only if the propane heater was designed for indoor use. Using an outdoor propane gas heater inside can produce poisonous Carbon Monoxide – CO – as part of their combustion gases.
Indoor propane gas heaters can be used inside because they are designed to minimise or virtually eliminate the production of carbon monoxide. Some indoor gas heaters simply pipe combustion gases outdoors, using a flue.
Are Patio Heaters Safe Indoors
Patio heaters are not safe indoors. Quite the opposite, patio heaters are dangerous to use indoors. Patio heaters can produce poisonous Carbon Monoxide – CO – as part of their combustion gases.
What is an Outdoor Heater?
The most common kind of outdoor heater are patio heaters.
These are typically either the tall mushroom style or the shorter round area heaters.
There are also garage and industrial blow heaters.
These are intended for very large spaces and should never be used in a home or other smaller enclosure.
The use of a gas cooking appliance as an indoor heater is also a dangerous practice.
Australia has some of the most stringent standards on gas appliance combustion emissions of any country in the world.
This makes our indoor gas heaters very safe to use.
The gases of primary concern are CO (carbon monoxide) and NOX (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide).
These gases can be produced during combustion.
To be certified for use in Australia, indoor gas heaters must meet or surpass these strict standards.
The same is not true for outdoor heaters.
Because they are intended for outdoor use, with unrestricted ventilation, they are not required to meet the indoor heater emission standards.
Why Don’t They Build Them the Same?
Meeting the indoor standards adds expense to the design and manufacturer of the indoor models.
If you compare the prices of two types of heaters, you will see that indoor heaters do cost more.
The manufacturers of outdoor heaters, trying to keep the price of their units down, don’t design and build their outdoor heaters in the same way.
There is nothing wrong with this practice as long as the consumer only uses the heater outdoors, as intended.
Radiant Outdoor Heaters
To be used safely, outdoor gas heaters need continuous ventilation.
This makes heating the air with a convection heater impractical.
For this reason, most outdoor heaters are radiant heaters.
Radiant Heaterswarm you much like the sun.
Radiant heaters allow specific spaces within an area to be heated, primarily warming only the people and objects positioned in front of the unit.
Amongst the advantages of radiant heaters is that they are generally a low cost option and require no electrical connection, which would be problematic outdoors.
These are great heaters, as long as they remain outdoors.
Typical uses for commercial blower heaters include warehouses, workshops, garages, factories, transport terminals, breeding sheds and greenhouses.
They are not suitable for domestic use and, when in use, ample fresh air ventilation must be provided.
It is also important that the minimum room volume requirements be observed, as specified by the manufacturer.
Once again, these are excellent heaters as long as they are used in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions and safety advice.
Properly functioning gas appliances are quite safe when used as intended.
As discussed, outdoor units may generate carbon monoxide, typically due to incomplete combustion.
This is why they require unrestricted ventilation.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include persistent tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
If you experience any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning while operating any gas appliance, you should stop using it immediately, move to an area where you can breathe fresh air and seek medical attention.
Combustion and Carbon Monoxide (CO)
All gas appliances, domestic and industrial, produce water vapour, Carbon Dioxide and heat, and usually very small amounts of Carbon Monoxide.
If installed and maintained correctly, the operation of the gas appliance provides quick and efficient heating, cooking, hot water and more, and the products of combustion do not create any hazardous situations.
If an appliance is not correctly installed and maintained or has been modified, the products of combustion might change, and become hazardous to the people around the appliance.
Something as simple as a ventilation change (getting fresh air to the appliance to sustain complete combustion) may cause a gas appliance to malfunction, and create a hazardous situation for the people around.
Sometimes it is obvious when a gas appliance malfunctions.
Sooty smoke, red or yellow flames or poor performance are indicators, but sometimes no indicators are obvious.
If Carbon Monoxide (CO) is produced and escapes the appliance into the surrounding air, it will not be obvious (no smell and no taste) but will be very dangerous.
It is essential that gas appliances are correctly installed and serviced every two years, to maintain good combustion and safe, efficient operation.
Great Indoor Alternatives
There are lots of gas heaters that are designed and certified for safe indoor use.
Look for the certification label on the unit.
Indoor gas heaters are broadly grouped as either portable (unflued) gas heaters or flued heaters.
Within these groups are sub-groups of radiant, convectors, radiant-convectors, power flued, flued radiant and wall heaters.
Virtually all are available in both LPG and Natural Gas versions.
For gas heaters, gas input is expressed in Mj/hour.
Heat output is measured in kW/hour.
Generally speaking, greater gas input equals increased heat output, taking into account the relative energy efficiency ratings of the models being compared.
Gas heaters in Australia are all tested and labelled for energy efficiency Star Ratings.
To learn more, please see: A Review of Your Indoor Gas Heater Choices
Keep Your Family Safe
In response to the question "Can you use a propane heater inside?" the answer is "It depends".
The answer is "Yes", if it is a gas heater designed for indoor use.
The answer is "No" if it is an outdoor heater, like a patio heater or other outdoor style heater.
We all want to keep our families safe.
So, remember “Just Don’t Do It” when thinking about using an outdoor heater indoors.
Use a proper indoor heater when you need to heat your home.
And remember to follow all heater manufacturers’ instructions & safety advice.
Comments, questions or feedback?
The information in this article is derived from various sources and is believed to be correct at the time of publication. However, the information may not be error free and may not be applicable in all circumstances.