Informational Guide

Are Propane Heaters Safe Indoors?

Safety and heating go hand in hand. Learn about propane heaters and if they are safe to use indoors. We look at garages, tents, and homes.

by Josh M

Propane heaters are known for providing reliable and effective heating. They’re often used as a portable heater and seen on campsites or in your back garden, but are propane heaters safe to use indoors?

In this guide, we’ll help answer that question so you know what the hazards might be and where you can safely use a propane heater.

Propane heaters offer a reliable backup heat source when your power goes out. They’re powered entirely by propane and don’t need to be connected to any electrical outlet to turn on. This makes them useful in the event of a blackout or if you need a portable heater temporarily to heat a workspace, like a garage.

They work fairly simply with just 4 main parts:

  • Fuel
    Propane is used to fuel the heater. For some applications, propane is stored in liquid form, but it’s almost always gas for heaters. This is kept in a small tank, which will need to be removed and replaced once the propane is used up.
  • Igniter
    The igniter is used to cause aspark that lights the propane gas, generating the heat. Different propane heaters use different igniters, but typically it’s spring-loaded and will spark automatically when the device is turned on.
  • Heating Element
    Once the igniter lights the flame, the heat is dissipated onto the heating element. This helps to spread and direct the heat so you can feel the benefit of the heater.
  • Pilot Light
    The pilot flame is designed to be lit pretty much continuously within the heater. This helps ignite the flame when the device is turned on and removes the need to use the igniter every time. If your pilot light goes out, it’s an indicator that your fuel needs to be replaced.
Propane Heater Up Close

There are a lot of misconceptions about propane heaters, but they are safe to use indoors if you handle them properly. Many people worry about having propane gas in their homes because it’s combustible, but it’s perfectly safe if you store and manage it correctly.

Some people also worry about fumes and carbon monoxide leaking into your home. This can be a risk if you use an outdoor propane heater without proper ventilation, but specialist indoor propane heaters can be used which don’t require any ventilation at all. It’s worth getting one of these if you’re going to be using it inside at all.

Here are some of the common places propane heaters are used:

Inside the House

Propane heaters make an excellent backup heat source if your power or central heating goes out. They are often used as an alternative to electric or central heating because they have meager running costs and can save you a lot during the winter months.

You should make sure you have a propane heater that works indoors and doesn’t need any ventilation or airflow. These models will help deal with the fumes and prevent them from filling up your home. Indoor propane heaters are safe to use indoors, and modern models are designed to be very safe. They will automatically shut off if your pilot flame doesn’t light, which helps eliminate any risk of gas seeping into your home.

Inside Garages

Garages aren’t usually connected to your central heating, but they can be used as a workspace if you have enough heat in there. Garage propane heaters are popular because they are economical and powerful, meaning you can heat a large garage without spending a fortune.

If you are looking to use a propane garage heater, you should ensure that all flammable objects are kept away from the device. Don’t rest any fabric, cardboard, or paper on the device, and don’t leave it unattended. You should look for an indoor propane heater, but you can use an outdoor one if there’s enough ventilation in your garage.

Inside Tents

Propane is often used on campsites to power heaters and other accessories, so it makes sense to use a propane heater in your tent. Having a self-contained power source makes them easy to use, and usually, the models are lightweight and portable, so they’re easy to carry with you when you’re camping.

Propane heaters are safe to use inside a tent, provided you follow all the instructions. You should make sure it’s on a flat, level surface so it won’t tip over and that any flammable materials are kept at least 3 feet away. The most considerable risk is actually carbon monoxide poisoning, so make sure you stay vigilant.

If anyone starts getting dizzy, then you should switch it off and open the tent immediately, as this is the first symptom of carbon monoxide in your system. Make sure you have adequate ventilation and don’t go to sleep with the heater on.

Important General Propane Heating Safety Tips

It’s true that propane heaters aren’t the safest type, and you should take some precautions when using them inside. Here are 5 safety tips you should follow:

Smoke Detector Alarm for Fire
  1. Install A Carbon Monoxide Detector
    The biggest risk associated with a propane heater is carbon monoxide. By installing a detector in the room it’s being used, you’ll know immediately if there’s an issue, and you can turn the heater off. Carbon monoxide detectors are usually very cheap, and you can find them in most hardware stores.
  2. Keep It Level
    You should always place your propane heater on a level surface because if it tips over, then it can become a serious fire hazard. Some propane heaters come with a tip-over safety switch that turns the device off automatically if it falls, but if yours doesn’t have one, then you might want to install one.
  3. Check Regularly For Leaks
    Along with cleaning and maintaining your propane heater, you should check it regularly for leaks. The easiest way to do this is to run soap and water over the device and turn it on. If any of the soak and water starts to bubble, then it means there’s probably a propane leak, and you need to leave it turned off until it can be repaired.
  4. Don’t Overuse The Heater
    This goes without saying, but only use the heater when you need to. This helps to limit any risk to you and your home and allows you to be more economical and keep your energy bills down.
  5. Store Correctly
    Make sure you store your propane heater upright to avoid any leaking. As a precaution, it’s a good idea to remove any tubes connecting the gas to the heater, too, so there’s even less risk of a leak.

How To Handle & Store Propane Tanks Safely

Propane can make some people nervous, and for a good reason, but if you handle and store it properly, then there is minimal risk. We’ve given some tips for handling your propane safely but remember, if you smell gas, then you should call a professional straight away, and they will be able to help you.

  • Only Fill to 80%
    Propane will naturally expand and contract depending on the temperature it is. By only filling your tank to 80%, you allow enough room for it to expand if it becomes too hot so that the tank won’t explode.
  • Keep Flammables Away
    Propane is flammable, so make sure you keep all sources of ignition far away from the tank.
  • Store Tanks Upright
    Always keep your propane tank upright, or you could damage the valve. This could lead to leaks, fire, or even explosions.
  • Store Tanks Outside
    If your propane canister has a leak, then it can be a risk to your health and a fire hazard. By storing the tanks outside when they’re not in use, then the open air will make sure the leaking gas comes to nothing.

It is also possible to put a thermostat on a propane heater to get the temperature to be at the right level.

Can You Leave a Propane Heater Running?

Modern propane heaters are very safe, but you need to take precautions when you use them. Leaving them unsupervised indoors can be a fire hazard because the device could fall, or a flammable object might come into close proximity with the heater. There might also be a gas leak, and with nobody there to realize, then you wouldn’t be able to switch the device off and ventilate the room.

You should never leave a propane heater running overnight because if there was a carbon monoxide leak, it could be deadly. If it did leak into your home, then it could mean that you and your family never wake up, so it’s just not worth taking the risk.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

 Can you get carbon monoxide poisoning from a propane heater?

Yes, carbon monoxide is released as a by-product by some propane heaters, so there is a risk of poisoning. However, if the heater is properly ventilated, then it is safe to use.

Can a propane heater explode?

Yes, technically, but there is a very low risk of this happening. Propane is combustible, but there would only be an explosion if the tank was badly damaged and stored incorrectly.

Can you leave propane tanks outside in winter?

Yes, freezing temperatures are not a problem for propane, so you can leave them out during the cold months.

How cold is too cold for propane?

The freezing point for propane is around -306 degrees Fahrenheit, so there’s very little risk of this happening.

What heaters are safest to use inside the house?

Electric heaters are considered one of the safest options for inside your home, but most modern heaters are designed to be perfectly safe as long as you follow the user instructions.

Conclusion

Indoor propane heaters are useful if you want to heat a room quickly and have no electrical outlet nearby. Modern propane heaters are safe and can be used indoors, but you should always handle them with care and follow the user instructions carefully.

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.

Top