Can an Electric Heater Make You Sick?

Josh Mitchell

Written By

Josh Mitchell

Expert Reviewed By

Holly Curell

Last Updated On

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Key Takeaways

  • Yes, electric heaters can directly or indirectly make you feel sick.
  • The burning or heating up of material such as ceramic or any accidental leaks such as in oil-filled radiators can directly lead to sicknesses.
  • Indirectly, electric heaters can make you sick by drying up the air, heating up or melting objects in close vicinity, or by burning up contaminants such as fur and dust in the air.

When it gets cold, my trusty electric heater becomes my new best friend. However, I've always wondered if this device can actually make me sick. 

I've heard a lot of rumors about electric heaters, and I'm here to prove or debunk them to set things straight.

So, I've done some digging to get to the bottom of it.

Now, I will sort out fact from fiction, ensuring comfort doesn't come with a sneeze or a wheeze.

Working Principle of an Electric Heater?

An electric heater works by converting electricity into heat through an electric space heater's heating element.

When you turn it on, electricity flows into the heater, and the heating element inside—often made of coils or wires—gets hot.

This heat is then transferred to the air in the room, either through radiation in space heaters or convection heaters, which circulate warm air throughout the space.

Portable electric heaters and room heaters are designed to be moved around for targeted warmth.

The process is pretty efficient, turning most of the electricity into heat, and these heaters can quickly make a room nice and toasty at a consistent temperature.

Important Note:

Unlike propane, natural gas and oil-filled heaters, electric space heaters pose no threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.

So Can An Electric Heater Make You Sick?

The short answer is yes: an electric heater can potentially contribute to feeling sick, causing symptoms like headaches and dizziness.

Let's dig into how something meant to keep us cozy might lead to unexpected health problems.

Direct Effects of Electric Heaters on Health

When it comes to electric heaters, most of us don't feel a thing beyond the cozy warmth. Still, I'll tell you, they're not all created equal.

I remember this ceramic heater I had—whenever I switched it on, there was this odd smell that hit my nasal passages hard, and my friend with asthma had a tough time.[1]

Once, my neighbor's oil-filled unit leaked, and it was a slippery situation that didn't do any favors for her sensitive skin.

These heaters can be a bit of a pain if they dry out the air too much, leading to dry skin or a tickle in the throat.

So yeah, they're mostly safe, but there's the odd chance they can stir up some breathing problems and sickness.

TL;DR: In some instances, electric heaters can directly make you sick either through burning of material or spilling of chemicals inside like oil.

Indirect Effects of Electric Heaters on Health

Heaters do more than just warm up a room—they can change it, too.

Sometimes, that cozy heat comes with less obvious side effects, like drying out the air from gas appliances, even without a flame.

Here’s a breakdown:

Electric Heaters Dry Out the Air

One thing I've noticed is that whenever I use my portable electric heater, my room can feel like a desert.

That dry air zaps all the moisture out, leaving me with dry skin and scratchy eyes.

On top of that, I'm also prone to headaches and have sinus issues (boo! I know).

The lack of fresh air can really mess with me, resulting in sinus congestion, which is pretty frustrating.[2]

For my friends who get asthma attacks, it's a real trigger. Keeping a humidifier on might just be the unsung hero during heater season.

Electric Heaters Can Melt Objects in Close Vicinity

Coming from experience, I remember that one time I nudged my heater too close to the curtains—a big mistake.

Heaters and flammable materials don't mix, and they sure don't have to be touching to cause trouble.

Flammable items like furniture and curtains can release nasty fumes if they get too hot, a slow burn that's bad news for your indoor air quality.

There are Contaminants in The Air

Here's something that many people aren’t aware of—those innocent-looking dust bunnies can become trouble when they meet a heater's coils.

Burnt-up pet hair and dust, especially in a workshop, cause a strong, unpleasant odor and aren't great for your lungs either.

Important Consideration

It's not just about heat; it's about keeping the air you breathe clean, too.

TL;DR: Dry air causing myriad of health conditions is one of the most common indirect effect of electric heaters. In addition to that, burning and melting of debris and material can disperse dangerous chemicals in the air.


Do Electric Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?

No, electric heaters themselves don't produce carbon monoxide and any toxic fumes because they run on electricity, NOT on fuel like natural gas, propane, or kerosene.

So, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from the heater alone is off the table.

However, here's a little story—once, I had mine too close to an old sweater and did it singe!

That's when I learned even without flames, combustion products can happen.

So, I can't stress this enough: keep the area around your heater clear and make sure your room is properly ventilated.

Even without the fuel-burning aspect, good ventilation is still the hero of the day.

If your setup includes other appliances that do burn fuel, that vent in your space isn't just nice to have; it's a must-have.

TL;DR: Electric heaters directly do not produce CO. However, burning or melting material in close vicinity can produce CO.

Mitigating Environmental Health Risks in Your Home

While electric space heaters themselves don’t produce carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, using them can pose potential environmental health risks in your home.[3]

When using heaters, especially in a large area, proper ventilation is key.

It's a big concern because, without it, even the air we breathe indoors can become stale or hazardous.


How To Use A Space Heater Safely And Correctly?

Using a space heater safely means being smart about where and how you use it. Back to the question, "Can electric heater make you sick?"

I'll emphasize it again. It can if you're not careful. So, here are my tips to ensure that you can an electric heater safely without potential risks to your health:

  • Keep your room heater on a non-flammable surface, well away from anything that could burn.
  • Ensure your heating system is serviced regularly for safe operation.
  • A convection heater is ideal for one-room use; just make sure there's some airflow.
  • Use heaters that automatically shut off to avoid overheating.
  • Regular checks, maintenance, and timely replacement of parts can prevent hazards.
  • Stay warm, but balance the heat with fresh air to avoid that stuffy feeling.
  • Keep heaters from running unsupervised for indoor use, especially in spaces used by children or pets.
  • To stay warm without drying out your warm room, monitor the humidity and consider a humidifier with a humidistat, especially during the winter.
  • Consider the layout of your house and ensure heaters aren't exposed to drafts that could reduce efficiency.
  • Keep wood and other flammable materials at a safe distance from any heat source.

TL;DR: While electric heaters are generally very safe to use. Observing precautions can further mitigate many risks involved.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

How Do You Tell If Your Heater is Making You Sick?

If you're getting headaches, feeling dizzy, or your nose is constantly irritated, or you generally feel sick when the heater's on, it might be the culprit. Unplug the heater and see if symptoms ease up.

Is It Safe to Sleep with an Electric Heater On?

Yes, it's generally safe if the heater is in good condition and temperatures are kept at a comfortable level. However, to avoid risks like burns or even death from fires, use a heater with an automatic shut-off feature and never leave it running unattended for long periods.

Is the Radiation from Heater Dangerous to Your Cells?

Electric heaters don't emit harmful radiation that can damage your cells. If your heater is causing complaints, it might be time to replace it or look into other causes.

Wrapping it Up

When used correctly, an electric space heater isn’t likely to make you sick. However, they can potentially lead to discomfort. 

So, just use them wisely—keep it well-maintained, don't overheat your space, and ensure good ventilation to prevent any health hiccups.

References: 

  1. https://www.epa.gov/asthma/asthma-triggers-gain-control
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9540829/
  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/55552/environmental-impacts-from-small-heating-systems
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Josh Mitchell

Founder

Josh Mitchell
My name is Josh and I am obsessed with home appliances. From portable AC units to heaters and air purifiers, I enjoy testing, learning and using these devices to improve the air quality inside my family home.

My Favorite Home Appliance?

Midea U Shaped Window Air Conditioner

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