Informational Guide

Are Oil Filled Heaters Safe To Use?

Learn about the dangers of oil filled heaters and discover if they are safe to use in the home, bedroom and around babies.

by Josh M

When temperatures drop, oil heaters are one of the most popular ways to keep a home warm. Yet despite their widespread use, questions like “Are oil-filled heaters safe?” persist.

Just like any other heater, oil heaters must be used with caution. If you’re curious to learn about the dangers of oil heaters and how to use them safely, we recommend reading this guide.

Despite their name, oil heaters do not use oil as a fuel. Instead, the oil acts as a buffer while the heater pulls in cool air and pushes it out through oil-filled fins. As a result, the hot air rises and begins to heat the space.

Oil heaters are best for heating individual rooms. Warming a whole house can be expensive, but if you spend all your time in one or two rooms, using an oil heater in those spaces can help cut down on heating bills.

Oil Heater in the Living Room

Are Oil Filled Heaters Safe To Use?

The short answer is yes—as long as you understand how to use them and look for certain safety features.

First and foremost, oil heaters from reputable brands should have certifications to prove they are safe to use. Certifications can vary depending on the country, but some of the most common ones include:

Because these independent organizations rigorously audit products, you can feel confident that an oil heater with one (or more!) of these certifications is safe.

Are Oil-Filled Heaters Safe For Your Health?

Oil-filled heaters are perfectly safe for your health. Since no oil is burning, there is no concern about carbon monoxide, as with kerosene heaters.

Are Oil-Filled Radiators Safe For Babies?

Oil-filled radiators are not only considered one of the safest heater types for adults, but they are also one of the safest options for a baby’s room.

Can You Leave An Oil-filled Heater Running Overnight?

There is some debate about whether you can leave an oil heater on overnight. Some people say it’s fine, but most manufacturers recommend turning the heater off at night for maximum peace of mind.

Where Oil Filled Heaters are Used

Oil Heater Safety Features That You Should Look For

Aside from having a safety certification, here are some other oil heater safety features to ensure peace of mind in the winter.

  • Overheat Protection
    Overheat protection is exactly what it sounds like: this feature shuts the heater off automatically when it gets to a specific temperature. Overheat protection helps protect against severe burns and may reduce fire risk if something is accidentally put on the heater.
  • Anti-freezing Setting
    An anti-freeze setting has less to do with safety and more to do with convenience. Still, you should ensure your oil heater has this setting, as it keeps the oil inside the unit from freezing. Should the oil freeze, your heater will essentially be inoperable.
  • Tip-Over Switch
    A tip-over switch is critical if you live with pets or young children. If the heater gets knocked onto its side, the unit automatically turns itself off, which can save your floor from serious damage.
  • Covered Fins
    Covered fins are also essential if you live with pets or little ones. They eliminate one of the most significant downsides of oil heaters, which is the risk of burns due to exposed fins.

When Are Oil Heaters Dangerous?

With correct use, oil heaters are safe to use. But just like other appliances, misuse can be dangerous and cause damage to your home, such as burns or fires. While oil-filled radiator heaters can’t explode (a common worry), the oil inside them can be flammable. Of course the lifespan of oil filled heaters should also be considered which you can learn more in another post.

Here are some (uncommon) situations when an oil heater could be dangerous.

Off-gassing

New units may sometimes give off a strong chemical scent, known as off-gassing. These smells might be considered dangerous, which is why some people recommend turning on the heater in a room you’re not using until the smells have gone.

Poor Electrical Connections

An unlikely possibility is that of the device overheating because of poor electrical connections in the heater’s thermostat.

Use of Unsuitable Oil

Using the wrong type of oil, primarily oils with a low flash point, can also increase fire risk.

Safety Recommendations For Using Oil-Filled Heaters

Here are some recommendations to keep you and your family safe when using an oil-filled heater.

  • Always plug the heater into a wall socket. Some extension cords are unable to handle the radiator load, which may lead to overheating of the wires and a significant fire risk.
  • Place the heater on a flat, level surface to avoid it falling over and burning the floor.
  • Keep the unit at least three feet away from other objects, such as curtains, furniture, and doors.
  • Place your heater out of the way of foot traffic.

Learn more about Oil vs Electric heaters

Oil filled heater in bedroom

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Can oil heaters be used as the main heating system?

You would have to have a very small house to use oil heaters as the primary heating system. Otherwise, oil heaters work best in small to medium-sized rooms. People typically place them in living rooms and bedrooms.

Check other heating solution for small or apartment size rooms:

Best Heating Solution for Small Rooms
Best Heating solution for Apartments

Are oil heaters energy efficient?

Yes! They consume much less energy than central heating systems. Plus, instead of using energy to heat an entire room, the electricity only heats the oil. Once warm, the oil does the rest of the work.

For efficiency, check the most efficient heating system for homes.

Do oil heaters dry out air?

One advantage of oil heaters is that they are designed to maintain the airflow in a room. As such, humidity remains at its normal levels.

Where should you put an oil heater?

Knowing where to place an oil heater can help maintain a cozy room. The best place in any room is under the coldest window in the space or any place that might have drafts.

Conclusion

Nowadays, there is absolutely no reason to fear the supposed danger of oil-filled heaters. When used properly, they are convenient, safe, and cost-saving devices. They may take a bit longer to heat a room, but they offer a more comfortable heating experience.

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.

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