Propane safety paramount as cold weather approaches
Mobile propane heater
North Carolina's Ag and Consumer Services department hopes residents will heed warnings about the potential risks of using propane and space heaters.
With winter weather fast approaching, paying special attention to how you keep your home heated is critical. Many people across North Carolina rely on propane to stay warm, but there are some general safety tips you should observe to say safe.
- NEVER use outdoor propane appliances indoors or in enclosed areas. This can result in carbon monoxide poisoning or death. These include outdoor portable heaters, barbecue grills, and portable generators. Only use appliances indoors that are designed and approved for indoor use.
- NEVER store or place a propane cylinder indoors or in an enclosed area such as a basement, garage, shed, or tent. Cylinders must be outdoors and supply the heater through a hose if it is a temporary setup, or through piping or tubing if it is a permanent setup.
- NEVER use a gas oven or range-top burners to provide space heating.
- DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TRY TO MODIFY OR REPAIR VALVES, REGULATORS, OR OTHER APPLIANCE PARTS.
- If melting snow or ice floods any part of your home or farm, NEVER turn on a light switch, use any power source, or inspect your household appliances while standing in water. This can result in electrocution.
- DO inspect chimneys, flue pipes, and vent connectors for damage, blockage, or debris.
- DO inspect your propane appliances for water or other damage, if it is safe to do so. If the appliances have electric components and have been exposed to water, they can create a fire hazard.
Space heaters usage increases during cold weather. While the tools can be helpful, there are also some rules you should follow when using one.
- Space heaters come in fixed-location and portable types. Also, some are for outdoor use only and some are for indoor use only. Read the container and instructions carefully to determine if the heater is appropriate for the use you intend.
- All combustion produces some amount of carbon monoxide, so be careful when using propane or kerosene space heaters indoors. NEVER use a space heater indoors if the unit is specified for outdoors. If you use a propane heater indoors in a tight or poorly ventilated location, you put yourself at risk of carbon monoxide buildup. Heaters specified for outdoor use will cause a more rapid build-up of carbon monoxide than one rated for indoor use.
- If you must use a space heater indoors, a carbon monoxide detector can help you avoid poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, scentless, tasteless gas that kills in high enough concentrations, so a detector is the best way to warn you when concentrations get too high.
- Space heaters can also cause suffocation when used indoors, as they use up oxygen to produce heat. Any heater used indoors should be equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor, which will shut the unit down before it uses too much of the oxygen. However, be warned that it will still generate a higher concentration of carbon monoxide as it decreases the oxygen level in the room.