The Dangers of Oil Filled Space Heaters

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Whether your central heating system fails to adequately heat your home, leaving those unexplained corners or rooms chilly at night, or you simply prefer them, space heaters are an effective method of heating. Space heaters can be electric, propane or fueled by kerosene, also known as coal oil. Space heaters filled with coal oil provide warmth, but they also have inherent dangers.

Indoor Pollution

Oil-filled space heaters emit pollution into the air inside your home. Most kerosene heaters are vent free, meaning they do not dispose of the potentially harmful vapors that come from the burning of the fuel through a flue. One of the most dangerous aspects of vent-free space heater pollution is the production of carbon monoxide. This gas is colorless and odorless and affects the level of oxygen in the air. The inhalation of carbon monoxide generated in an oil-filled space heater can lead to fatigue, dizziness and chest pain for people with heart disease. Headaches, drowsiness and nausea can result from prolonged exposure to the gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning can result when a person breathes enough of the gas to knock him out, which can potentially lead to death.


Oil-burning space heaters use an open flame to heat the room, making the devices a potential fire hazard. If you use a kerosene heater, check with your local fire department to find out if the heaters are legal to use in your area. Keeping these space heaters on a hard surface, off of rugs or carpet and away from curtains or other combustibles will reduce the chances of a fire. Use only the recommended fuel for the particular heater you are using. Most oil-burning space heaters recommend clear K-1 kerosene only. Using gasoline or overfilling can lead to fire or explosions.


Most oil-filled space heaters get hot externally as a way to radiate the heat they produce, which makes the heater extremely hot to the touch. The level of heat can easily cause severe burns by simply touching the surface. Keep children away from space heaters of all types, especially oil-burning units that produce extreme heat. One way to help decrease the chance of children or pets getting burned is to buy a space heater that has some type of guard around the heat source that is heat resistant, which may protect people or animals from the most severe burns.


Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan is a fiction writer and journalist. His writing has appeared for more than 15 years in many news publications including the "Tennesseean," the "Tampa Tribune," "West Hawaii Today," the "Honolulu Star Bulletin" and the "Dickson Herald," where he was sports editor. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University.