Safety Considerations When Using Kerosene Heaters

10/4/2002

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Winter is just around the corner and energy experts predict that the cost of natural gas and heating oil will substantially increase this year. Increased fuel prices may drive some homeowners to use supplemental heating to warm parts of their houses. Portable kerosene heaters have become a popular choice of supplemental heating over the years.

Kerosene heaters manufactured in recent years are generally safer, cleaner burning, and more efficient than those produced years ago, but operator errors such as using gasoline instead of kerosene, failure to provide adequate ventilation, fuel spills, etc. have resulted in home fires.

Before purchasing or using a kerosene heater, the Better Business Bureau urges consumers to learn the safety and maintenance procedures necessary to safely operate this type of heating unit.

  • Before you purchase a kerosene heater, make sure local building and fire codes permit use of the heater in residential structures.
  • Check with your insurance carrier to determine what impact the use of these heaters may have on your homeowner's policy.
  • Read, heed and follow the procedures and safety alerts in the owner's manual before you attempt to operate, service or perform maintenance on the unit.
  • Use only water-clear 1-K grade kerosene. Never use gasoline. 1-K grade kerosene should be purchased from a dealer who can certify that what is being sold is 1-K. Even small amounts of gasoline or other volatile fuels or solvents mixed with kerosene can substantially increase the risk of fire or an explosion.
  • Never refuel the heater inside the home. Fill the tank outdoors, away from combustible materials, and only after the heater has been turned off and allowed to cool. Do not refuel the heater when it is hot or in operation.
  • Be careful not to fill the fuel tank above the "full" mark. The space above the "full" mark is to allow the fuel to expand without causing leakage when the heater is operated.
  • Provide adequate ventilation. Adequate ventilation is necessary for safe operation of the kerosene heater. Burning kerosene consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and other gases. Ventilation must be provided to replace oxygen as well as to remove gases in order to prevent asphyxiation or respiratory problems.
  • Never let children operate or refuel the heater. Only an adult familiar with the operating and refueling procedures of the heater should be allowed to touch the heater.
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