There are several aspects of safety with regards to all heating appliances, especially the smaller portable units that are fuelled by combustible gases such as propane.
This article published here contains information covering the safety aspects of using all kinds of heating equipment and appliances in the home and at work.
How Safe Are You?
When using a portable heater that uses a combustible gas such as propane as its fuel, a minute amount of two potentially poisonous gases are produced by the combustion process. These gases are carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.
The former can be fatal when a certain level is absorbed by the human body, while the latter causes highly dangerous respiratory problems that can also lead to death if not treated right away.
It is for this reason that whenever one of these devices is used to provide supplementary warmth in a room, that room must be adequately ventilated to allow these gases to escape and prevent their build-up over time.
First Hand Experience
The author herself was once in this very situation and could well have not survived to tell the tale had she not recognised there was a problem and dealt with it before becoming so drowsy she and the other occupants of the room may have fallen into a sleep that they may never have awoken from. Here is her story:
"A group of us were relaxing on a sofa and some chairs watching TV on a particularly cold evening at a friend's house. The host decided to fire up her propane heater to make the room more comfortable and we all thought it was a great idea since we were all shivering!"
"The windows were closed. So was the door to keep the heat in the room and no one realized there was any danger. After about an hour or so, I was feeling quite relaxed and it looked like the others in the room were too as no one was talking while we all watched a silly movie."
"It was then I started to notice the TV getting blurry and I was getting a headache, but a real bad one. I looked over and saw a couple of the girls had their eyes closed and looked like they were asleep. It felt all wrong to me."
"I felt the need to get up and let some air into the room because it felt stuffy and I was not feeling good at all. It took a lot of effort to force myself to stand as my arms and legs didn't want to move and I couldn't even talk. It was like I had been drugged."
"I managed to get up and stagger to the door to open it and as the rush of fresh cool air hit me, I felt like I wanted to throw up. I made it to the bathroom and did exactly that! I felt weak and groggy, but managed to get back into the room and open a window to let more fresh air in."
"I tried to wake the two girls that were sleeping but they wouldn't come to, so I called 911 and got an ambulance to call. We were all very lucky as the paramedics told me we had all suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning but my timely action had minimized the physical damage and probably saved all of our lives."
Don't Be a Victim
There are dozens of instances of people actually dying each year from becoming overcome by carbon monoxide in tightly closed rooms being heated by an unvented propane heater. These are senseless deaths and totally preventable by simply cracking open a window and leaving the door ajar.
These heaters are generally safe to use as long as you keep the room adequately ventilated. That doesn't mean you have to have a window wide open to let out all the heat.
Just a crack is enough to create a cross draft to carry the low levels of carbon monoxide out of the room and prevent levels building up. The amount of CO modern gas heaters emit is so low they pass health regulations just fine. Problems arise when this gas has a chance to build up by not being allowed to pass out of the room.
So the message is stay safe and treat your heater with the respect it deserves, keep it clean and well maintained and it will provide you with great service throughout its useful life.