As temperatures continue to plummet during winter in both the northern and southern hemispheres of the world, people have turned towards portable space heaters as a solution to provide some much-needed warmth.
Although years of innovation and technological development has birthed the creation of various space heaters for both indoor and outdoor use, one of the most popular choices of outdoor space heating includes patio heaters.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly is a patio heater?
Is It Safe to Use a Patio Heater Indoors?
Simply put: it is a flat no. A patio heater is strictly an outdoor heater and therefore meant for outdoor use only.
Although some sources might cite that certain types of patio heaters such as electrical or infrared patio heaters are safe enough to be used indoors, this is highly ill-advised.
Why you might ask?
All outdoor heaters have been designed and built specifically for outdoor use by making the freezing cold temperatures outdoors more bearable, so that you may enjoy spending time on your patio whilst being enveloped by a blanket of warmth and heat.
Since most patio heaters feature an ergonomic and slim design that is aesthetically pleasing on the eyes, many users, including yourself, might be easily confused over the actual specifications your patio heater tags along with, and how it should be properly used.
Indoor heaters are generally smaller, more portable and have been designed exclusively to produce a much lower level of heat as compared to outdoor heaters such as patio heaters.
This means your patio heater burns hotter and runs at a much higher temperature than the average space heater you might be using to keep your living room ensconced with some luxurious warmth.
Just because a patio heater is also a space heater, it should not be favored over any one of your other indoor heaters.
Space heaters, in general, are the leading cause of home fires stemming from malfunctioning heating devices across the United States.
Imagine putting a heater that runs a whole lot hotter than the usual space heater in your living quarters.
The risk of incurring a heater explosion or fire is doubled – or in some cases, tripled.
Worse, patio heaters that require gas or propane to run have also been associated with fatalities in the past due to misuse and toxic gas emissions.
The last thing you would want is for you or one of your loved ones to end up six feet under due to using the wrong space heater indoors.
What Are the Risks of Using Patio Heater Indoors?
The utilization of any device or appliance carries a certain amount of risk, especially when installed or used incorrectly.
A patio heater is subject to the same rule, and carries its own share of safety hazards and risks, should you choose to use it indoors. These risks are depicted below:
1. Inappropriate Design for Indoor Use
Most patio heaters are designed in such a way that renders them unsuitable for indoor use.
A patio heater generally features a slim, vertical design which can extend anywhere between 60” to 75” from the patio floor, depending on the brand and model.
Although most patio heaters come equipped with a wide, circular base to reduce the chances of the heater being tipped over, this does not make them immune to being accidentally knocked into and therefore falling over by accident.
Since nearly all patio heaters have a low center of gravity, this means that tipping over is most definitely a possibility, especially if you position them in a room full of crowded guests.
Falling over is only half the problem – in the case of propane-powered patio heaters, the fuel tank rests at the bottom of the heater and should it tip over, it might even begin leaking or worse, catch on fire and explode.
This makes patio heaters – especially ones that use a fuel source to work, extremely dangerous and hazardous to be used indoors.
2. Harmful Gas Emissions and Poisoning
If you have any wild plans on dragging your propane-based patio heater indoors to warm up that chilly living room you have, you might as well open up the door to a whole world full of harmful gases as well.
Unlike their electrical or infrared counterparts, which do not emit any toxic gases upon use, a patio heater that uses either propane or gas as a natural fuel source is a hallmark of trouble.
These type of patio heaters often emit carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide as their fuel source is being burnt and combusted inside the heater to produce heat.
In an open space like the outdoors, the carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide gas particles immediately disperse towards the sky and the chances of inhaling them are greatly reduced.
But in an enclosed space such as indoors, where all your windows and doors are kept sealed up and shut tight in an effort to buffer the cold from seeping in from the outside world, there is minimal fresh air circulation within your house.
As a result, you or anyone else confined inside your home will be constantly exposed to any of the gaseous waste emitted by your patio heater.
Worse still, you might be even poisoned by these gases if you inhale them continuously over a prolonged period of time and remain unaware about it.
Dubbed as the ‘silent killer’ since it is both colorless and odorless, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is not something you want to trifle with.
The quickest way to tell if you have indeed been poisoned is if you begin feeling unexplainably nauseous, dizzy, uncoordinated or even start vomiting.
If you leave your patio heater switched on in your bedroom all night and go to sleep, you might even go unconscious while being tucked under your covers and not wake up again.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is deadly because unlike most other gases, it has chalked up a fairly high fatality rate when inhaled for a long duration.
This is why it is important that you should never bring in any propane- or gas-based patio heaters to be used indoors at any cost – what more leave it turned on unsupervised.
3. Burn Risk
All patio heaters have been designed to burn hotter since they need to produce as much heat as possible to radiate warmth to a large surrounding area, which is an open space.
Unlike indoor heaters, which have been tailored exclusively to spot heat a particular room or enclosed area within a select range, a patio heater’s range is greatly amplified by the amount of heat they are able to generate.
This means that your patio heater will most likely have a very high surface temperature.
If you decide to use your patio heater indoors and have any little ones or pets lingering in the vicinity of the heater, you are silently inviting for an opportunity to visit the emergency room at the hospital.
Pets and young children have a tendency to brush a paw or wrap a sticky little hand around an object they deem as interesting or fascinating.
The sight of your patio heater standing tall and proud in your living room will most likely evoke their sense of curiosity, and the desire to touch to see what exactly it is.
With the incredibly hot surface of the patio heater presenting as an invitation to explore and ‘feel’, your little one or even precious pet will most likely sustain a nasty burn as a consequence of their inquisitiveness.
Sometimes, even you yourself or another adult might accidentally brush against the patio heater whilst walking past, and you could injure yourself.
The looming threat of incurring a painful burn is certainly a large safety risk that should not be ignored or taken lightly.
4. Fire Hazard
In the case of propane-based patio heaters, they most certainly present as a major fire hazard.
The fuel tank of the patio heater is full of highly pressurized fuel, which usually consists of either gas or propane.
Either one of these fuel sources are highly flammable and also combustible when it comes into contact with certain materials and liquids such as detergent, floor cleaners, carpets, rugs, bed sheets, and even curtains.
Basically, any type of cloth and paper, or even your polished hardwood floors are liable to go up in flames and cinders if the fuel leaks all over them.
Worse still, patio heaters may also explode if installed incorrectly or if the heater overheats.
Although it is sorely tempting to keep your bedroom ensconced by a cloud of heavenly heat, think about it for a minute.
Is it worth the risk of burning your whole house down for a few hours of warmth by dragging an outdoor heater indoors? Most certainly not!
All patio heaters regardless of size and shape can present as a fire hazard, just like any other space heater.
But unlike indoor heaters, the risk of a patio heater becoming a fire hazard is greatly amplified since most of these units contain raw fuel and has a higher chance of tipping over due to their slim design.
5. Possible Leakage of Fuel
Propane-based patio heaters are a magnet for trouble if you decide to use them indoors.
Although propane tanks are heavy duty and made to withstand tremendous amounts of damage, the thing of utmost concern is the possibility of a leak.
The leaks might not necessarily be from the tank itself, but rather from pinhole tears that occur along the tubes or connectors that supply the fuel reservoir.
If you are not one to err on the side of caution, you are essentially playing with fire.
While major fuel leaks might go noticed, it is the smaller leaks you have to keep an eye out for.
Even three droplets of fuel seeping into that plush wine red rug next to your heater are enough to make it catch on fire.
Combined with the heat that is constantly being radiated by your heater, a leakage can be deadly because propane is a highly flammable liquid by nature.
Anything it touches – especially materials made out of cotton and silk, can very easily burst into flames at any given moment. So instead of bringing in a patio heater into the comfort of your living room, you have essentially towed in a ticking time bomb.
6. No Appropriate Safety Features for Indoor Use
Most indoor space heaters come well-equipped with automatic built-in safety features like auto sensors and thermostats that monitor and detect a fluctuation in temperature in the device itself.
If the space heater overheats or malfunctions in any way, these sensors will immediately shut off the device to safeguard the internal components from possibly melting or charring further, or even prevent the heater from exploding or bursting into a fiery shower of plastic and mangled metal bits.
Your patio heater most likely does not come equipped with any of the safety features listed above.
Since the patio heater has been designed for outdoor use only, this type of space heater usually forgoes most automatic built-in safety features since it can be shut off easily.
In the event of an explosion or fire, the chances of the heater exerting any property damage are greatly minimized since it is located outside a building and not in it.
However, if you do decide to heft your patio heater indoors for a quick warm-up of your bedroom, you run the risk of endangering your life as well as the lives of the other people in your home.
True, some newer models of patio heaters may come with an assortment of safety features that can greatly reduce the risk of the heater from overheating or being enveloped by flames, but take a breath and pause.
Are you sure your patio heater truly has all these features? And if so, would you want to gamble your life on a device that may or may not fail on you, and turn your home into a heap of ashes?
How Does A Patio Heater work?
A patio heater is a type of outdoor radiant heater that emits heat to its surroundings and can provide enough thermal output to warm up a sizeable range of space, depending on the model and size of the heater being used.
Due to its unique shape and design, patio heaters are sometimes dubbed as ‘umbrella’ or ‘mushroom’ heaters since they often boast a slim, vertical build with a small ‘roof’ attached at the very top.
They are the prime candidate for warming up restaurants, coffee shops, and even bars since they can provide enough thermal energy to keep the patrons of these places warm and comfy throughout both day and night.
There are generally several different types of patio heaters such as the:
- Wall-Mounted Patio Heater
- Free-Standing Patio Heater
- Tabletop Patio Heater
As the name suggests, a wall-mounted patio heater is usually affixed to a wall or mounted on a solid structure.
This specific type of patio heater is perfect for radiating enough heat to warm up your entire patio.
Wall-mounted patio heaters usually come attached to sturdy mount brackets to prevent the heater from toppling over and becoming a safety risk.
They also come in two separate sub-types: electric or infrared.
Free-standing patio heaters are also dubbed as ‘floor’ patio heaters since they are positioned directly on the patio floor of a restaurant or café.
These heaters are one of the most sought-after patio heaters and incredibly ubiquitous.
However, they usually use a fuel source such as gas or propane, which makes them highly unsafe for indoor use.
Due to their large size and bulk, a free-standing patio heater is a convenient method of providing adequate heat to any of its users or surrounding objects located near the device.
The wide base also prevents this patio heater from tipping over easily and as long as you provide the device with an adequate fuel source, it should be able to operate smoothly without a hitch.
Tabletop patio heaters are usually the miniaturized version of a free-standing heater in terms of physical stature and design.
They may even give off the appearance of a small table lamp at a passing glance, but they require either electricity or a fuel source such as propane to run.
Most tabletop patio heaters are highly portable however and present the perfect solution for outdoor dining.
Thus, for the miscellany of reasons outlined above, it is not advisable for you to use your patio heater indoors, no matter how much you crave to crank up the heat in that freezing bedroom of your home.
Not only is a patio heater designed specifically for outdoor use, but it can be incredibly dangerous when used indoors, especially since propane- and gas-based patio heaters both present as a fire hazard and health risk due to the emission of toxic gases.
Therefore, it is best that you look into the various types of indoor space heaters available at your local store if you wish to keep your home warm and cozy throughout the cold seasons.
Remember, just because a patio heater is also a space heater, it does not necessarily mean they can be lugged indoors upon your whim. Always practice safety first, and be sure to switch off any of your space heaters while it is not in use!