Electric heaters are a popular choice for home heating, but some people wonder whether they produce carbon monoxide, a toxic gas that can be deadly if inhaled in large quantities. In this article, we will explore whether electric heaters produce carbon monoxide and answer some common safety questions about space heaters.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when fuel is burned. It can come from a variety of sources, including cars, stoves, fireplaces, and space heaters.

Carbon monoxide can be deadly if inhaled in large quantities because it interferes with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, leading to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. In severe cases, it can cause unconsciousness and even death.

While electric heaters don’t produce carbon monoxide, they can be responsible for CO poisoning indirectly.” – BobVila.com

Do Electric Space Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?

The simple answer is no. Electric heaters do not burn fuel to produce heat, so they do not produce carbon monoxide or other toxic gases.

Instead, electric heaters use electricity to heat a coil or other heating element, which then radiates heat into the surrounding space.

A women sitting near an electric space heater, without worrying about Carbon monoxide emission.

Which Space Heaters Can Emit Carbon Monoxide?

Type of Space HeaterProduces Carbon Monoxide?
Electric Space HeaterNo
Gas Space HeaterYes
Propane Space HeaterYes
Kerosene Space HeaterYes
Oil Space HeaterNo
Pellet Space HeaterNo

While electric heaters do not emit carbon monoxide, other space heaters can. The most common type of space heater that produces carbon monoxide is a gas space heater.

Gas space heaters burn natural gas or propane to produce heat, which can create carbon monoxide if the combustion process is incomplete or there is inadequate ventilation.

Gas space heaters can produce carbon monoxide if the combustion process is not complete or if there is inadequate ventilation."

This is why it is essential to have a properly installed and maintained gas space heater, with regular inspections by a qualified technician, to ensure that it operates safely.

Oil-filled radiators are another type of space heater that some people worry may produce carbon monoxide. However, these heaters do not burn fuel to produce heat, so they do not produce carbon monoxide or other toxic gases.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on how much and how long the gas was in the body. At low to moderate levels, symptoms like headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and confusion can look like the flu. Other common symptoms include shortness of breath, blurred vision, chest pain, and losing consciousness. 

An infographic explaining various symptopms of Carbon Monoxide

Image source : Medical Centric

If you or someone else is having severe symptoms that could be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

How to Prevent Indoor Carbon Monoxide Buildup

To prevent indoor carbon monoxide buildup, it is essential to ensure that your space heater is properly installed, vented, and maintained. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Regularly vent your room: If you are using a fuel-burning space heater, make sure that the room is adequately ventilated to the outside. This means keeping a window or door open to provide fresh air and prevent carbon monoxide from building up.
  • Use fuel-burning space heaters only outdoors: If possible, it is best to use fuel-burning space heaters only outdoors, where there is ample ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
  • Check your space heater for toxic gases: Check your space heater regularly for any signs of toxic gas buildup, such as discoloration or odors. If you suspect that your heater may be emitting carbon monoxide, stop using it immediately and have it inspected by a qualified technician.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors: It is a good idea to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially in areas where you use space heaters. These detectors can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide and give you time to evacuate the area before it becomes dangerous.

Do I Need A Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Installing a carbon monoxide detector will only help you identify the levels of CO inside the room.

It will also indicate when to take necessary steps and control the levels of CO if they are building up. When the levels of CO are too high inside the room, the alarm will go off just like a smoke alarm does.

This will give you time to open up all the windows and allow for ventilation. Or you will have enough time to evacuate the room and get fresh air.

Carbon Monoxide is also highly flammable, so it is best to notify the fire services when your alarm goes off.

Any appliance that uses wood, fuel, propane, kerosene, or natural gas for heating will emit CO.

So, it is advised that you keep a Carbon Monoxide detector inside the house. An electric space heater does not generate carbon monoxide; thus, installing a sensor for it is unnecessary.

Are Space Heaters a Fire Hazard?

All space heaters have the potential to be a fire hazard if they are not used properly. However, there are steps that you can take to reduce the risk of fire when using a space heater:

  • Keep the heater away from flammable materials such as curtains, bedding, and furniture.
  • Please do not leave the heater unattended or use it while sleeping.
  • Do not use an extension cord or power strip with a space heater.
  • Ensure the heater is placed on a level surface and the cord is not frayed or damaged.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters to prevent burns or fires.
  • Always supervise the heater when it is turned on and in use.
  • Maintain a minimum 3-foot gap between the heater and other flammable objects to prevent fires.

What Safety Features Are Important in a Space Heater?

It is crucial to ensure that any heater you purchase carries a safety certification label from an independent testing organization, such as the UL mark, the ETL label from Intertek, or certification from CSA International.

These labels indicate that the heater has undergone rigorous testing and meets stringent safety standards.

It is also essential to choose a space heater with a heavy and sturdy base and a design that resists tipping over. A broad base and short design are generally safer than tall, slender models that could easily fall over if bumped.

Many space heaters also come equipped with tip detectors that shut off the heater if it tips over.

This is the best way to prevent the heater from igniting nearby materials in case of a tip-over, as cutting the power should allow the heater to cool off before a fire could start.

What’s the Safest Space Heater Option for Families With Children And Pets?

Safety should be the top priority when choosing a space heater for families with children and pets. Here are some features to look for in a safe space heater:

  1. Cool-to-the-touch housing: A space heater with cool-to-the-touch housing will not get hot outside, reducing the risk of burns if children or pets accidentally touch it.
  2. Tip-over protection: A space heater with tip-over protection will automatically shut off if it is tipped over, reducing the risk of fires or burns.
  3. Overheat protection: A space heater with overheat protection will shut off automatically if it overheats, reducing the risk of fires or burns.
  4. Infrared heating technology: Infrared heating technology heats objects in the room instead of the air, reducing the risk of burns or fires.
  5. Child lock: Some space heaters have a child lock feature that prevents children from accidentally turning them on or adjusting the settings.

Frequently Asked Questions