Heating --- Be Careful of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning!
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless,
odorless and poisonous gas that can build up in your blood cells as you
breathe. It may reach toxic levels in minutes or over several hours.
Early symptoms of poisoning include dizziness, headache and/or nausea.
People who are sleeping are
likely to be more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning since they
will not recognize the symptoms. Just getting out in the open air
doesn’t eliminate carbon monoxide from your body. It takes 10 to 24
hours, so suffocation may even occur after you have left areas with high
levels of carbon monoxide.
All homes should have
battery-operated smoke and CO (carbon monoxide) detectors with alarms
installed. Check batteries regularly.
Warm in an Unheated House
Portable Kerosene Heaters
Preparedness Tips for Emergencies
Portable Kerosene Heaters, #9026
Small portable heaters can provide localized or emergency
heat for homes, cottages and service buildings. Kerosene heaters require good judgment
and safety practices. This publication answers typical questions about kerosene
heaters, lists positive and negative aspects, and suggests practices to follow
when using a portable unvented heater.
What are the hazards of using these
heaters in homes?
This type of heater produces an open flame in a confined
area, which creates three recognized hazards. It:
- lowers the quality of the air you breath by reducing
available life-sustaining oxygen and increasing poisonous carbon monoxide;
- increases the risk of burns from direct contact or from
ignition of aerosol sprays, lacquers, or other flammable gases; and
- increases the risk of fire.
Do I really have to have an open
window or keep a door ajar to use these heaters safely?
Yes, you really should provide outside air. According to
the Canadian Standards Association, ventilation should be four times greater per
1,000 Btu/hr for unvented heaters than for vented heaters. Furnaces connected to
chimney flue draw outside air into the house (by infiltration) as air moves up
the chimney. Unvented heaters do not. Providing outside ventilation is a reason
for concern since we try to make our homes airtight.
Opening a door to an adjacent room may not provide enough
ventilation in an airtight house with very low air exchange rates. This could
result in dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) and other by-products of
combustion. Battery-operated CO detectors with alarms will alert you to
dangerous levels of CO, and should be installed in any enclosed area where a
kerosene heater is being operated.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and poisonous gas
that can build up in your blood cells as you breathe. It may reach toxic levels
in minutes or over several hours. Early symptoms of poisoning include dizziness,
headache and/or nausea.
People who are sleeping are likely to be more susceptible
to carbon monoxide poisoning since they will not recognize the symptoms. Just
getting out in the open air doesn’t eliminate carbon monoxide from your body.
It takes 10 to 24 hours, so suffocation may even occur after you have left areas
with high levels of carbon monoxide.
If I store fuel in an unheated area,
such as a garage, will this create a problem?
Yes, it can. As the fuel warms, it expands. Since it has
nowhere to go, excess fuel is pushed into the burn chamber. This can create a
flame larger than the unit can contain and result in a house fire. Remember,
when refueling, do not fill the heater’s fuel tank completely since cold
kerosene expands as it warms.
Guidelines for Choosing Portable
When selecting a portable kerosene heater, here are some
- Be sure the heater design will not allow flooding of
the burner. Models with a wick meet this requirement.
- Ask your dealer to demonstrate what happens if the
heater is jarred or tipped over. Heaters suitable for home use should have a
safety shut-off device that automatically snuffs out the flame if the heater
is tipped. No significant amount of kerosene should spill if the heater is
laid on its side.
- The heater should have a low center of gravity to make
accidental tipovers unlikely.
- Check construction for durability. The heater should be
made of heavy-gauge steel and have such features as double walls for
protective grills to guard against contact burns.
- The fuel feed should be located below the burner. The
fuel should be contained in a sturdy tank that will not shatter and spill
fuel if dropped.
- A fuel gauge should be provided to prevent overfilling
or unnecessary refilling. A siphon pump provided with a kerosene heater will
help prevent accidental refueling spills.
- Check for a push-button lighting device that eliminates
the need for matches.
- Burner design should provide such complete and
efficient combustion that there should be no detectable odor or smoke during
- Have your dealer demonstrate lighting and operating
- Approval by a recognized testing laboratory, such as
Underwriters Laboratories, can provide additional assurance that the heater
has performed well under their test conditions and meets some safety
- Check manufacturer’s literature for BTU ratings of
various models. Discuss with your dealer the appropriate size unit for the
area you wish to heat.
- Check local codes for permitted uses.
Using a Kerosene Heater
- Use only those heaters that have "Underwriters
Laboratories listed" (U.L. listed) on the nameplates.
- Read manufacturer’s instruction booklet carefully and
follow directions for operation and maintenance. Read and heed warning decal
messages, typically placed on the back of the heater.
- Open a window to provide ventilation when a portable
kerosene heater is in use.
- Use "clear white," l-k grade, kerosene only.
Never substitute fuel oils, diesel, any type of gasoline, or yellow
- Install smoke detectors and residential CO detectors in
- Always refuel the heater outside with the unit off. Do
it in an area where small spills can be quickly cleaned up. Avoid carpets or
vinyl surfaces. Carpets absorb odor, and vinyl will deteriorate from spills.
Never refuel inside or while heater is in operation.
- Place heater away from curtains, drapes, bedding,
books, papers, furniture or other flammable material.
- Prevent children from coming in contact with the heater
by instructing and/or by guarding it with a barrier. Do not use in areas
where dogs or other pets could tip the unit over.
- Inspect the heater for leaks and access carbon every
time you refuel. Clean and maintain according to the manufacturer’s
- When turning heater off, be sure flame goes out.
- Do not use hairspray and other flammable aerosol
sprays, lacquers, and flammable liquids in an area where these heaters are
used. Kerosene heaters, water heaters, and similar units will ignite
- Store kerosene in a tool shed or other out building in
an area away from open flames or spark ignition points. Never store kerosene
in a home basement.
- When refueling, do not fill the heater’s fuel tank
completely since cold kerosene expands as it warms. Follow the
manufacturer’s instructions regarding the length of time the refueled tank
should stand at room temperature before the heater is used.
Warm in an Unheated House, #9022
During severe winter storms, your home heating system
could be inoperative for as long as several days. To minimize discomfort and
possible health problems during this time, conserve body heat by dressing
warmly; find or improvise an alternative heat source, such as a fireplace or
electric space heater; confine heating to a single room; and keep safety a
foremost consideration. While chances of freezing to death in your home are
small, there's a greater danger of death by fire, lack of oxygen or carbon
Think "Safety First"
Safety is critical in a heating emergency. Follow these
- Do not burn anything larger than candles inside your
home without providing good ventilation to the outside.
- Any type of heater (except electric) should be vented.
Connect the stove pipe to a chimney flue if at all possible. (Many older
homes have capped pipe thimbles in rooms once heated by stoves.) Or hook up
your stove to the flue entrance of the non-functioning furnace pipe. If no
other alternative exists consider extending a stove pipe through a window.
Replace the window glass with a metal sheet and run the temporary stove pipe
through the metal.
- If you chose a catalytic or unvented heater,
cross-ventilate: open a window an inch on each side of the room. It is
better to let in some cold air than to run the risk of carbon monoxide
- Do not use a gas or electric oven or surface units for
heating. A gas oven may go out or not burn well, leading to carbon monoxide
poisoning. An electric oven is not designed for space heating.
- Do not burn outdoor barbecue materials such as charcoal
briquettes inside — even in a fireplace.
- Do not try to use bottled gas in natural gas appliances
unless you have converted the appliances for such use. Also, flues and
piping made for gas-burning appliances may be unsafe for use with
higher-temperature oil, coal or wood smoke.
- Have one person watch for fire whenever an alternative
heat source is used. One person should also stay awake to watch for fire and
make sure ventilation is OK. If you feel drowsy or have a headache, it may
be a sign of poor ventilation.
- All homes should have battery-operated smoke and CO
(carbon monoxide) detectors with alarms installed. Check batteries
- Keep firefighting materials on-hand. These include: dry
powder fire extinguishers, a tarp or heavy blanket, sand, salt, baking soda
Conserve Body Heat
Put on extra clothing. If cold is severe, your bed may be
the warmest place. Use extra blankets and coverings to trap body heat; this is
an especially good way to keep children warm. Farm families might consider
taking refuge in a warm livestock barn.
Find or Improvise an Alternative Heat
You may have alternative heating resources around your
home. Possibilities include:
- fireplace, space heater, catalytic camp stove
- gas-fired hot water heater
Make sure you have a backup plan if you can’t find a
safe way to stay warm. Staying with relatives or going to a designated shelter
might be an option.
Some common materials that could be used for fuel include:
- firewood, newspapers, magazines
- woodchips, straw, corncobs
You can burn coal in a fireplace or stove if you make a
grate to hold it, and allow air to circulate underneath. "Hardware
cloth" screening placed on a standard wood grate will keep coal from
falling through. Tightly rolled newspapers and magazines can be used as paper
"logs." Stack them as you would firewood to allow for air circulation.
If the heating situation becomes critical, consider burning wood, including
lumber and furniture.
Select a Room to be Heated
Close off all rooms except the one to be heated. When
choosing a room, consider the following:
- If you’re using a vented stove or space heater,
select a room with a stove or chimney flue.
- Confine emergency heat to a small area.
- Choose a room on the "warm" side of the
house, away from prevailing winds. Avoid rooms with large windows or
uninsulated walls. Interior bathrooms probably have the lowest air leakage
and heat loss. Your basement may be a warm place in cold weather because the
earth acts as insulation and cuts heat loss.
- Isolate the room from the rest of the house by keeping
doors closed, hanging bedding or heavy drapes over doorways, or putting up
temporary partitions of cardboard or plywood.
Preparedness Tips for Emergencies
to Cojoweb.com - Main Page
Back to Samples Page