Unlike in Japan, where kerosene heaters are often primary heating appliances, they are widely used for a quick burst of extra heat in American households. As a result, they are not generally thought of as things that pose a danger as long as they are kept away from curtains and bedding. That, however, is a mistake because kerosene heaters pose significant dangers even when properly distanced from flammables.
Serious Dangers in Kerosene Heaters
Among those dangers are:
- a high fuel to air ratio when ignited
- strong fumes when filled
- release of all combustibles into the room
- health risks with inadequate ventilation
- open flame
- hot surfaces
Need we go on?
The use of kerosene heaters mandates the utmost caution when refilling, lighting, and operating them, regardless of where you live. They contain a flammable substance themselves, can ignite others, and require an open flame. Especially with children in the house, they need to be carefully placed and closely monitored.
You Might Ask Your Chimney Sweep
Obvious measures are called for by the dangers they present, but you could also ask your chimney sweep for advice and a quick check of your typical set-ups. Certified chimney sweeps are knowledgeable of clearances from flammables, among other things, so their input can be helpful. Still, a lot of things you can attend to regularly and by yourself, starting with providing a way out for carbon monoxide.
Windows should always be cracked when a kerosene heater is in use, unless the “heater” we are talking about comes with a flue that vents to the outdoors. There also needs to be proper ventilation when the heater is being refilled, and it needs to be kept well away from flammable household liquids. Some way of preventing children from coming too close to its hot surfaces is also called for, so maybe your chimney sweep will have some ideas about that too!