Can You Use A Propane Heater in a Garage

Falling temperatures and surprise storms can leave a lot of people feeling the chill. It’s tempting to reach for the first thing that can offer temporary warmth such as a camping heater or portable propane heater especially if you’re affected by a sudden power outage.

Likewise, when you’re doing outdoor jobs and the bite of winter’s chill sets in, then asking ‘can you use a propane heater in a closed garage’ is a reasonable question, and probably the difference between being comfortable and cozy or suffering from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Here’s all you need to know to educate yourself on the different types of propane heaters and their appropriate use so you can keep safe and warm this winter. 

Using a Propane Heater Indoors

The number one rule for any propane heater or combustible is to use them safely and according to the manufacturer’s specifications. While you can use a propane heater indoors, it is vital to use one rated for indoor use and monitor it in case of failure. 

Indoor Propane Heater Vs. Outdoor Heater

Two of the primary classifications for heaters are indoor and outdoor. Indoor models are designed for safe use inside and equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) that shuts the heater off should the oxygen levels drop to an unsafe level.

Outdoor propane heaters do not come equipped with the same safety features and require adequate ventilation, or they become dangerous to use. 

Do Propane Heaters Need to be Vented?

When using an indoor propane heater you must ensure there is enough ventilation whilst in operation. This is to prevent them from using all of the available oxygen in a room. Failure to properly vent a propane heater can result in death from carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, which means accidental deaths can occur without warning. Keeping a carbon monoxide alarm or oxygen depletion sensor in your home and workspace can protect you against poorly ventilated propane heaters. 

How Do I Vent My Propane Heater in the Garage?

If you need to use a propane heater in your garage, there are some steps you can take to do so safely. Propane heaters can risk oxygen loss and risk of fire, especially if your garage chores include making sparks. 

Firstly, ensure that your model of propane heater is safe to use indoors. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for use for confirmation of this.

Once you are certain the heater is safe for indoor use, the heater will require a clear space that is level and free from debris that could catch fire. Quality heaters often come with oxygen depletion sensors, but it is a good idea to have one of your own in the space you use propane or other gases. 

Proper ventilation is easiest near a window or other outdoor access, so position your heater wisely. Some heaters will be powerful enough that you may need to open the garage door to be safe, while others will be fine with a window nearby. Again, the manufacturer’s instructions will provide guidance on where to safely position your heater and how much ventilation is required.

Some wall-mounted propane heating units house the propane and vent directly outside for safety. Read the specifications on the product to use your propane heater safely. 

Ventless Propane Heaters

Ventless propane heaters are room-heating devices that are designed to not require vented air from outside. They are equipped with additional safety features to monitor the oxygen levels in the room they are being used in so that oxygen remains at a stable level.

How do ventless propane heaters work?

Ventless propane heaters still require oxygen to produce heat, and they use the air in the room for that. Air that has been drawn from the room gets heated by combustion and then exhausted into the room. This warm air is then essentially ‘recycled’ by the ventless propane heater as the whole process starts again, this time with warmer air.

The design of ventless heaters makes them incredibly efficient appliances. However, they do rely heavily on the effectiveness of the unit’s oxygen depletion sensor. If this fails, then the unit cannot safely monitor the levels of oxygen in the room.

How Safe are Propane Ventless Heaters?

The dangers of ventless propane heaters vary depending on who you ask and in what state you live. States like California and Massachusetts do not allow the use of ventless gas heaters due to safety concerns. They argue that a well-sealed house can result in carbon monoxide poisoning if the propane-powered unit does not shut off due to a faulty ODS. 

Ventless gas heaters also create water vapor as a part of their exhaust. This vapor turns into humidity. Over a long period of time, increased humidity can cause mold or mildew if proper ventilation is not taking place. Mold or mildew is not only unsightly and costly to remove, the spores can cause respiratory health problems and allergic reactions for some people. 

How Long Can You Run a Propane Heater in a Garage?

The length of time you can run a propane heater in a garage depends directly on a few factors. Always consider the size of the garage, available ventilation, combustion capabilities of the heater, and any flammable or hazardous materials that are stored in the room.

For this reason, you should always carefully follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for use and keep heaters of any kind monitored, as even the best-made products can be subject to accidents or failures. 

Do Propane Heaters Need Electricity to Work

Depending on the model of propane heater you are working with, you may need electricity to make it work. Fan forced heating units do require power to run the fan with the propane gas itself providing only the source of heat. 

Many portable propane heaters use a battery or external lighter to ignite the burner or flame but heat through propane alone. In many situations, though, electricity is required unless explicitly stated otherwise. 

Risks and Dangers of Using Propane Heaters Indoors

No matter how safe you are with your propane heater, there are still risks that come with use. Flammability, fumes, oxygen loss, gas leaks, and moisture can cause problems if left unchecked. 

Propane Flammability

Propane is a flammable gas which means using it creates a risk of fire. Propane gas and vapor travels quickly and can easily find an ignition source. Oxidizing agents can increase the flammability of propane, so be aware of what chemicals you are storing together. 

Open flames and sparks pose a danger when combined with propane. If there is a leak in hoses or at connection points, propane can create a ratio to air content that will burn or combust with sparks or a flame. If your propane heater uses electricity and ignites a spark, this could create a deadly situation.  

Are Fumes from Propane Heater Dangerous

Without proper ventilation, the fumes from a propane heater can become dangerous for homeowners. Oxygen is needed to dissipate any propane fumes that may be omitted from your heater unit. Without oxygen, inhaled propane can have an asphyxiating effect on people and pets.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from a Propane Heater?

Where a heater does not completely combust all of the emitted propane, tiny particles of carbon monoxide can form. In order for these carbon monoxide particles to dissipate, sufficient ventilation in the space containing the propane heater is required. Failure to dissipate or detect these particles can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

If inhaled, carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas and can be deadly to humans and animals even after a short amount of exposure.

It prevents oxygen from being absorbed by the body and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include dizziness, nausea, headache, weakness, confusion, and sleepiness.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning open a window or evacuate into the open air immediately. Homes should also be fitted with carbon monoxide alarms that sound if levels of the gas are detected.

Tipping Heater Over – Top-Over Switch

Propane gas is stored in a canister at the base of the heater unit. As the propane gas gets used up this canister becomes lighter making it possible for the heater to become top-heavy and prone to falling over. Propane heaters run the risk of starting fires if they do topple over and then come into contact with flammable materials.

Many propane heaters on the market today are fitted with a safety feature known as a top-over switch. This becomes activated and automatically shuts the unit down if the heater accidentally tips over.

This safety feature also determines whether or not the unit is level. If the propane heater is not level the top-over switch will again be activated and will shut the unit down.

Gas Canister Leaks

Propane gas canisters need to be checked regularly for leaks and any leaks or damage to canisters should be fixed immediately. If you suspect a leak, open all windows and doors to thoroughly ventilate the area. In addition, clear the area of people and pets and contact the propane canister supplier or the emergency services.

Although propane gas is odorless a skunk-like smell is usually added to the gas to make it easier to detect and leakages or escaping gas. A carbon monoxide or propane detecter should be installed and checked regularly in the area you plan to use the unit.  

Suitably trained safety personnel may be able to detect the source of a small or slow leak by covering the threaded connections and valve system of the canister with a soapy liquid solution. The leak will cause bubbles as the propane is forced from the canister.

Make a special note of any place on the canister that looks like it has an oil stain.

Propane leaks can also show themselves through an oily residue that looks like an oil stain on the canister. Address any issues or concerns regarding suspected propane leaks immediately and never leave unattended. 

Do Propane Heaters Cause Moisture?

Propane heaters, like other gas-based heaters, can cause vapor further to the combustion process. If insufficiently ventilated this vapor can cause a rise in humidity and may stick around on windows or surfaces and allow mold and mildew to form.

Mold and mildew can cause health issues including respiratory problems and allergic reactions in humans.

Best Propane Heaters for Garage or Workshops

When purchasing a propane heater make sure it comes with detailed user instructions, a manufacturer’s warranty, and is fitted with safety features such as an oxygen depletion sensor and a top-over switch. Go for a brand that is trusted and credible and choose a unit that has plenty of positive reviews from consumers.

Do your research in advance by selecting a model that is suitable for your garage or workshop. I’ve set out below the different types of propane heaters that are currently available on the market.

Consider the space you have available to store the unit safely and away from any potential hazards and always ensure you have sufficient ventilation. In addition, get a carbon monoxide detector fitted in your garage or workshop.

Regardless of the type of heater you select, make sure that the ventilation follows proper safety standards and that you keep an oxygen depletion sensor active. Keep the heater on a level area and away from sparks or combustible materials. 

Forced Air Propane Heater

Forced air propane heaters work consists of an internal burner, a metal heat exchanger, a flue, and a blower. The propane gas is ignited which causes the temperature of the metal heat exchanger to rise. Heated air is then exhausted out of the flue and through the blower and out into the area you wish to keep warm.

Construction operations often use forced-air propane heaters. These units are portable and you can aim the heat output in the direction you need it. Many models come with overheating auto shut-off protection. 

Convection Propane Heater

Convection heaters utilize the natural phenomenon known as “convection.” The heated air inside a convector naturally rises and gets replaced by cool air. The process repeats and recycles until heated to the desired temperature. 

Portable convection propane heaters utilize airflow over a heated element. A convection propane heater is a powerful heater meant for large, open spaces. Convection heaters should have an auto-shut-off feature for both heat and gas in case of emergency. 

Wall-Mounted Propane Heater

There are propane heaters designed for mounting on the wall. It is essential to select a model with built-in safety features like an ODS that shuts down the heater if it detects a lack of oxygen. 

Thermostat-controlled units cycle through the burner to maintain the selected temperature. This cycle can help retain heat efficiency if properly used and also reduce the risk of oxygen loss. Thermostat-controlled units will require some form of power to maintain and operate. 

Solved: Can You Use A Propane Heater In A Garage

You can use a propane heater in a garage provided you select a make and model that is suitable for your requirements, it fits the space in which you want it to heat, it is equipped with safety features and you follow the recommendations for safety as laid out by the manufacturer.

Ventilation must be a top priority when using propane gas heater units. Make sure your heater is equipped with an oxygen detector sensor and a top-over switch so that it automatically shuts off in potentially dangerous situations. 

Installing the heater against non-combustible surfaces will also reduce the risk of fire. Most importantly, never leave your propane heater unattended, especially indoors. 

FAQs Can You Use A Propane Heater In A Garage

If you are still left wondering, here are some of the questions that I get asked most frequently when it comes to using propane heaters.