No question you can expand the use and enjoyment of your patio or deck with an LP patio heater. However, they generate high heat from gas, so are they safe?
It depends on what level of safety you are looking for. If you want guaranteed safety, do not buy an outdoor patio heater. Likewise, do not live in a home equipped with gas or electric heat, get rid of all appliances, and trade your car for a horse.
Guaranteed safety does not exist in anything, outdoor patio heaters and horses included. As with any appliance, machine or device, safety ultimately is determined by the way we use it. Common sense precautions, such as those presented here, will help ensure the safe enjoyment of this product for many years.
Most likely you will connect your LP (propane) heater to a 20lb propane cylinder, what most people use with their gas grill. Rest assured that propane tanks are virtually indestructible. You would have a very hard time blowing up a propane tank even if you tried.
More important for our discussion are the connections between the tank and heater, as well as the flame that is involved. Faulty connections can produce gas leaks, which are very dangerous, as are poorly managed flames from any source. A good idea is not to use a dented or rusted propane tank, or one with a damaged valve, collar or footing.
Should you smell gas, shut off the gas and extinguish the flame. If the odor continues, contact your gas supplier or fire department. They will be able to restore safety and peace of mind.
In addition to smell, there are effective ways to test for leaks, including brushing soapy water on all gas connections (with tank valve open). If this creates bubbles, you have a leak. Manufacturers may provide other testing guidelines, which you should follow.
It is a good bet they will not include using matches or lighters, or smoking and consuming adult beverages while checking for leaks. If unsure why that is, please obtain a restraining order from any gas heater, grill or appliance.
Generally, new patio heaters require some assembly. Although top manufacturers usually check factory connections for leaks, movement during shipping can loosen parts. To be safe, thoroughly check for leaks before firing up the unit and gathering everyone around.
Be sure to complete all assembly steps and not to force parts together. If assembling appliances is not your cup of tea, this would be a good time to offer a cup to someone who has the right skill set.
Outdoor patio heaters should not be used indoors, as every owner’s manual will state. Indoor fireplaces have chimneys for a reason. Burning anything requires proper ventilation, and patio heaters are not equipped with a chimney. Combustion of propane creates carbon monoxide, which, in enclosed areas, can kill you.
The importance of maintaining the manufacturer’s recommended clearance from combustible materials cannot be overstated. Generally, at least 3′ is needed. On patios and decks, this includes overhanging trees and shrubs, siding, children’s toys, paper plates, clothing….
Some materials require much more clearance, such as gasoline, paint and other flammable vapors and liquids.
The dome and burner of an outdoor patio heater are extremely hot during operation. The surface of a heater’s emitter can reach temperatures approaching 1600 degrees Fahrenheit.
Therefore, take special care with children and pets. Alert children and adults to the hazard of high temperature and demand they not touch or get close to the heater. Likewise, you should not try to move a patio heater when in use, and never leave a lit patio heater unattended.
Be sure to place your heater on a hard, level and stable surface and not to use it when winds exceed 10 mph. Although well-made units are equipped with an automatic tilt shut-off switch, it will not prevent injury should the heater land on someone. Also, extra wind may douse the flame and allow gas to escape.
Are propane patio heaters safe? Yes. Higher industry standards and expanded regulations have greatly enhanced the fundamental safety of outdoor patio heaters and propane usage. A better question is whether the person using these products is safety minded, which you are if you have read this far. For you, therefore, propane patio heaters are safe.