Patio Heater Safety Tips: What You Need to Know
When you are utilizing your awesome deck, garden, or patio setup and the temperatures are dropping; what are the main safety factors that are needed to be known to stay outside safe and enjoyable.
The 6 Things You Need to be Conscious of with Patio Heaters
- Proximity & Clearances
- Gas Leaks
- Anti tipping
- Cords & Water & Trip hazards
So what do we mean, well, below we will dig in a little deeper and elaborate on each area.
Since patio heaters run on electricity, natural gas and or propane, all these sources of fuel come accompanied by their own respective safety risks. With proper handling and appropriate safety measures, the risk attached to using a patio heater can be minimized to "nilch" or even "nada".
Here is where we dig into the patio heater safety tips that you can follow to make your experience risk-free, comfortable and enjoyable.
Keep Heater Away From Combustibles
I will say most of us have the brain power for this safety tip. LOL, yes, we should not store the spare propane tank under or near the lit heater for example.
The first thing that every patio heater user should be mindful of is the placement of the heater. While the possible placements of the patio heater are virtually endless, the safety perspective should never be lost in deciding the right position for your heater though.
If you are the user of a standing heater, make sure it’s placed at least 3 feet away at the base from any combustibles. Anything that can catch fire is a combustible.
Of course, gas , or electric heaters can ignite flammable objects if too close, so this fits any type you may have.
Helpful tip: You can use an infrared temperature meter to ascertain an exact Go-No-Go approach to "too" close for combustibles.
I already had one, and may can be picked up locally, however, I like using it, just checking the vinyl siding temp, and maybe a wood railing when setting up in a new location. Here is one like I use available on Amazon.
The infrared laser temperature thermometer is helpful to determine if anything is getting hot enough to worry about. Temps nearing 150F (65C), that is where paper type products start to discolor. Also, let's take vinyl siding and check when it is nearing 100F (38C).
Required Clearance Around the Heater
Usually, the user manual that comes with every heater tells you about the required clearance for your patio heater. In the absence of a manual, however, the ideal clearance around a patio heater is 30 inches away from any combustibles in the case of 35,000 to 50,000 BTU heaters.
Whereas, at least 24 inches of clearance to combustibles is required in case of 10,000 to 35,000 BTU heaters on all sides of the reflector and emitter screen.
Put Propane Tank far Away From the Heat Source
If your patio heater runs on gas, make sure that the propane tank is placed where it was designed for, or as far away from the heat source as you can possibly can ensure. If you suspect a gas leak, immediately turn the heater off.
Ventilation, Outdoor Heaters are for Outdoors
Use your outdoor propane heaters in outdoor settings only (it says it in the manual.) If you try and use a patio heater inside, exercise extreme caution and make sure of proper ventilation.
in a garage area for example, leave the garage door up some or the whole way. A safe number is 1 square foot per 1000 BTU.
So, if we use the garage example, and we have a 9ft wide garage door in the garage. Also, we are using a 40,000 BTU Heater; I would keep the garage door open about 5 feet.
Heaters in and around a tent or small cabin. If there is no vent, just use an electric heater.
The same goes for camping. Keep the heater away from the tent. If it’s a small tent, make sure your heater’s height is small. If you use a tall outdoor heater in a small camp or tent, the heat source that lies on top of the heater may heat up the fabric excessively and melt or catch fire.
Gas Heaters, Check for Leaks
Whenever you connect your heater to its fuel supply, make sure you check all the connection points and hoses for any signs of damage or leak. If you detect a gas leak anywhere or smell gas, turn off the supply to the heater.
A great way to check for leaks is: a spray bottle and some soapy water. Apply a generous amount of soapy water to the connections points and blemishes on hoses. Now, turn the gas supply make on and look for bubbles.
If at any point you notice bubbles, that’s where the leak is coming from. Large leaks may not bubble, but you should be able to smell and hear bigger leaks. Big leaks may ice up on a propane system.
Here are spray bottles to check out at Amazon.
Propane Patio Heater Tip Over's
Most patio heaters are made with anti tip safety mechanisms on them anymore. If wind or horseplay knocks over a lit patio heater the safety valve trips and shuts off the gas supply.
Well, this is great, but what if Aunt Edna was sitting under it? This is why it is great practice to anchor them down, when possible.
Most propane tower types are designed to accept extra ballast weight. You can use sand or water. We actually recommend safe RV antifreeze as a ballast. To learn more about our ballast technique click here.
Electric Infrared Heaters, Cord Issues
Well, sometimes something temporary is fine and dandy. Although, if you are using lets say an electric Infrared heater like under a gazebo; how are the cords ran?
Cords can be a trip hazard, running a longer cord can have amp draw problems too. If you are able to, just run an extra 20A breaker to the gazebo using outdoor wire rates 12 gauge wire GFI receptacle if needed.
If cords are your only option, make sure they are rated for the amperage of your heaters. If your heater is rated in Watts, you can use the Rule-of-thumb. It is 1 Amp per 100 Watts.
Example: is a 1500 watt infrared heater, like this one at Amazon, So, on high it draws 1500W, rule of thumb is 15A. 14 gauge wire is rated for 15 amps, however your gazebo is 100 feet away.
You would need a 12 gauge extension cord to carry 15Amps safety over time and that distance. Here is a good extension cord to handle 15 Amps that is 100 feet long on Amazon.
Leaving Cords Plugged in During Rain
This may not be a problem, but I like to be on the safe side. Just take some plastic bags, or shrink wrap and deter the water from accumulating around the plug areas.
You can use household products. The trick is to keep the plugs dry.
Trip Hazards with Cords
This is kind of obvious, you can use tape or carpets to keep the cords concealed and away from feet.
If it is a longer term setup, you may want to invest in the rubberized cord concealer that fastens down to your deck or patio. Here is the extension cord concealer I have used before, it was fairly simple, although you should unpack it and let it get flat prior to trying to use it.
Other Patio Heater Safety Tips
When you are about to light up your heater, make sure you follow the below-mentioned tips:
- Before you light up the heater, move it to the place you want it to be. Moving a lit heater can be dangerous and may expose you to the risk of catching fire.
- When the heater is lit, keep all the flammable objects as far away from the heater as you can.
- Keep your heater away from live plants. About 6ft (2 meters) should protect and keep your plant safe.
- If the heat source on your heater is at an average height, where a child or pet can easily gain access, adjust the height or location where the kids or pets can’t reach it.
- If you detect or smell a gas leak, immediately turn the heater off and the fuel source off.
- Don’t sit too close to the heater.
- Never use a gas heater for the purpose of drying clothes or shoes etc.
- Never use an aerosol near a heater, especially a lit gas heater.
- Never use a patio heater anywhere near towels or any other fabric or object which can fall over the heater and catch fire.
- As a propane tank empties it gets lighter allowing the heater to tip easier.