Stay Safe When Using Portable Heaters

Propane heaters outside restaurant

When using a portable heater, carefully follow these guidelines to help prevent a fire.

Use of Portable Heaters

Portable heaters are used extensively in the hospitality and construction industries allowing entertainment and work to continue during cold weather. They are also used to provide temporary heat in industrial, warehouse and mercantile buildings, where a permanent heating system is impractical or impaired.

Many serious fires have been caused by portable heaters that are carelessly placed or lack adequate safeguards. Clearance from combustible materials is critical. Care should be taken to ensure that winds cannot blow canvas, plastic or other combustible materials against heaters.

General Safeguards

  • Heaters can be fueled by oil, natural gas or Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). Gasoline should never be used as a heater fuel.
  • All units should have substantial bases to prevent tip over.
  • Tarpaulins, which are used to provide a temporary enclosure for heaters, should be made of fire-retardant materials.
  • Manufacturer’s specifications as to clearances from combustible materials must be strictly adhered to.
  • Units should be suitable for use on combustible floors.
  • Portable heaters should not be exposed to weather unless marked Suitable for Outdoor Use.
  • Adequate ventilation must be provided when portable heaters are used in small areas to avoid improper combustion, which can create a hazardous atmosphere for occupants.
  • If units are left on during nonworking hours, they should be checked at regular intervals.

Requirements for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Natural Gas-Fired Heaters

  • Units should be placed at least six feet away from any LPG containers.
  • Units should be provided with effective gas pilots to control main supply of gas.
  • Automatic shut off controls should be provided to interrupt fuel supply in the event of accidental flame failure or in case the unit is tipped over.
  • Hoses for LPG should be designed for a working pressure of 250 PSI and with a minimum burst pressure of 15,000 PSI. The length of the hose should be kept as short as practical, preferably no more than 10 feet.
  • Hoses should be protected by excess flow valves to control gas flow in case the hose ruptures.

Storage of LPG Within Special Buildings or Rooms

  • Quantities of LPG stored in special buildings or rooms should not exceed 10,000 lbs.
  • Walls, floors and ceilings of LPG storage rooms, within or adjacent to other parts of the buildings, should have at least a two-hour fire-resistance rating.
  • Each opening to the LPG storage room should be protected by a fire door having a 1 ½-hour rating.
  • Electrical equipment should be installed in accordance with Class I, Group D, Division 2, of the National Electrical Code.
  • Floors should not be below grade.
  • Adequate ventilation should be provided at floor and ceiling levels.
  • No open flames should be permitted in the storage room.

Requirements for Oil-Fired Heaters

  • Kerosene or #1 fuel oil should be used.
  • Continuous electrical spark ignition should be provided.
  • Units should be equipped with proper flame safeguards, fuel shut off and excess temperature limit control devices.

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