There’s a lot of confusion these days about whether electric space heaters produce carbon monoxide.
And if some don’t, which ones do?
The quick answer is no.
Electric space heaters do not produce carbon monoxide.
This article will dig into why electric space heaters don’t produce carbon monoxide, then provide a list of the type that does and why.
Why Don’t Electric Space Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?
First, carbon monoxide is formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels.
The amount of carbon dioxide produced depends upon the carbon content of individual fuels.
Any of the following will produce carbon dioxide emissions in varying amounts.
- Natural gas
There are many more, but chances are you will not be using them as a home heating fuel.
And depending on where you live, it’s doubtful you’re using coal.
Since electric space heaters don’t use any fuel, they can’t produce carbon monoxide.
Vented vs Unvented Gas Space Heaters
One of the most common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home is due to unvented space heaters during the colder months.
Since pollutants aren’t vented outdoors, the gases produced during the combustion stage are released inside, robbing the room of oxygen.
While vented space heaters that use kerosene or natural gas are popular, many unvented heating forms are still available.
There are some advantages to gas or propane space heaters, so if they are your preference, be sure to get a vented model.
Additionally, look for models with oxygen sensors that will turn the heater off if and when oxygen levels fall below a certain point.
So again, electric space heaters don’t produce carbon monoxide, nor do they cause CO2 poisoning.
Does a Wood Burning Stove Produce Carbon Monoxide?
Interested in another form of heating that doesn’t produce carbon monoxide?
Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces conjure up cozy pictures of cold winter evenings, but how safe are they?
The good news is that wood burning is almost carbon neutral—meaning it has close to net-zero carbon dioxide emissions.
The amount of CO2 that wood releases while burning are about the same as what would be released as it lay rotting on the forest floor.
Having said that, if you consider buying a wood-burning stove, it’s still advisable to be vented.
And there are some claims that some stoves burn much cleaner than others.
The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide, known as the silent killer, has no taste, color, or smell.
The only way to identify it is with a CO2 detector.
Depending on where you live, it may be illegal to live in a home without smoke and CO2 detectors.
When breathed in, carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in the blood, depriving the heart, brain, and other organs.
If you breathe in large enough amounts, it can only take a minute before you lose consciousness and suffocate.
Minute amounts can be just as dangerous over more extended periods.
Any home that uses an appliance that emits carbon monoxide should be appropriately vented.
Whether it’s the gas range in your kitchen, your gas fireplace, or your gas space heater.
Never sleep with a fuel-filled space heater running.
Some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Chest pains
- Sudden sleepiness
How Safe Are Electric Heaters?
Now that we’ve ruled out the myth that electric space heaters produce carbon monoxide, should you assume they’re perfectly safe?
Lower Indoor Humidity
One of the biggest problems with all space heaters, whether gas or electric, is that they tend to dry out the air.
A significant drop in indoor humidity harms your health in several ways.
A lack of indoor humidity can cause any of the following.
- Dry, flaky skin
- Dry, itchy eyes
- The mucous membrane that lines your respiratory tract may become inflamed and increase your risk of colds, the flu, and a variety of other infections
- Viruses tend to linger longer in dry air
- Some suggest that dry air can negatively impact performance and productivity
Dehydration and Oxygen Depletion
On top of that, when there is low humidity inside, running any space heater for extended periods reduces oxygen levels and humidity to the point where it dehydrates your body.
The body loses fluid when the air is warm and dry, and the relative humidity is low.
This can lead to headaches and the issues mentioned above, such as dry eyes and nasal blockage.
Do Electric Heaters Produce Radiation?
This question stems from the fact that some space heaters are known as radiant heaters.
While radiant heaters emit radiation, it’s much different from the type of radiation found in x-ray machines or microwaves.
Some feel that radiant heaters are similar to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and are damaging to the skin, but this is not the case.
Infrared or radiant rays are responsible for the heat we feel on our skin.
This is called far infrared rays (infrared-C radiation).
The danger is mainly limited to extended, intense exposure that may cause harm to the eyes.
However, this would be extremely rare in a home setting and much more likely to happen in an industrial environment, such as glassblowing or metal welding.
Is It Safe to Leave an Electric Heater on Overnight?
Most users’ manuals stipulate that you shouldn’t leave a space heater unattended, and this could include while you are asleep.
So they should be turned off if you’re not in the room or away from home.
Check your manual for guidelines on the acceptable time for leaving your space heater on.
Can Electric Space Heaters Cause Fires?
Many space heaters, electric or otherwise, have emergency shut-off features that will power them down if they begin to overheat.
Still, a space heater can cause a fire in certain circumstances.
User manuals will stipulate the required distance to place your heater away from furniture, window coverings, and other flammable items.
It’s also not advisable to lay anything on top of your heater when it’s running.
Fires can also be caused due to wiring issues, so pay attention to frayed or damaged power cords or problematic outlets.
So, while electric space heaters can cause fires, they don’t cause fires because of having a combustible fuel source.
We’ve established that an electric space heater doesn’t produce carbon monoxide.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t safety precautions to be concerned with.
Even when using an electric heater, pay attention to your indoor humidity and never place your heater too close to walls, furniture, or draperies.
Finally, never leave your space heater unattended.
Whether you’re sleeping or planning to be away from home for a few hours, turn it off.