People have been killed or injured in their homes using gas and paraffin portable heaters. These accidents can be avoided.

Accidents most frequently occur as a result of gas leaking when people are assembling appliances or changing cylinders or cartridges. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is butane or propane stored as a liquid under pressure. A small leak can produce a large volume of highly flammable gas. The gas is heavier than air so that it collects near the floor or ground and can be ignited at a considerable distance from the source of the leak. If escaping gas is ignited in a room or other space there may be a fire and an explosion.

Every year over 100 people die and nearly 1,000 are injured in their homes as a result of fires caused by heating appliances. Many of these fires involve portable heaters. This section gives advice concerning portable equipment; many of the principles also apply to permanent installations.

Any type of portable heater can start a fire if it is misused. Make sure you read and understand the manufacturer's instructions before using one.

  • There are now many forms of powerful domestic heaters available which are fuelled by cylinders of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).
  • Buy a heater that carries the British Standard Institution (BSI) kitemark.
  • Ensure that the appliance is serviced regularly.
  • Change the cylinder in open air. If this is not possible, open windows and doors to increase ventilation.
  • Never change a cylinder on a stairway or other escape route.
  • Extinguish all sources of ignition, including cigarettes and pilot lights, and turn off other heaters and electrical appliances before changing the cylinder if it has to be done indoors.
  • Check that the valve on the empty cylinder is closed before disconnecting the heater. Do not turn on the valve of the new cylinder until the heater is securely connected.
  • Search for any suspected gas leak by brushing soapy water onto the flexible hose and fittings. If a leak is found, take the heater and cylinder into open air and do not use them until the faulty part has been replaced.
  • Store spare cylinders outside where possible. Never store them in basements, near drains, under the stairs or in a cupboard containing electric meters or equipment. Spare cylinder must be stored upright.
  • Buy a heater that carries the BSI kitemark. Never buy a second hand paraffin heater as they can be dangerous.
  • Use only premium grade paraffin and Never use other fuels.
  • Extinguish the heater and allow it to cool before refilling it. Wherever possible, refill the tank outside the building.
  • Fill the fuel container to just below the maximum level, to allow for expansion when the paraffin warms up.
  • Never allow paraffin to overflow or drip onto the floor. Clean up any spillage immediately.
  • Ensure the heater is standing level, preferably on a non combustible base, and is away from draughts before lighting it.
  • Keep spare fuel outside the home. No more than 23 litres (5 gallon), and preferably only 9 litres (2 gallon) should be kept. Spare fuel should be in purpose made containers and stored away from sources of heat.

In the event of a fire

  • Close the door to the room where the fire is burning.
  • Get your family and yourself to safety outside the building.
  • Call the Fire Brigade by dialling 999.

LPG and paraffin portable heaters are an expensive way to heat rooms.

They also a major cause of condensation so be sure the window is open a little. Remember that every gallon of paraffin burnt produces 10 pints of water.