Visit our online library to view our full suite of Community Safety Literature.
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.
- Turn off portable heaters before going to bed.
- Always follow the manufacturer's operating and maintenance instructions.
- Keep the heater clean and well maintained.
- Ventilate the room in which the heater is being used.
- Make sure that a permanent safety guard is fitted.
- If a heater is to be used in one place for a long time fix it securely to a floor or wall.
- Move a heater while it is alight or switched on;
- Stand or sit too close, your clothing may ignite;
- Place a heater too close to furniture, bedding or curtains;
- Air or dry clothes over a heater;
- Place heaters where they are likely to be knocked over;
- Leave a portable heater on if young children or animals are left unattended;
- Use flammable adhesives, cleaning fluids or aerosol sprays near a heater.
- 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.