Propane space heaters have grown in popularity in recent years because they offer high-energy efficiency and fuel savings. Today the Texas Railroad Commission-the agency in charge of propane safety in Texas-urged consumers to make sure their heaters are properly installed and operating safely this winter.
There are two types of propane space heaters: direct-vent and vent-free.
"Direct-vent heaters need outside air to support combustion," Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams said. "They are typically installed on outside walls. That means someone needs to check that outside vent to make sure it is free of any debris."
"Vent-free space heaters support combustion by using inside air," said Commissioner Victor Carrillo. "Vent-free heaters vent directly into the room they are warming," Carrillo said. "Newer types of vent-free space heaters must be equipped with an oxygen-depletion sensor, which automatically turns off the unit if oxygen levels in the room drop below a specified level. Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using a vent-free space heater. This helps promote proper combustion."
"A good guideline is to place both types of heaters at least three feet away from combustible materials such as bedding, furniture and curtains," said Commissioner Elizabeth Jones. "Remember to turn the space heater off if you leave the area, and have your space heater checked periodically. Your propane supplier can send a trained technician to inspect the unit, clean the control compartments and burner, and make sure everything is working properly."
The Railroad Commission urges homeowners to become familiar with the "rotten egg" odorant that has been added to propane gas for easy identification. If you do smell gas, whether the heater is operating or not, follow these steps:
1. Do not touch any electric switches, light matches or use the phone as this may ignite leaking propane.
2. Exit the structure immediately.
3. If there is an outside propane tank, turn off the gas supply valve.
4. From a neighbor’s phone, call your propane supplier or fire department.
The Commission also suggests that homeowners who fuel furnaces and appliances with propane consider putting their propane delivery accounts on "automatic," to make sure they will have enough gas no matter how cold the weather or how treacherous the road conditions for propane delivery trucks.
For more information on how to stay warm safely with propane this winter, call toll-free (800) 64-CLEAR (800-642-5327) or visit www.propane.tx.gov and click on "Home Safe Home-Propane Safety."