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Ventless Gas Heater Safety

In the last few years there has been a huge increase in the sale and use of ventless gas heaters. This is probably due to the low cost of ownership, attractive design and relatively high efficiency. With the high rate in acceptance one thing that may have been overlooked with this type of heater is safety. Since these heaters have no vent to release potentially dangerous gasses, many people, including building scientists that work with indoor air quality, have given warnings that these heaters can release enough airborne combustion products to make people sick and even degrade building structures.

Ventless gas heater safety is definitely an issue that should be looked at carefully by someone that is interested in buying and installing one of these machines in their homes. These heaters are allowed in 42 of the 50 state building codes and used widely in Europe. All ventless gas heaters are required to have oxygen depletion sensors that will alert users if oxygen levels are at a low enough level to be dangerous. The Vent Free Alliance, widely accepted as the authority on gas appliances, recently released a report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission showing “no documented deaths due to emissions associated with the use of an ODS vent-free gas heating appliance” since 1980. The use of these oxygen sensors has made the use of these heaters much more accepted and more importantly safe for use.

The major risk when dealing with ventless gas heater safety is the production of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is the byproduct of combustion reactions. This colorless, odorless gas is toxic to both humans and animals in high quantities. Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin, the body's oxygen carriers, in the blood and make it impossible for the body to deliver oxygen to the body eventually causing death. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning from gas heaters include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lethargy and a feeling of weakness. It is important that if a person in a home with a ventless gas heater is experiencing these symptoms to evacuate the house and call the paramedics.

The safety risks associated with ventless gas heaters has been reduced to a very low level with the wide usage of oxygen sensors on the heaters and can be further reduced by installing carbon monoxide detectors in the house as an additional line of defense.

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