How to safely use outdoor heaters

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Outdoor heaters and things such as fire pits are perfect for making outdoor living possible even in the colder months. Having said that, however, they're not necessarily the safest things to be around. Each carries risks with their usage and these risks aren't always immediately obvious. That's why it's important to take steps to ensure that you're using outdoor heaters safely.

Only ever use a heater on level ground

One of the biggest things to remember when it comes to outdoor heater safety is that they must only be used on level ground. If the surface that you have placed your outdoor heater on isn't flat, you run the risk of the unit being unstable and possibly falling over. This can cause serious injury and significant property damage so should be avoided at all costs.

Keep the space clear

Another thing to remember is that both outdoor heaters and fire pits need clear space around them to be safely operated. If proper clearance isn't available, you could end up with a rapidly spreading fire on your hands.

The minimum suggested space left around an outdoor heater is approximately a metre, however more is always better. Fire pits also require clear space around them, as sparks and embers could easily set other things alight.

When ensuring that you have enough clearance, it is important to remember to check for overhead obstructions as well as those at a ground level.

Be careful lighting your heater

While many outdoor heaters have automatic lighting mechanisms, some do still require manual ignition. In this instance, you should always use something that allows you to light the pilot from a distance such as a fire starter like those used with gas stoves.

Fire pits will almost always need to be manually lit. In this instance, it is important to never use any kind of accelerant and keep your distance while starting the fire.

Perform regular cleaning

Regularly cleaning your outdoor heater will help ensure that it can perform at its best while also greatly reducing the risk of fire. Debris that has become trapped in a heater can easily catch alight which is a very dangerous thing indeed when you consider how close to the gas bottle it would be.

Fire pits should also be cleared out regularly to ensure that there is no build up and remove anything that has found its way in there when it shouldn't have.

Follow maintenance instructions

Maintenance instructions exist for a reason, and even if your heater doesn't look like it needs care, it should always be serviced and looked after in accordance with manufacturer guidelines.

When not cared for properly, outdoor heaters can fail or cause other issues, so it's best to keep on top of things. It is particularly important to perform proper maintenance at the start of the colder months as your heater has likely been sitting for a while and could do with some love before being fired up.

While fire pits don't usually require as much maintenance as a gas outdoor heater, manufacturer instructions should still be followed closely to ensure optimal operational safety and efficiency.

Check for gas leaks before each use

Just like a BBQ, your outdoor heater must be checked for gas leaks before each use. This can be done with the standard soapy water method the exact same way as you would for a cooking appliance. Note that, also just like your BBQ, if any issues are detected, your heater should not be used. If the issue can be easily rectified, use may continue, however, you should always double check and keep an eye on things once the required replacement or repair has been made.

Keep an eye on things

Speaking of keeping an eye on things, it's common knowledge that fires should never be left unattended, even in a pit. What you may not know, however, is that your outdoor heater also requires constant supervision. This may seem over the top, but if you want to be as safe as possible, it's necessary. Things can go wrong quickly with gas and your best chance of fixing any issues that arise is to catch them immediately.

Never put anything in a fire pit that doesn't belong there

Fire pits are made for wood and appropriate products only. The burning of anything that doesn't belong in a fire pit can cause sparks and/or damage to your pit, so this should be avoided. It is also important to never place aerosol cans of any kind in or near a fire pit, and accelerants should not be used.

Always have an extinguisher close by

Whenever you've got flames around, it's always a smart idea to have a fire extinguisher close by. This point stands for gas powered outdoor heaters as well, as even though it's not entirely naked, they do still have a flame.

It is important to purchase the right kind of extinguisher for the type of heating you'll be using, and always read the instructions when you first get the unit so you know what to do if you ever need to use it.

Smoke detectors save lives

Finally, this may seem odd in a piece about outdoor heaters, but smoke detectors can also be used under patios to improve the safety of your home.

While this obviously won't work with a fire pit, the installation of a smoke detector near a gas outdoor heater can help provide extra peace of mind and we also suggest the installation of a carbon monoxide alarm.

Final word

Aussies love outdoor living, and we'll find ways to hang out in our backyard on even the coldest nights if we really want to. Outdoor heaters and fire pits are great for this, but it's important to ensure that you're using them safely. The tips outlined in this article will help you do exactly that, so you can enjoy more time where you want to be.

Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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