Can an Indoor Space Heater Be Used Outside?


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The Sweater season is here, and it’s chilly outside. To enjoy the outdoors again, I wondered if I could use an indoor space heater I already own outdoors. It wasn’t a very good idea. 

You can use an indoor space heater outside, but it might not provide enough heat and would not be able to withstand the harsh weather conditions. A better option would be to purchase a dual-purpose space heater or one that is specifically designed for the outdoors.

The rest of the article will further answer your question, including how space heaters work, types of space heaters, the best outdoor space heaters for you, and safety precautions when using space heaters. 

How Space Heaters Work

The amount of heat provided by a space heater is measured in British thermal unit (BTU). Space heaters help keep you warm by two processes: convection and radiation.

Convection 

Convection Space heaters transfer heat to the air by passing it over heated elements. The heated elements in a space heater may be metal or ceramic. Some heaters use a fan to speed up the distribution of heated air. 

In place of a fan, other space heaters may surround the heated element with oil or water. Although this type of heater heats up the room slowly, the heat produced lasts longer because of the hot liquid. 

Radiation 

This is the same mechanism by which the sun warms the earth. Radiation space heaters send out a type of invisible light called infrared rays to heat up nearby objects. So if you’re standing or seated in its direct path, you’ll feel its warmth. 

However, it doesn’t warm up the air, so it may not heat the room as much. This video by Roberts Gordon explains how infrared heating works:

Types of Space Heaters

Space heaters can be classified by two main criteria:

  • Power source 
  • Design 

Power Source

The power source determines how much heat a space heater can produce and where it can be used. Understanding how the power source influences the efficiency of a space heater can help you choose the right one for your home or establishment.

The two major power sources are:

  • Electricity 
  • Fossil fuels 

Electricity 

Electrical space heaters work just like your household iron. They convert electrical energy to heat, which is either radiated to objects or transferred to the air by convection. This type of space heater is very easy to use. All you have to do is plug it into a compatible high voltage outlet, and you can begin to enjoy its warmth. 

They are also safe to use indoors because they do not generate any toxic products. They can, however, take a toll on your electricity bill. Some newer models account for this by including motion sensors that turn it off if no movement is detected within a specified time frame which is helpful to save energy. 

Fossil Fuels 

Combustion of fossil fuels is an important source of power for space heaters.  The two fossil fuels that are commonly used to power space heaters are:

  • Propane 
  • Natural gas 

Kerosene space heaters are no longer commonly used because they negatively affect the quality of air indoors

Propane 

Propane-powered space heaters are the most commonly used type. They provide greater heating power than their electrical counterparts. The heater is connected to a portable tank containing the propane fuel. When you’ve exhausted the propane fuel in your tank, you can easily refill it at a gas station or home improvement store. The propane fuel cost is on the high side, thus making it a fairly expensive option.

Though most newer model propane space heaters are safe, they may not be suited for enclosed environments. This is because of the risk of the production of toxic gases like carbon monoxide.

Natural Gas 

This is the least common type of space heater mentioned. Natural gas space heaters are connected to the natural gas line. It’s best to have the connection set up by a professional to reduce the possibility of a gas leak. 

The cost of running a natural gas space heater is low when a natural gas line already exists at the residence. If a natural gas line isn’t readily available, the cost of setting one up will increase the overall cost of using a natural gas space heater. 

Design 

The design of a space heater could determine the setting where it’s most suitable. There are four common designs:

  • Table Top 
  • Free-Standing 
  • Wall-mounted 
  • Parasol or umbrella-style 

Tabletop Design 

These are small space heaters designed to be placed on the table. They may not be strong enough to heat up an entire room. You can place one on your office desk to warm you up if you’re not satisfied with the temperature provided by central heating. You can also use one outdoors on your patio or when you go camping or hiking. Tabletop space heaters are portable, easy to use, and efficient.

The Truetech Portable Electric Heater from Amazon.com is my top pick for your home. It has adjustable temperature control and provides more heat than you’d expect for its small size. It also has tip-over and overheat protection for safety. 

You can purchase the Hiland HLDS032-BB Portable Table Top Patio Heater for use outdoors from amazon.com. It runs on propane to provide a decent amount of heat, but it is not very pretty.

Free-Standing Design 

There are numerous free-standing space heaters available on the market. They come in different shapes and sizes. You can place them at any corner of the room to warm it up. There are also several free-standing space heaters designed for the outdoors. Modern designs come with wheels attached so you can easily change its position to suit your needs. 

I would recommend the Hampton Bay 48000 Btu Stainless Steel Patio Heater from Amazon.com. It produces adequate heat, and its stainless steel exterior protects it from harsh weather. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have wheels for movement, but it’s still my top choice. 

Wall-Mounted Design

Wall space heaters are designed to be affixed on the wall. They can be very useful if you’re trying to conserve space or keep them out of reach of children and pets.

I suggest you get the Trustech Infrared Heater from Amazon. It uses electricity and can be used both indoors and outdoors. It warms up in just 3 seconds and is easy to mount. Unfortunately, it’s not fully waterproof, so you should consider hanging it under a roof to shield it from the rain. 

Parasol or Umbrella Design

These are designed to be suspended from umbrellas or roofs. You might have spotted one at a restaurant. They are great for the outdoors and provide warmth to a small area. 

Safety Tips

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) estimates that about 6000 emergency room visits annually are related to space heaters. Portable space heaters result in the loss of 84 million dollars in property and 90 lives each year. This is why it is essential that you follow the safety rules suggested by the USCPSC and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) outlined below. 

  • Keep space heaters away from children. If possible, create a 3-foot barricade around the heater and never put one in a child’s bedroom. 
  • Place your space heater on a sturdy level surface. Ensure that it’s kept away from combustible materials like curtains, rugs, and carpets.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heaters. The natural gas space heaters, in particular, require professional expertise to reduce the chances of leakages and fires. 
  • Never use an outdoor space heater indoors. Some outdoor space heaters produce toxic products like carbon monoxide and are not suitable for enclosed spaces.
  • Do not plug your space heater into an extension cord. If you must, use an industrial-grade extension cord with the required wattage. 
  • Use caution when using space heaters in the bathroom. They must never be placed close to tubs or sinks. 
  • Purchase heaters fitted with tipping sensors. This should turn it off once it detects that the heater has fallen over. 
  • Ensure you have your heaters checked by a professional annually. Any faults, even minor ones, should be handled by qualified professionals only. 
  • Use only the correct fuels for your space heater. For example, do not use diesel for a propane space heater.

Final Thoughts 

You can use an indoor space heater outdoors, but it’s not a practical solution. Indoor space heaters are not built to resist the weather conditions outside and can succumb to harsh winds and humidity. When used outdoors, indoor space heaters do not provide enough warmth.

This is because the heat generated is dissipated by winds. There are several space heaters designed for both indoor and outdoor use. They use different power sources and come in different designs.

Alanna Greene

Alanna is an avid traveler who lives in Michigan. In addition to writing for Temperature Master, she also sells crafts on Etsy and takes long walks through the forests near her home.

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