Is It Safe to Use a Propane Heater on a Screened Porch?


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Propane heaters are commonly used for outdoor spaces during the colder months of the year, though they are often the source of safety concerns and fire hazards. While these types of outdoor heaters are inexpensive and generally easy on the electricity bill, there are some factors to consider when deciding which type of heater to warm up your screened porch.

The flammable nature and fire risk are reasons why propane heaters are not generally recommended for small, enclosed spaces, including screened off areas outdoors. While they are inexpensive and portable, safety is an essential factor to consider before deciding which type of heating system to use. 

There are alternative heating devices and methods to consider when warming your outdoor space. It’s important to review all your options to determine which way is ideal and which heater is best suited to your balcony, restaurant, or porch to ensure you have adequate space and accommodations.

When Using a Propane Heater Is Safe

Propane heaters are not always the ideal solution for a screened-in porch or space when there are too many fire and safety risks. A propane heater may be a good option if certain conditions are met to improve the safety of the outdoor area:

  • The space is large and allows for a minimum of two or three feet between the top of the heating device and the balcony or enclosure roof.
  • It is safe to use around wood structures such as tables and chairs, umbrellas, and other systems, as long as six feet of distance is maintained.
  • The propane heater’s open flame should always be positioned to face the outside of the screened-in area to disperse the warmth evenly within the enclosed space.

Natural Gas Heaters

Like the propane heater, natural gas is similar in providing a vital heat source while requiring all the same distance requirements and a large outdoor space to maintain safety. This type of heating option can be portable or stationary. If you install a natural gas heater, it’s essential to have your gas lines appropriately installed and safely by an expert, as they are permanent once they are connected and cannot be moved.

If you’re uncertain if your screened-in porch or outdoor space would be ideal for a permanent gas heating device, consult with a certified or licensed professional before making a final decision, or simply choose the portable option if the size of your porch is adequate.

Electric Heaters for Small Spaces

A safe and portable option for heating a small, enclosed outdoor space is the electric heater. They effectively provide consistent heat, though not to the same standard or power as their natural gas or propane counterparts. The main drawback with electric heating is the high usage cost, especially if used frequently and for long periods. 

If you have small children or pets, the electric heating option is the best for preventing safety hazards while emitting enough warmth for a smaller space. They are not flammable and can be set on the floor or a sturdy surface, such as a table, for easy use.

Creating Heat With Fire Pits

A fire pit, even a small one, may seem like an ideal solution to avoid the cost of electricity and the risk of more flammable choices. While the fire pit option is not the perfect solution for a screened-in space, a small version built into a table or safely covered in stones may be considered. 

There are some great options for creating your fire pit and various materials that will ensure its containment and safety at all times. Before considering this option, it’s best to consult with an expert, purchase a ready-made pit, and have it installed professionally.

Insulation and Additional Heating Options

There are other ways to heat your screened-in area that do not pose any risk and can be easily installed within minutes:

  • Install windows or glass around the porch and ensure they are properly sealed to keep cold winds from entering the space. This option is an expensive approach, though it is useful to maintain a steady temperature in the area and avoid high heating costs or risks.
  • Line the inside of the space with vinyl coverings to insulate and retain the enclosed porch or balcony heat.
  • If you have curtains or similar fabric, this can provide a bit of protection from the cool air and a slight or moderate dip in temperature. 

Using these peripheral options, you’ll find vinyl and similar materials are quick to install and inexpensive. It’s essential to find quality fabric, vinyl, or other solutions for your outdoor space, so you don’t have to replace it often and avoid rips or tears in the material.

Combining Heating Options

In extreme weather cases, combining more than one heating option can help maximize the comfort in your outdoor space. For example, using a portable electric heater with vinyl coating effectively maintains consistent heat while conserving it for a more extended period. Together, these methods can provide a good foundation for warmth and protect your space from cold winds and precipitation.

Suppose you consider using a propane or natural gas heater with insulation methods. In that case, it may not be necessary, as these types of heaters provide high levels of heat for an extended time. Electric heaters are typically ideal for use with other methods of reducing cold airflow and increasing the temperature.

Which Heating Method Should You Choose?

Once you assess the size of your screened-in porch, the space available for installing or setting your heating device, the decision on which option to use becomes easy. Before you decide to install a fire pit, even a small one, it’s recommended to learn of any applicable building and fire codes to ensure they are adhered to. 

Other heating methods should also be well planned, so you minimize any risk to your health, safety, and property.

Check Your Local Health and Safety Regulations

Determining which bylaws and safety regulations apply to your space is especially important if your screened-in porch or outdoor space is part of a business, such as a restaurant or a pub. There are various factors to consider to ensure your heaters are safe for everyone:

  • Is your restaurant or pub’s location close to other businesses or residences that may be impacted by the type of heating you choose?
  • Ensure there is enough distance between the outdoor space heating devices and other properties, neighboring patios, and private properties.
  • Ask your guests if they are comfortable to ensure the heat is working well and appropriate for the specific space. Is it too hot and uninviting, or not sufficient to keep the safe consistently and evenly warm?
  • Follow all the rules, safety, and health laws and regulations. If necessary, arrange for a professional inspection to verify your space and heaters are safe and properly installed.

When in doubt, always seek an expert opinion or advice. It’s recommended to take the time to ensure your space is safe and hospitable for use.

Final Thoughts

Every room or space is unique and deserves a thorough assessment before choosing the appropriate heating device for your residence or business location. The purpose of the area, how often it’s used, and the length of time you’ll need a regular source of heat are just some of the factors to review before making a final decision.

Your guests’ safety, home, or restaurant is the most important deciding factor when choosing the right heater. Getting familiar with your local bylaws and regulations is an excellent place to start heating your outdoor establishment.

Chris Hewitt

Chris is a Texas-based freelance writer who loves the outdoors and working in his garage. When he's not enjoying the Texas sun, he can be found tinkering with all sorts of things in his workshop.

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