Camper Trailers Tech Tips

dangers of portable gas heaters in confined spaces

 

 

 

dangers of portable gas heaters
in a confined space

Extreme caution should be used when thinking of using a gas, dual fuel, a kerosene heater, heat beads or even a stove for that matter inside an enclosed area such as a tent, camper trailer or caravan to keep warm on a cold night camping. Please make sure you have all windows open so the fumes will not build up.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas, slightly lighter than air. It is formed whenever any carbon-based substance, which is most substances, is burned with an inadequate supply of air. Even when there is adequate air, carbon monoxide is produced if the burning reaction is only partly complete. Burning anything in a small enclosed space presents two main dangers.

The first and most serious is carbon monoxide poisoning. Even in small amounts, carbon monoxide is deadly to all warm-blooded animals. A 0.2% concentration can kill within 30 minutes. Carbon monoxide kills like this. Haemoglobin in the blood normally transports all-essential oxygen throughout the body. Unfortunately haemoglobin is massively addicted to picking up carbon monoxide. If there's any around, haemoglobin will grab 250 parts of carbon monoxide for every one part of oxygen. This rapidly deprives the brain and everything else of that vital oxygen. There are only minor indications: headache, nausea, fatigue and then unconsciousness. If you were asleep at the time, the odds are against your ever waking up again. Carbon monoxide is rightly called the 'silent killer'.

The second hazard is direct oxygen deprivation. Just by breathing we contaminate the air. We take in about a half a cubic metre of air every hour and convert about 4% of that into carbon dioxide. As a result the exhaled carbon dioxide level rises and the available oxygen level falls. The latter can however drop from its normal 21% or so, to as low as 15% before symptoms such as fatigue set in. Oxygen deprivation through this cause can be serious in an unventilated space heated or otherwise.

Catalytic heaters are a little safer and are labled as 'Can Be Used In Ventilated Tents'. A gas cartridge can run this type of heater for 8 hours. Catalytic heaters produce a number of byproducts that necessitate ventilation. Please still use extreme caution when using this type of heater, even when labeled safe. Only use in a well ventilated tent area ie all windows open.

DO NOT USE A GAS HEATER IN THE TENT AREA WHILE SLEEPING

The only safe type of fuel heating to use inside a tent area is those such as the Webasto diesel air heaters. The device draws air from outside into a sealed furnace, injecting diesel which ignites and heats an outer skin. The clean heated air is then ducted into the tent area.

We camp throughout the year and have found thermal underwear a great addition to winter camping. Luckily at most bush camp sites we can light a campfire. We make our bed up in our camper trailer the same as we do at home with a sheepskin underlay, flannelette sheets and doona etc. If it gets colder we have another lightweight doona we throw on. Make sure you also dress for bed with flannelette PJ's, socks and beanie if it is very cold and don't forget the old hot water bottle or two.

We have tried our canvas annex sidewall over our bed as recommended by members of the CamperTrailers Group with great results. It really throws the bodyheat back in. You can also try a silver trap over the roof of your camper to reflect a bit of warmth back into the tent.

If the kids are on stretchers make sure they have just as much bedding under them as they have on top. A self inflating mattress on the stretcher will also trap their bodyheat as well as a sheepskin underlay & good quality sleeping bags.

If you stay in a caravan park you might like to try a 240volt electric oil filled column heater to keep the internal space warm overnight when it is cold. These are a safer alternative to a bar heater which can be knocked over.

Gasmate propane heater

 

not suitable for indoor use

Gasmate butane heater

not suitable for indoor use

Gasmate butane heater

not suitable for indoor use

Coleman Procat catalytic butane heater

not suitable for indoor use

 

Coleman BlackCat catalytic butane heater

not suitable for indoor use

 

Companion portable butane heater

not suitable for indoor use

Primus Mr Heater Little Buddy butane heater

 Low oxygen safety shut off system

not suitable for indoor use

Primus Mr Heater Portable Buddy butane heater

 Low oxygen safety shut off system

not suitable for indoor use

Wild Country mini kerosene heater

not suitable for indoor use

 

written by Rob

 

november 2011