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Cooling And Heating

Oil-Filled Heaters: Safety Analysis

Written by Dale Richardson - Updated: June 23, 2023

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How Do Oil-Filled Heaters Work?

Oil-filled heaters, also known as an oil filled radiator, exist as a popular option for warming indoor spaces. Basically, they work by heating the oil within (electricity activates an implanted heating element). Oil is utilised because it maintains heat for an extended period. It also remains liquid and carries a high thermal energy reserve, both improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the machine. As it heats, the oil travels along and heats the internal metal columns, which in turn transfer heat to the surroundings. It is important to note that oil doesn’t act as the fuel in this type of heater. Its role is to act as a heat reservoir, transferring heat to its surroundings.

What Are The Alternatives To Oil–Filled Heating?

Many choose oil-filled heaters as an alternative to gas heaters for enclosed living-spaces. Even though gas-heaters are more economical and provide greater spatial heating, they are considered less safe than oil and fan heaters because they produce harmful emissions and reduce ambient oxygen. Oil-filled heaters require no maintenance or replenishment of oil. Fan heaters can become cost-prohibitive due to the relatively high cost of electricity. Oil heaters are intrinsically safer than electric fan heaters. This is because their surfaces stay cooler and their effectiveness/safety doesn’t depend on adequate air flow. Electric fan heaters can dry the air and produce sound which may be undesirable to users. Some newer models of oil heaters have incorporated a fan. This allows an input of cooler air to pass over the heater, improving the rate of heat flow into the room.

What Safety Precautions Are Necessary To Use Oil-Filled Heaters?


Thermal fuses add to a unit’s safety appeal. These devices act to cut power supply when the heat is too high or the unit is knocked over, reducing the incidence of fire and injury. Their inherent portability may make them more susceptible to falling over. When they are tipped over and the sensor fails (either due to position or malfunction), fire hazard is significant. When the device fails to turn off, an oil heater can cause fire or explode, resulting in injury, property loss & damage, and a considerable mess. Some newer models can turn themselves off when objects are close. A heater with a grate is also recommended to avoid burns caused by touching the heating elements. Finally, it is not recommended that these heaters be used while sleeping, when one cannot actively monitor the heater.

Another consideration when utilizing this type of heater is location. We already suggested that the device is portable and can be taken from room to room depending on one’s needs. However, it is of the utmost importance that the heater be placed on a sturdy, level, and non-flammable area. This area (up to three feet) should be free from items that could catch on fire, including rugs, upholstery, and curtains.

It is unadvisable for users to dry clothes on the surface of the heater. The fire risk of such actions is increased when fabric is dry and/or synthetic. Furthermore, operation in a damp or humid area is not advised, as the moisture can prematurely damage internal parts. The cords should be inspected regularly for burns or fraying. If damage exists to the cords, one should refrain from using the unit. Cords should also be plugged directly into the wall socket. Extension cords are ill-advised. Lastly, buyers should only use oil-filled heaters that have been tested by a reputable testing laboratory. This ensures that the particular model has gone through the rigours of testing for safety. Accidents with heaters are a significant risk, here we see CAL FIRE’s recommendations for proper usage. Operators must be vigilant in following safety recommendations in order to prevent catastrophic damage and injury.


Which Oil-Filled Heaters Are The Best To Buy?

Most people who use this type of heater do so for relative ease of use, low maintenance, affordability, and portability. They efficiently heat rooms and can be a smart supplement to a central heating system. If you’re in the market for a heater, we have reviewed the best oil filled radiator, providing valuable information, considerations, and a comprehensive buying guide to help you make a decision today.

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