Paraffin heaters are used to heat enclosed spaces, particularly in situations where neither central heating nor a sufficient conventional source of heat are available. The paraffin heater was one of the first space heaters in use, although now there are many other popular space heaters available.
Paraffin heaters (also known as kerosene heaters) were more popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, before they were superseded by the use of natural gas and electricity for heating in the 1950s. They were often built into kitchens, and kept farming and fishing communities warm during the winter. Paraffin heaters are still popular today in Japan, where they are used as the main form of heating. They are also popular with people that might require an independent, reliable, low-risk heat source, such as gardeners, greenhouse keepers etc.
Kerosene heaters should only be used in well ventilated areas, as they give off many combustible gases. If not well maintained, or located in an area with little oxygen, paraffin heaters can give off large amounts of carbon monoxide which can potentially kill.
Paraffin heaters come in either unvented or vented forms. Vented paraffin heaters are safer, as they are permanently attached to a wall and the combustible gases produced are vented outside. This reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Unvented paraffin heaters on the other hand are portable, and can be moved to where they are most needed. They must only be used in a well ventilated space.
Paraffin heaters pose a potential fire risk, and should never be left unattended - particularly in the presence of children or animals. There is a risk of fire if they are knocked over, or left near flammable objects such as clothes or curtains. They should not be used in locations where flammable gases are present.
Paraffin oil, also known as kerosene, is produced from crude oil in distilleries. It has many uses, including cookers and as jet fuel in aeroplanes and rockets. It is even used by fire-breathers, as the low burning temperature of paraffin in air reduces the risk if the fire breather accidentally gets burnt.
A laser heater also uses paraffin oil for fuel, and has a variety of safety features which often make them more suitable for use indoors than kerosene heaters. They turn off automatically when knocked over, and turn off if there is a low level of oxygen reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Owners of laser heaters should be aware that carbon monoxide can still be produced, and care must be taken to prevent fire.
There are also many other portable space heaters which can be used in the home. These include electric space heaters, ceramic heaters, propane heaters and infrared heaters. Each has their own advantages, and consumers should consider carefully their needs before deciding which heater to purchase.
A space heater can often be used in a greenhouse to keep the air temperature stable in case of frosts and sudden cold weather. Electric space heaters and paraffin heaters are particularly popular for this purpose. When using paraffin heaters care must be taken to only buy heaters designed for use in a greenhouse, as many paraffin heaters release gases which can be harmful to plants.
Paraffin Wax Heaters
A paraffin wax heater is not used as a space heater, but instead used in beauty salons to melt paraffin wax. Paraffin wax is an unrelated substance to paraffin, although both are distilled from crude oil. The wax is used in the beauty world as a moisturiser after a manicure or pedicure. The wax melted in the paraffin wax heater does not become hot enough to burn or blister the skin.