Are Temporary Heaters Safe to Use When a Building's Main Heating System Fails?
The short answer is yes. Temporary heat has come a long way in the last 10 years, and heaters are now safer and more efficient than ever.
Large spaces, such as warehouses, transportation facilities and sizeable open-air buildings, can benefit from makeup air heaters. These heaters offer large BTU ratings – up to 4.5 million BTUs – and huge air volume delivery. They use 100 percent fresh air, which is passed directly over the flame. This process is enclosed within the heater housing and not accessible from the discharge side of the unit. Makeup air heaters also constantly monitor inside, outside and internal temperatures, while saving up to 20 per cent on fuel consumption. They are equipped with multiple temperature limit switches, a low temperature cut-out-switch, low and high temperature gas switches, and an airflow switch, and will shutdown immediately upon any sort of malfunction or trouble is sensed. These units introduce less than five parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide into the space they heat.
Densely populated properties, such as hospitals and office buildings, require that zero products of combustion be added to the space. This is accomplished via indirect fired heating units, Similar to a home furnace, the heat source is totally enclosed within a heat exchanger and is equipped with an exhaust stack. This provides the options to draw 100 percent fresh air, 100 per cent inside air or a blend of both to obtain the desired air exchange inside the building, which greatly improves indoor air quality. These units are equipped with all the same safety features as makeup air heaters.
Both makeup air and indirect fired heating systems must sit outside the heated space and require one of the three fuel sources – natural gas, propane or diesel. If real estate or fuel supply is unavailable or not preferred, another option is available.
Electric heaters come in an array of sizes and electrical requirements. They are more compact and mobile, but don’t offer as many BTU’s per unit. While they require large amounts of electricity to run, they can fit inside the space and a few models can even sit in outdoor environments, if required. These units are equipped with several high temperature switches, an airflow switch as well as power monitors.
Some of the newest heating technology on the market today is flameless heat. A diesel engine is used to power a hydraulic system that created heat. The heat from the engine exhaust and cooling system is scavenged and mixed with the heat from the hydraulic process. These types of systems are mainly used in the oil and gas sectors because they eliminate any flame exposure. The only combustion process is within the diesel engine.
Open flame or “salamander” heaters are not to be used if a building’s main heating system fails. They are not deemed safe as they ass combustion fumes to the space and have an open flame. These systems offer few safety features and are terribly inefficient as well.
These are some general guidelines that building owners/managers should follow when looking at interim heating solutions. Temporary heaters should be kept clear of combustible materials, be placed on a level surface away from foot traffic and not left unattended for long periods of time. Only heaters that have all the current safety features should be used. Thermostatically controlled heaters are ideal to avoid energy waste from overheating a building. It’s also advisable that building owners/managers work with a professional to determine the best size and type of heater for a building and its’ occupants.