Mailbag: Using Your Gas Range to Heat Your Home

Big Ed wrote:

Used my cheap MagicChef Gas Oven to heat the house for about a week, (after the wall heater went out). Now it won’t burn over 275/300 degrees. Even then, it takes 15 minutes to light.

Message sent from IP:

The only thing “big” about Big Ed is that space between his ears. Heating your house with a gas range is one of the most stupid and dangerous things you can do. Why? Two words: carbon monoxide (abbreviated as CO).

For some background information on CO, its health effects and exposure limits, check out this OSHA fact sheet on carbon monoxide. I’ve summarized the main health effects and CO exposure limits in the table below. The CO exposure limits are listed in PPM, which means parts per million. Don’t worry about what this means, all you need to know is that PPM is a common way of expressing the amount of a contaminate, like CO, in the air.

Health Effects CO Exposure (PPM)
Slight headaches, tiredness, dizziness, nausea after 2-3 hours. 200
Frontal headaches within 1-2 hours, life-threatening after 3 hours. 400
Dizziness, nausea, and convulsions within 45 minutes. Unconsciousness within 2 hours. Death within 2-3 hours. 800
Headache, dizziness, and nausea within 20 minutes. Death within 1 hour. 1,600
Headache, dizziness, and nausea within 5-10 minutes. Death within 30 minutes. 3,200
Headache, dizziness, and nausea within 1-2 minutes. Death within 10-15 minutes. 6,400

Now, after reviewing the above table, here’s a Fun-Fact-to-Know-and-Tell that’ll blow your mind: manufacturers are allowed to make ovens that give off up 800 ppm of carbon monoxide from the bake burner. Look in the table above and read about the health effects of CO at 800 ppm. Hello? Is this thing on?

Ok, I know what you’re saying. You’re wondering, “Well, Dr. Samurai, if breathing 800 ppm of CO for 2-3 hours will kill you, how is it that Big Cranial-Void Ed lived to write you an email about his gas range problem?”

Maybe his trailer is extra drafty and dissipates CO quickly. Maybe he didn’t spend much time in the kitchen where the concentration of CO would be the highest. Maybe the CO really did give him headaches, dizziness, and nausea but he thought it was because his mother-in-law was visting. Maybe he’s a neanderthal and is already clinically brain-dead. Who the hell knows? Bottom line: pure dumb luck. To paraphrase Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”


One thought on “Mailbag: Using Your Gas Range to Heat Your Home

  1. Tim M

    OK. I believe the oven is allowed to put out 800 ppm on STARTUP, that is as it is getting going. The actual rating may be 800 ppm MAXIMUM, but the maximum will be hit as it starts up, and then drop significantly, probably in the 25 ppm ballpark. Also, I believe, though I may be mistaken, that this is measured in the EXHAUST PORT of the oven. So if the measurement is that you don’t have to worry unless you have duct taped your mouth to seal it onto the exhaust port. Unless your room has zero air changes per hour, you are going to be doing fine. As long as you are not in some sealed chamber, the ppm at the exhaust port is then diluted into the entire room, and it becomes 25 ppm, maybe? Now if you are using the oven to heat your house it is running full bore non-stop. That is dangerous and stupid. If you close the door and bake, what happens, it’s on a bit, off for long while, than on for another bit. If that is getting the ppm above 25 or so, something is seriously wrong.

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