Is It Safe to Heat Your House With the Oven? | The Cold Truth


Inside of an Open Oven

Sometimes unfortunate situations occur and we are faced with looking for alternative methods to heat our house during cold weather. In desperation, you may consider turning on the oven and sheltering near it to provide a heat source. Is that wise? Are there risks associated with heating your home with an oven that outweighs potential hypothermia?

Heating your home with an oven is an unsafe practice that should not be done, even as a last resort. Several negative factors are associated with this solution, including carbon monoxide poisoning, unintentional burns, and ineffective heating.

Now, let’s further explore the risks associated with heating your house with an oven and explore a few practical alternative solutions.

Health Risks By Heating Your Home With An Oven

The main reasons that it is unwise to heat your home with an oven are connected to personal safety. Presently, there are two significant health risks associated with using an oven to heat your home. These are carbon monoxide (CO2) poisoning and contact burns. The latter is most likely to affect children and pets. However, anyone can accidentally touch the searing oven door or by tripping and feeling inside of it.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk associated with gas ovens or cooktops. It is especially prevalent in unventilated homes, such as those without a window open. It may seem counter-intuitive to let in the fresh air in a cold environment, but carbon monoxide will fill the room without opening a window.

The probability of CO2 poisoning increases as people fall asleep and the oven goes out or burns inefficiently. Unless you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, it is an undetectable killer. The gas is colorless, odorless, and doesn’t have a taste. Therefore, you will have no ability to know that you are inhaling it until you are symptomatic.

Symptoms of mild carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, and dizziness. As the saturation of CO2 increases in your bloodstream, you will start to feel breathless, eventually collapse, and lose consciousness. While being aware of these symptoms can help you monitor them, often, CO2 poisoning kills during the night while the victim is asleep. It can also cause confusion, which can affect the person’s ability to recognize the symptoms even if they are actively monitoring for them.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is life-threatening and hard to treat because the CO2 binds strongly to the hemoglobin in your blood. Typically, hemoglobin transports oxygen around your body via the bloodstream. When CO2 binds to hemoglobin, it is hard to remove, meaning the binding sites that oxygen needs to be transported are full of CO2 instead.

As a result, your oxygen levels drop, leading to the symptoms listed above. Severe CO2 poisoning is challenging to reverse and requires being given pure oxygen. Sometimes, the poisoning is acute enough that the patient requires placement in a hyperbaric chamber to successfully re-oxygenate their blood. Alas, this is specialized equipment that is unavailable in many hospitals.

Contact Burns

If you are trying to heat your home with an oven, then you are probably leaving it open with the hot door obstructing the kitchen. Such an act creates a hazard in your home. Not only is there now a different obstacle in your kitchen, but it is also hot. This drastically increases the opportunity of children and pets touching the oven surface and suffering painful contact burns. You, yourself may accidentally suffer an injury from the oven as you put your hands near it to warm.

The same danger applies to a stovetop if you are using that to generate heat instead. There is an additional danger with that method of heating too, as naked flames are a fire hazard. It is conceivable that a towel, a piece of paper, or other ignitable substances would come into contact with the flame, causing a small fire. Unless you can control the blaze with an extinguisher or fire blanket, your heating solution may cost you your kitchen, or worse, your entire home.

Heating With An Oven Is Inefficient

Resorting to heating your home with an oven isn’t a wise solution financially. Ovens are not designed to heat large spaces. Therefore, the manner with which they disperse heat is not practical. The stove has no internal method to spread heat throughout your home via convection heating. As a result, the oven will use a lot of energy to try and maintain the set temperature.

Such inefficient energy use will lead to inflated energy bills that can have you regretting your decision. Realistically, you will only feel a small increase in heat in the kitchen. If you have an open-plan home, the slightly elevated local temperature will not be contained, and you will notice little benefit from it.

An economical alternative would be to buy a space heater ahead of time. Several models are available which do not require electricity to run, but rather a fuel source such as propane or oil. Importantly, space heaters, like this really good Amazon model, are designed to heat small areas successfully, powered by a fan that drives heat out into space.

This is a far better option than using your oven. A space heater also offers you flexibility, meaning that you can choose a better room than your kitchen to shelter in. A small room with carpeting and only one window is best. Do note that when you use a non-electric space heater, you may need to have ventilation to prevent inhaling dangerous fumes. 

How To Stay Warm Without Power

You are likely considering heating your home with the oven because there is no power. Whether that is due to a power failure or having been cut off as you cannot afford the bill, the same predicament exists.

Despite the desperation that you may feel, using an oven for heating is a dangerous choice that could result in carbon monoxide poisoning or severe burns. You would also be confined to your kitchen as an oven doesn’t efficiently disperse heat.

Of course, the best solution is to invest in a space heater or use techniques such as huddling with family members under blankets to keep warm. If you’re alone, pick a room and seal it best you can from drafts and move throughout the night to maintain a sufficient core body temperature.

I realize that keeping warm during a winter’s night under such circumstances can be a challenge. Luckily, there are some options available that can help you stay warm without resorting to the dangers of heating your home with an oven. Here are a few:

1. Layer Clothing and Blankets

It may seem obvious, but additional clothing layers will keep you far warmer than sticking with your standard in-house attire.

  • Pile on the socks, hats, and undershirts.
  • Wear your gloves and winter coat if you have one.
  • If you have a sleeping bag, get inside it – they are designed to keep you warm in extreme conditions.
  • Place blankets around yourself and try not to sit on a cold floor. It is far better to stay in bed or on the couch, i.e., something with material to transfer your body heat to compared to it being dissipated to a wooden or tiled floor.

The more layers you have on, the more air that will be trapped between them. This helps keep heat in better than a single layer of the same material weight.

2. Close Doors and Eliminate Draft

Your body heat will start to warm the air around you, so its best to keep that heat in the same room you are. To do so, close all doors to the place you are in. If you are not home alone, have everyone sit in the same room. If the doors are drafty, use extra clothing, blankets, or towels to put under the door to stop the draft.

Assess how much heat is being let out from your windows. If they aren’t adequately insulated, cover them in plastic or garbage bags to create a barrier between the draft and yourself. You can always use duct tape to help seal any cracks.

In the same vein, close all curtains and blinds. Such an act will greatly help insulate the windows and keep a significant amount of heat inside. However, if you are using a heating source that needs ventilation, make sure you leave a window cracked.

3. Drink Warm Liquids

Drinking hot beverages may be hard if you have no electricity. However, if you have a gas stove, then you can always boil water to make tea, coffee, hot chocolate or warm some juice. Ideally, you will repeat this once and hour to maintain your temperature.

If you are capable of boiling water, then use a hot water bottle to keep yourself warm. Refresh the bottle frequently throughout the night to keep your temperature up. If possible, try to avoid drinking cold beverages as these will lower your core temperature.

4. Move

Your body will naturally generate heat with movement. Although it might seem difficult with many layers of clothing, exercise is an effective way to make body heat quickly. Simple sets of ten jumping jacks will do the trick. Performing exercises will also release endorphins, which will help with the mental struggle of being cold throughout the night.

If your health doesn’t allow for vigorous activity, walk around the room until your heart rate gets up. These extra steps will help the blood flow to your extremities too.

Final Thoughts

On a bitterly cold winter night, when you have no alternative source of heat other than your oven, it may seem sensible to use it to heat your home. However, ovens aren’t designed to do this, and as such, there are risks involved in using this appliance this way. There are better and safer methods to get through a cold situation that won’t risk your life and are far more fuel-efficient.

A better solution to heating your home is to buy a space heater or electric blanket. In the event of a power outage, when there is no alternative heat source, prepare for this eventuality by purchasing a propane heater, and using heat preservation techniques. I also highly suggest getting a portable generator, like my favorite one found on Amazon. The cold hard truth is just to be better prepared in the future. Pun intended.

Thanks for reading!

Jim James

Jim James spent most of his childhood outdoors fishing on lakes in his area. Due to his scouting background, he has always been interested in survival, camping, and the outdoors in general. Jim is a best-selling author and has a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. He lives with his family in Charlotte, NC.

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