If you are searching for a temporary job site heater chances are we are heading into the winter months and you require a safe and reliable source of heat to keep workers warm, prevent water pipes from freezing and allow materials like adhesives, paints and drywall to set properly.
If you choose the wrong type of temporary heaters and those heaters are operated incorrectly your workers could be subject to health and safety risks and your building could be prone to certain materials not setting properly not to mention the significant threat of fire.
Your safest and lowest risk choice for a construction heater is a portable electric construction heater. Before we go into the reasons why this is the case it is important to understand what other options are available and why they represent too much risk to your business. Only considering low price for construction site heaters could cost you dearly. This is a critically important decision for the well-being of your workers and your building project and details matter.
Direct and Indirect Fired Construction Heaters – Too Many Variables = Too Much Risk
Indirect Fired Temporary Construction Heaters
Indirect fired construction heaters most often use diesel, kerosene, propane and natural gas as their fuel sources. The flame burns inside a chamber and then air flows around a heat exchanger and is then vented into the area requiring heat using flexible, heat resistant ducts.
The Travelers Insurance company’s own Risk Control Department recommends the following steps be taken for safe operation of indirect fired construction heaters:
- All heaters, hoses and fuel tanks should be inspected and maintained regularly by a qualified and licensed service company through a written agreement
- This represents another layer of complexity and cost to your project. Did you budget for this?
- Fuel tanks should be secured and protected by bollards and/or Jersey barricades
- Did you budget and arrange for this equipment to be delivered to the job site?
- Flue stacks should be located away from combustible items and vented to prevent fumes from entering the building structure
- Fuel line piping should be flexible and American Gas Association rated and secured against physical damage
- Who is responsible for checking if this is the case and will these lines function safely in sub-freezing temperatures when you really need them to?
- Heaters must be located outside the building on flat stable ground
- What if there is no flat, stable ground outside the building because it is on a slope?
- Dedicated personnel should be assigned to maintain and monitor even temperatures. This must be done manually by adjusting a dial back and forth since most fired heaters do not have automatic thermostats.
- Was this extra labor cost budgeted for? Are all possible foreign language barriers for this person being considered?
Direct-Fired Temporary Construction Heaters
Direct fired heaters sometimes called “salamanders” or “torpedoes’ convert all the fuel being burned into heat. Because of this the inherent hazard is the flame can cause a fire if burning too close to combustible materials. It is not recommended to use a direct fired portable construction heater inside a wood framed building. Direct fired job site heaters are more prone to tipping over due to their maneuverability and therefore represent a higher risk to starting a fire. Because they create high levels of carbon monoxide, they represent a serious health hazard to employees and should never be used indoors.
Not only do direct fired construction heaters introduce both carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into a building they also introduce high levels of humidity and the diesel fumes can seep into drywall and leave a permanent stench. Adhesives, paint and drywall do not set well if conditions are too humid. Dry air is a must for these materials to set and cure properly to ensure optimal construction conditions. Workers also report that high levels of constant humidity adversely affect their ability to do their jobs optimally.
For Direct Fired Temporary Construction Heaters Travelers recommends these steps be taken for proper and safe operation:
- Position heaters on a non-combustible surface that extends at least 4 feet in front of the portable construction heater
- Properly secure heater for construction to prevent them from moving accidentally
- How is the accomplished with non-combustible materials?
- Electronic flame sensors or pilot safety valves must be in place
- Who is assigned this task?
- Before refueling and at least 50 feet from the building be sure portable heater for construction sites is turned OFF and has cooled down. NEVER REFUEL CONSTRUCTION SPACE HEATER INDOORS.
- Temperatures can drop quickly when refueling outside is happening? Will this affect paint, adhesive and drywall drying times?
- All combustible materials must have safety clearances on all sides of the construction site heaters
- Carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms and make-up air systems should be installed and checked daily for operational effectiveness.
- Was this budgeted into the project? Who will be testing these sensors daily and keeping a log to avoid a possible denial of insurance claim?
- Dedicated personnel should be assigned to monitor and maintain safe, even temperatures. This must be done manually by adjusting a dial back and forth since most fired heaters do not have automatic thermostats.
- Was this labor part of project budget?
Not adhering to all of these insurance company recommendations may result in denial of an insurance claim if a fire event or toxic poisoning were to occur.
Propane and butane construction heaters must be consistently handled and managed properly or a disaster could result. Open flame and indirect fired heaters provide no margin for error and require consistent, constant monitoring and care.
Open flames have the potential to and can ignite any and all combustible items like solvents, fuels, oils, vapors, lumber, rags and trash if not managed religiously. Unless you can assign a dedicated person to make sure these types of heaters are safely monitored whenever they are being used lax monitoring can result in disaster both to the personnel and the building itself.
Moving and storing propane, butane and diesel tanks safely is a constant challenge and if mishandled can result in explosions and fires. Spills happen and if not properly cleaned up can spell disaster.
Introducing carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide without proper monitoring equipment (hidden cost) into work areas creates a health risk to workers and a liability risk to employers.
AFTER HOURS OPERATION OF PROPANE CONSTRUCTION HEATERS: DENIED!
If you require your temporary construction heaters to be left on after hours to cure or set adhesives, paint or drywall or prevent freezing pipes you will not be allowed to use any type of heater that uses a flame. The only allowable and safe option for after hours operation when workers are not present is an 240v construction heater which has an automatic thermostat to maintain consistent, even dry heat. Travelers recommends that night security personnel be made aware of and check on electric heaters occasionally throughout the night.
Electric Construction Heaters – The Best Construction Heaters for Sale
Now that we have identified all the shortcomings, hidden costs, safety dangers, insurance claim minefields and associated risks of using “low cost” open flame powered portable construction heaters let’s dissect why electric indoor construction heaters are your best, safest and lowest risk option for heating your construction sites.
- Indoor construction heaters powered by safe, predictable electricity can maintain even temperatures using automatic thermostats.
- Temporary construction heaters that convert electricity into heat put out dry heat, not humidified heat that can wreak havoc on buildings under construction with adhesives, drywall and paint that needs to set under controlled conditions.
- The best construction site heaters powered by electricity allow you to safely leave the heater on after hours to maintain even temperatures to prevent pipes from freezing, tools from being too cold to use and for drywall, paint and adhesives to set and dry per manufacturers recommendations
- Electric construction heaters with swivel caster wheels allow you to maneuver the heater long distances down sidewalks or in tight spaces where sharp turns are required to get around corners. Rolling heaters minimize the risk of lifting injuries associated with workers comp claims
- 220 volt construction heaters are hands down your safest option because they do not require dangerous fuels (diesel/kerosene) or gases (propane/butane) to be transported and stored safely at the job site without the use of 3rd party service companies to do so and rental of expensive Jersey barricades and bollards
- The longest lasting portable electric construction heaters have these attributes:
- Steel, not plastic which expands and contracts with every use which limits useful lifespan
- Uses finned, stainless steel heater strips, not coils which have very limited on/off cycles before they snap and need replacement
- Can be repaired by the owner easily and with limited customer phone support which avoids paying roundtrip shipping to manufacturer for warranteed repairs
- Uses ‘top-shelf’ electronic components easily acquired at Amazon, Grainger, McMaster-Carr, etc. for maximum uptime.