Stove burners, room heating, and carbon monoxide

About a month ago our heater (built-in, with ducts) broke down. While we waited for repairs to be finished-- the repair guy had to take the blower motor with him and find parts for it–we turned burners on, on the kitchen stove, for heat. (We live in a mobile home.)
The repairs have long since been finished, but my Mom insists on having two of the four stove burners burning for a few hours, sometimes even while the heater is running (not that she would notice–she is hard of hearing.)
However, I have recently read that stove burners can give off dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide if they are left on too long. FWIW, there is a hood and roof vent over the stove.
Is it unwise to use the burners for room heating at all?

Buy a carbon monoxide detector; they are not expensive.


Extremely unwise, even with ventilation. There was a very recent thread concerning this same notion, but it may have been in IMHO. BTW: A CO detector is fine for a bedroom, but is pointless in a kitchen with a gas stove, as it will alert constantly.

When home-distilling whiskey, some friends and I had bought a carbon monoxide detector to keep near the high-BTU propane burner that ran for hours at a time. It never once went off. Cite that a gas stove would cause a CO detector to alert constantly?

I have a CO detector and have used my gas stove for heat when the power is off many times. Never set the CO detector off.

Stoves aren’t intended to be room heaters. They do not give off dangerous amounts of CO when operated properly in an adequately ventilated room. If you left two pots of water boiling on the stove for a couple of hours it shouldn’t produce enough CO to be dangerous. So in a pinch using the stove for a little heat isn’t going poison anyone, but making a practice of it probably has more danger from starting a fire or gas poisoning or an explosion if the flame goes out. So it’s just not wise to use a gas stove for heating save for emergencies.

What burning natural goes does that should be considered: Removes oxygen and adds in moisture, which could make the air unhealthy (on paper).

In reality, ain’t no way those burners have that kind of impact; they’re just too small.


We have a smoke/carbon monoxide detector in our mobile home. It is at the far end of the hall, high on the wall, just outside the door to my Mom’s room. The kitchen is at the other end of the MH, which is 96 feet long. It is rare that conditions in the kitchen would set off the detector, for example, a great deal of smoke from something frying; if that happens I remove the detector, disarm it and put it in another room until the meal is over.
My main concern is that she is hard of hearing and might not hear the detector’s piercing alarm.

I concede the point. I think I had ‘smoke detector’ in my brain. Still not a good idea to make a habit of using a stove as a heater.

Many CO detectors won’t alarm unless the level remains high for 15 minutes or more. The UL standard is*:

• 30ppm for 30 days
• 70ppm for 60-240 minutes
• 150ppm for 10-50 minutes
• 400ppm for 4-15 minutes

I wouldn’t count on consumer CO detectors as proof that no problem exists. I only trust them as a warning that a problem might exist if it does go off.

FWIW, the stove top in our kitchen doesn’t have a pilot light. It was designed with an igniter which makes a clicking sound as the knob is set to an “on” position, and causes the gas coming into the burner to ignite.
Our stove top’s igniter has failed; for the last few years we have turned the knob to an “on” position and touched a lighted kitchen match to the burner to light it.

There are a lot of variables that make the difference between dangerous and fine in that situation. A very energy efficient building will have less infiltration of fresh air. Even if you have an exhaust hood over the stove, the airflow may not be good enough to get most of the CO up the hood.
If you need to use the stove as a heater, and it has an exhaust hood above it. Open a window or a couple of windows, at a far point from the stove. You can light something that makes smoke and hold it over the stove and see if it is taken up the exhaust hood. There can still be areas where CO might build up. Ensure that you crack a window a bit in your sleeping area.
I have an emergency backup kerosene heater that is OK to use indoors. Of course it creates CO. So you need to ensure a proper circulation of air, in and out.

Does burning natural gas even create carbon monoxide? IIRMHSCCC [If I recall my high school chemistry class correctly] the equation looks like this: CH[sub]4[/sub] + 2 O[sub]2[/sub] = CO[sub]2[/sub] + 2 H[sub]2[/sub]O

Where’s the CO?

Remove an O2 from the left side, and change two CO2 to CO on the right.

The gas space heater has to be besded to mix the air (for its O2 )into the fuel gas properly. Small blockages like a dead insect or flake of rust can result in poorly mixed gas burning, and burning the fuel when the mixture is short of O2 results in CO.
Its dangerous to say “My stove didn’t set off the CO meter, so no stove will ever kill anyone !” Your stove may be better designed, or just less decrepit… someone somewhere will have a stove making copious amounts of CO …

Our stove top is fairly modern–the igniter is a modern touch, as I see it–and it’s quite efficient at burning gas at the individual burners.
Reading that equation, I 'd like to know: Where does the water go?

Let’s see how much I remember of high school chemistry…

The equation above relates to complete combustion. The hydrocarbons are burned slowly (in relative terms) and with an excess of oxygen. Incomplete combustion produces compounds like CO and are typical of extremely short burn times (like inside the cylinders of an internal combustion engine) or when the fire is starved of oxygen.

Well designed stove burners typically provide ‘complete’ combustion with little ‘incomplete’ therefore producing little (very little) CO. I’ll never say never, but a gas stove should be really, really safe – from a carbon monoxide poisoning perspective, anyway.

However, stoves aren’t designed to be run full blast for hours on end, since that isn’t typical of cooking. So issues like heat buildup are more of a danger. Everything from the circuitry and valves in the stove itself, to adjacent cabinets and walls could be affected by high temperatures. There may be outgassing of compounds from ‘manufactured wood’ products, plastics, and other materials resulting from this heat. These outgassed compounds may themselves be dangerous. Damage, up to and including fire, may result from long exposure to cumulative high temperatures.

In a pinch, with some supervision, using a stove for temporary supplemental heat probably isn’t too dangerous. But I’d not make a habit of it. Also, if your stove igniter has failed, it would be easy to leave a burner open but lit, filling your house with a perhaps explosive mixture. Get that igniter fixed ASAP!

Duhh! Missed edit window!

“…burner open but UN-lit…” makes more sense.

Oh, and in answer to the “where does the water go?”, the answer is the same place the CO2 and the CO go – into the room air.

How is using a burner for heat any different than using it for cooking? I know many families that cook long cooking stews and other items (as do I). I find it hard to believe that open flame stoves would be approved if there was a CO problem. I have a CO detector in both my apt and my trailer. I’ve occasionally used the burners in the trailer for heat and have never set off the CO monitor which is about 5 feet away.

An odd fact about our mobile home is that there is a mounting for a smoke detector right across the kitchen from the stove! We wised up and removed the detector that was there, since any amount of smoke from the stove top would set it off. It’s at the other end of the place from our bedrooms anyway.