Oil Filled Radiator Heater Safety

Last updated:
Brad Smith
Written By Brad Smith

Ultimate Safety Guide for Your Oil Filled Radiator Heater

Oil filled radiator heaters are used by homeowners to heat up individual rooms or small homes.

These heaters are shaped just like radiators, are filled with a special oil, and have many heating elements that gently warm and circulate the oil through the radiator chambers.

Here are the most critical oil filled space heater safety tips that are quite easy to follow:

  • Never use any kind of extension cord or wiring that cannot handle the required radiator load. There is a grave risk of fire due to overheating of wires. This can lead to fire accidents. So try to use only rated material and choose hardwired systems that can handle load.
  • Always rely on thermostats and the internal mechanism of the radiators themselves-once you choose to leverage some external tool or technology you run the risk of overheating. 
  • If your oil filled radiator has caster wheels, please secure it to a place before letting kids anywhere near them. It’s best to use stationary systems to avoid mishaps.
  • While oil filled radiators are generally safe, it’s best to check if they have some kind of overheat protection (tilt switches) that automatically turn it off if anything happens to the heater. 
  • Although radiators heat indirectly through oil, and don’t glow red like other space heaters, they still can get very hot. Keep the unit many feet away from all combustible material, including walls, furniture and draperies.
  • Another oil filled heater safety tip is to keep pets and small kids also need protection from accidentally touching its hot surface. Many radiators come with a guard, but some don’t. 
  • Manufacturers warn against keeping these oil filled radiators in damp places (bathrooms, etc) with poor ventilation. If your chosen radiator is safe for use in bathrooms, keep it away from all sources of water such as sink or shower. These radiators heat up slowly, which means you can leave it unattended. This is not right, as any heater poses a big fire risk.

Where to Put Oil Filled Heater in Your Room?

For optimal heating, a central spot in any room is best, as it aids natural circulation and spreads out evenly throughout the space.

Rooms with doors retain heat better than open areas, but closing and opening doors frequently aids heat loss.

In an open floor plan house, you will have to install more than one radiator at different spots to generate enough heat to make a noticeable difference.

If you’re oil filled radiator to heat a single room, avoid placing it close to the door. Heat can escape even from a closed door before it has a chance to circulate, especially if the room on the other side of the door is colder.

Can Oil Filled Heaters be Used as Main Heating System?

Oil-filled radiation heaters can warm the entire room, but they are not made to replace the main heating system in chilly winters.

For best results, choose the right sized heater for the space where you’re planning to use it.

Instead of placing radiators all over your house, use them intelligently to increase the temperature in areas where you spend most of your time.

How to Set the Thermostat on Oil Filled Heaters?

Setting the thermostat on your forced-air heating system near 67 degrees can take some load off the main system, and one or two radiators make up the difference only in rooms where you actually need it.

In rooms equipped with ceiling fans, reverse the direction that the blades turn will push heated air back down from the ceiling.

Can you lay oil heaters down or use them on their side?

Most oil heaters come with a warning that they should not be laid on their side. This is because the oil inside can leak out and cause a fire. If you do decide to lay your oil heater on its side, make sure to put it on a surface that won’t catch fire easily.

Laying an oil heater on its side can also damage the heating element. This can cause the heater to overheat and potentially start a fire. So, it’s best to avoid laying oil heaters down altogether.

Dangers of Oiled-Filled Radiator Heaters

Is a leaking oil heater dangerous?

A leaking oil heater can be dangerous for a number of reasons:

  • First, if the leak is in the fuel line, there is a risk of fire.
  • Second, if the leak is in the combustion chamber, it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Third, if the leak is in the exhaust pipe, it can allow deadly fumes to enter your home.

You should always call a qualified technician to fix a leaking oil heater.

Can oil filled heaters explode and cause fire hazard?

Oil filled radiator heaters can’t explode, but while oil used in these heat radiators is not lit to generate heat, it’s still flammable, which increases risk of fire in the room where oil-filled radiator is used.

Fires occur when the oil leaks or is accidentally spilled from the crack into the floor. This oil can not only ruin porous surfaces, it can also catch fire if it’s close to heating element, resulting in a dangerous fire.

Oil-filled radiators can also tip and result in a fire hazard. Therefore, make sure their oil compartment is tightly sealed.

fire hazard

Fumes from oil filled radiator

Oil can smell, and this smell becomes noticeable when you’re refilling the oil tank of the heater or if the tank develops a leak or spills.

Oil fumes are less hazardous than a gas exhaust, which contains deadly carbon monoxide, but they can affect the health of those nearby.

Depending upon the sensitivities of the people, all those who are exposed to fumes in an enclosed space can feel bit nauseous and may develop stomachaches and headaches.

Are oil radiator heaters hot to touch?

One downside of oil radiator heaters is that they can get quite hot to touch. This can be a problem if you have young children or pets in the home. If you’re looking for a heater that is safe to touch, then an oil radiator heater may not be the best option for you.

Are oil heaters safe to leave on overnight?

If there are working stable and especially if the thermostat is totally functional, there is no worry to leave them turned on overnight.

Be sure to not leave anything flammable near or on the top of them.

Can oil heaters make you sick?

Oil-based space heaters can be dangerous to your health if not used correctly. Oil heaters release fumes that can be harmful to your lungs if inhaled. Additionally, they can release carbon monoxide, which is a colorless and odorless gas that can be deadly if you are exposed to too much of it.

To avoid these dangers, make sure that you only use your oil heater in a well-ventilated room and that you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home.

Moisture issues with oil filled heaters

Oil-filled space radiators cannot remove moisture in the air the way some heaters, especially the ones that blow hot air do.

This might be good for all those who suffer from dry skin, but on the other hand, dry air may result in many health dangers too.


People with allergies may find little relief from an oil radiator, and the combined heat and moisture can make nearby surfaces breeding grounds for mold infestation, which can be very unhealthy.

So avoid using oil filled radiator in areas with high humidity.

How to Repair Oil Filled Radiator heater?

Oil-filled radiators need very little in terms of maintenance or service.

  • Mostly, the issues in these devices are electrical-bad power switches or wiring and can be easily repaired by an authorized service technician.
  • If you feel your heater is not providing sufficient heat, and the issue is not with the circuit, get it checked out professionally. 
  • Sometimes, you hear noises coming from these silent heaters. Crackling and popping noises are normal-this happen as metal and oil warm up. 
  • If the heater has been turned upside down, it’s normal to hear gurgling noise once its turned upright as its oil settles back into the channels again. Try to wait till the voice stops to again use the radiator. 
  • An oil-filled heater can also develop a leak. If a viscous liquid is coming out of the unit, immediately disconnect it from the power source and stop using it immediately. The heater oil is sealed at the factory, and any leak cannot be replenished or repaired. If your oil-filled radiator is still under warranty, quickly contact its manufacturer for replacement options.

Oil-filled radiators hardly give any problems in the system itself. They basically require minimal maintenance and/or service yet deliver brilliant efficiency.

This is the biggest reason for their popularity.


Are there any risks associated with the smoke and toxic fumes from oil heaters, and what precautions should be taken?

Oil heaters, particularly older models, can emit smoke and potentially toxic fumes if not maintained properly. To minimize risks, ensure good ventilation in the room where the heater is used. Regular maintenance is crucial to prevent issues related to smoke and toxic fume emission. Additionally, installing a carbon monoxide detector is a prudent safety measure.

How do oil furnaces compare to electric and gas heaters in terms of safety and hazards?

Oil furnaces and heaters pose different risks compared to electric or gas heaters. While oil heaters are less likely to cause ignition or fire hazards, they can leak oil, which is a fire risk. Electric heaters, especially fan and ceramic types, are generally safer but can pose electric shock risks. Gas heaters carry risks of carbon monoxide poisoning if not vented properly. Each appliance type requires specific safety precautions and regular maintenance to minimize hazards.

What are the dangers of using waste oil in oil burners or heaters?

Using waste oil in oil burners or heaters is not recommended due to increased risks of fire, toxic fume emission, and appliance damage. Waste oil can contain contaminants that might cause ignition or toxic smoke when burned. It’s important to use the correct type of heating oil recommended by the manufacturer to avoid these dangers.

Can I safely sleep with an oil heater on, and how does it compare to using a ceramic heater or a column heater?

Sleeping with an oil heater on can be safe if the heater has a functional thermostat and is kept away from flammable materials. However, unlike ceramic or column heaters, oil heaters can get very hot to the touch, posing a burn hazard. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe operation, regardless of the heater type.

How does the operation cost of an oil heater compare to other types like electric oil heaters and portable room heaters?

The operation cost of an oil heater can vary depending on the price of oil and the efficiency of the appliance. Generally, oil heaters can be more cost-effective in terms of energy use compared to electric heaters. However, electric oil heaters and portable room heaters like Honeywell or fin oil heaters may offer more convenience and safety features. When choosing a heater type, consider both the initial cost and the long-term expenses related to electricity or oil consumption.

Further Reading

  • For those seeking a cozy addition to their bathroom without compromising on safety, discover our expert recommendations in the Best Portable Bathroom Heaters guide, where we delve into top products designed to warm up your space efficiently and safely.
smith brad omni

Written by Brad Smith

CEO & Lead Interior Designer

Brad Smith is an experienced interior designer and the founder of OmniHomeIdeas.com. With a Master's degree in Interior Design from Pratt Institute and a passion for creating safe and healthy living spaces, Brad shares his expert insights and innovative design ideas with our readers. His work is driven by the belief that home is where every story begins.