If you use your oven regularly, you’ll be familiar with the blast of warmth that hits you when the oven door is opened. It makes sense to assume that an oven could be a heat source for your home. Perhaps it might even be cheaper than the more traditional methods—wouldn’t that be lovely!
However, there is a distinct difference between a heat source and a safe and/or effective heat source. Using your oven for this purpose—one that it was not intended for—is going to come with certain repercussions.
Heating with an oven is not considered safe. There is a risk of burns, fires, gas exposure, and damage to the oven. It is also not effective at heating larger spaces. A small kitchen and the nearby areas (if the design is open-plan) might be heated by an oven, but it’s not a solution for larger spaces.
Safety Implications of Using an Oven as a Heater
Although it seems like a plausible solution to your heating needs, ovens aren’t designed to heat a space.
Unlike appliances like thermostats and space heaters, which are designed specifically for heating purposes, ovens do not have the buildup required to heat a home.
As such, they should never be used for heating purposes because doing so would create a safety hazard and might put you and your loved ones at risk.
To heat a room with an oven, you’d have to leave the oven’s door open. This might not pose a serious problem for adults that are aware of the danger of getting too close to a heated oven (although forgetfulness and thoughtfulness mean that we are not totally out of danger).
However, if there are children or pets in the house, then this is definitely not something you want to try, particularly if your oven is installed near the floor.
The heating elements in appliances like space heaters are covered, so there isn’t the risk of coming in direct contact with them. Some space heaters even feature a protective guard for added protection.
However, with an oven, the heating elements or flames are exposed, which is why it is essential that the door be closed while the oven is running.
So, if the oven is situated in a location that is accessible to pets or children, they could crawl in and get burned by the fire. The situation can be very dire, depending on the level of exposure, so it’s best to seek out alternative methods of keeping your home warm in order to ensure the safety of your loved ones.
Additionally, running an oven for a prolonged period would heat up the external components of the oven. So even accidentally brushing against the oven can get you injured.
Depending on the size and layout of your kitchen, leaving the oven’s door open for a prolonged period might make navigating around the kitchen difficult.
This is especially true if you have a small kitchen and have very little room between kitchen appliances and furniture.
Besides the space it would occupy, leaving the oven’s door open can lead to accidents.
Since you and other members of your household aren’t used to having the door open, you might accidentally bump into or trip over it while walking around the kitchen.
Additionally, an overheated oven can cause the oven’s housing to be extremely hot. This creates a safety hazard, especially if the oven is situated in a high-traffic location.
The dangers of opening your oven door in your kitchen are worse if you have children or pets running around your kitchen. They can sustain injuries if they bump into the oven and if the oven is overheated, they can sustain burns if they as much as brush against the door.
Overheating and Fire Risk
Ovens aren’t designed for continuous operation, so running one for a prolonged period can cause the unit to overheat.
Now, I don’t just mean it will get hotter as it produces more heat. I mean that the components of the oven will be subject to strain and stress that they are not supposed to deal with, and the machinery part of the oven will overheat.
The longer you run the oven, the higher its risk potential. This is why it is advised that you do not leave your oven unmonitored if you are using it for an extended period.
Unlike appliances like space heaters that have a thermal shut-off, which automatically turns off or trips the heater whenever it gets too hot, ovens do not have any means of preventing overheating.
Overheating can cause a range of problems and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
It can damage the temperature dials and controls, causing the oven to malfunction or function inefficiently. This can lead to an increase in energy usage in electric ovens and in gas ovens.
It can also increase the flow of toxic gas into your home (if you have a gas oven).
Electrical parts can overheat and spark.
With the oven door standing open (as it would have to in order to be useful as a heat source), anything can find its way inside and settle against the heating elements or come into contact with the flames—things that are flammable or release toxic gases when burning.
In the end, an overheated oven poses a fire hazard and can lead to a full-blown household fire if it is left unattended for too long.
Combustion Gas Exposure Risk (Gas Ovens)
Combustion is needed for gas ovens to ignite the flame required to cook food.
It is a chemical reaction between gas and oxygen that results in the production of heat.
The combustion process can be either complete or incomplete. Complete combustion releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H₂O) and does not pose any serious threat to health. Although, CO2 can become toxic at high concentrations.
Incomplete combustion is of more concern. When there isn’t enough oxygen in the burner, the combustion process is incomplete, and it leads to production of carbon monoxide (CO) and soot.
Leaving your oven door open allows combustion gases to flow freely into your space. This might not be a problem if there is complete combustion, but incomplete combustion is almost unavoidable if you’re running your oven continuously for a prolonged period.
There will be air available to the oven, but the longer it runs, the more CO2 and th
e less oxygen it will contain. As you can imagine, less oxygen is, in itself, unideal breathing air!
But on top of that, CO is an extremely toxic gas. Another name for CO is the silent killer because, unlike natural gas, which is infused with mercaptan to give it a rotten egg odor, CO is odorless and colorless.
The only way to detect the gas is by using a CO detector (amazon link) and if you do not have one installed, you can have a high amount of the gas in your home without realizing it.
Exposure to CO can lead to symptoms like
- Chest discomfort
- Breathing difficulties
Prolonged exposure to CO can lead to more serious complications like brain damage, heart problems, and loss of pregnancy.
Gas Exposure Risk (Gas Ovens)
As I stated earlier, an overheated oven can cause the unit to malfunction. Depending on the nature of the problem, it can cause an inordinate amount of gas to be released and because the oven door is left open, all that gas would seep unhindered into your home.
Additionally, because the flame is exposed, it is more susceptible to external elements and can get blown off by the breeze from your kitchen. This might not pose a problem with newer ovens as they are equipped to stop gas flow into the burner in such situations.
However, if your oven is faulty or you use an older oven, the unit might not be outfitted to shut off the gas supply whenever the flame isn’t ignited.
If this is the case, gas will flow freely into your space and if you are not close enough to detect this in time, it can cause an unhealthy amount of gas to be released into your living area.
This poses a fire hazard and because the presence of natural or LP gas in a space depletes the amount of oxygen in the air, it can also lead to a range of health problems.
Some of the symptoms of gas exposure include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Eye and throat irritation
This Practice Can Be Relatively Effective
Ovens are designed to heat up a small contained space, which is why you might notice that your food takes longer to cook if the oven isn’t properly closed.
Heating appliances are equipped to heat up ambient air. They have a higher heating capacity than ovens, and because of their intended purpose, they are designed so that they do not negatively impact the quality of air in a space.
Ovens produce heat as well, so they might be able to warm your space. However, as stated earlier, ovens aren’t designed for this kind of large-scale heating, so they would have very little influence on the temperature in your house in general.
Even with the door open, ovens would only be able to heat the immediate surrounding areas. So, if you have a small kitchen and would like to heat up that space, using the oven might work.
How well an oven warms up a space would depend on how long it has been running, how much heat it is capable of generating per unit time, how crowded the space is, etc.
However, as stated earlier, running an oven for a prolonged period might lead to overheating, which is a safety hazard.
Additionally, gas flames produce a considerable amount of water vapor and with the oven door open, the vapor would seep into your home and this would increase the indoor humidity level.
An increase in indoor humidity would cause condensation to build up on surfaces and would affect the overall air quality in your home.
The Efficiency of Using Ovens as Heaters
Heating systems account for about 30% of most residential energy expenses, which is why most homeowners are seeking out cheaper alternatives to conventional heaters.
If your sole reason for using an oven to heat your home is to reduce utility expenses, then I recommend that you seek out an alternative heating method that costs less and does a better job heating your house.
For instance, space heaters cost significantly less to run than both electric and gas ovens. They are also safer and can cover a wider area.
Here is a table showing the average hourly cost of running an oven and other heating appliances.
|Appliance||Average Operating Cost/Hour|
When you compare the price of running an oven (gas and electric) with that of some of the heating appliances listed above, you can see that running an oven costs more.
Additionally, you might be able to turn off a heating device intermittently because it has been able to warm your space considerably. However, because an oven cannot effectively heat your home, you might have to run the unit non-stop.