Mum's warning to parents using oil heaters this Winter
WHEN choosing a heater for the kids' bedroom, many families settle for an oil column heater. They're meant to be the safest option and with house fires on the rise through winter time, we all want that peace of mind. Right?
I've used my DeLonghi Radia heater in my kids' bedroom since they were newborns. Like many families, on those cold winter nights, it has always been left on the low setting to keep my little ones cosy throughout the night.
But the other night I experienced something that made me question if these heaters are in fact, the safest option.
A smell like no other
Before popping my two kids in the bath, I switched the heater on and shut the door to ensure the room was nice and warm when they hopped out.
As I was in the bathroom, I heard a low hissing sound. Thinking someone had flushed the toilet, I didn't really read into it. Then the hissing got louder and I could smell a petrol smell.
I went to investigate and as I opened the kids' bedroom door I was greeted with a horrible haze of smoke and an overwhelming foul smell.
Our oil heater had sprung a leak.
Terrified, I quickly unplugged the unit and called for my husband who came running in with wet towels and an oven tray to collect the oil that was spilling over the bedroom rug.
The spray took a while to settle before the epic clean up began. While I was annoyed at the damage done and the smell that had now filled the whole house, I couldn't help but think what might have happened if this leak occurred while we were all asleep.
If it had happened 20 minutes later, when my children were asleep in their beds, I'm not sure they would have woken from the smokey haze. With no obvious bang or explosion, I'm not sure my husband and I would have known something was happening in their bedroom if we were asleep either.
Yes, oil heaters can and do fault
Unfortunately, my story is not unique. In 2017, the Sunday Times reported a similar leak, which happened on a Mellerware Nevada 11-fin oil heater. In the same year, Bunnings Australia was also forced to recall their Moretti 11 Fin Oil Column Heater after Product Safety Australia deemed the units unsafe with reports of some 'exploding' and spraying hot oil.
According to Alan Frettingham, DeLonghi Group's service technical and compliance manager, while they are considered the safest heating option, it's not uncommon for oil heaters to fault in this way.
"Oil heaters can and do leak. The leak can vary in a variety of different ways from a small leak to one that ruptures very much like the one experienced here," Alan tells Kidspot.
"There are a number of reasons why this happens - from how the heater is stored to how it is used and looked after. The leak can occur from the oil gasket or from one of the weld joints that could have fractured."
How to prevent it happening at your place
While it's recommended you check the warranty period to ensure your unit isn't heading down the 'too old' route (FYI DeLonghi oil heaters have a seven-year warranty), there are a few things you can do to prevent the same thing happening in your home.
- Cover the heater while in storage at the end of the season to stop dust and other materials accumulating in the fins of the heater.
- Lift and carry the heater when transporting it from room to room, rather than wheeling it around.
- Check the heater and AC plug at the beginning of the season for any discolouration or damage.
- Always ensure the heater is placed at least one metre away from a person or object when in use.
Hopefully with these tips, you won't have the same scare I did.