Vent-free heaters have grown in popularity over the years. This is primarily due to the ease of installation and because their designs offer freedom in home placement. That’s because no chimney, flue or hearth is needed. As a result, these units can be installed in any room in a home. Vent-free heaters also allow the homeowner to use natural gas or propane as an energy source resulting in savings in energy costs. But vent-free heaters do pose hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning, burn injuries and home fires. When properly designed, these units can function as intended and not pose significant hazards to their owners and users. But when they aren’t properly designed, bad things can happen.
Most vent-free heater manufacturers design their products so that users, especially children, are not exposed to burn or fire hazards. Some vent-free manufacturers use glass fronts for their units without taking into account the hazards associated with the use of glass fronts. Glass, like any other material, can become extremely hot when in such close proximity to flames. These manufacturers failed to take this burn hazard into account and, as a result, many children have sustained serious burn injuries from touching the glass.
Even adults are exposed to burn hazards when the manufacturer fails to identify and eliminate burn hazards. Kendall Dunson, a lawyer at Beasley Allen, is investigating a case involving a vent-free unit that was professionally installed in a home. An adult renter sustained serious burn injuries when her nightgown was pulled into the flames. The woman suffered severe burns from her mid torso up to her head. Her head injuries resulted from her hair catching fire from her night gown. The woman’s home, and furniture inside the home, were also damaged by the fire.
Our client’s gown was pulled into the flames because of the inadequate guarding. Even though approximately 90 percent of the flame was properly guarded, this particular manufacturer decided not to guard the entire opening. Preliminary reports indicate 100 percent of the exposed flames could have been easily guarded by simply extending the existing mesh guard on the unit. The cost of extending the existing mesh guarding would have been minimal. Since this particular manufacturer sold other vent-free heaters with complete flame guarding, the decision not to guard 100 percent of the flame on this particular unit is irresponsible and could not have been the result of a reasonable analysis to identify and eliminate a clear hazard.
While these units are appealing in terms of appearance and cost-savings benefits, be sure any unit purchased completely guards the flames and if glass is used to guard the flames ensure that the manufacturer has incorporated technology that prevents the glass front from overheating to the point where it can burn a child or ignite furniture close by. Sensors are available to shut down the flame if unsafe levels are detected. This manufacturer had everything it needed to prevent a foreseeable injury but failed meet reasonable design standards. We will keep you updated on the progress of this litigation. If you need more information on this subject, contact Kendall Dunson, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Kendall.Dunson@beasleyallen.com.