A salamander heater is a high-output forced-air or convection heater. Salamander heaters are most commonly used to heat air in large, open areas such as patios, construction sites, or workshops.
Salamander heaters feature a high-energy heat source such as a gas or kerosene flame, or a high-wattage electric element, contained within an open-ended tube. A fan located at one end of the tube forces cold air past the heat source. This heats the air instantaneously, providing convection heating in the outside area.
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Salamander heaters are also known as "salamander furnaces," "torpedo heaters," or "torpedo furnaces," depending on their design.
The Development of the Salamander Heater
The modern salamander heater was developed in the early 1940s by the Scheu Manufacturing Company as a high-performance space heater. The heater was designed to be highly effective in large areas that were traditionally difficult to heat, such as such as warehouses, factories, and construction sites, while also being simple and portable.
The salamander heater was named after the salamander, an amphibian which, according to medieval and Renaissance folklore, was reputedly able to live in fire.
The original salamander heater of the 1940s featured a kerosene burner, and many salamander heaters continue to use kerosene. Gas burners and high-output electric elements have also been incorporated into salamander heaters, offering a variety of power sources to suit a range of different applications. In fact, some salamander heater variants are fitted with peripheral components that allow combustible fuels such as diesel to be used. In the case of liquid fuel models, the fuel tank is generally mounted on the heater tube.
How Does a Salamander Heater Work?
- First, the burner is ignited, providing a powerful internal heat source.
- The fan is then turned on, which draws cold outside air through and forces it down the tube, past the heat source.
- This instantaneously heats the air, which is then blown out of the other end of the tube, into the area requiring heating.
- To control the output of the heater, the heat source or fan speed can be adjusted manually. In some cases, the output is regulated by an automated thermostat system.
A Selection of Salamander Heaters
Fostoria: FES-1524-1A 15KW 240V 1Ph Portable Electric Salamander Heater
Master Industrial Products: 45,000 BTU Kerosene/Diesel Forced Air Torpedo Heater
Global Industrial: Salamander Heater Portable Electric Fan Forced 8' Cord 240V 10KW 1PH 41.7A
Safety Considerations for Using a Salamander Heater
As simple and effective as the salamander heater is, there are several safety considerations to keep in mind.
- The most obvious safety issue is the risk of fire when the heater is used in close proximity to combustible materials.
- When gas burners are used, salamander heaters can pose an oxygen depletion hazard in small spaces. For this reason, they should always be used in well-ventilated areas.
- The instantaneous, high output of the heaters can create a large amount of condensation in the heated area.
Electric Salamander Heater
Electric salamander heaters push air through an electric element, such as an electric coil, to heat it. Usually, a high-wattage coil is required to generate enough power to sufficiently heat the air going through the tubes. Since salamander furnaces are often used in larger, more open spaces, they have to have enough power to effectively and noticeably heat the area. More watts generally equates to more power, which is why salamander heaters usually require a high-wattage coil.
One of the benefits of using an electric torpedo heater is that electricity is a cleaner energy source. Electrically heated air is odor-free and produces no fumes, unlike other heat sources. This makes the electric version of the salamander heater a good option to use while people are around. For this reason, electric versions are ideal for more enclosed, heavily sheltered, or smaller spaces as well. Additionally, electric coil heaters do not require as much work to set up as flame-based heaters do. One simply needs to plug it in, set the temperature, and the heater instantly produces that level of hot air. Using an electric torpedo furnace, also means that there is no need to carry around heavy liquids, fill a fuel tank, or light anything before turning it on.
The biggest downside to electric torpedo furnaces is their higher energy consumption rates. Electric salamander heaters require the heat source and fan to both constantly run, pulling greater amounts of electricity than other types. Prolonged use of one of these heaters may swiftly add up. The best way to mitigate this drawback is to purchase a high-efficiency electric heater to cut down on energy usage and thus, the energy bill.
Propane Salamander Heater
Of all the gas-powered salamander furnaces, propane is one of the cleaner-burning and lower costing. Propane is also more readily available. Many stores sell propane tanks and fuel including gas stations, home improvement stores, and even grocery stores. Propane is also generally more affordable than kerosene or natural gas options, so propane gas heaters that are going to be used for long periods or multiple times will likely be more cost-effective.
Propane gas torpedo heaters are generally quite portable too. The heating unit itself usually has wheels or can be easily carried by hand, and the attached propane tank only weighs about 20 or 30 pounds. Starting a propane heater does require filling the tank beforehand, but a single full tank generally lasts for a long time. Another benefit of some propane heaters is that they do not require electricity. Many propane versions start by an ignition rather than by being plugged in. These types of salamander heaters can be used during a power outage or in locations without electricity. This also increases their safety because they do not need the long electrical cables which might be tripping hazards.
The one major drawback to propane heaters is that they emit carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a potentially dangerous, odorless, and colorless gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious side-effect of improperly vented heater usage. For this reason, these heaters must be used only in very well-ventilated areas or outdoors, where the potential risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is very minimal. Conveniently, these heaters work better outside and heat breezy, covered areas more efficiently than their electrical counterparts.
Diesel Salamander Heater
Diesel salamander heaters are one of the more powerful heater types. Once started, they can heat a much larger area more quickly and for longer than electrical and propane heaters can. Diesel torpedo heaters also tend to have better safety features than other fuel heat sources, such as more precise automatic shut-offs. Diesel fuel is relatively easy to find at almost any gas station. It is often cheaper than kerosene or other liquid heating fuels as well.
One problem with diesel fuel is that it does not always work very well at colder temperatures. At temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, diesel fuel might form from a free-flowing liquid into more of a gel-like substance. This gelling can be prevented by properly winterizing your diesel fuel by adding kerosene. Many diesel salamanders can use multiple types of fuel including diesel, which can make them ideal for changing situations and temperatures.
Another issue with diesel heaters is that they produce larger amounts of exhaust and often an unpleasant smell too. This exhaust can be potentially hazardous, so diesel units also have to be used outside or in very airy spaces. Many people complain about the distinct odor from burning diesel. The possibly bothersome odor and the need for well-ventilated areas make diesel-powered salamanders especially great for outdoor use.