Cabinet heater coalition positions revised proposal on NFPA calendar

December 1, 2008 By    

Propane-fired cabinet heaters have roots that extend back to the 1980s when steel cylinders were considered for indoor use. Two decades later, the product remains sidelined awaiting introduction into the market. While attempts have been made, roadblocks and setbacks have blunted its progress time and again. Some wonder if it will ever happen.

As a new year approaches, optimism remains that cabinet heaters, fueled with propane from composite cylinders, will one day find their place inside the home.

The latest notch on the ever-growing timeline was marked recently when the International Cabinet Heater Coalition submitted a revised proposal to the National Fire Protection Association Committee on Liquefied Petroleum Gases (NFPA 58 Committee, for short), meeting a Dec. 1 deadline. The coalition, headed by industry veteran Sam McTier, is composed of marketers, manufacturers and distributors who still believe in the residential market for cabinet heaters.

Its latest proposal includes revisions and requirements that should improve its standing with NFPA, McTier believes. (As we went to press, McTier said the unvented portable heater listing requirements were in their final stages of approval.)


McTier has heard the rumblings of opposition from members of the fire community and within the propane industry. Yet he feels there are pockets of support, with some choosing to remain less vocal. In the coming months, he plans to meet with NPGA representatives on the NFPA 58 Committee to rally their support.

The committee, composed of about 30 members, will meet early next year to review proposals and take action on them. A committee vote is expected to be close, with McTier putting the coalition’s chances at 50/50 or 60/40. Proposals need two-thirds majority to move forward.

With no objections, the cabinet heater proposal could be approved for the 2010 edition of the NFPA 58 code. But McTier still expects opposition from the fire community following the committee’s actions. He expects the issue to be bumped back to NFPA’s annual meeting in June 2010. The coalition would state its case in front of the entire NFPA membership – a challenging and overwhelming process, nonetheless.

Familiar territory

This is familiar territory for the industry. Only last year the NFPA 58 Committee gave its OK on the propane-fueled cabinet heaters. Members representing fire-service organizations challenged the committee’s actions, however, and the proposal’s fate was pushed to NFPA’s annual meeting.

But several months before the meeting, reports surfaced that two-piece composite lift-truck cylinders ruptured while in storage. The timing couldn’t have been worse, because the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) decided to withdraw the cabinet heater proposal.

Early this year, with the industry divided on the issue, NPGA voted to cut off funding development of the cabinet heater market. Those still interested were left to take the reins without NPGA resources, and the coalition was formed.

A promising future – with studies showing the potential for millions of added gallons for the industry – is met with a prevailing fear. McTier’s confidence in the project is countered by those who oppose bringing propane indoors.

Perception also plays a factor. Without NPGA’s full-fledged support, NFPA may feel more inclined to reject the proposal. NFPA must be convinced that NPGA’s decision to step aside is unrelated to the safety and viability of such an endeavor.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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