Still the most common source of home heating energy is fossil fuels, including natural and propane gas. Do you use propane heat?
Search the Internet and you will find individuals complain their gas heater produces fumes that burn their eyes and causes blurry vision. Why is that the case?
Although those who burn propane gas sometimes complain of “dry-eyes,” its combustion actually releases considerable moisture. Basic chemistry demonstrates why this is so. The stoichiometric equation is written:
CH₃CH₂CH₃ + 5 O₂ → 3 CO₂ ↑ + 4 H₂O ↑
We read, propane gas plus oxygen molecules yields carbon dioxide and water vapor.
Now, although small quantities of carbon dioxide and water are found in our atmosphere, consider what water and carbon dioxide can produce if they exist in abundance:
H₂O + CO₂ → H₂CO₃
The above informs us that water plus carbon dioxide gas yields carbonic acid, H₂CO₃. Although it is not a particularly strong acid, acids are famous for burning the eyes. Why, the burning feeling one gets from chopping onions is due to the presence of an acid.
Besides, for every molecule of propane burned, there are four molecules of water produced. But there is almost an equal number of molecules of carbon dioxide produced. Although not all the carbon dioxide converts to carbonic acid, enough does that some of us complain, “My eyes burn!”
So if you are thinking of heating with with propane, be forewarned of the possible/probable difficulties you may experience.
What Can Be Done?
Other than changing the fuel used to heat the home, one thing that may reduce the problem is to spend as little time as possible in the room that houses the furnace. Along the same line of avoidance of exposure, one could heat the room, turn the furnace off, and then occupy the room some time afterward.
But what else happens when one heats with propane? Well, it requires considerable oxygen be sucked out of the air you breathe! How much? That is discussed in my followup article Propane and Oxygen Question.
Note: You might also enjoy Chopping Onions Makes You Cry