When you think of Kerosene the first thing that comes to mind is likely something along the lines of grandparents or maybe cowboys. This is understandable seeing as how kerosene first hit the market in the mid 19th. Century – but despite its age and fall in popularity, it continues to be a cost-efficient fuel source today.
There are different types of kerosene heaters out there, and while they all have their merits, the best overall kerosene heater is the Sengoku CTN-110. It effectively heats 500 square feet, has a burn time of 14 hours, and comes equipped with top-of-the-line safety mechanisms.
Why Buy Kerosene?
While not near as popular as it once was, kerosene still offers a valid and efficient way of heating living or outdoor space. Some of the common uses for kerosene heaters are as follows.
This is a very serious and potentially dangerous issue that can easily be avoided by having a kerosene heater on hand.
Thanks to the portability of most kerosene heaters, they can easily be moved in between job sites so you can stay comfortable and focused on the task at hand.
This is especially true when it comes to heaters that have a blower in them. This style of the heater can push out up to and above 180,000 BTUs, heating up to 4,200 square feet.
With your reason for needing a kerosene heater already in mind, let’s take a look at the defining differences between the most common types of heaters.
Types of Kerosene Heaters
An indoor kerosene convection heater typically has a rounded shape with the wick being placed in the center. The fuel tank sits below the wick, and while the wick burns the heat rises up and outward in all directions. The 360-degree heat rotation makes this style of heater good for heating large open spaces like barns, garages, and patios.
Since these heaters put out so much heat you need to have them placed in a well-ventilated area. If placed somewhere without sufficient ventilation, there could be a possibility for carbon monoxide to build up.
Another thing that most, but not all convection heaters have is a non-removable fuel tank. This means that you may have to move the entire heater every time you want to refuel it. This can be a deal-breaker for some and is one of the main reasons that someone might opt for a radiant heater instead.
These often smaller, rectangular-shaped heaters are designed for smaller indoor spaces. They feature a wick and a fuel tank in nearly the same position as a convection heater just in a smaller package. A radiant kerosene heater pushes the heat out in a single direction as opposed to the convection heater’s 360-degree coverage.
The smaller design of a radiant heater makes them ideal for any of your indoor heating needs. They require much less ventilation than a convection heater so they work perfectly in those smaller spaces.
Unlike a convection heater, most radiant heaters feature a removable fuel tank. This allows the user an easier way to refuel the heater without having to move the entire thing.
A kerosene forced-air heater is designed to heat very large open spaces. They have a torpedo shape to them and the fuel tanks rests on the bottom.
This style of heater uses a blower that pushes the heat from the burning kerosene out in a single direction. They can be approved for up to 180,000 BTUs and heat up to 4,200 square feet.
This style of heater should only be used in open spaces and while it is not usually approved for indoor use, it can be used as an indoor kerosene heater if there is a sufficient level of ventilation.
Convection and Radiant are just the overarching defining terms of general heater styles. There is a list of other things to be considered when making the right purchase for your space.
The wick on a kerosene heater is saturated with kerosene and when it burns it creates all of the heat that is put out by the heater. Wicks come in different widths and as they grow in size so too does the amount of heat they are capable of putting out.
You will want to determine the size of the space that is going to be heated before you can decide on what size wick you are going to need. Kerosene heaters usually have listed on them somewhere which size wick it takes and what kind of heat output it is capable of.
Most newer model heaters come with some kind of automatic ignition button or switch. These make for quick and effortless lighting and should be specified somewhere on the model if it comes equipped with one.
If the heater doesn’t have an automatic ignition then you will have to manually light the heater with a match. This is as simple as touching the wick with the match and being careful along the way.
Most people don’t like manually lighting their heaters so they opt for an automatic igniter instead. These allow quicker lighting and a decreased chance of accidentally burning yourself.
Not all heaters come equipped with a fuel gauge, but the ones that do off peace of mind by taking out all of the guesswork involved with monitoring the fuel level.
Having a quick and easy way to check the level of fuel in your heater allows you greater control and the ability to plan ahead with your heating schedule.
This component is especially important if the heater in question is a home’s main heat source. Being able to ensure proper fuel levels prevents you from waking up in the middle of the night freezing cold, without a heater running.
All kerosene heaters come equipped with some level of portability. Some have handles, some have wheels, and some even have both.
The level of portability in which you desire with your kerosene heater is going to solely depend upon you and your needs.
If you plan on moving your heater a lot then obviously you are going to want one that is easier to move around – probably something with wheels that can effortlessly be relocated by a single person.
If your heater is going to stay in the same spot all the time, say a garage, or a patio, then you might not particularly care about the level of portability of the unit. If this is the case then you can opt for a heavier unit without wheels or a carrying handle.
This may very well be the defining features of any kerosene heater out there today. The safety features in place on heaters are designed to prevent damage to the heater and to minimize the risk of fire.
The main source of safety on these heaters are heat sensors that detect when a system is overheating, and a shutdown function that automatically turns the heater off if it gets knocked over on its side.
If safety is a top priority of yours then you will want to make sure that the best kerosene heater for you has both of these safety functions in place.
While we’re on the topic of safety I am going to go ahead and cover all of the potential hazards of owning and operating one of these heaters and how to avoid them.
Only use 1-K top-grade kerosene
This is the purest kerosene available and should be the only kind that you use for your heater. It has the lowest impurity count of any kerosene and ensures a higher level of indoor air quality.
Inferior kerosene will dirty up your heater and emit more pollutants that can be dangerous to breathe over extended periods of time.
Clear the surrounding area
Before starting a kerosene heater you want to make sure that there is nothing immediately surrounding it. Things like curtains, blankets, and furniture can drastically increase the risk for fire if they are in close quarters with the heater.
Open flames ignite
Kerosene heaters operate by an open flaming wick. This exposed flame means that you should avoid using any kinds of aerosols or flammable liquids in or around one of these heaters.
Use the cage
Most new kerosene heaters come equipped with a cage surrounding the hottest parts of the heater. If your heater comes with one of these you should always leave it on while the heater is in use.
The cage is designed to prevent toddlers and pets from accidentally burning themselves while playing. If you remove this cage make sure you keep a close eye on any curious hands or paws.
Never move a lit heater
To prevent any injuries or potential fires you should never move a kerosene heater while it is lit. You should extinguish the flame first and then wait for the heater to cool down.
Refueling your heater is part of the regularly required maintenance and it should never be done indoors.
Before attempting to move or refuel your heater you need to make sure the flame has been extinguished and you have allowed the heater enough time to completely cool down. Always take your tank if it is removable, or the whole heater if it isn’t, outside before attempting to refuel it.
Kerosene heaters do present a carbon monoxide risk if the area in which they are located is not properly ventilated. For this reason, you should never run one of these heaters in your home unless you have properly functioning carbon monoxide alarms installed.
Care and Maintenance
The proper care and maintenance of your kerosene heater is going to ensure that you have a reliable source of heat and comfort for years to come. Some of the more trivial maintenance is performed daily while some of the less common upkeep steps only need to be performed on a seasonal basis.
Before you refuel your kerosene heater you need to make sure that you have extinguished the flame and allowed the heater plenty of time to cool off.
For refueling, I recommend you invest in a siphoning pump which makes for a much cleaner and easier fill-up job. Once you have your pump or a funnel, and some 1-K kerosene, then you’re ready to fill the heater.
Take it outside
Once your heater has been allowed the necessary amount of time needed to cool off you need to move it outside. This prevents you from spilling flammable gas in your home.
Remove the cap
Remove the cap from both the fuel tank and the kerosene can.
Fill it up
The specifics of this last step will vary depending on whether you opted for the funnel or the siphon pump.
Regardless of the chosen method to fill up your heater, you can now put the cap back on the fuel tank and move the heater back inside to continue heating.
Regularly cleaning the wick on your heater will prolong the amount of time in between wick changes. Not only does a regular wick cleaning save you money, but it ensures you maintain a standard of clean air.
You can tell your wick need to be cleaned if there is noticeable discoloration, the wick becomes hard to lower or raise, lighting becomes difficult, or an unusual odor comes from the heater.
The first thing you have to do before cleaning your heaters wick is to siphon or burn out the remaining kerosene in the tank. When there is no fuel left in the heater raise the wick as high as it goes and light it. Once the remaining kerosene is burnt out of the wick brush it off with a soft brush.
It is important to never use water to clean a wick as it will interfere with its ability to hold kerosene. Once the wick has been cleaned you can refill the tank with fuel and lower your newly cleaned wick back into the kerosene. You have to let the wick soak in the kerosene for at least an hour. Look in your owner’s manual for potential model-specific time differences.
A wick can only be cleaned so many times. After a certain point, the wick will become permanently discolored and this means it’s time to change out your heater’s wick. Before you start taking the heater apart make sure you either siphon or burn out all of the kerosene in the tank and remove the igniter’s batteries.
After that, you need to remove the top part of the cage guard, and the top plate under that. This exposes the burner assembly which you should also remove. Next, you need to remove the base by removing the necessary screws and the wick adjuster knob on the front.
The shelter plate, immediately under the base need to be removed to expose the four wing nuts holding the wick adjuster in place. Unscrew the wing nuts and remove the wick assembly. Once the wick assembly is out you can remove the old wick and put the new one on.
Reassemble your heater, making sure to reference the owner’s manual if specific instructions are needed. When the heater is back together you need to lower the new wick into the kerosene for the recommended amount of soaking time before attempting to light it.
Best Kerosene Heaters
From convection to radiant, from wide wick to thin wick, whatever your particular needs there is a clean gas-burning kerosene heater out there for you.
This portable kerosene heater comes fully loaded and ready to go and it’s backed by a 2-year warranty so you can make a sound investment.
This unit puts out 23,800 BTUs which is sufficient for heating up to 1,000 square feet. Its portable design makes it easy to move and its 1.9-gallon fuel tank means it has a run time of up to 12 hours. With an easy-to-read fuel gauge and an automatic ignition, this heater is a great choice for anybody in the market for one.
This is a radiant model kerosene heater and it is one of the best options for somebody on a budget.
For $215 this 10,000 BTU heater can comfortably heat up to 500 sq. ft. It comes with an automatic ignition and a single button shut-off, and it can run for a staggering13 hours on a single gallon of kerosene.
This forced air heater is a beast and offers hands down the best performance of any kerosene heater out there. Dual heat technology allows this thing to run at either 140 or 180 thousand BTUs, meaning it can easily heat up to 4,200 square feet.
It also comes with a built-in thermostat so you can set it at your desired temperature and forget it. This heater is not designed to work in small homes and should only be used in heavily vented areas.
When it comes to heaters Duraheat should be one of the first names that come to mind. They have been in the game for a while and this heater is a testament to why that is. With 23,000 BTUs this heater can heat a medium to large size home or open space.
Designed with safety in mind it has an all-around cage in place to prevent anyone from accidentally burning themselves. Another great safety feature of this model is the tip-over shutoff.
With their start dating back to the 1950s, Sengoku is one of the best kerosene heater manufacturers out there today. This particular model is not only one of the best available but it is a great budget option for only $240.
This radiant heater comes equipped with a fuel gauge, automatic igniter, flame adjuster, and overheat/tip-over shutoff – making it the most versatile and affordable option available today.
Despite their dated roots, kerosene heaters are alive and well today and they offer people a cost-effective and clean way of heating their homes during the colder times of the year.
There are many minor differences between kerosene heater models and the differences you want are going to depend on your individual heating needs. You may have a large space to heat so a forced-air or a convection heater would be ideal – on the contrary, if the space you need to heat is small then you can go with a less powerful, equally efficient radiant style heater.
The best overall kerosene heater is the Sengoku CTN-110. It effectively heats 500 square feet, has a burn time of 14 hours, and comes equipped with top-of-the-line safety mechanisms.
Dyna-Glo has the best forced-air kerosene heater on the market with their Workhorse. It heats up to 4,200 square feet which makes it ideal for larger barns or job sites and it comes with an easy to use set and forget thermostat so maintaining the right temperature has never been easier.
The Dyna-Glo RMC-55R7 is the most affordable option out there. Don’t let the price tag fool you though because although this heater is affordable, it’s still a Dyna-Glo, and you are going to know it from the performance.
Best Convection Heater
The best convection style kerosene heater is the Duraheat convection heater. At 23,000 BTUs it can heat 1,000 sq. ft. and can run for 12 hours on one tank of fuel. It boasts an automatic ignition and a super-portable design which makes it easy to move wherever you need.
Best Radiant Heater
The Dyna-Glo RMC-55R7 model is the best radiant style heater and it’s easy to see why with its one-touch extinguisher, 13 hour operation time, and safety shutoffs.
Choosing a kerosene heater doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what you’re looking for.