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Are Kerosene Heaters Safe?

Updated on November 2, 2011
Are kerosene heaters safe for you and your family?
Are kerosene heaters safe for you and your family? | Source

Are kerosene heaters safe? This question comes up frequently at the start of the heating season. Many people are planning ahead for the inevitable power outages that often accompany winter storms. Although there are many different options when it comes to an emergency heat source, the kerosene heater is the most popular choice. But are kerosene heaters safe enough to use in your home?

The Need For Ventilation

The two things people worry over most concerning kerosene heater safety is accidental fires and carbon dioxide. Kerosene heaters do give off a small amount of carbon dioxide when they are in use. One of the fuels that keep fire burning is oxygen. This is true of kerosene heaters as well. They consume oxygen and expel not only carbon dioxide but also sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. This is why it is important to have proper ventilation in the home when burning the kerosene heater.

Even if you feel your older home has enough drafts due to poor insulation and weatherstripping, it is still a good idea to open a window slightly. Although it may sound like defeating the purpose of heating a room, the open window provides an escape route for the gases and fumes while providing fresh air for you and the kerosene heater. The window only needs to be open 1-inch to allow enough air to flow in and out of the room you are heating with the kerosene heater.

Burning The Proper Fuels

The risk of accidental fire is a valid concern when asking are kerosene heaters safe . Every year, homes are destroyed by fire due to kerosene heaters. Most of these fires however, could be prevented with a little knowledge and following safe practices. Modern kerosene heaters have a safety tip switch which automatically retracts the wick should the unit be tipped over. Once the wick retracts, the flame goes out. However, the kerosene heater is still quite hot and leaving it in a tipped position without cleaning spilled fuel can reignite the fuel.

Kerosene heaters are also meant to burn only kerosene fuel. Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater. Gasoline can and will combust, especially in a convection kerosene heater. There are some cleaner burning kerosene alternatives available, however refer to the manufacturer before using them in your kerosene heater.

Convection or Radiant

There are two types of kerosene heaters available on the market. Convection and radiant heaters offer similar heating qualities, although with some slight variances in design. Both heat rooms to a comfortable level and both still require adequate ventilation. Each one has different methods of fueling and directing the heat when considering are kerosene heaters safe for your home.

Convection kerosene heaters are usually round with the fuel tank and main body as one piece. When refueling the convection kerosene heaters, the entire unit requires removal from the room to an outside location. Convection heaters generate warm air outward and upward due to their round design. They are better suited for larger rooms or even several rooms. It is not advisable however to use a convection kerosene heater in a small bedroom.

Radiant kerosene heaters are often rectangular in shape and usually have removable fuel tanks. Before removing the fuel tank from the radiant kerosene heater, the unit must be cool to avoid accidental spill igniting. Always carry the fuel tank outside to refuel. Radiant kerosene heaters normally have a reflective shield inside the combustion chamber that helps to direct the heat towards people and parts of the room. More suited for smaller spaces, many radiant kerosene heaters have small blower fans.

Are Kerosene Heaters Safe For You?

Are kerosene heaters safe for your home and family? When they are used as an emergency heat source according to the manufacturers instructions, yes kerosene heaters are safe. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your kerosene heater before you use it the first time. This will help you know the safety features built into your brand and model. Using proper ventilation and the proper kerosene heater will help you and your family stay warm should you need a back-up heat source.


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    • profile image

      Adam 6 years ago

      We've been using kerosene heaters every winter for several years. They are extremely safe if you keep them in good maintenance and use pure 1-K Kerosene. We prefer kerosene heating for our home as the furnace doesn't heat the lower floors very well.

    • profile image

      Kerosene Heater Wicks 6 years ago

      Thanks for the excellent information. It is also important to replace the wicks after burned for awhile, because old wicks release unwanted particles into the air.

    • Nicolas Simons profile image

      Nicolas Simons 6 years ago from San Francisco

      This is a great piece of information. Very useful.

    • whitton profile image

      whitton 7 years ago

      Great information. I agree, that as long as you familiarize yourself with instructions on how to safely use them, they can be a great product. Kerosene has been used as a heat source for decades. Because of their simple operation, quality kerosene heaters are typically available at a lower cost than comparable propane or electric units.

    • profile image

      crochet48 7 years ago

      Good information -- hope I won't be needing it soon!