Air Heaters

Kerosene Heater vs. Propane Heater: Which is Better?

Kerosene Heater vs. Propane Heater

Photo: Ridgid

Although electric indoor heating systems are often highly reliable, you need to plan for circumstances like power outages by investing in backups like kerosene and propane heaters. Besides being reliable backups, these heaters are also handy when you want something portable for use in the garage or camping.

These two emergency heater options differ in much more than the fuel sources, and here we highlight some of the main differences to help you decide what works best for you.

Overall Findings

Kerosene Heater

Propane Heater

  • 135,000 BTU per gallon
  • Fuel cost is $3.29 per gallon
  • Can be hard to get in some areas
  • More regular wick & burning assembly maintenance needed
  • Soot & carbon dioxide pose a greater risk
  • 91,000 BTU per gallon
  • Fuel cost is $3.24 per gallon
  • Propane is widely available
  • Requires occasional minor maintenance
  • Ventless indoor modes have no risk of carbon dioxide buildup

Kerosene Heater

  • 135,000 BTU per gallon
  • Fuel cost is $3.29 per gallon
  • Can be hard to get in some areas
  • More regular wick & burning assembly maintenance needed
  • Soot & carbon dioxide pose a greater risk

Propane Heater

  • 91,000 BTU per gallon
  • Fuel cost is $3.24 per gallon
  • Propane is widely available
  • Requires occasional minor maintenance
  • Ventless indoor modes have no risk of carbon dioxide buildup

Kerosene Heater vs. Propane Heater

1. Heat Output: Kerosene Delivers More BTUs

The heat your heater can deliver is perhaps the most crucial consideration when deciding what to buy. However, the kerosene heater has a clear advantage as this fuel source burns much hotter.

On average, you can expect to get around 135,000 BTUs per gallon of kerosene, which is significantly higher than the 91,000 BTUs you would get from the same quantity of propane.

But, while it is clear kerosene is the more potent fuel of the two options, it is essential to note that the actual BTUs you get from either depends on factors like the heater type or model and the size of the space you are heating.

2. Availability: Popularity of Propane Makes It More Widely Available

You will not have any difficulties finding fuel in most places, whether you chose to buy a kerosene or propane heater. Globally, the two are among the most popular fuel sources, and hence, they are widely available.

That said, propane is a slightly more popular fuel source, especially in the USA and Europe, given it is used for way much more than heating homes as it is also great for cooking and grilling. Hence, you can quickly get a can or tank of propane anywhere from grocery and convenience stores to home improvement shops.

While some home improvement stores sell kerosene in containers, it is not as common as propane. Also, kerosene sold in tanks tends to be quite pricey, and so your best bet is to get it in a nearby gas station that sells kerosene.

3. Fuel Cost: Actual Costs Largely Depend on Your Locality

Fuel prices are constantly fluctuating in most parts of the world. Hence, at times a gallon of kerosene can be way cheaper than a gallon of propane, while in other instances, the prices are almost the same, or kerosene costs much more depending on global oil prices.

When writing this article, a gallon of gasoline was retailing at $3.29, and a gallon of propane was $3.24 in New Hampshire.

One thing that does not seem to fluctuate much is the cost per BTUs, and here kerosene will give you a much better deal. For example, using the prices indicated above, you will spend $30.49 to produce a million BTUs when using kerosene and around $44.30 when using propane.

4. Safety: Propane is Relatively Safer

While both fuel sources pose significant safety risks given they produce some fire and are highly flammable, propane tends to be relatively safer when used correctly.

When using the ventless propane heaters, they typically have low oxygen shutoff, and there is little risk of carbon monoxide building up, which makes them safer to use. If the propane tank is stored outside, there is little to worry about.

Kerosene poses more risk because it can lead to the accumulation of dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide when you use it in low oxygen conditions.

5. Maintenance: You Will Need more Cleaning with a Kerosene Heater

Kerosene uses a wick to move the kerosene from the storage tank to the burning assembly. The more you use it, the faster you burn this wick. Therefore, you have to replace it more often. What’s more, these heaters require regular burning assembly cleaning to remove the soot built up, which translates to more maintenance for you.

For propane heaters, you will need minimal and occasional maintenance. Here, the typical maintenance job entails cleaning things like the thermocouple, gas jet, and igniter.

Conclusion

Although kerosene and propane heaters both do a great job heating your home, you need to choose what suits your specific situation best. That said, propane heaters are ideal if you want something clean and efficient, while kerosene is the best choice if you want high heat output.

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