Living in modern society is amazing. Flicking a wall switch lights up the entire room, twisting a dial heats food in the oven, punching a button cleans the clothes, and turning a key starts the car engine. 

But, have you ever wondered how life would be without these modern conveniences? 

In our post-industrial world, it is quite common to take a lot of things for granted. Assuming you experience a power outage for a week in the cold winter months, how would you keep your home warm, habitable, and safe for you and your family?

That’s when kerosene and propane heaters come in. 

Propane and kerosene heaters are excellent alternatives to electric heaters and are very reliable at heating enclosed spaces. However, considering that they produce varying amounts of heat, choosing the right one for you can be tricky. 

This article will discuss what you need to know about propane vs. kerosene heaters so that you can choose the one that best fits your needs. 

What is a Propane Heater?

As the name suggests, propane heaters are heating units that use pressurized propane gas to keep spaces warm and habitable. These units are an incredibly effective way to heat medium to large spaces, making the atmosphere a lot more comfortable during the dead winter. 

Even better, propane heaters come in different sizes and shapes. While there are models that need to be permanently mounted on walls or ceilings, freestanding and portable propane heaters are designed to be safely used indoors and outdoors.

They are always rated by BTUs, which correspond to certain square footage. To ensure you are purchasing the best heater for your needs, make sure to check out the BTU value of the propane heater you are planning to buy. 

It is important to note that all propane heaters come with a cylindrical metal tank that holds that propane fuel. The tanks have different capacities and are almost always portable because they need to be refilled from time to time.

One exciting thing about propane heaters is that they require almost no maintenance—only cleaning and checking for leaks regularly. 

Of significance, propane is highly flammable and demands extra caution. For this reason, propane heaters should not be left unattended and should be regularly checked by a licensed propane professional to ensure the safety and protection of your property. 

What is Kerosene Heater?

Also known as a paraffin heater, a kerosene heater is an unvented, kerosene-fueled unit for heating space. Kerosene heaters have been around for many years, and the latest models are designed to be more economical, portable, and safer than ever.

While in some countries like Japan they are used as primary space heaters, kerosene heaters are commonly used as a source of emergency heat during power outages in most parts of the world. 

Kerosene heaters come in various sizes and can be used to heat homes temporarily during a power outage. They can also be instrumental when homeowners want to warm one room without the expense of heating the entire house. 

As in propane heaters, the heat from kerosene heaters is measured in BTUs. As for safety, kerosene is not as flammable as propane, and, besides, a spark has to come in contact with the liquid for a fire to start. All in all, there is a risk of accidental fire and harmful gases that kerosene heaters produce.

Things to Consider When Looking for a Heater

Space heaters provide a convenient way to quickly raise the temperature of your room or add warmth to any space. Heaters that do not rely on electricity to keep homes warm and habitable can help offset utility costs during the cold winter months. 

When it comes to buying a heater, here are some of the things you need to consider before making the big decision:

1. Fuel Availability

The last mistake you can make is buying a heater whose fuel is not readily available. That said, when it comes to finding fuel for your heater, neither propane nor kerosene is particularly difficult to find. The fuel availability depends very highly on your regional market and the demand. 

For the most part, propane is more readily available for purchase or rental than kerosene. Propane is virtually anywhere, mainly due to its use in gas grills. You are likely to find propane tanks at convenience stores, grocery stores, and home improvement stores. 

In comparison, it is relatively easy to find small kerosene tanks in hardware and home improvement stores. The only problem is that they are a poor financial deal. For better deals, you need to check with gas stations with a kerosene pump. 

Overall, it is safe to say that propane is more readily available than kerosene. However, depending on where you live, you could have a nearby gas station where you can access kerosene. Just do some search to find out where the nearest kerosene pump is located. 

2. Storage and Portability

Both propane and kerosene are daily easy to store and use. Even so, there are a few things to consider. 

Kerosene is one of the safer liquids to store and use – it can be safely stored indoors. Relative to propane and other popular fuels, it is much less explosive and requires a wick for it to ignite. As such, if you light a match and drop it in kerosene, it won’t ignite, unlike propane which will explode.

Even better, kerosene will stay in good condition for a long time as long as it is a good quality container. 

Propane, on the other hand, is highly flammable. That’s why there is no time it is completely safe to store propane in an enclosed space indoors. In fact, if propane leaks, the gas can ignite on its own as long there is oxygen in the surrounding air. 

Talking about storage, propane comes in its own container, which needs to be kept in a well-ventilated non-living space only. The good thing is that propane can be stored indefinitely in the right containers. 

As for portability, kerosene heaters are much easier to transport because they pose a significantly lower risk compared to propane heaters and gas. Transporting propane requires extra care, which is better done by professionals. 

3. Running Time

Both propane and kerosene heaters can run for relatively long, often for more than 12 hours, as long as the heater in question is well fueled and maintained. Even so, the run time will depend on the fuel tank size. 

Kerosene heater runtime is usually limited by the fuel reservoir that the heater comes with. Refueling them is relatively easy, but you will have to do it often because they cannot be connected to larger fuel tanks.

In comparison, propane heaters can be connected to very large tanks, meaning they can end up running for very long hours provided they are not left unattended. Definitely, this means propane heaters can run longer than their kerosene counterparts, particularly when connected to large cylinders. 

4. Maintenance

This is an important consideration that many people overlook because of the price aspect. When buying, you want to buy a heater that won’t cost a hand and leg to maintain. 

Kerosene heaters require you to change the wick occasionally. With these heaters, you will need to reassemble the unit and clean it thoroughly to prevent carbon buildup.

On the other hand, propane heaters are remarkably easy to maintain. For the most part, you need to occasionally turn off the supply and clean the surface of the igniter. 

5. Safety

Safety is very crucial when using any equipment that can start up a terrific fire. For this reason, consider safety features that come with either propane or kerosene heaters.

Ventless propane heaters are mostly used indoors and have low oxygen shut off. They are designed in a way that carbon monoxide won’t build up, thus reducing health and hazard to an individual. Propane is highly flammable, but if you do not tamper with its storage tank, then the risk is limited.

On the other side, kerosene heaters should be handled carefully since they produce soot and carbon monoxide when the oxygen supply is inadequate. When refiling the kerosene tanks, you should be careful not to spill off any on your hands or the surrounding.

6. Price

When analyzing the price, you should consider both the initial price of buying a whole heater and tank and refilling fuel. A quality and portable heater will cost at least $50 to a maximum of $200. In most cases, the expensive heaters are quite large and can be mounted or just used for free standing.

One gallon of propane is approximately 91,500 BTU, and one million BTU costs $17.81.

Typically, common cylinders hold up to 5-gallon propane gas, and an average 30,000 BTU heater consumes a third of a gallon in one hour. Therefore, a full tank can be exhausted in 15 hours if it runs continuously.

Most propane cylinders can be swapped when empty, with full ones at many gas stations. In addition, areas that use more propane-based heating can easily access refill locations nearby to fill their tanks once they are empty.

A gallon of kerosene has approximately 131,000 BTU, and a million BTU is sold at $21.28, though the price fluctuates regularly.

A small kerosene tank holds 1 to 1.3 gallons and can heat to 10,000 BTU. 

Kerosene is packed in different grades and stored in several locations like gas stations, general stores, and hardware, where you can easily visit and buy more for your heater.

Which is Better?

There are many different types of propane and kerosene heaters available on the market. While they are excellent options for occasional and emergency use, propane heaters are cheaper and far much easier to maintain relative to kerosene heaters. 

On the other hand, kerosene heaters are more convenient and cheaper over the long term, making for a better option for regular use if you have access to bulk kerosene. Kerosene is reasonably priced, relatively straightforward to store, and lasts for a long time. 

The better option for you will depend on your unique situation. Both propane heaters and kerosene heaters are excellent options for prolonged power outages.

Overall, it is safe to say that kerosene heaters are better for regular use, while propane heaters are a solid option for emergencies. If you already have a large propane tank, you will likely be better with a propane heater.

FAQs

Are Propane Heaters Safe For Tents?

Propane heaters are perfectly safe for use in tents as long as you follow the proper direction in the usage. If you get your heater checked out regularly, you will be less likely to experience any problems. 

Are Propane Heaters Safe to Use Indoors?

Propane heaters are safe for use indoors, provided you are using an indoor propane heater. Wall-mounted propane heaters should be mounted on non-combustible walls, and nothing should be placed on top of them. 

What’s More Expensive, Kerosene or Propane?

As you know, fuel prices fluctuate. Even so, kerosene tends to be more expensive than propane. In contrast, considering that kerosene has a higher heating efficiency, it may be cheaper for heating. 

Can You Use a Kerosene Heater in a Tent?

Kerosene heaters are strong enough to warm up tents but will produce carbon monoxide, which is deadly. For this reason, you need to take a lot of precautions to ensure the tent is very well ventilated before using a kerosene heater. 

Are Kerosene Heaters Safe to Use Indoors?

Like many other appliances, kerosene heaters produce carbon monoxide. To ensure safety, kerosene heaters should be used in only adequately vented rooms. 

Is a Kerosene Heater More Efficient Than Propane?

Kerosene produces more BTUs per gallon than propane, meaning kerosene heaters consume less fuel, which gives greater efficiency per dollar than propane heaters. 

Conclusion 

Deciding between propane and kerosene heaters can be tricky. The ultimate choice will immensely depend on the general availability of the fuel and your personal preferences. If you live in an area where kerosene is readily available and cheap, a kerosene heater might be the best option for you.

A propane heater is a safe bet if you already have a large propane tank and live far from a gas station with a kerosene pump.