What Are the Dangers of Kerosene Heaters?

Kerosene heaters are getting a lot of attention as an economical way to heat a house. Kerosene heaters are portable heaters and any portable heater poses dangers. Knowing the hazards of kerosene heaters will enable you to protect yourself and your family by recognizing the warning signs. Kerosene heaters should not be confused with kerosene furnaces. They are two completely different things.

Technician reading the heat meter
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Kerosene heaters are economical but can pose some dangers.

Fire Hazard

Place your kerosene heater on a fireproof surface such as fireproof tile. The surface should be larger than the base of the heater so that any sparks will land on the tile and not on the floor. Also, keep your kerosene heater away from anything combustible in the room. Fire can also be caused by knocking over the heater or not filling the heater properly.

Asphyxiation Threat

Do not use a kerosene heater in a small space, or anywhere there is no adequate ventilation. Kerosene heaters will eat up the oxygen in the space quickly. When this happens, the fuel will not burn correctly and this produces carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and lethal gas. Keep a window or door open at least 1 inch when the heater is in use, to bring in fresh air from outside, and do not run a kerosene heater when you are asleep.

Indoor Air Pollution

Kerosene heaters can pollute the room with carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. These elements are a health risk to everyone who breathes them, but are especially dangerous to pregnant women, asthma sufferers, heart patients, the elderly and young children.

Unpleasant Odor

The odor from a kerosene heater can make a person sick. The modern kerosene heaters do not have as bad an odor problem as older heaters, but you can still detect the smell when you first enter the room, when the heater is turned on or off, or when it runs out of fuel.

Fuel Dangers

Kerosene heaters can explode if you use the wrong kind of fuel. Gasoline or the fuel for a camp stove will cause the explosion. Also, there are different grades of kerosene and the heater should use only 1-K. Other grades will make the indoor pollution levels even higher and the odor will be much more noticeable.


Only buy a kerosene heater that is UL listed, meaning that the heater has passed all the safety tests. Follow the manufacturer's directions to the letter. There are different types of kerosene heaters and what works with one may not work with the other. Never fill the heater inside the home; take it outside and do not overfill the tank. There is a protective cage available that will keep children and pets away from the heater and it is a wise investment.