Kerosene heaters are portable alternative heating sources that can generate enough heat to warm up a large room to a comfortable level. Using a kerosene heater is a quick, short-term and inexpensive way to maintain heat in a home. They can be a backup emergency heating solution during periods of high home-heating fuel costs. One full tank of kerosene in the heater can last from the morning into the evening and can heat up to 1,000 square feet of living space.
There are two main types of kerosene heaters available. Convection kerosene heaters have a typical round shape with a protective guard cage that covers the entire upper unit. It produces over 20,000 BTUs of heat all around the unit because of its shape and it can be centrally located in a room to evenly heat the space. Radiant kerosene heaters somewhat mimic a fireplace in design, where the design of the walls around the heating unit directs the flow of heat out of the side, or front, of the unit. The back of this type of unit can be located near a wall, and it generally produces about 10,000 BTUs.
Proper setup and handling of kerosene heaters limit the amount of fumes the units give off before, during and after operation. Even after the initial setup of the unit and the first lighting of the wick, a kerosene heater may still produce some fumes from excess kerosene burn-off from the wick and when the unit is turned off from cutting off the fire. According to Howard J. Doss, Michigan State University Extension, "Although portable kerosene heaters are very efficient in the burning of fuel to produce heat, low levels of certain pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are produced."
An easy solution to dealing with fumes at startup is to ventilate the room. Open a window or a door to allow the fumes to escape the room, just until the wick is burning evenly and the unit is not giving off any fumes.
It is important to strictly follow the safety guidelines specified for any kerosene heater. As a general rule, do not move a kerosene heater while it is lit, and do not locate it in a high-traffic area. Misuse and mishandling of a kerosene heater can cause it to explode, which does not make it the safest heating alternative for a home.
Kerosene heater safety also includes being careful with what is used around the heater. Do not place it near curtains, near flammable objects, such as furniture and paper, or too close to a wall.
The best time of the day to use a kerosene heater is during the daytime and the early evening when everyone is awake. While you may want the heat to run through the night, it is better to run it only during the times that responsible adults are monitoring it.