Propane vs Kerosene Heater: Which Is Better in an Emergency?

It is important for you to be prepared in the event of an emergency. One of the most important items you need to have is a heater, especially during a power outage. What type of heater? You might be thinking about a propane vs kerosene heater, wondering which is better. People like kerosene because it is relatively easy to transport; however, propane is less expensive.

In general, propane heaters are the better option for emergency use; however, if you plan on using the heater regularly, kerosene is probably the better choice. 

If you are thinking about a kerosene heater vs propane, there are several other important points you should keep in mind as well.

What Is Kerosene?

Kerosene is a fuel oil that is used to power stoves, heaters, and lamps. It is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid that comes from petroleum. Even though it is commonly used as aviation and rocket fuel, it can also be found throughout households. 

Kerosene is usually either colorless or a slight yellow shade. It has a stereotypical odor, and it can be used as an insecticide. Because it is readily available to purchase, it is a popular fuel source for emergency heaters.

What Is Propane?

Propane is liquefied petroleum gas. Typically, the gas is generated, compressed, and stored in a liquid form. It is commonly used to power grills, dryers, water heaters, and numerous other appliances. 

Because it is readily available from places like gas stations, convenience stores, hardware stores and grocery stores and easy to use, it is popular in emergency heaters. Sometimes you can even purchase propane from amazon. If you find yourself needing an emergency heat source, propane could be an option.

Kerosene Versus Propane Heaters

If you are looking for an emergency source of heat you can use indoors, you need to think about safety and efficiency. This comes down to the fuel source. Therefore, you should compare the benefits and drawbacks of each option before you make a decision. 

If you are thinking about a kerosene vs propane forced air heater, some of the most important categories you need to consider include:

Benefits of Kerosene

There are several significant benefits of using kerosene as an emergency source of heat indoors. Some of the most important benefits include:

  • It is much easier to transport than propane. Propane heaters require bulky tanks, but kerosene does not.
  • Kerosene also lasts longer than propane. You can get more British Thermal Units or BTUs out of a gallon of kerosene than a gallon of propane.
  • Kerosene is also safer for indoor use when compared to propane. A potential spark has to come into contact with liquid kerosene instead of gaseous propane. Therefore, the chances of starting a fire with kerosene are lower when compared to propane.
  • If you do have a kerosene leak, you should be able to see and smell it quickly.  You can respond faster and stop an emergency.

These are a few of the biggest reasons why you should consider using kerosene as a source of emergency heat indoors. 

Benefits of Propane

There are several benefits that come with using propane as well. A few of the reasons why you should use propane as an emergency source of heat include:

  • Propane’s fuel cost is more cost effective than kerosene.
  • Propane will not go bad. It has an indefinite shelf life. In contrast, kerosene will go bad in a few years.
  • If you want kerosene to last longer, you can add some additives; however, this makes kerosene more expensive. These additives could also damage your portable heater.
  • You can also store propane outdoors. It doesn’t take up as much space as kerosene.
  • Propane heaters do not require as much maintenance as kerosene. You simply need to keep them clean. Kerosene heaters require a lot more work to maintain.

Think about these benefits when you are deciding between propane and kerosene.

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Disadvantages of Kerosene

There are several disadvantages to kerosene as well. These include:

  • Even though kerosene can be cheap, you need to buy it straight from a pump, which can be hard to find. Otherwise, kerosene can be expensive.
  • If you want kerosene to last, you need to store it away from sunlight. It can be a bit of a hassle to maintain. 
  • Without any additives, kerosene will go bad in two to five years. If you plan on letting kerosene sit for a while, you may have to replace it.
  • Kerosene heaters require a lot of work to maintain. You need to trim and clean the wick regularly. 
  • Kerosene heaters also put off a lot of moisture. This moisture can be a ripe environment for bacteria, mold, and mildew.

These disadvantages could mean that kerosene might not be the right option for you. 

Disadvantages of Propane

There are a few disadvantages that come with using propane as well. These include:

  • If you want to store your propane tanks underground, this system can be very expensive.
  • Propane tanks are large, bulky, and heavy. Therefore, they are not easy to move from place to place.
  • If you want to use propane tanks indoors, you must have good ventilation. Otherwise, you could deal with carbon monoxide poisoning or oxygen shortages. If you choose propane, you should have a carbon monoxide detector to detect any carbon monoxide build-up in the room.
  • Propane gas is typically odorless. Therefore, it can be difficult to detect a leak. When this is combined with the flammability of propane gas, it creates a significant safety and fire hazard. Make sure you have access to a shutoff valve.

Think about these benefits and drawbacks before you decide which indoor heating system is right for you. 

Choose the Right Heater for Your Needs

Ultimately, propane and kerosene can both be good sources of home heating and have good heat output. Kerosene is much safer to use indoors when compared to propane; however, it has its fair share of challenges including fuel prices. Kerosene is safer because it is easy to see, not odorless, and not as flammable as propane because a spark has to come into contact with liquid instead of gas.

On the other hand, kerosene can also be more difficult than propane because it doesn’t have as long of a shelf life, the heaters require more maintenance, and it can be more expensive. 

In general, we recommend kerosene for indoor use with proper ventilation. This is the safer choice for an emergency source of heat indoors. Keep an eye on kerosene prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal when re-filling your stock.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kerosene and Propane Heaters 

If you are curious about propane vs kerosene space heaters/electric heaters or wood stoves, some of the most common questions people ask include:

Are kerosene heaters cheaper to run than propane?

In general, propane costs are lower; however, if you buy from a kerosene pump, you can save money. You need to make sure you maintain your kerosene heater if you want it to work efficiently. The best kerosene heater is a well maintained one!

Are propane heaters safer to use indoors?

No, propane heaters are not safer to use indoors. Propane gas is odorless and highly flammable. Therefore, if you have a gas leak, you could have a fire hazard on your hands.

Are kerosene heaters safer as a garage heater or to use indoors?

Yes, kerosene heaters are safer to use indoors. Kerosene is liquid. A potential spark has to come into contact with a liquid instead of a gas, making it safer than propane.

Is it expensive to heat with kerosene? 

Kerosene can be expensive, but if you clean and maintain your kerosene heaters, they should work efficiently, helping you save money. 

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1 thought on “Propane vs Kerosene Heater: Which Is Better in an Emergency?”

  1. I found it helpful when you said that propane is more cost-effective compared to kerosene, and it has an indefinite shelf life. My husband and I are planning to have the right type of gas delivered to our new house next Sunday morning. We want to find an option that can save us money, especially that our income has been restricted since the pandemic started. Thanks for sharing this.

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