Can I Use Diesel in A Kerosene Heater?

Patricia Oelze
by Patricia Oelze
What do you heat your house with? While many people use natural gas or outdoor propane tanks, some like the variability of space heaters like a kerosene heater. With the

What do you heat your house with? While many people use natural gas or outdoor propane tanks, some like the variability of space heaters like a kerosene heater.

With the rising prices of gasoline and kerosene, you may be considering using diesel fuel in your kerosene heater. This can potentially save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars per year.

You can use diesel in a kerosene heater as it’s safe to do so. These two products are closely related to one another. However, diesel burns cooler and quicker than kerosene. Make sure you watch for carbon buildup on the wick as this will happen quicker with diesel than it does with kerosene.

Basic Understanding Of Kerosene Heaters

Also known as a paraffin heater, a kerosene heater is a portable space heating device that is fueled by kerosene. Most of these heaters produce between 11,000 and 23,000 BTUs per hour.

The heater operates like a kerosene lamp with circular cotton or fiberglass wick built into the burner unit above the tank inside the heater.

After the wick is lit in the combustion chamber, it heats the kerosene until it turns into gas, which heats the air through convection or with radiation.

Different Types Of Kerosene Heaters

There are two types of portable kerosene heaters, convective and radiant. The best choice for you depends on where and how you will be using it.

Convective Heaters

A convective heater is usually round and has a fuel tank below the wick and combustion chamber. The warm air flows up and out in all directions so they are better for larger areas than radiant heaters. In fact, it is possible to heat an entire house with a convective heater.

The problem with these convective heaters is that you have to move the entire heater to refill it because the tank is not removable. It should be done outdoors with a siphon pump. Also, your convective heater should have a fuel gauge.

Radiant Heaters

Radiant heaters are typically rectangular and are made for a smaller area than convective heaters. Like convective heaters, they also use a wick and combustion chamber.

However, there is a reflector that directs the heat at you rather than having the heat flowing up and out like the convective heater.

Most radiant kerosene heaters have removable fuel tanks. That means you can leave the heater where it is while you take the tank to be filled. Just as with the convective heater, it should be filled outside with a siphon pump and it should have a fuel gauge.

What Kind Of Diesel To Use In Your Kerosene Heater

Diesel fuel does not burn very well in its liquid form, so it is constantly diminishing the power of your kerosene heater. It is the particles that evaporate from the diesel fuel that gives off the heat.

Number one diesel is the optimal type of fuel to use instead of kerosene. It is important to add kerosene additive to the diesel, so it burns cleaner. Otherwise, it could possibly cause damage to the wick or heater.

According to, you should add five milliliters of 91% or more isopropyl alcohol to each pint of diesel fuel. If you still have some kerosene and want to mix the two, that is perfectly fine as well. You should also use a 100% cotton high-quality wick.

In addition, diesel fuel additives are more effective and less expensive than kerosene and its additives. It will cost you much less to treat a gallon of diesel fuel with diesel fuel additives than with kerosene.

Using Diesel Properly In Kerosene Heaters

Diesel can be burned in a kerosene heater as long as it is done properly and safely. Gas caches are the greatest way to store your fuel.

Gasoline, kerosene, and diesel must all be stored in color-coded tanks: red for gasoline, blue for kerosene, and yellow for diesel. Choose ULSD (ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel), which may be kept for 6 to 12 months but can survive much longer if combined with additives.

Preparing Your Diesel For Use In A Kerosene Heater

Use a number one diesel for the greatest results. This variety is the most similar to kerosene, making it a good alternative. There are no aromatic components in number one diesel. It has a BTU output of 135,000 per gallon, which is comparable to kerosene. Among the several varieties of diesel, number one diesel burns the cleanest.

Other forms of diesel, such as number 2 diesel or lamp oil, may cause problems with your heater. These mismatched kinds can also cause serious wick damage. These varieties can also discharge hazardous vapors that cause significant respiratory ailments and asphyxiation in the worst-case situation.

Additives To Diesel

Diesel additives extend the life of the fuel and make it burn cleaner. Additives can also help your wick last longer.

Kerosene, isopropyl alcohol, and kerosene additives are some of the most frequent diesel additives. For every pint of diesel, add 5 milliliters of 91 percent isopropyl alcohol. Kerosene can also be used as an additive by combining it with diesel in a ratio of 1:3 to 1:5.

Make Sure You’re Using The Right Wick

Use a high-quality wick that will last a long time and retain the fuel more effectively. It is recommended that you use a wick composed entirely of cotton. Wicks are divided into two categories:

  • Cotton wicks away moisture. For burning diesel, cotton wicks are preferable. They don’t last as long as fiberglass wicks, but you can just snip off the clogged or burned tip whenever you choose. You can pick between pinned and non-pinned wicks in this category. Pinned cotton wicks are held in place by three pins. Cotton wicks that aren’t pinned allow you to easily trim them by pulling them up or down. For burning diesel fuel in a kerosene heater, this is the finest option.
  • Fiberglass is wicking material. At the tip of fiberglass, the wick is a ring of fiberglass. These wicks are more resistant to fire than cotton wicks. They work well with kerosene but not so well with diesel. Because of the carbon buildup and charring at the wick’s tip, you’ll have to chop it off, rendering the wick useless. If you’re going to utilize fiberglass wicks for diesel fuel, make sure to clean the fiberglass tip on a regular basis to avoid clogging.

Safety Considerations When Operating A Kerosene Heater

No matter what fuel you are using, you have to put safety first. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission found that over 25,000 fires are caused by space heaters every year that result in over 300 fatalities.

In addition to fire, you have to worry about the combustion byproducts being introduced into your home. Some of these include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and other organic compounds, which are deadly.

Keep Your Kerosene Heater In A Safe Spot

Heaters that are unvented should never be used indoors. Also, vented heaters should always be vented to the outside through an outside wall. To reduce the risks of fire, do not place your kerosene heater near:

  • Bedding
  • Clothing
  • Curtains
  • Furniture
  • Paper
  • Any other combustible materials

Create An Optimal Environment For Your Kerosene Heater

Kerosene heaters work with an open flame so you should never use in an area where there are:

  • Gasoline
  • Lacquer
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Flammable solvents
  • Any type of oil

Related Questions

How can I get the smell of diesel fuel out of carpet?

Spilling Fuel on the carpet can be a major cleanup whether it is in your vehicle or in your home.

  • The first thing to do is to blot it with a dry rag. Press down hard to get the fuel that has reached down into the carpet pad.
  • Sprinkle some baking soda over the spot. Cover it completely with a thick coating of baking soda.
  • Leave it on the carpet overnight to absorb the odor and vacuum it up the next day.
  • Using a mixture of one teaspoon dish soap, one teaspoon white vinegar, and one quart of warm water, blot the area again. Make sure you get the solution deep into the carpet and the pad.
  • Wait a few hours and then use a clean wet rag to remove any of the soap. If the smell is still there, repeat these steps again from the beginning.
Is it possible to get diesel fuel stains out of clothing?

Similar to getting the smell out of carpet, getting stains and smell from diesel fuel out of your clothing is possible. Using the baking soda and vinegar trick should do the job. However, sometimes it takes a bit more than that.

If that does not work, try mixing one box of baking soda with a two-liter bottle of Coke (soft drink), one cup of degreaser or Tide cleaning detergent, and a tub of warm water.

Let the clothing soak for two hours, drain, and refill with the same solution, minus the degreaser or Tide. Soak for 12 to 24 hours and then wash as usual.

Patricia Oelze
Patricia Oelze

I am a DIYer who loves writing about anything home-related. When I am not writing, you can find me studying for my PhD in Psychology, photographing nature, and swimming at the lake with my grandkids.

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