Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why would I want to heat my house with kerosene?

Well …, you probably wouldn’t – unless you had to. This first part of a three part article on heating, lighting, and cooking preparedness looks at heating.

Is it really feasible to heat a house for an entire winter, using a kerosene heater? And how much kerosene would it take? The answer is yes, and it depends.

Portable kerosene heaters come in two flavors - convection and radiant.

The convection heater is usually circular in shape. Its fuel tank is located below the wick and combustion chamber. The wick absorbs and delivers fuel to the combustion chamber.

Convection heaters circulate warm air upward and outward in all directions. They're designed for large areas or even several rooms, but never for a small, closed area such as a bedroom. The heat output of a standard convection heater is in the neighborhood of 23,000 BTU’s.

Convection heaters must be moved for refueling because they don't have a removable fuel tank. Generally, refueling is done with a siphon pump. Be sure a convection heater has a fuel gauge.

Radiant heaters - usually rectangular in shape - are designed for smaller areas. They also feature a wick and combustion chamber and have, in addition, a reflector which directs heat at people or objects. Some radiant heaters have electric fans to increase the flow of warm air.

Most modern radiant models have a removable fuel tank, which means that the heater can stay in place. Only the fuel tank needs to be carried to where the fuel is stored.

A radiant heater without a removable fuel tank must be moved for each refueling - just like a convective model. The heat output of a standard radiant heater is in the general neighborhood of 10,000 BTU’s.

A well-designed kerosene heater emits no smoke or strong odor during normal operation. But you might notice a faint kerosene odor when you enter the house.

There's also a strong odor from kerosene heaters for several minutes when they're turned on or off and when they run out of fuel. It's a good idea to check the fuel gauge regularly.

Kerosene heaters require 1-K grade kerosene. And kerosene other than 1-K grade can gum up the wick. Never substitute gasoline or camp stove fuel. In a kerosene heater, such fuels could start a fire or explode.

We purchase kerosene from a fuel supplier in our town. We bring the containers, and they fill them up. This is much cheaper than purchasing the kerosene from the same home builder’s mega store. Look in the yellow pages for a fuel supplier. Most cities have them somewhere. Ours is called Randall Petroleum.

Now to answer the two questions posed at the start of the article.

We live in a 1500 sq. ft home, with a full basement (3000 sq ft in all). Last winter, we decided to see what it would take to heat our home, using only a kerosene heater. We purchased a convection type heater from the local home builder’s mega store, brought it home and fired it up.

The convection heater we used put out a LOT of heat. We ran our heater night and day for two months in the dead of winter. We eventually placed it at the bottom of the stairs in the basement, and let the heat rise to heat the upstairs also. Except for the occasional far reaching room upstairs (our master bedroom), the majority of the house stayed quite toasty.

We found we could control the heat better by opening or closing connecting doors upstairs. But overall, the furnace did not come on for two months and we were quite comfortable. We turned it down during the night, as well as when the outside temperature raised much above 32 degrees.

Yes, we discovered, we CAN heat the house in the winter using kerosene alone, and stay quite comfortable.

How much fuel did we use? We have estimated that we would need 120 gallons for a standard winter, assuming we did not economize much - heat the whole house, toasty. But we could probably survive on 60 gallons for a winter if need be, the operative word being 'survive'. Wouldn't be fun, but we would probably be ok. (We live in the Salt Lake City area of Utah, and the winters can be quite cold at times.)

The good news is that this is very doable, and even somewhat economical.

Next time, we’ll talk about lighting.


Stephen said...

We switch to kero last winter.
We live in the Atlanta area and our all electric house has a heat pump. We went from $150 a month of electric heat to $90 a month in kero.

We did find some soot issues when we moved a love seat this fall. Along one edge of the carpet where the love seat had been, we found soot residue (odd it was only on one edge and not even the edge towards the heater) Have since cleaned it up.

It is also advisable to throw a humidifier into the mix. Warm/Damp air feels better than hot/dry air.

Sally D said...

Thats a pretty decent saving, I have solar paneling and changed the heating to kerosine it saved me money on one side but the
patio heaters alone can cover that never maind the other little additions.