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How Long Does a Kerosene Heater Last?

Winter-related power outages can leave you without any source of heat, making it difficult to cope with the bone-chilling weather.

One reliable means of heating your home when such outages happen is a kerosene heater. Not only does it generate more heat than its electric counterpart, but it also has a decent runtime.

To answer the question of how long does a kerosene heater last, the answer is as follows:

  •  On a full tank, your kerosene heater can last up to 12 hours.

In this article, you will find answers to:

  • How Long Does Kerosene Last?
  • How does a kerosene heater work?
  • How safe are kerosene heaters?
  • How much kerosene does a kerosene heater use?

Read on to learn more about how kerosene heaters work. 

How long does kerosene last?

On average, a heater filled with about one gallon of kerosene can burn for 8 to 12 hours. The larger the capacity of the fuel tank, the longer its runtime.

However, the runtime will also depend on the condition of the wick. If it’s able to keep soaking up more fuel from the reservoir, then you can expect the full 12-hour operation.

Speaking of fuel, it’s important to note that a heater should not be stored with any kerosene inside its reservoir. 

Doing so creates a habitable environment for mold growth, which can wreak havoc on your unit.

Instead, look for a siphon to draw the leftover fuel. 

This brings us to our next point. For how long can you store kerosene to reuse in the future? Well, experts recommend keeping it for just one to three months. 

The issue that arises when it’s stored for longer than this is the fact that it starts disintegrating. This can, in turn, lead to the growth of mold and bacteria.  

If you want to avoid this, the easiest thing to do is to fill the tank with just a small amount of kerosene. This way, you’re certain that by the time you’re done using your heater, there won’t be any leftover fuel left that needs to be stored.

However, if you do end up having to store excess kerosene, there are a few things you can do to prevent it from going bad. 

First off, you should always store it in a non-transparent plastic or metal container designed specifically for kerosene.

If you don’t have access to containers approved for kerosene storage, it’s okay to improvise. Just be sure to label the container clearly to avoid misidentification. You’ll also want to ensure that the container can be tightly sealed before adding in any fuel. 

Lastly, always place the storage container in a well-ventilated spot, shielded from direct sunlight. Protecting it from sunlight exposure is necessary to prevent the fuel from degrading. 

How does a kerosene heater work?

To understand how a kerosene heater works, you should first get acquainted with its parts. 

This device consists of three key components: a fuel reservoir, wick, and combustion chamber. The wick is housed in the combustion chamber, which sits on top of the fuel tank.

The first thing that happens in this gadget’s working mechanism is that the wick absorbs fuel from the reservoir through capillary action. 

If you have just refueled the unit, it’s wise to leave it for about an hour, to give the wick ample time to absorb kerosene. 

Once it’s soaked up enough fuel, you can light your heater. Doing this will cause the kerosene to evaporate, sparking a flame, and subsequently, warming up the surrounding air. As kerosene continues to burn, more of it is absorbed from the reservoir through capillary action. 

To adjust the flame, turn the knob located on the heater’s exterior to either lower or raise the wick. 

If you’re looking to turn off the device, then turn the knob in a counterclockwise direction until the wick has fully retracted into a chamber underneath. However, if you want to increase the flame’s height, then turn the knob clockwise. 

Sounds simple, right? Well, not quite. There are a couple of points you should keep in mind when operating your kerosene heater:

Use your heater in a space that’s well-ventilated. If there’s a door, ensure you open it to allow sufficient airflow.

Are kerosene heaters safe?

Yes, they are! Thanks to technological advancements, kerosene heaters feature mechanisms that make them a lot safer to use than older versions. 

Still, this doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re a fire hazard. So how can you guarantee your safety when using kerosene heaters? Follow these tips:

Proper placement

You’ve just purchased a brand new kerosene heater and are excited to start using it. But before you light up that wick, think about where and how you’ve positioned it your heater.

Ideally, you should place it on level ground to eliminate the risk of tipping over. You’ll also want to position at a safe distance from any object that has the potential to burn. I’m talking about curtains, drapes, furniture, books, newspapers, rugs, carpets, beddings, and more. 

Fuelling and refueling 

Whether you’re filling up the reservoir with fuel for the first time or refueling, ensure you conduct this process in an outdoor space. If possible, look for a concrete surface as opposed to doing it on grass, which can easily burn. 

Also, you ought to have turned off the device and allowed it to cool completely beforehand. Once you’ve checked off these two steps, you can proceed to the fun part- refueling! 

For this step, use a siphon to channel the fuel to the tank. If your kerosene heater doesn’t come with this accessory, I recommend buying it separately because it really makes it easy to refill the reservoir. Plus, it significantly reduces the risk of spillage. 

Be careful not to fill the tank to the brim. You should leave some wiggle room to allow for the fuel’s expansion. 

Choice of kerosene

Your choice of fuel poses as much risk as to how you handle the kerosene heater. What type of kerosene should you use? Well, the best fuel source is 1-K grade kerosene, which is the purest form of kerosene.

Don’t ever fall into the temptation of substituting kerosene with gasoline or other volatile fuels. Mixing in even the slightest amount of these fuels can result in a fire or worse, an explosion. On the same note, if you want to store any kerosene, then use a can tailored to this fuel, not a gasoline can. 

Furthermore, pick your fuel dealer wisely. Buy your 1-K grade kerosene only from certified dealers. 

One question that many homeowners ask is, “how can I tell whether the kerosene I’m buying is the 1-K grade?” Well, the easiest way is to check its color, which should be clear. Any deviations from this point to possible contamination. 

Alternatively, ask the dealer to show you proof that he or she is certified to sell the 1-K grade kerosene. 

How much kerosene does a heater use?

The fuel capacity varies from one kerosene heater to the next. Overall, you’ll find that most heaters have between 1 and 5-gallon tanks. The bigger the capacity of the fuel tank, the longer it will last before requiring a refill. 

The takeaway

Are you in the process of acquiring a kerosene heater? Then you’ll be pleased to know that it offers a runtime of 8 to 12 hours. This makes it a reliable method of heating your home in the event of a power outage. 

That said, if you’re looking to store this fuel and use it later on, keep in mind that it’s only suitable for use within 1 to 3 months. Beyond this, it can start to degrade.

NOTE FROM the author

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- Tiffany B.