Kerosene Space Heaters – How To Use Them Safely In Your Home

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So many people have benefited from kerosene heaters in their homes. Kerosene burns clean and efficiently and contains a tremendous amount of energy. Many portable kerosene heaters have been used to provide needed heat during emergency power outages and for cooler parts of the home and worksites. Kerosene heaters are clearly beneficial, and they are also safe for indoor use IF kept in good working order and operated with common sense. In this article, we’ll offer some tips and precautions for safe use of Kerosne heaters.

Is Carbon Monoxide Produced By Kerosene Heaters?

Yes. Like other fuel burning appliances such as furnaces, generators and fireplaces, Kerosene heaters also produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is so dangerous, because it’s not easily noticed by the senses; it is colorless, odorless and poisonous. To minimize this potential hazard:

  • Get your heater serviced regularly and according to the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Purchase a carbon monoxide detector
  • Place your heater in a ventilated space, keeping windows or doors open enough to allow fresh air to circulate.

What Should I Do To Minimize The Risk Of A Fire Or Getting Burned?

Kerosene heaters produce an incredible amount of heat and will get very hot. It is important to keep anything in your home that can burn, e.g. furniture and curtains, a good distance from the heater. For a circular convection heater, keep such objects at least 3 feet away from the heater all around. Also, consider the following:

  • If you will use the Kerosene heater for cooking, do not set anything over the heater that can boil over.
  • If the heater gets turned off, wait at least 20 minutes before turning it on again.
  • Keep the heater away from high traffic areas, where someone might trip and accidentally come in contact with the heater. Newer heaters have cages to help reduce the risk, but the cages also get extremely hot and can burn you.

Here is a short video about fire safety when using space heaters in general and a lot of good safety information on kerosene space heaters in particular, many of which are mentioned in this article.

Is There A Danger In Mixing Fuels?

Yes. Kerosene, by itself can ignite but will not explode like gasoline. If a little gasoline mixes with kerosene, an explosion becomes possible; therefore, you should never store Kerosene in a gasoline tank. It is important to keep any fuel containers marked to prevent something like that from happening. While fuel additives are available, one should be cautious and research their safety and proper amounts to use.

How Should I Refill A Kerosene Heater?

It’s ideal to refuel outdoors to avoid damage to your floors and furniture, in case there’s a spill. You might also consider the following:

  • Use a small light weight can with flexible hose or a siphon pump to make refilling easy.
  • Heaters may be quite heavy and difficult to move around and the tanks are often not removable, especially for the larger convection models. A cart to set your heater on could be extremely helpful. You can purchase one or even build your own.

How Should I Store Kerosene?

Keep your kerosene containers outdoors in a garage or shed, if possible. Check here to see some different containers at Amazon. Large quantities may be stored in a fuel oil tank, while smaller amounts of kerosene should be stored in airtight containers, in a location with a steady temperature, out of sunlight and away from any ignition source. Kerosene is very stable unlike gasoline which may not last more than a few months. Taking these steps should help preserve the kerosene for a very long time (2 to 5 years) and prevent the escape of kerosene vapors and the possibility of ignition.

Can I Leave A Kerosene Heater Unattended?

It is not a good idea to leave the house with any portable heater running. While it is unlikely that a heater in good working condition will malfunction, there is still the possibility. You would want to be nearby.

Are There Any Safety Features To Look For In A Kerosene Heater?

Most modern heaters come with an Anti-tip shut-off, which will kick in to automatically turn off the heater if it tips over. This feature will prevent a potential fire in case the heater is accidentally knocked over.


A kerosene heater is safe to use indoors with proper understanding of how to use and maintain it. Keep your heater in good condition, make sure you have adequate ventilation by opening windows and doors, and place it in a room with a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide detector. If you take these steps, you can count on safe and reliable heat from your kerosene heater!

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