Kerosene vs Propane Heaters

Kerosene vs Propane Heaters

Some situations require external intervention. When your power goes out, when you’re working outside, or when you go camping, you need something to help you fend off those cold winter notes. With everything that has happened in the last year, we have to acknowledge that how we spend our money is different. Our decisions are more calculated and more informed.

If you’re looking to the future beyond, you’re looking to go outside more, go camping, and as winter rolls around, you’ll be considering a heater. So which type of heater should you get, propane or kerosene?

Let’s first break down each type of heater’s pros and cons in determining which is better. 

Pros and Cons of Kerosene Heaters

Kerosene heaters are great for both indoor and outdoor use. When considering a kerosene heater, the biggest draw is the idea that they are portable for the most part. Understand there are a few types of kerosene heaters such as; 

  • Radiant – Uses circular wicks to transport fuel to the burner units. This method warms surfaces close to it and slowly affects the temperature around it.
  • Forced air – Uses cylinder-type bodies to push air, which is heated by combusted kerosene, into the space it’s heating. They have a far greater heat spread and are more effective in heating large spaces.
  • Convection – Are typically circular in design and have safety grillwork surrounding the heating unit, which heats in a 360-degree fashion.


  • Fuel efficient 
  • Quick heating
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to transport
  • Cheaper


  • Not as readily available
  • Can be a fire hazard
  • Poor ventilation can be hazardous as it builds up carbon monoxide

Pros and Cons of Propane Heaters

Propane heaters are not all that different from kerosene heaters in many ways. Like kerosene heating units, they also work in indoor and outdoor environments. The most significant difference is that propane heating units can be fitted and installed in place or portable (as is possible with kerosene heaters). These fitted units can either tap into existing supplies of propane or from propane tanks directly.

  • Radiant – Uses a gas-fired heater to warm emitter tubes. These tubes heat up and radiant heat to surrounding objects. It provides a near-instant effect and quickly works its way through the room.
  • Forced Air – Pushes air in a particular direction. These units are portable and are quick to heat spaces as they warm the air in front of the unit. A slight downside is that they can be rather noisy. Despite this, the idea that they are very convenient, easy to use, and effective means they are a safe choice.
  • Convection – Features multi-directional heat dispersion. These are safe to use, but please note convection units require proper ventilation and adequate space surrounding the unit due to their design and build.
  • Mounted – These are units if you’re looking for something more permanent. These mounted units can be installed and connected to proper lines or separate propane tanks. Please do not attempt to do this yourself as it can be dangerous; call a professional instead.


  • More readily available
  • Faster to heat up
  • Burns clean and efficient 


  • Slightly more expensive than Kerosene
  • Higher elevation, such as 4500 feet might render it unable to perform well

Kerosene vs. Propane as Fuel

Kerosene heaters are a little fussy. If you’re looking for nothing but the cleanest possible burn, you’re going to need to get quality kerosene. While it can be a little expensive (often fluctuates), understand that quality oil does burn more efficiently and, therefore, can save you money in the long run.

Propane heaters are a little easier to shop for. What is excellent about propane is that it is much more readily available. You have options and can even find providers that give regularly scheduled deliveries of propane. You’re not worrying about quality type as that doesn’t differ from supplier to supplier. The higher the heat output, the more gas you burn through, so consider finding a unit with an automatic shutoff.

Efficiency and Safety of Kerosene vs. Propane


It’s important to understand that while kerosene heaters are efficient, portable, and wildly popular, they aren’t perfect. They require maintenance when it comes to wicks. Wicks need to be assessed frequently; this means determining if they’re clean. If they’re not, you need to change it to avoid allowing for a sooty environment. With the right maintenance, you’ll be able to ensure optimal performance.

Kerosene units are relatively safe to use; however, they are not foolproof. It would be best if you allowed for ventilation to avoid a carbon monoxide build-up, which can be dangerous. Allowing for ventilation also means a more efficient use. Ventilation, just to avoid confusion, can be as simple as opening a window and moving it to a more spacious environment (basically, not up against a wall).


Propane units are very efficient and more expansive in terms of options. Considering propane is a more widely supplied gas, you’ll find little to no issue on that front, meaning you can ensure you’re always supplied and ready to use. If propane heating units are gassed up, they’ll perform well.

Propane heating units are, for the most part, safe. However, the biggest thing to consider when thinking about the heating unit’s safety is with fitted units. If you’re considering or have a fitted propane heating unit, you need to ensure that it is well fitted and is checked for leaks.

Propane is combustible. This means if there is a leak, any open flame can cause an explosion. It would help if you also focused on the possibility of carbon monoxide, which comes from incomplete combustion. This simply means you need to provide ventilation in closed spaces. 

In Conclusion

What you want is determined by what your specific needs are. You need to understand the requirements of your situation. If you know the different types of kerosene and propane units, what your budget is, and what you need from a heating unit, then you’d be able to determine which type of heater you should get.