Kerosene space heater?
October 31, 2004 10:56 AM   Subscribe

"Winter is icumen in, lhude sing 'Goddamm' ...
Was thinking of augmenting my rickety ol' furnace by getting a portable kerosene space heater for inside the house. Bad idea or unfairly maligned by price-gouging gas & electric companies?
posted by RavinDave to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
I'm going to go with 'bad idea'.

Several years back we went this route and it turned into far more trouble than it was worth. Even the newest and best kerosene heaters aren't particularly efficient and the first time you let the thing go out (and you will, despite your best intentions) your going to be smelling it for a week. It also isn't pleasant hauling kerosene around in five gallon containers, dragging the thing (or the tank) outside in the cold to fill it and mopping up the inevitable drips from the siphon when it's too damn cold to drag it outside to fill.

You may want to consider the cost of kerosene over a season combined with the cost of the heater and putting that money into more permanent fixes. Several hundred bucks can go a long way towards insulation, weather stripping and storm windows. It may also be possible to retrofit your old furnace so that it runs more efficiently.

Also, look into programs administered by HEAP, your utility company or your local equivalent of Community Action. The income guidelines can be surprisingly high and under some circumstances you may be able to get some help replacing that rickety old hunk of tin that's blowing quarters out your chimney.
posted by cedar at 2:27 PM on October 31, 2004

Have you looked into wood pellet stoves?
posted by euphorb at 3:17 PM on October 31, 2004

I can say from personal experience that this is something you should be very careful with...when I was a teenager, my dad and I converted half our basement into a bedroom for me (the old one was 9' square), and we used a kerosene heater down there to provide heat.

One night, after I had already been down there for a couple of years, I fell asleep at my desk doing homework, and staggered awake feeling incredibly groggy. I stumbled to the door and could smell the heater burning wrong...I made it to the basement door and to fresh air, which woke me up almost instantly, but it was scary. It wouldn't have taken much longer for me to be another casualty of carbon monoxide poisoning.

We got rid of the heater that day, and replaced it with an electric model.

Granted, they have CO detectors now, which is better than nothing, but it's still something to think about--having an incendiary heat source in a completely enclosed space is just _not_ a good idea.
posted by LairBob at 6:30 PM on October 31, 2004

Well, let me be the dissenter here. We've used a unvented portable kerosene heater for the past three winters with no few problems. They throw off a LOT of heat, far more than any electric heater, and ours is a primary heater for the Fall/Spring and supplements our furnace in the winter. [Maryland]

My back of the envelope calculations are that we've saved $400-600 and been much more comfortable

That said, as LB cautions, you must think right around one. Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a deadly hazard. We avoid it as our house, being over 100 years old, is emphatically not air tight. We never run ours in a room with a closed door, and we run the ceiling fans if we're not seated in the room. And we have CO detectors.

Cedar is correct, fuel can be a bother, but it's just another Saturday chore. Operated correctly, the kerosene smell is only an occasional, and minor, issue.
posted by mojohand at 8:20 PM on October 31, 2004

Oh, and you do want to be sure you've a convenient source of bulk kerosene. If you were to buy it in those gallon containers from a hardware store you might more profitably heat by burning dollar bills.
posted by mojohand at 8:25 PM on October 31, 2004

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