Caution is the word with kerosene heaters. With the cost of keeping warm always on the rise, millions of kerosene-fueled heaters have been sold and that number seems to be growing. But actual savings are questionable and careless use can be hazardous. Controversy has centered on the kerosene heaters safety. Specialists, however, say that if you know how to use kerosene heaters properly, they can be pretty safe.
Fire is a big danger when using kerosene heaters. Although many have a flame snuffer that retracts the wick when the heater is tipped over, the owner must still be very careful.
The kerosene heater must be at least three feet away from all combustible surfaces. Combustible surfaces include draperies, clothing, wall surfaces, furnishings and newspapers. In addition to maintaining this distance from combustible surfaces, the heater must be kept away from traffic areas – a requirement difficult to meet in some homes.
There is also an issue of the effect these heaters have on home air supply. Even a properly cared-for heater using the correct fuel will give off some pollutants, and it is critical that the size of your heater be based on the room in which it will be used. About one square inch opening of a window or door for each BTU heat rating is a good rule of thumb if you want to use kerosene heaters safely. If that same heater is later moved to a smaller room, additional ventilation will then be needed.
The fuel usually specified by the manufacturers is 1-K kerosene, but 2-K is also water clear and the consumer cannot tell the difference. If 2-K is used, sulfur and other contaminants can be released into the air. Manufacturers usually give explicit directions to prevent fire and protect air quality, but the difficulty is that the instructions are often not convenient to follow.
Filling the heater, for instance, must be done outdoors. Also, the kerosene must always be stored outdoors. In cold weather, or if the consumer is an apartment dweller, this can be particularly troublesome. Following directions will promote safety, but in practice it is likely that many people don’t bother with how to use kerosene heaters safely , and thereby increase the risk.