Creating a backyard space takes planning and effort, so it’s a shame that you can’t use it as often when temperatures drop. If you’re tired of letting winter’s icy grasp drive you inside, a kerosene heater could be a solution. A kerosene heater on a patio or deck can keep you and your family warm so you can enjoy the great outdoors. These cold weather wonders are available in different types, sizes, and capacities. Learn why the following models are considered among the best kerosene heaters on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Dura Heat 23,800 BTU Indoor Kerosene Heater
- RUNNER-UP: Sengoku KeroHeat 23,500-BTU Indoor/Outdoor Kerosene
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Sengoku HeatMate 10,000-BTU Indoor/Outdoor Kerosene
- UPGRADE PICK: Dyna-Glo Pro 135K BTU Forced Air Kerosene Heater
- BEST COMPACT TORPEDO: Mr. Heater 50,000 BTU Forced Air Kerosene Heater
- BEST MIDSIZE: Mr. Heater MH75KTR kerosene heater
- BEST EFFICIENCY: Dyna-Glo 23800-BTU Convection Indoor/Outdoor Heater
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Kerosene Heater
Kerosene heaters produce plenty of heat, which can make them ideal for outdoor applications. Kerosene is a relatively inexpensive fuel, so burning a kerosene heater on “high” in an outdoor space may be more affordable than using another type of heater. When shopping for a kerosene heater, keep in mind their specifications, such as tank size, heat type, and the all-important safety features.
Kerosene heaters are available in various models, each of which produces a different type of heat. Some are more suitable for specific applications than others. Note: All kerosene heaters run on a liquid fuel, which can be messy. If that’s not a task you want to undertake, other non-electric heaters use propane, natural gas, and easier-to-manage fuels.
- Convective kerosene heaters use convection to heat a space. They produce warm air that rises and pushes cold air down toward the heater. The heater then draws in the cold air and heats it, which rises and pushes colder air down again. This produces a very even heat within a space, and they run quietly.
- Radiant kerosene heaters produce localized heat, essentially warming the objects in front of them. They don’t do a particularly good job at heating a larger space evenly, but they’re ideal for targeting a specific area, such as a table or sitting area.
- Forced air kerosene heaters (also known as torpedo heaters and salamanders) heat air and force it into the area, much like a furnace. They’re suitable for heating large outdoor tents and gazebos, but they can be quite loud.
- Portable kerosene heaters come in both convection, forced air, and radiant models, though the latter type is the most common. These heaters are small and easy to transport. Take it outside to refill the fuel tank, which helps minimize potential mess or dangerous accidents.
Kerosene is a liquid fuel, so tank sizes are measured in gallons or liters. The ideal tank size is relative, so consider these factors:
- Heat output: Large heaters burn more fuel, so they need a larger tank.
- Portability: Smaller heaters need to be light and portable, so they have a smaller tank.
- Fixed vs. removable: Fixed tanks are usually larger, while removable tanks must be small and manageable.
In general, larger wheeled kerosene heaters have fuel tanks that hold up to 15 gallons (roughly 56 liters) of fuel, while smaller models may hold only 1 or 2 two gallons (about 7 to 8 liters).
Kerosene heaters also come in a variety of outputs, which are measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). The higher the number of BTUs, the more heat a heater can produce.
Smaller heaters that produce heat within the 10,000 to 25,000 BTU range are ideal for smaller rooms, patios, or porches. Depending on the model, they can heat between 300 and 1,000 square feet. Midsize heaters (roughly 50,000 to 75,000 BTUs) warm spaces between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet.
Larger models—typically forced hot air—can pump a lot of hot air throughout a space. These heaters, which sometimes produce more than 150,000 BTUs, work well for large backyard parties and semi-enclosed tents.
Anytime energy is a factor, efficiency must be considered when choosing the product. Since kerosene heaters burn fossil fuels, make sure the model you choose is efficient and wastes as little fuel as possible.
Many kerosene heater manufacturers list their products’ efficiency rating, describing it in percentages. The best kerosene heaters burn around 99 percent of the fuel, passing less unburnt fuel through the exhaust.
But for a heater to work efficiently, it must be the correct size for the space. A 10,000-BTU heater may never heat a large garage, for example, which means fuel is wasted. Heating a small patio might not require a 135,000-BTU heater, as it will burn more fuel than necessary to keep the space comfortable.
Run time is directly related to the size of the fuel tank, the heater’s output, and its efficiency, the most important of which is tank size. The larger the tank, the more fuel it uses, so the longer the heater will run. A heater that runs for several hours without refueling is a convenience worth shopping for, but manufacturers aren’t always forthcoming with this information.
Some of the best kerosene heaters can provide heat on a low setting for up to 12 hours before running out of fuel.
Kerosene heaters have the potential to be dangerous. If left unattended or used incorrectly, they can start a fire or cause burns. Many heaters have an overheat switch that shuts down the unit if it gets too hot. Also, compact kerosene heaters can tip over quite easily if inadvertently bumped. An anti-tip switch shuts off the heater if it tips over.
Moreover, any machine that burns fuel—kerosene, gasoline, wood, or any other type—also produces carbon monoxide. The best kerosene heaters are extremely efficient and designed to emit very little carbon monoxide, which makes them safe even for indoor use. However, when used indoors, it’s a good idea to install a functioning carbon monoxide detector as a safety precaution.
Our Top Picks
Kerosene heaters aren’t new technology, but some improvements have been made to safety and efficiency, so keep the considerations detailed above in mind while comparing products. This list of some of the best kerosene heaters on the market helps streamline the shopping process.
With this Dura Heat kerosene heater, patio party time doesn’t have to end when the temperature drops. The 23,800-BTU convection heater produces 360-degree heat for a maximum heating area of 1,000 square feet. A wire shroud around the entire unit reduces the chance of accidents, and, because it’s capable of running safely indoors, it can serve as a backup for power outages.
Convenient features include an “instant-lite” ignition to start the heater without electricity. It has a 1.9-gallon fuel tank and an adjustable temperature dial, allowing users to throttle heat output for maximum run time. An automatic shutoff turns the heater off when the space reaches 90 degrees, and a tip-over switch stops the unit should it fall over.
Sengoku’s KeroHeat Convection Heater can warm both indoor and outdoor areas. This convection heater produces 360-degree heat for spaces up to 900 square feet, making it work well in areas where a forced air heater might be too loud.
The KeroHeat has a battery-powered electronic ignition for instant starts and a built-in fuel gauge for quick reference. Safety measures include an automatic high-heat shutoff as well as a tip-over switch. The 1.9-gallon fuel tank provides a run time of up to 12 hours.
Warming a small space, whether indoors or out, doesn’t always require a high-end, expensive kerosene heater. This affordable Sengoku HeatMate can warm spaces up to 400 square feet, and thanks to its 1.2-gallon fuel tank, it can run for up to 14 hours.
While the Sengoku is a good value, it has a built-in automatic off switch for both tip-overs and high-heat conditions. It has a match- and lighter-free push-button start as well as a flame adjuster for throttling output. An easy-to-read fuel window indicates how much fuel remains in the heater.
Large outdoor spaces need some heavy firepower—quite literally. Dyna-Glo Pro’s 135,000-BTU Forced Air Kerosene’s massive heat output can handle areas up to 3,200 square feet, pumping plenty of heat for a big outdoor bash. And with a 10-gallon fuel capacity, it can run for up to 10 hours on one fill-up.
The Dyna-Glo Pro’s built-in fuel gauge monitors fuel levels, and its built-in thermostat monitors temperature in the space. It also features an automatic high-temp shutoff for safety. At almost 42 inches long, 22 inches wide, and 32 inches tall, the unit is large, but the handle and flat-free tires make rolling easy.
Mr. Heater’s compact torpedo 50,000-BTU Forced Air Kerosene Heater can heat spaces as large as 1,250 square feet for up to 11 hours.
For convenience, this unit has an integrated top-mounted handle as well as an illuminated on-off switch. It also features a no-flame sensor to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning as well as an auto shutoff should the temperature begin to rise to unsafe levels.
Use Mr. Heater’s kerosene heater to heat a garage space or gazebo. This 75,000-BTU heater produces ample warmth for spaces up to 1,875 square feet, and the 6-gallon fuel tank allows it to run for up to 11 hours on a single fill-up.
This heater has a continuous electronic ignition for easy and safe starts. To reduce the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning, an automatic shutoff disables the unit if it detects fuel isn’t burning effectively. It also has a temperature dial for controlling the temperature.
Dyna-Glo’s 23,800-BTU Convection Heater produces enough 360-degree heat for a 1,000-square-foot space while running at 99.9 percent efficiency. It’s suitable for both indoor and outdoor heating.
This heater has some additional features to increase its usefulness, including a battery-powered, push-button electronic ignition for simple starts. It also has a one-touch shutoff as well as a built-in safety switch that shuts down the unit if it’s knocked over. Plus, the 1.9-gallon fuel tank enables the unit to run between eight and 12 hours, depending on the desired heat output.
FAQs About Kerosene Heaters
If you have concerns about running a fossil fuel-burning heater in an enclosed space or want more info about kerosene heaters, check out the answers to the common questions below.
Q. How big of a kerosene heater do I need?
This depends on the space you’re heating. In most cases, a 50,000-BTU heater is effective at heating a small porch, while a 100,000-plus-BTU unit might be necessary for a large open space such as a wedding tent or barn.
Q. How many square feet will a kerosene heater heat?
The amount of space a kerosene heater heats depends on BTU output. Low-output heaters, in the 25,000-BTU range, may heat 1,000 square foot spaces, while 135,000-BTU units can heat over 3,000 square feet.
Q. Do kerosene heaters give off carbon monoxide?
Yes, carbon monoxide is a by-product of the combustion process. Generally speaking, these heaters produce levels considered safe, but users should have a functioning carbon monoxide detector when running a heater indoors.
Q. Is it safe to run a kerosene heater all night?
Kerosene heaters are not as safe as a furnace or boiler, but they could be the only heat source in a power outage. While these heaters may be considered safer than sleeping without heat in subzero temperatures, you should never leave a kerosene heater unattended.