Indoor Kerosene Heater Questions & Answers

What type of kerosene should I use?

The only fuel approved for indoor kerosene heaters is K-1 kerosene.  K-1 kerosene is most commonly found at local convenience stores and service stations. Only buy kerosene that is rated K-1. Lesser quality fuels will produce odor and may cause other problems. If you are unsure who sells K-1 kerosene in your area contact your local fuel distributor. K-1 kerosene is also available in package form at many hardware stores and home centers. Packaged kerosene has a greater shelf life than kerosene drawn from a pump, making it a good choice for those only wanting to have a heater on hand in case of emergency. However, if you are using your kerosene heater as a supplemental heat source, you will realize your greatest savings by purchasing your K-1 kerosene at a local convenience store or service station.

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Can red kerosene be used?

The Federal government requires that kerosene be dyed red if it is not intended for road use and therefore subject to a 24.9¢ tax. As long as it is advertised as K-1 kerosene it can be used in your heater. We recommend the use of clear K-1 kerosene when available as it is much easier to see contamination in the clear kerosene.

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How should K-1 kerosene be stored?

Store K-1 kerosene only in a new, clean, sealed container clearly marked for kerosene. Containers such as used drums, use milk containers, used plastic jugs, and gasoline cans will contaminate kerosene and may harm the wick or cause other problems.

It is best to store your K-1 Kerosene in an approved container in a cool, dark, dry place away from the living areas.  After filling your heater make sure to reattach the cap tightly on your container to protect your K-1 kerosene from contamination.

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How long can I store K-1 kerosene?

One to six months is the longest we recommend storing K-1 Kerosene. K-1 Kerosene should not be stored from one season to the next, including inside the heater tank. If allowed to sit over the summer, the kerosene could break down and absorb water. There are bacteria and molds that live in the kerosene and feed off of fossil fuels. As this process speeds up over the warm summer months, sludge develops in the kerosene. If this kerosene is used the following season it can clog the wick and cause odor, low burn, and wick hardening. It is best to buy kerosene in small quantities so that you are assured of the freshest fuel possible. Find a local convenience store or service station that you can trust to have good kerosene and stick with them.

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How can I tell if my K-1 Kerosene is good?

The best way to tell if you have good fuel is to siphon off a small amount of kerosene from the very bottom of your storage container into a small clear jar. It is important to pump from the bottom because if there is water present that's where it will be since it has a higher specific gravity than kerosene. Allow the sample to sit for at least an hour and observe to see if there is anything floating in the fuel. Bubbles at the bottom are not good – they are water bubbles, not air. You should not be able to see particles floating. If the kerosene is clear it should be crystal clear with no separation. Anything cloudy or yellowed is contaminated and should not be used. It will be harder to see contamination in red kerosene but even red-dyed kerosne should be translucent – much like Kool-Aid, not cloudy or opaque. The fuel should also smell like kerosene and have no diesel or gasoline smell to it. If you have any doubt about the quality of your kerosene - get fresh. The final test is burning the heater; the flame should be bright and even. Any kerosene odor should become very faint after the heater reaches optimum burn (usually after 45-60 minutes).

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What causes bad odor?

Bad odor after the heater is burning is most often caused by low quality kerosene. If there is high sulphur content in the kerosene you are using or if it is lower grade kerosene it cannot be burned completely at the temperatures reached in a portable kerosene heater. These un-burnt hydrocarbons collect on the wick and harden causing low burn and odor problems. Also be very careful when fueling your heater to not let any kerosene drip on the heater. Kerosene spilled on the heater or on the drip pan can cause a strong kerosene smell when the heater gets hot. In addition, if the heater is operated at too low of a temperature setting or with the wick installed too low, incomplete burning of the kerosene may cause odor. A heater should always be operated on high, turned down just enough to keep from sooting. Refer to your owner's manual for the proper wick height for your model.

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Why won't my heater stay burning?

When having trouble keeping the heater burning there are several things that you should check. Is this the heater's initial use? If so, then the problem may be caused by not allowing the wick to soak long enough before lighting. It is the kerosene vapors that burn above the top surface of the wick, and therefore it is very important to wait at least 60 minutes with the wick in the down position in a full tank of kerosene to be sure that the wick is fully saturated and can support the burn.

If you light the heater too quickly it may light, but air bubbles may develop in the capillaries of the wick, and then it isn’t able to keep enough kerosene “wicking” to the surface to keep your heater burning properly. If a problem develops after the first tank of kerosene has been burned, then the problem may be fuel-related. Poor quality or water-contaminated kerosene clogs the wick fibers and impedes the fuel flow to the wick surface. This starves the flame of fuel. The best solution is to replace the wick and kerosene in your heater and start over.

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Why does my heater smoke?

First of all make sure that the heater is filled with K-1 Kerosene. Other fuel, such as gasoline, home heating oil, etc. do not burn hot, causing the heater to burn out of control. NEVER USE GASOLINE or any other fuel described as flammable. If there is any question about the fuel in your heater it is best to drain it and replace the wick and start with fresh K-1 Kerosene. If you are sure of your kerosene and your heater is giving off sooty black smoke it is a sign that the fuel/air mix is off. Make sure your heater is not in a draft.  Too much air can create a very high flame condition. Avoid placing the heater in drafty areas or under a ceiling fan. Make sure the burner chimney is seated correctly. If the burner chimney didn’t seat into place correctly after lighting you may be getting a very high flame on one side. If it’s a high orange flame all the way around try rolling the wick adjuster knob down within the adjustment range - the wick may just be raised too high. If these things do not fix the problem wait until the heater is cool and inspect the burner cylinder. If there are any holes plugged with soot it needs to be cleaned, or if it’s dented or buckled it needs to be replaced. After you have checked the fuel and burner you should check to make sure the wick is installed at the correct height. Refer to the owner's manual for exact wick height. If the wick is installed correctly and there is no other obvious defect it is best to take the heater to a service center to determine the cause. Our Find a Retailer tool can be used to help find a servicing center.

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Why won't my heater light?

Is this the first time lighting the heater? If so, then you need to make sure the heater has been filled with good K-1 Kerosene, and that the wick has been allowed to soak in the lowered position for 60 minutes in a full tank of kerosene. This ensures the wick is completely saturated with kerosene. Then raise the wick to the “high” position.

When you push the “ignite” button you should see the igniter move into position to light the kerosene vapor above the top of the wick surface. The igniter should be glowing a bright orange. The igniter should come into position right to the top surface of the wick, but not touching the wick. If the igniter goes into the side of the wick it will not light – only the kerosene vapors just above the top surface of the wick will light. You may have to lower the wick adjuster mechanism a bit to make sure that the igniter is coming into contact correctly. If the igniter isn’t glowing check the batteries. They may need to be replaced or the igniter filament may be broken. If the batteries need to be replaced use only regular duty non-alkaline replacement batteries. Alkaline batteries deliver too strong of an initial jolt and may destroy the igniter.

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Why won't my igniter glow?

When your igniter won’t glow the first most obvious cause is dead batteries. The batteries should only be replaced with regular duty non-alkaline batteries. Alkaline batteries may have too strong of an initial jolt and often burn out the igniter filament. Strongest isn’t best in this application. If you have fresh non-alkaline batteries and it still won’t glow, the igniter probably needs to be replaced. To prevent igniter burn-out do not let the igniter come in contact with the side of the wick or stay in the flame after ignition.

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Why won't my heater shut-off?

When you hit the shut-off knob and the wick won’t drop, it is most likely because of tar and carbon build-up. If the heater has been burnt too low or contaminated kerosene has been used, a sticky tar forms on the wick and it hardens. As the wick gets harder and thicker it becomes more and more difficult to raise and lower the wick until it will no longer slide between the wick adjuster and the primary air tube. Bad water contamination in the kerosene can also cause the cotton fibers in the wick to swell and not allow it to move freely in all cases. The wick should be replaced.

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How often should I change my wick?

The American Lung Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (in a brochure titled “What You Should Know about Combustion Appliances and Indoor Air Pollution”) recommend you check and replace the wick before each heating season. You may have to change the wick more often if you use low quality kerosene or burn your heater at too low of a heat setting, or your kerosene becomes contaminated.

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