A kerosene heater can be a true life saver in power outages or snow storms. If not used or maintained properly, though, kerosene heaters can be extremely dangerous. Read on to get the full scoop.
I'll never forget waking up one Sunday morning in my Grand Rapids, Michigan home to discover our furnace pilot had gone out over the night. Something was wrong, the house was freezing, and I could barely get out of bed. When it's that cold your body just begins shutting down. A kerosene heater would've been perfect as a back up heater until the necessary repairs were made to the furnace.
A kerosene heater can be a true life saver in these situations. If not used or maintained properly, though, kerosene heaters can be extremely dangerous. In fact in some jurisdictions kerosene heaters are actually illegal (California and Massachusetts to name a couple).
In the United States we usually use Kerosene heaters as a back up heater or as a small space heaters. In a few other countries a kerosene heater is actually the primary source of heat. So, they can be used safely without burning down everything you've worked so hard for. Common causes of Kerosene heater issues are a bad wick or bad kerosene. A bad wick can mean a wick with water on it, or a wick with tar on it from regular use, A wick with water on it will put out more smoke than anything. A wick with too much tar on it won't put out heat properly. You'll be burning kerosene for no reason and most likely you will never be warm. Kerosene that hasn't been properly stored may contain some traces of water. Using this kerosene will have the same effect as a wick wet with water instead of kerosene. Once a year you should replace your wick. I usually replace my wick in the beginning of Fall to ensure I'm ready for whatever weather Mother Nature decides to throw at us.
Before using your kerosene heater for the first time of the season there's a couple things to consider doing. First off you should drain the kerosene out of the heater completely. Actually, when you stopped using your kerosene heater last spring you should have drained the fuel from the heater then. Kerosene should not be "stored" in the kerosene heater as this will cause the wick to become saturated with kerosene and/or water from the fuel tank. Once you have drained your fuel, remove the wick. Most people don't think to clean their kerosene heater but it's actually a great idea. Kerosene heaters are un-vented so removing any access chemical or fuel is a great idea. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk that comes with kerosene heaters. This is why you want to be sure your equipment is clean and being used properly. After your equipment has been drained and thoroughly cleaned it's best to go ahead and replace the wick. As I stated earlier, this should be done at least once a year.
When we clean kerosene heaters and replace the wick we suggest adding a wick cleaner to your kerosene. "Wick cleaner has a powerful cleansing effect on the tars and carbon which build up on a wick and hinder efficiency. When the wick is clean, dry burning is not necessary. Wick life can be doubled. You get more heat for your money, reduce odors, and stop moisture problems. Many wick cleaners are also often scented giving off a pleasant smell other than kerosene.
Feel free to ask questions or share your experiences about kerosene heaters.
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