If you are planning to purchase a kerosene space heater, be sure you understand the risks associated with having a heater that produces an open flame. These heating units may also emit toxic fumes, so ventilation of the room is usually necessary. Once you understand the safety concerns, choosing a kerosene space heater comes down to making a choice between a radiant or convection unit.
A convection kerosene space heater is typically circular, and heat is distributed all around the heater. For this reason, they must be placed well away from walls and flammable items such as draperies and furniture. For heat to be distributed evenly, these heaters should ideally be placed in the middle of the room. The kerosene fuel is burned by lighting a circular wick. Made from absorbent material, the bottom of the wick is constantly feeding fuel to the flame.
Most types of convection kerosene heaters are not temperature adjustable. This makes it difficult to maintain a constant temperature inside the room. If the area gets too hot, they must be shut off completely. The average heating output of a convection kerosene heater is about 23,000 British thermal units (BTUs).
A radiant kerosene heater is typically housed in a three-sided fireproof unit, and unlike convection units, the heat is distributed only from the front. The sides and back do not get hot, so generally these heaters can be placed nearer to walls and furnishings, which generally make them a better choice as a space heater. They have the same type of wick and heating mechanism as convection units, but usually do not produce as much heat. Most kerosene radiant heaters only produce about 12,000 BTUs of heat.
The amount of ventilation required for a kerosene space heater depends on the size of the room where it is being used and the BTUs of the heater. Most heaters come with paperwork and instructions that outline safety precautions and ventilation requirements. A rule of thumb for ventilation is 1 square inch (.6 square mm) of window opening for every 1,000 BTUs of heat produced. Failure to ventilate properly could cause breathing difficulties or carbon monoxide poisoning, which could result in death.
In spite of the risks associated with the use of a kerosene space heater, there are some benefits. Most of the time, kerosene is less expensive than other types of combustible fuel. In addition, most kerosene space heaters do not require electricity for lighting, so in the event of a power outage, they can still operate. Some of them are even designed with a flat plate on top so they can be used for cooking.