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Kerosene Fuel Questions

What is Kerosene?

Kerosene is a clear combustible fuel formed from the fractional distillation of petroleum. Kerosene is commonly used in industry and households. It is found in jet engines, lamps, portable stoves, space heaters, and used for the fire spinning display called poi.

Kerosene is less flammable than gasoline with a combustion point between 100 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. It is regulated differently and stored in blue containers rather than red gasoline containers or yellow diesel containers.

When kerosene was invented, it started many new industries and improved American daily life. Kerosene generated better and safer lighting and cheaper home heating. Kerosene can still be used today to lower our energy footprint and reduce home heating. Click here for a selection of home kerosene heaters.

Where can I buy kerosene?

1-K kerosene can be purchased from many gas stations, auto shops, and hardware stores. The price for 1 gallon of 1-K kerosene in September 2015 is around $10.00.

Only purchase kerosene from dealers who offer state certified 1-K grade kerosene. This is the only way to ensure the kerosene safe to use. Any kerosene labeled other than 1-K is a potential hazard and health risk.

When purchasing kerosene at a pump, make sure to use a pump that is only intended for kerosene, and avoid contamination with gasoline. Also, store kerosene in a container specifically intended for kerosene, not gasoline or any other container.

How should kerosene be stored?

Only store kerosene in new, clean, sealed containers clearly marked for kerosene storage. These are certified blue plastic containers. Improper containers, such as metal containers, used drums, plastic jugs, or gasoline containers, will contaminate kerosene. This will degrade your wick and heater and potentially harm you. The best way to increase longevity is to always keep your container sealed.

How long can I store kerosene?

One to three months is our safe recommendation for storing fuel. Do not store kerosene from season to season, especially left inside the kerosene heater over summer. Old fuel will break down and absorb water, encouraging growth of bacteria and mold. Burning old fuel will cause damage to your heater and lower performance. This can quickly become dangerous. It is best to buy quality kerosene in small quantities and to store in certified containers.

Kerosene can last longer depending on how well it is stored. The quickest way to degrade kerosene is in an open container, which allows for oxidation and water contamination. One reader of the September 2006 edition of Countryside and Small Stock Journal testifies to using a 10 year old reserve of K-1 kerosene stored in tightly sealed five-gallon containers with no additives. The reader noted the K-1 was still 90% clear, "works fine and has not hardened the wicks." We do not recommend using ten year old kerosene, however, tight storage in certified containers will give you the best results for the extra mile.

Can I use red kerosene?

Any kerosene advertised as 1-K kerosene can be used in your heater, but use red dye with caution. We recommend using clear 1-K kerosene, because it is easier to see potential contaminations and better for your kerosene heater wick.

Kerosene with red dye (even if 1-K) contributes to more carbon deposits on the wick and more soot when lighting and extinguishing the heater. Red kerosene comes from the Federal government requiring kerosene not intended for road use (and, subsequently untaxed) to be dyed red. 1-K kerosene intended for road use is the same clear kerosene intended for kerosene heaters and our recommendation for purchase.

How to test the quality of kerosene fuel?

The best way to assess kerosene quality is through visual examination. Siphon a small amount of kerosene from the bottom of the container, where most water and particle contamination resides. Place the sample into a small clear jar and let sit for at least an hour. Look to see if there is anything floating in the fuel, such as particles or bubbles. Bubbles are a sign of water contamination. Fuel should be crystal clear with no separation. Anything cloudy or tinted yellow is contaminated and should not be used. It is more difficult to see contamination with red fuel, however, it should be translucent like Kool Aid, not cloudy, opaque, or dusty. Click here for a siphon pump.

The final test is to burn the kerosene heater. The flame should be bright and even. Any kerosene odor should become very faint after the heater reaches an optimum burn (45-60 minutes). Kerosene has a unique odor (not like diesel or gasoline). If you have any doubt, it is best to get fresh fuel to protect your product and yourself.

Characteristics of High Quality Kerosene:

  • Crystal clear like tap water, or like Kool Aid if dyed red
  • No visible dirt, debris, dust, or contaminants
  • Properly stored in an approved airtight blue container
  • Stored in a cool dark location
  • Purchased recently (within 1-3 months)

Characteristics of Poor Quality Kerosene:

  • Yellow or cloudy tinted
  • Visible dirt, debris, dust, or contaminates
  • Bubbles of water collected at the bottom of the container
  • Improperly stored in an uncertified container
  • Stored in direct sunlight or high heat
  • Stored for an extended period of time (more than 3 months or from previous seasons)