Is Propane or Kerosene a Better Heater for My Workshop?

When it comes to choosing a heater for your workshop, the decision between propane and kerosene can be a challenging one. Both fuel sources have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the technical details, cost considerations, safety factors, and efficiency comparisons to help you make an informed decision.

Cost Comparison: Propane vs. Kerosene

One of the primary factors to consider when choosing a heater is the cost of operation. Kerosene heaters are generally less expensive to run than propane heaters, as kerosene has a higher energy density, meaning it can produce more heat per gallon. On average, a gallon of kerosene costs around $4, while a 20-lb propane tank (containing approximately 4.7 gallons of propane) typically costs around $20.

However, the cost-effectiveness of each fuel source can vary depending on your location and the specific efficiency of the heater. It’s essential to research the current prices in your area and compare the overall operating costs of both propane and kerosene heaters to determine the most cost-effective option for your workshop.

Safety Considerations: Propane vs. Kerosene

is propane or kerosene a better heater for my workshop

Both propane and kerosene heaters can be safely used in a workshop environment, but it’s crucial to understand the unique safety concerns associated with each fuel type.

Propane is a liquefied petroleum gas that is heavier than air. If there is a leak, the propane can accumulate near the floor and potentially ignite if it comes into contact with a spark or flame, posing an explosion risk. Proper ventilation and leak detection are essential when using propane heaters.

Kerosene, on the other hand, produces fumes that can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities. Ensuring adequate ventilation and following the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation is crucial when using a kerosene heater.

It’s important to note that both propane and kerosene heaters should be properly maintained and serviced to ensure safe operation. Regular inspections, cleaning, and adherence to the manufacturer’s guidelines can help mitigate the safety risks associated with these heating appliances.

Efficiency Comparison: Propane vs. Kerosene

When it comes to efficiency, propane heaters generally outperform kerosene heaters. Propane heaters typically have a higher BTU (British Thermal Unit) output, ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 BTUs per hour, while kerosene heaters typically produce between 10,000 and 30,000 BTUs per hour.

The efficiency of a heater also depends on factors such as the size of the workshop, the insulation, and the specific model of the heater. Propane heaters tend to be more efficient in terms of heat output per unit of fuel, but the actual efficiency may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your workshop.

Technical Specifications: Propane Heaters

Propane heaters offer a range of technical specifications to consider:

  • BTU Output: Typically between 10,000 and 100,000 BTUs per hour
  • Heater Types: Direct-vented or vent-free
  • Direct-vented heaters draw in air from outside and exhaust the combustion gases outside
  • Vent-free heaters burn the propane inside the workshop and exhaust the combustion gases into the room
  • Fuel Source: Requires a propane tank or a connection to a propane supply line

Technical Specifications: Kerosene Heaters

Kerosene heaters also have their own set of technical specifications:

  • BTU Output: Typically between 10,000 and 30,000 BTUs per hour
  • Heater Types: Radiant or convection
  • Radiant heaters emit heat in a specific direction
  • Convection heaters circulate the air to distribute the heat more evenly
  • Fuel Source: Requires a supply of kerosene

DIY Heater Construction

If you’re considering building your own heater, it’s essential to follow safety guidelines and ensure proper ventilation. Here are some resources to help you get started:

Remember, when constructing a DIY heater, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and adhere to all relevant local regulations and building codes.


Choosing between propane and kerosene as a heater for your workshop requires a careful consideration of various factors, including cost, safety, and efficiency. Propane heaters tend to be more efficient and produce a higher BTU output, while kerosene heaters are generally less expensive to operate. Ultimately, the decision will depend on your specific needs, budget, and the unique characteristics of your workshop.

By understanding the technical specifications, safety considerations, and cost implications of both fuel sources, you can make an informed decision that will keep your workshop warm and comfortable throughout the colder months.