Is Propane or Kerosene a Better Heater?

Propane and kerosene are both popular fuel options for portable heaters, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. To determine which is better for your needs, it’s essential to consider factors such as heat output, cost, safety, and portability.

Heat Output

Kerosene heaters generally have a higher heat output than propane heaters. Kerosene heaters can produce up to 60,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat, while propane heaters typically range from 10,000 to 30,000 BTUs. This makes kerosene heaters more suitable for larger spaces and colder temperatures. However, this increased heat output comes at a higher cost and potential safety risks due to the production of toxic fumes, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

Propane heaters, on the other hand, have a lower heat output but are generally more efficient, with a fuel-to-heat conversion rate of around 90-95%. Kerosene heaters, in comparison, have a fuel-to-heat conversion rate of around 80-85%. This means that propane heaters can provide more usable heat per unit of fuel, making them a more cost-effective option in the long run.


is propane or kerosene a better heater

Kerosene is typically cheaper than propane, with the average cost of kerosene ranging from $2.50 to $4.00 per gallon, while propane can cost between $3.00 to $5.00 per gallon. However, kerosene heaters tend to use more fuel than propane-running models, which can offset the initial cost savings.

Propane heaters may have a higher initial cost, with prices ranging from $100 to $500 for a portable model, compared to $50 to $300 for a kerosene heater. However, propane heaters generally last longer and require less maintenance than kerosene heaters, which can help offset the higher upfront cost.


Propane heaters are generally safer for indoor use than kerosene heaters, as they do not emit as many fumes during use. Kerosene heaters can produce carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and other harmful pollutants, which can be a health hazard if the heater is not properly ventilated.

Propane heaters, on the other hand, have built-in safety features such as automatic shut-off switches and oxygen depletion sensors, which can help prevent accidents and reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. However, both types of heaters should be used with proper ventilation to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.


Propane tanks are more portable and easier to find than kerosene, making propane heaters a more convenient option for outdoor use or in areas without easy access to kerosene. Propane tanks can be easily transported and refilled at various locations, such as hardware stores, gas stations, and camping supply stores.

Kerosene, on the other hand, may be more difficult to obtain, especially in remote or rural areas. Additionally, kerosene heaters can be more cumbersome to move around due to the need to transport the fuel in separate containers.

Technical Specifications

When comparing specific models of propane and kerosene heaters, consider the following technical specifications:

Specification Propane Heater Kerosene Heater
Heat Output (BTUs) 10,000 – 30,000 20,000 – 60,000
Fuel Consumption Rate 0.5 – 2 lbs/hr 0.5 – 1 gal/hr
Ignition Type Manual or Automatic Manual or Automatic
Safety Features Tip-over switch, Overheat protection Tip-over switch, Overheat protection
Portability 10 – 30 lbs, Wheel kits available 15 – 50 lbs, Wheel kits available

DIY Considerations

When setting up a portable heater, consider the following DIY tips:

  1. Ensure proper ventilation, especially when using kerosene heaters. Kerosene heaters should be used in well-ventilated areas to prevent the buildup of harmful fumes.
  2. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fueling and igniting the heater. Improper fueling or ignition can be dangerous and may damage the heater.
  3. Regularly inspect and maintain the heater to ensure it’s in good working order. This includes cleaning the fuel tank, replacing the wick (for kerosene heaters), and checking for any signs of wear or damage.
  4. Use a carbon monoxide detector when using portable heaters indoors. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly, and a detector can help alert you to any potential issues.


  1. Kerosene vs Propane | The Garage Journal
  2. Home Garage Heater: Kerosene vs. Propane | Bob Is The Oil Guy
  3. Should You Get a Kerosene or Propane Portable Heater? – Mi-T-M
  4. Propane vs. Kerosene Portable Heaters | Tri-Rent-All