Playing with fire or using Kerosene as a fuel.

I did a post awhile back about kerosene for heating and lighting. Kerosene has a lot of energy potential, heck it is used as jet fuel. It is fairly safe if stored properly and I see it primarily as my fuel for lighting.  Oh it’s not perfect for that but it can give off plenty of walking around lighting but if you want to read or do some close up work it will work, but a propane or White gas lantern will give off a lot more light on average. You can add a few mirrors behind a kerosene lamp you can get at a dollar store and make the light reflect out.  I just bought 6 feet of  lamp wick from GLO of Idaho that cost $11.41 with shipping.  If you set your wicks properly so you just burn the kerosene and not the wick,  a few feet should last a couple of years  or more depending on how many lamps you use.

On all fuels you want to use there is always a cost/benefit ratio for what you want it to accomplish. For example candles are cheap but the light is marginal at best and having an open flame can be a very bad idea around children, pets and in a disaster, cracked gas mains. Kerosene lanterns don’t put out a lot of light but the do a lot better than candles and you can read by them if the lanterns are close by.  The hurricane and storm type lanterns are a bit safer than the exposed flame of a candle. One Kerosene lantern can light for about 2-4 hours per day for a month on one gallon of fuel.  I buy my kerosene at the farm store in bulk, so 5 gallons cost about $33.00 on average and that is enough fuel to light one lamp for about 3 hours over 4 months. Using a bit more lighting in winter and less in summer. Let’s figure about $7.00 per month per lantern as the cost of lighting on average.  Not a bad price overall if you buy Kerosene in  5 gallon cans.

For the Kerosene heater, I  see it as a backup because even the barrel types eat fuel fairly quickly compared to other fuel heaters.  The kerosene heaters can be great for heating a large area, but on average propane for heat seems to give the best bang for your buck if you don’t own a wood fire place or stove.  From my own tests a Mr. Heater in the mid range or the big sucker with the built in fan is just about the best you can do for a good backup heater. Without investing in a lot of work/money to install a new heater/wood stove.  I also like the Mr. Heater have a lot of built in safety features, like the tip over shut off and low oxygen sensor. I have tested the midrange  Mr.Heater and get a good 6 hour burn time on a pound of propane and heated my main living area(approx. 800 sq. ft.)  to 65 degrees F. in about 45 minutes on the high setting, then I set the heater to low to maintain that 65 degree heat.  That was last winter after I turned off my central heat over night (18 degrees F. outside)  and the house was 50 degrees F. in the morning when I started the Mr. Heater.  I want to see how long the kerosene heater will burn on a 1/2 tank of fuel and how quickly it will heat the house. This week the temp. overnight is about the same range (20 degrees F.) so the test should have about the same conditions as when I tested the Mr. Heater.  I did light the kerosene heater before the test and ran it for about 20 minutes because it has not been used for about a year. I will be using a small fan to circulate the warm air, just like I did with the Mr. Heater test. I am trying to create about the same conditions for the kerosene heater as I had for the Mr. Heater test and report how well they compare to each other.  I have a barrel type kerosene heater not the box type so be aware there is a bit of difference in how many BTU’s are put out as the barrel type tend to be a bit higher than the box type.

Lessons learned:  If your kerosene heater has been sitting for awhile or is brand new, light it outside and let it burn for 3-5 minutes. That will keep any smoke and odors to a minimum.  Do the same when shutting it down and never forget to crack a window when you burn, as kerosene heaters put out carbon monoxide as well as use up oxygen as they burn. Never leave these heaters running while you sleep, add  more blankets for your bed for overnight and relight the heater in the morning. Yes, it will be a little cold when you wake up but you can light it first thing in the AM. I know that a cold house  gets me up and moving  to get that heater going right away. The heater should take the edge off the cold in about 15-20 minutes.  Get a thick robe and some good slippers to keep by the bed and wear your warm jammies.  Plus not using it at night will extend your fuel supply!

Battery powered fans will help move your warm air around. They have 12 volt fans like you see for truckers or battery powered fans for campers. I think you need to having a couple on hand to use both winter and summer. I have small 250 watt Black & Decker Electronmate and I know it will run my larger 12 volt fan for over 48 hours straight  before it needs to recharged. True Value has a nice 9  inch fan ($20.00) for campers that is powered by D batteries that I want to add to my DC powered fan collection. Circulating the warm air from the heater make a big difference on how well it will heat your home. These fans are great in summer to assist in cooling if the power goes out. With several coal plants shutting down because of new EPA regulations, many of us could see rolling blackout or brown outs in 2013/14.  Best to get your fans before the sheeples panic and try to get them at the last minute.

If the SHTF, I have no idea what fuel will be available if any? But having few different energy options is a good idea, especially if you can store the fuel safely before you need it! Blowing yourself up, setting yourself on fire and carbon monoxide poisoning is contraindicated for survival and will ruin your day.  Always store fuels as safely as possible away from your home and keep an ABC fire extinguisher and baking soda nearby to smother any flames if something goes wrong. Always turn off the heater, let it cool and take it outside before refilling.

I think a wood stove does have a lot of potential for my future plans. But they are kind of expensive to install correctly and they are a bit of work a to fill with whatever fuel you want to use. If you can build a good fireplace and chimney or have one already  good on you. But installing a wood burning stove from scratch is a bit pricey if you figure permits and a safe chimney along with wall/floor protection you are probably looking at a good $1000.00 spent just on exhaust/chimney, not counting the cost of  wood.  It’s a heck of a lot cheaper on start up cost for a propane heater or even kerosene. But it may not be cheaper over 3-5 years compared to a wood stove.  Getting dead from lack of oxygen, an excess of carbon monoxide or a chimney fire, because you wanted to go as cheap as possible is not a good plan.

So I’m starting the test on Friday evening about 9 pm local time and the current temp. outside is 20 degrees F. I’ll fire up the Kerosene heater  with a 1/2 full tank and warm the house tonight and then turn off all heat overnight and see what we get for a starting temp. in the AM and how quickly the house will warm up. I will be using a small fan to circulate the heat.  I don’t have to worry about freezing pipes but that could be a concern for other parts of the country.  I will give an update for how much fuel I used and how quickly the heater worked on heating the main living area to 65 degrees.


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