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Temperatures drop, but your zeal for home improvement projects doesn’t. Good on you. Garages, workshops, and job sites aren’t always the most forgiving places to be, and bundling up like the little brother in A Christmas Story can only do so much. You might be better off adding a heater to your repertoire and letting a can of kerosene take the frost out of the air. Compared to electric space heaters, kerosene heaters produce significantly more heat. They’re also surprisingly efficient. Just a gallon of kerosene can keep you warm for hours. There are a few considerations to keep in mind, like high temperatures and fumes that require adequate ventilation, but those are easy to account for. 

When you’re ready to take your winter projects to the next level, pick up a can of fuel and one of these kerosene heaters. You’ll be up and running in no time.

Heat up large areas with a kerosene heater backed by DeWalt’s record of success. This workhorse cranks out 215,000 BTU, which is enough kerosene-fueled power to heat a 6,500-square-foot area and earn the top spot on this list. Air flow through this tubular heater is rated at 400 cubic feet per minute. With a massive 14-gallon fuel capacity, you’ll be able to run this heater for 9.5 hours without refilling. That should be more than enough. The heater itself weighs 42 pounds and uses flat-proof wheels to make transporting it easy. Controls are simple: just a power switch and a dial to raise or lower the temperature. Be advised that this is an open-flame heater. No fire extends beyond the steel housing, but it should not be used in confined spaces and you’ll want to give it some space.

The Dura Heat kerosene heater uses a time-tested approach to provide safe, reliable heat indoors. Unlike directional heaters, this option radiates heat evenly to fill a room quickly. The 23,800-BTU output is better suited to use inside, where extra-powerful heaters can generate more heat and noise than you’d like. A protective wire grill surrounds this heater to prevent accidental contact. A built-in ignition switch makes lighting a breeze, and eliminates the need to plug this heater into an electrical outlet. The control dial lets you raise or lower the wick height to modulate heat output. The fuel tank holds just less than two gallons of kerosene, and lasts up to 12 hours. Combine these features with the small size and 28-pound weight, and you’ve got a strong contender for your midsize garage or workshop.

This kerosene heater from Mr. Heater is a robust option that produces plenty of forced-air heat with slightly less bulk than many jobsite kerosene heaters. At 38 pounds and portable enough to be carried easily from place to place, this is a great option for mobile work. It cranks out a 75,000 BTU of heat and lets you aim this warmth where you need it most. That’s enough to heat a 1,875-square-foot space for up to 11 hours. The six-gallon tank minimizes downtime to refuel and a safety shutoff lets you focus on your work, rather than your heater. Many customers find that this is one of the quieter options available, which is a nice bonus.

This kerosene heater from Dyna-Glo brings big-time heating power to the jobsite for less than you might expect to pay for something this capable. Heat up to 3,200 square feet with this heater’s impressive 135,000-BTU output. Heavy-duty construction includes a diamond-plate heater body, steel gas tank, protective tubular cage, and ten-inch flat-proof wheels. This heater’s versatility is also a huge asset. If kerosene isn’t available, you can also run this unit on several types of diesel, fuel oil, and jet fuel. The thermostat lets you dial in the right amount of heat and get back to work. Be sure to use this heater in a well-ventilated area and keep a safe standoff distance to avoid melting or burning nearby objects.

If you have a small area to heat, pick up a Sengoku HeatMate and don’t bother paying for output you don’t need. This heather is available in directional or omnidirectional configurations. Both are capable of heating up to 380 square feet. Thanks to its efficient burner, this heater can stretch 1.2 gallons of kerosene to provide 14 hours of warmth. Push-button start requires no electricity. Safety features include automatic shutoff, a tip-over switch, and wire guards around hot surfaces. We appreciate considerate features like a fuel gauge and syphon hose that allow users to see when they need to top off the tank, and do so without making a mess. This little heater is our pick for small areas, camping and survival kits, and anyone looking to pick up a kerosene heater on a budget.

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Types of kerosene heaters

Kerosene heaters come in several shapes and sizes, and there’s quite a bit of variation in output. If you just need to heat a single room, compact options can produce a usable amount of heat at a reasonable price. Professional-grade alternatives can successfully heat more than 2,000 square feet. All are designed to run on kerosene–a safe, efficient, clean fuel source that’s readily available at any hardware store. Some kerosene heaters will even accept alternative fuels in a pinch. It’s always important to refill the attached fuel tanks in a safe manner since heating elements get very hot. Some kerosene heaters are meant to be stationary, while others can moved from place to place without a problem. Many can be quite loud (especially the higher-output options), so consider sound levels when you make your decision.

Key features of kerosene heaters

  • Output: Kerosene heaters typically outperform electric heaters in terms of heat output by a significant margin, but they aren’t all the same. Compact in-home units can produce a modest 10,000 BTU to warm small indoor areas. Heaters built for construction sites and outdoor areas can produce as many as 80,000 BTU. 
  • Size: Kerosene heaters are portable by design. Small options can easily be carried from room to room. Larger ones can be quite bulky; but, since they’re still meant to be portable, they have handles to make them easier to move.
  • Fuel source: Aren’t all kerosene heaters powered by kerosene? Yes, but some can also run on other fuel sources temporarily without issue. If you think you might need to be flexible, look for a heater that can do the same.
  • Intended use: It’s important to match the right kerosene heater with your reason for buying one. A powerful heater can easily overpower a room with heat and noise, and a heater that’s too small can leave your teeth chattering. 

Benefits of kerosene heaters

Kerosene heaters’ bragging list is short and to the point: they’re powerful and portable. Liquid fuel produces far more heat than electricity, and you won’t necessarily be stuck within a radius of the nearest outlet. Portability makes these heaters a great companion for unfinished buildings and cold outdoor activities. Kerosene is also inexpensive and efficient, so you can benefit from clean-burning fuel for hours for less money than you’d spend on an extra layer of clothes. None of them are what we’d consider inexpensive, but when you can choose to stop seeing your breath at the push of a button, the price is well worth it. 

Kerosene heater pricing

Even though the fuel is inexpensive, be prepared to shell out some money on the front end of switching to kerosene heat. Quality compact options are more than $100. That might sound steep compared to electric alternatives, but remember there is a noticeable difference in heat output. The large kerosene heaters you see on professional job sites cost more than $200, but there are some circumstances when you need that kind of power. The good news is that they’re fairly simple, so you shouldn’t have to worry about things going wrong. Just be sure to read the safety precautions that come with your heater thoroughly.

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