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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Vintage Oil and Kerosene Heaters/Heat for Your Tiny Home?

A "Perfection" Vintage Space Heater (Kerosene or Oil) that I paid $68 for. 
 I found this beauty of a heater (the one above) at an antiques barn in Winslow, Maine last year, and it was in perfect shape, wick and all. It was only recently that I had a chance to try it out, and man is it a good looking little heater- almost as ART/decor and heat in one. I actually have another vintage Sears knock-off heater I got at a Vermont yard sale (that I'm actually selling for $50 or so.. kidcedar at, and I've found a GREAT source for wicks and parts, which I talk about below.....

     Now most people hear the word "Kerosene" and they freak out- visions of carbon monoxide victims dance in their heads, the smells associated with burning this fuel, and the burdens of finding it in many states....BUT, it is another possible option for heating your home, or tiny home, but read on- PLEASE......Plus, there isn't just one type of kerosene, and its not all so "stinky", but more on that later on....

Kerosene has been used for ages in heating, and if used properly, and adequate ventilation is present, it doesn't pose a problem. Now with tiny houses, the need for ventilation increases because of the small area of cubic feet, or the volume, in the dwelling you're dealing with. That's not to say it won't work, but a cracked window, and a carbon monoxide detector are a MUST! I feel even having a second, back-up alarm is a good idea- they're inexpensive anyway. Do not neglect, mess around, or cheap out with these detectors- without them, you could DIE. This goes for propane heaters, and so forth, as well.

NOTE: And I emphasize this at all the workshops I teach....with ANY type of combustion heat, you will need a CO Detector, and when hanging them, hang them LOW near the ground, and NOT high up as you would a smoke detector- they are two different animals. Carbon Monoxide, is HEAVIER than air, so by the time it registers at a detector near your ceiling, you're already dead.

The phrase I use is this (with incorrect ceiling installations): "When its ringin, you're already singin'.....with the angels". Don't mess this up.

But back on these heaters themselves.....

Basically, as they're affordable, and crank out a ton of heat, kerosene heaters (which also run on lamp oil, and low sulfur diesel, but usually K1, water clear kerosene) are something to at least consider, especially since the mechanics of them are SO INCREDIBLY SIMPLE- meaning, there's less that will break down, and its easier to repair them should something happen.

If you happen to come across one of these beautiful vintage heaters, the parts and wicks are a little harder to come by for some models, but I found a GREAT site that carries just about anything you'll need. I'm not getting compensated to plug this guy, he has just been top notch in his service, answered all my email questions, and well, he runs a cottage industry business, so I have to give him a nod. is the guy- and he has a dizzying array of parts and wicks you can buy online. Yes, there are many parts of the world, and in the US, where people still use oil lamps and oil/kero heaters for light and heat- especially in the "back to the land" movement. If you're building a tiny house or any old home off grid, or need emergency lighting in power outages, its never a bad idea to have these items on hand.

Lanterns: My cabin in Vermont, when not using Coleman white gas lanterns (which I LOVE, and have lasted me fifteen years or more now), I use oil lamps, and I LOVE the look of them. You can even buy cheap models at Sprawlmart- for as little as $6.00 or so.

If you want good lanterns (which also give off a good amount of heat, and DO require some ventilation too), DIETZ is a long standing brand that I really trust. GOOD vintage Dietz lanterns fetch quite a bit or money on ebay too, so if you come across any of these at yard sales, pick 'em up! Especially the old railroad yard ones, or the red domed/glass ones.

Anyway, I'm by no means pushing kero and oil heat here, I'm just merely adding it to the realm of possibilities for heating, whether it be for permanent, temporary (for work space use), or emergency heat. There are quite a few people out there who use these vintage heaters for their homes. I'm not saying it would necessarily be my first choice, but it is choice among many.

All work with the heater I have....and here's the divisions, as I understand them (feel free to further look them up or correct me).

LAMP OIL/Liquid Parrafin- The highest grade of these fuels, and usually most expensive, it burns the cleanest (with the least amount of smell/odor). You'll see this coming in several colors, sometimes in scented versions, and with a citronella additive sometimes (use that stuff (citronella) outside).

K1 Kerosene- The highest grade of kerosene- more expensive than K2, and a little harder to find (depending on your state/laws), but it burns with much less of a scent.

Kerosene (No. 2)- "The Red Stuff" -Standard heating grade, but it burns with an odor, more-so when first used/lit. Its more prone to clog up the wicks over time too, which should be monitored if you're going to go this route.

Low Sulfur Diesel- a little lower in grade and "stinkier", but it works as well.

Nitroglycerine- gives you the "most light", although very short lived. Kidding....kidding....

Also, here's a great informational excerpt from, a great site on these heaters, and on lanterns....

 The fuel for use in these heaters is "1K kerosene". Be certain you obtain true water clear kerosene as this reduces the odor associated with burning. DO NOT use either the red-dyed kerosene or home heating oil. The first will clog the wick, the second will drive you from your home due to the stench. A relatively expensive alternative is a product called ClearLite, a low odor fuel UL certified for use in kerosene heaters. As with all indoor combustion, adequate ventilation is important for safety. Clean your vintage heater and font thoroughly before you fire it up for the first time and use a fresh wick. With these steps your heater should function quite well and, despite its age, provide an enjoyable source of warmth and charm to your home.

-Derek "Deek" Diedricksen