Letter: Heating Oil and Kerosene Uses

Hello Jim:

I wanted to write a note about an idea for heating. We use a Nestor-Martin as well as a napoleon oil stove to heat. These are very, very efficient. They burn one and a half to three gallons maximum per day and can heat a 2000 square-foot home. They require no electricity in their gravity fed from oil tank. I’ve heated with wood most of my life. (There is nothing like a wood fire.)

To give you an example of how much the world has changed, in the late 70s and 80s as a Boy Scout our troop raised most of our funds from going in the woods felling trees and selling firewood. Nowadays, the Scouts have been watered down to car washes and cupcakes sales. We had professional woodsmen guiding and overseeing us to minimize the danger, but the danger was there nonetheless. We also did paper drives in the late 70s-’80s. When the paper price spiked, everyone in our town was helping us out. We could fill three or four tractor-trailers in a weekend. Unfortunately, this is a sad truth. Baden Powell would be ashamed. Wood does not have a very long storage lifespan before it becomes punky and loses as much of its caloric value.

Heating Oil

Heating oil on the other hand is already millions of years old. Even at three gallons a day, a 275 gallon tank will virtually take you through the winter heating season. There is nothing to go wrong and nothing to fail; it’s effectively too simple to fail. The stoves are still manufactured in France and Belgium. To the untrained eye, they look identical to a high-quality enameled woodstove, except that they have a glass store with three mirrors and a burner.

If you were to get sick in the winter and unable to make the constant trips of armloads of wood, this would be a great backup plan, especially if you were traveling and your wife was home alone with your children or an elderly parent.The stoves are not cheap new. However, they can be found on craigslist (CL) often for $100. Mostly they are only found in Pennsylvania or the Pacific Northwest.


Storing heating oil as a tangible is wise indeed. Our heating oil is low sulfur and is so similar to kerosene it can be substituted and even lit with a match. However, the downside is that it has less caloric value than the old number 2 heating oil. But I have also become a fan of Myles Stair, who is a proponent of kerosene– arguably the most useful fuel. This is because it’s jet fuel for lighting, heating, cooking, car fuel, tractor fuel, generator fuel, and a pretty effective solvent.

This doesn’t mention it’s probably got the longest lifespan of any conventional fuel and the highest in purity. I’ve also become a huge fan of Toyostove, but I also monitor kerosene vented heaters. I heat my shop to keep it above freezing for less than a gallon a day for 1000 ft.² This sure beats the multiple trips to feed the woodstove three or four times a day to do the same thing. I don’t know of another liquid fuel heater that’s more efficient than a Toyostove or Monitor (but Monitor went out of business in ’12). I’ve seen these units 35 years old and still working perfectly.

I’ve been playing with the idea of running a Stihl or Makita electric chainsaw off a quiet Honda 3000is generator, as the acoustic signature of a gas chainsaw carries for too far. The rest of the bucking can be done on my 3-point pto driven cordwood saw that’s quiet. And the splitting can be done on my electric Supersplit kinetic log splitter. – J.E.


  1. ” Wood does not have a very long storage lifespan before it becomes punky and loses as much of its caloric value.” If left to the elements and bugs, then yes it gets “punky”. I have eucalyptus logs that have been on the ground for 5 years and are just fine. Some of my firewood came from a diseased tree. Great firewood, but I know to split it, dry it, and keep it covered away from my house. All long term storage of firewood should be away from buildings to keep from attracting termites, etc.

  2. Disagree on the 5 year wood storage life. Perhaps if not properly stored?

    A bunch of us cut 3 cords and filled a simple tin roof shed at the hunting camp 12 or more years ago. It occurred to me about a year ago to start bringing some of that home because it wasn’t being rotated quickly enough. It all burned fine just a little quicker than normal.

    Anyone you know have an oil well and refinery in their backyard? Me neither. But trees are everywhere.

  3. Properly stored, cut split firewood will last a long time, but the ideal is usually between 12 and 18 months. The ideal moisture content is 23%. It will continue to lose moisture as it ages, eventually getting to the same moisture content as cured lumber. You’ll certainly get a fast hot fire, but it won’t last long. Cut regularly and rotate your stock. I’ve lived in Minnesota since 1976 and used countless cords of oak.

  4. I don’t know of any waste oil burners that would always be safe for indoor use – some of the impurities cause carcinogenic compounds. But there are a lot that might be OK in a well-ventilated shed for supplemental heat. If you can keep your waste oil really clean (don’t accept from others), Lanair makes some nice units.

  5. I purchased an older house with an oil furnace this past winter. I was concerned about running out and the delivery company wasn’t available for a few days. The nice rep from the Co Op advised me that heating oil is just dyed Diesel fuel. It can be purchased quite easily in the farming community where I live.

  6. Just an addendum to the letter I wrote JR:
    I did not mean to imply stored wood rots as some people interpreted. It becomes considerably lighter and dryer and tends to burn fast as a Texas prairie fire. You will be filling that stove very frequently with that old dried out firewood.
    I only presented the idea of the oilstove as a backup plan. A couple very positive characteristics of the oilstove is that they do not billow smoke out of the stack like woodsmoke. In fact there is no perceptible emission from the stack at all. And no perceptible smell after it has started the initial first firing. So you have neither the visual nor scent telltales of the Woodstove. Something worth considering. Something you may want to consider purchasing might be peltor effect thermo generators. These take heat and turn it into electricity. They can go on top of or be attached to the sides of a woodstove. The better/more efficient ones are watercooled. There is an outfit in VT that manufactures/sells them. I mention this because if we had a grid down scenario you now have a highly reliable source of 12v power that is sustainable irregardless of sunlight. Your cabin now has a lit string of 12v led lights, your shortwave radio tuned to say…the BBC keeps you up to date and maybe that $20 Whale submersible 12v water pump that fits into a barrel is pumping water up to your kitchen sink from the basement barrel cistern saving you countless trips with a 5g can? These invaluable high quality Foodgrade pumps are made in Northern Ireland and can be had on eBay for under $20 shipped if you sign on to ebay.co.uk
    Lastly many people thought the kerosene heater is I was referring to are the standalone units used in a living room or garage : that was not the case. The toyostove or monitors are Wall mounted and modern looking heaters that resemble an AC split system but these Toyostove heaters require 110 V electricity.these Toyo stove heater’s are externally vented through a wall with a very unique pipe within a pipe that cools itself so it is zero clearance. The inside Hot exhaust heated pipe is surrounded by the cold air inlet pipe and it’s made of stainless steel. These heaters utilize a small computer that runs a algorithm and these are known as modulating heaters and they are using a temp sensor on a remote wire. Much like like the newer Buderus oil furnaces with a temp sensor the algorithm figures the heat taper and ultimate runtime to minimize fuel usage. Their efficiency is second to none.
    I recommend long term fuel storage only in Foodgrade lined steel drums with The caps firmly tightened on the hottest day of the year so there can be no further expansion but also no damaging moisture getting into fuel.
    You don’t want to use plastic for long-term storage: plastic is porous and the molecules of fuel pass through it eventually. I have a friend that stored gasoline in 55 gallon plastic drums and then within six months the drums became triangular in shape from the drum oil canning due to lost fuel
    plastic drums are very susceptible to cracking from UV degradation and puncture if dragged or placed down on sharp gravel as a plastic trim is completely flat on the bottom where as a steel drum sets out of thin rim
    Always elevate drums on something like pallet or PT wood. Get a $9 bung wrench on Amazon or turn your slip joint pliers open to where they resemble an “X” and then they should give you enough leverage to engage the flat areas inside the cap to open or close tightly.
    Pickup a MR. Funnel water removing funnel while you can. These will separate water from fuel: they work very well. Whenever I fuel up I use one of these. Years ago when I was in Kosovo and Bosnia you would see people selling fuel in vodka bottles on the sides of the street and they would always be shaking the bottles and they were shaking the bottles because there was so much water in the fuel they’re trying to hide it. Having one of these filterfunnels now is a critical piece of kit. You can view a video on YouTube of it actually working: fuel poured in rushes right through it but if you were to put it under a water faucet not a drop of water would pass through it .
    Well thanks for reading through my miscellaneous ramblings; I hope it is of value to some of you

  7. It’s wisest to have multiple methods of heating to include kerosene/oil, wood, propane etc.
    Wood stores fine for years if elevated and covered. I only uncover mine the first year to dry it some. My racks were built from old bed frames that were tossed out on big trash day or town cleanup days.

  8. One more worthwhile piece of information I forgot to add to the above comment was regarding stocking up on heating oil. Industry, construction,maritime, and the world runs off of #2 oil: also known as heating oil
    One of the benefits of heating with oil is that you can take huge advantage of seasonal price swings: July and early August are traditionally good times to buy exclusive of geopolitical stress effects on energy markets.
    If you are careful when you buy and you buy in bulk you can save substantially.
    Start by going to
    this will tell you the spot price of oil in New York Harbor or west Cushing if you wish
    So this is the “spot” traded price of oil but that’s not actually the local cost of oil because now what you need to know that every oil company understands is what’s called the:
    “rack price”. That’s the price of oil which is usually $.05-$.07 above Bloomberg’s quoted price which is the price after local transportation to oil depot/terminal in your area
    And then of course there is the profit for the trucking company which calls itself an “oil company”
    But if you’re paying cash and buying 1000 gallons at a time which is really only three 330 gallon tanks.
    Most owner operators, if you visit them in person May be inclined to do business with you
    In one drop they unload 1000 gallons of oil, collect payment in full and make a smaller profit % but it’s a bankable profit nonetheless.
    But the bottom line is A stop is a stop
    So if the pump runs for 15 minutes after the uncoil of the hose to unload 1000 gallons it really doesn’t change the equation too much from a five minute stop for 30 gallons.
    On slow days that oil can sit in the truck for a couple days before emptied and making its way back to the terminal for a refill
    I can often negotiate a large oil purchase for about a dime over rack price
    Once you are empowered by the knowledge of what oil really costs you can cut your future energy bill. Now that you know the cost of the product you can pose the question to the owner saying how much does he need to make ? And if he doesn’t take the offer move onto the next oil company that likely will.
    There used to be a clothing store in the Northeast called SYMS:
    their advertising slogan used to be “an educated consumer is our best customer”
    A little food for thought.
    Oil companies often drive around on automatic accounts and drop 30 or 40 gallons at a stop to top off at a fat profit per gallon during heat season.
    Off season Oil companies often have a lot of downtime and let drivers go at noon time or early.
    Your offer to them serves you well and at a dime over rack price but they make enough money to go for it. Even if you have to sweeten the deal up to .12 or $.14 over rack price you may be in a good position relative to what others ask and advertise. The offer may have to go up considerably if you are in a very remote area requiring a long drive. If you don’t have extra oil tanks, consider using IBC tote tanks. Since these are DOT rated oil companies will fill them without complaint and they are rated for flammables and fuel. You can also double stack them full to save on floor footprint space. Try and get the newest tanks you can,vacuum them of any water with a piece of junk pipe duct taped to your shop vac and try and get one with a ball valve to prevent leakage. Here in the northeast with the trend to switch to natural gas one can pickup a double wall Roth tank for free or $100 from time to time. Those are the best money can buy period.
    And as far as switching to natural gas keep in mind that all energy reaches parity. Many power plants have the ability to burn coal, bunker or#2oil, natural gas /co-gen
    Having said that: think twice or thrice before switching over; that cost may never be recovered before energy costs invert again. That old adage on every prospectus stating “past performance is no indicator of future gains”: should be considered before taking the plunge into such a costly investment. In Europe many home heating furnaces are tri fuel: where you can burn coal, oil or gas. It’s a shame we can’t have those here. Just like it’s a shame we can’t have the detergentless ultrasonic clothes washers like the Japanese use.

Comments are closed.