Letter: Using Diesel Fuel in a Kerosene Heater

SurvivalBlog Readers:

With the high price of kerosene has anyone tried using diesel fuel with an additive in a kerosene heater? – P.C.


  1. In your typical wick-based heaters ive not had good results burning straight diesel. The disel sublimates at a slightly higher temperature leading to reduced flow and incomplete combustion, and the oilier components of diesel gum up the wick and leave unburnt material on the wick clogging it. I have heard that people have had good luck adding a small percentage of alcohol (maybe not cheap rubbing alcohol but higher concentration, 90% or more, around here they do sell it cheap as ‘lighting alcohol’ though most folks use it for disinfecting things) to thin it out. With the alcohol im not sure the price advantage remains. Ive also heard that in recent years the new ULSD standards have led to most diesel (and ‘heating oil’ too) being reformulated like gasoline , and not being a straight section of distillation fractions as it was years back, a blend of many different fractions to tune the mix, with the result that it breaks down sooner and doesnt store more than a couple years, like gasoline.
    what’s sold as kerosene i’m not sure is any better anymore on that front but if youre talking about burning hundreds of gallons im not sure the alcohol is an economic approach unless you can get it in bulk cheaply. Here a small about 8 oz bottle is about a buck and thats about what you’d add to maybe 5 to 8 gal of diesel, so a roughly 12 – 20 cent/gal difference? just some thoughts.
    Another thing to think about, which is a reason i stopped running a kerosene heater in the house (but i do rely on kerosene lamps for light) is that those exhaust directly into the room and all that combustion, supposing it is complete and proper, leaves a LOT of moisture- a pound of kerosene will yield among the other components in its exhaust, about a pound of water. If your climate is such that you dont want extra moisture in a closed space like your house, you’ll want a stove that exhausts into a chimney and vents that moisture outside.
    I’ll occasionally burn diesel or kerosene in my wood stove with a homebrew arrangement that drips the fuel into a small steel pan i set on the grate. it’s a hack but it does fill the stove with a big ball of flame and warms things up. mostly it was just a cool project.

    1. “I’ll occasionally burn diesel or kerosene in my wood stove with a homebrew arrangement that drips the fuel into a small steel pan i set on the grate. it’s a hack but it does fill the stove with a big ball of flame and warms things up. mostly it was just a cool project.”

      There are military tent heaters/stoves that are multi-fuel (wood, gas, & diesel) that are heavy rolled steel and can be used for a small cabin, or auxiliary heating for a home (with proper setup and ventilation).

    2. Just a quick side note on something I learned in microbiology at school… 90% alcohol is not effective as a disinfectant. The additional water in 62-70% alcohol is necessary for the alcohol to effectively destroy the cell walls of bacteria.

  2. I agree with anon. My heater,which looks like the one pictured, will run on diesel, but not put out as much heat. I assume because the diesel looks thicker therefore not as much getting up the wick. I believe a mix of 1/3 kerosene and 2/3 diesel would burn well.

    1. R Gorton is right on…in a sense….100 years ago it was common practice to stretch out your kerosene with Alcohol you fermented on premises. Kinda like how the first automobiles were alcohol engines. According to the old books…a 50-50 blend of Ethanol and Kerosene is just fine. Note: You need a permit from the ATF to make your own ethanol legally, but you can buy denatured alcohol and sometimes at a cost savings. If you have a fuel distillers permit…then good to go.

  3. mixing in some kerosene will help it flow better, but youll still have issues with the oilier parts of the diesel not burning completely and eventually plugging up the wick.. something that thins those components would be needed, i.e. a rather pure alcohol..

  4. I haven’t yet tried it, but I am thinking Jet Fuel (with out the additive Prist) would be a good alternative. Not as cheap as diesel but cheaper than kerosene. Any comments?

  5. I have burned both Jet A and Jet A1 in my Kero heaters and it worked just fine! A long time ago I used to buy “sample” jet fuel from an FBO. They collected samples daily from their trucks daily and saved them in a drum. I purchased sample fuel from them cheap. I wonder if any FBO’s would still do this?

  6. Deplorable B Woodman
    The military stove you are referencing is rectangular in shape and has what is called a Labyrinth in it for flammable liquids. It will burn any flammable liquid and is called a “Yukon Stove. The unit I was in in Alaska we used JP-4 from our helicopters. It burned cleaner and we thought hotter than diesel or Mo-Gas (gasoline). They also come with a grate for burning wood. There is also what is called an “Immersion” heater that we put into 30 Gallon metal garbage cans to heat water to wash our mess kits. It worked on a drip/splash pan system and if you didn’t light them quickly they were very impressive in their explosion, these could be used as stock water heaters to keep stock troughs from freezing. There also was a small round barrel stove that was also multi-fuel, liquid or wood. Before any winter exercise the whole company was formed and we were read the riot act about harassing the wildlife. Being helicopter mechanics we had access to .032 stainless steel safety wire. We all also had hunting/fishing & trapping licenses. You can roast an Arctic Hare over a Yukon stove with an improvised rotisserie. There was one awkward moment when a new company commander entered our tent but fortunately the First Sargent was cool and the rabbit was ready to eat. I think our saving grace was that we were all Vietnam Veterans in that tent and could fix almost anything on the Huey helicopter in the field under arctic conditions and some of us enlisted could fly them as well as an officer and we knew how to protect the camp and be told what needed to be done and we did it. This was in the 70’s, Oh to be that young again.

    1. Different Army now, Deplorable. I shudder to think what would happen if a young captain or worse, slick sleeve CSM were to wonder in on something like that. That’s how mandatory briefings are born. I came in the late 80s and spent a couple years in a National Guard Huey unit as an SMP cadet (program where ROTC cadets are assigned to Guard or Reserve units to get practical experience). They were…different. Great at their job, but…different.

  7. We used diesel in a similar Kero. Heater in Afghanistan to heat our tent. I think the addition of 90% isopropyl rubbing alcohol is a great additive. Makes sense.
    Also, I too spent 3 years in the Air Cav Blue platoon in Alaska in the 70’s and used a ‘Yukon Stove’ quite often. I have on now and wont part with it for the world. They are available on the surplus market, a little pricey but worth it.

  8. Last winter I mixed up 5 gal of winter BP diesel bought in January and added 90% isopropyl school per the milesstair website.

    I ended up plugging up a forced-air torpedo heater after 10 mins. It’s electric and now immediately shuts down 15 seconds after being being turned on.

    I plugged up a Dyna-glo heater after a few hours. Now you can barely see the flame and you definitely smell it with little heat output.

    I tried it in an antique Perfection heater with a cotton wick and had better results. Hard to get the flame going and noticeably less heat output but also smell is somewhat tolerable. Wick needs cleaning between burns with noticable carbon build up.

    I gave up the experiment and now just buy kero at the pump at Fleet Farm here in the Midwest. Cheaper than the sealed 5 gal cans, but probably won’t store as long in the blue jugs either.

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