Kerosene vs. Diesel Heater – What’s The Difference?

There are many types of heaters. Your choice of a heater depends on what is available to you at any given time as well as your preferences. Nevertheless, if you have to choose between a kerosene heater and a diesel heater, you need to consider the pros and cons of these two types of small heaters.

Choosing between these two types of heaters may be a challenge if you are unsure about the kind of heater you need. This short blog compares and contrasts the heaters that use these two fuel types.

We believe that at the end of this blog post, you will have all the relevant information that you need to make the right choice if you have to choose between a diesel heater and a kerosene heater.  

What is a Kerosene Heater?

A kerosene heater is a small portable device that uses kerosene as fuel to produce heat. People usually use a kerosene heater as a source of supplemental heat.

Alternatively, people use a kerosene heater as a heat source when there is an emergency, such as a power outage. Because of its design, a kerosene heater functions as a convenient emergency or supplemental power source.

A kerosene heater is a small, portable, and beneficial device that one can rely on to provide supplemental or primary heat at home or any other place. 

What is a Diesel Heater?

A diesel heater is a small heating device that utilizes diesel to produce heat energy. A diesel heater burns a combination of diesel and oxygen to produce heat and other products of the combustion process.

This device draws oxygen from the surrounding environment and mixes it with diesel as a source of fuel to produce heat. It is ideal for warming small to mid-sized indoor and outdoor environments.

You can use a diesel heater as a source of either primary or secondary heat. 

Pros and Cons of Kerosene Heaters

A kerosene heater may be a suitable heating device if you are in certain conditions. Here are the major pros and cons of a kerosene heater.

Remember that these pros and cons are based on how a kerosene heater performs compared to other types of heaters. 

Pros of Kerosene Heater 

  • Kerosene is a cheap fuel compared to electricity 
  • Kerosene heaters are portable 
  • Kerosene heaters are more convenient than electric heaters in a power outage.

Cons of Kerosene Heaters 

  • Kerosene heaters require regular maintenance 
  • Kerosene heaters contribute to global warming because they produce greenhouse gases. 
  • The price of kerosene fuel fluctuates
  • Kerosene has a lower BTU level than diesel 
  • Kerosene heaters are ideal for outdoor use because they produce soot and negligible amounts of poisonous gases 

Pros and Cons of Diesel Heaters

It is necessary to consider the pros and cons of diesel heaters before using them. It is worth remembering that the pros and cons of diesel heaters are based on two things: your personal preferences and how you compare them to other alternatives. 

Pros of Diesel Heaters

  • Diesel is a more convenient fuel than electricity because you can use it anywhere.
  • Diesel heaters are portable, unlike other forms of heaters
  • It is easy to install and use diesel heaters
  • Diesel has a much higher BTU level than kerosene 

Cons of Diesel Heaters

  • Diesel heaters produce the characteristic smell of diesel when they are running.
  • Diesel heaters give off greenhouse gases and other poisonous ones, including carbon monoxide. 
  • Using diesel gases may be cumbersome because of the complicated instructions.

Kerosene Heater vs. Diesel Heater 

If you are unsure whether to go for diesel heaters or kerosene heaters, here is a simple guide to help you make the right choice. The guide compares these two types of heaters in their essential aspects. 


The cost of your heater is an important aspect to consider. When comparing two or more heaters, it is good to consider the cost of acquiring, running, maintaining, and even replacing the heating device.

There are considerable differences in terms of cost between kerosene and diesel heaters. Generally, diesel is more expensive than kerosene. This means that it will cost you more to run a diesel heater than a kerosene heater.

There is not much difference in the cost of acquiring either a kerosene heater or a diesel heater. However, diesel heaters are slightly more expensive to purchase than kerosene heaters. 

Heating Capacity

When comparing the heating capacity of kerosene heaters to diesel heaters, it is necessary to consider the BTU. In a long-form British Thermal Unit, BTU is the amount of heat energy needed to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

The heating capacity of devices is usually indicated in BTUs. The higher the BTU of a device, the greater it’s heating capacity. The BTU is a function of the nature of the fuel that the device uses to produce heat energy.

Diesel has a higher level of BTUs than kerosene. This means that you can rely on a diesel heater to provide heat to a much larger space than a kerosene heater. 

Energy Efficiency

The energy efficiency of heating devices relates to the amount of fuel that the devices successfully convert to heat energy. Much of the fuel that heating devices consume gets wasted.

For instance, a typical electric heater wastes much of the electric energy that it takes from the mains. Diesel heaters are more energy-efficient than kerosene heaters. This means that diesel heaters convert a higher percentage of the diesel fuel that they consume into heat energy than kerosene heaters.

A significant percentage of the kerosene fuel that you put into your kerosene heater ends up in the form of smoke and many other gases. 

Application/When to Use

Both diesel and kerosene heaters function well as sources of primary heat. You can use them for a wide range of outdoor heating, including during sporting events.

You can also use them for semi-outdoor heating, including warming up your garage or other similar places. You can also rely on either of the two as backup heat. They can be a convenient source of heating when there is an outage of power.

Both diesel and kerosene heaters are convenient for use as secondary heat sources. Nevertheless, you may not find it helpful to use these two types of heaters indoors. They produce soot and combustion gases that may interfere with the air quality in your indoor environment. 


Diesel heaters are noisier than kerosene heaters. The level of noise that your heater produces may be an important factor depending on where you would like to use it. For example, if you intend to use your heater during a relatively silent event, you would like the heater to produce minimal noise.

On the other hand, if you would like to use your heater for an event like sport, you may not consider its noise level. Thus, it is wiser to choose a diesel heater over a kerosene heater when considering the amount of noise these two types of heaters produce when they burn fuel to produce heat energy. 


There is not much difference in safety between kerosene and diesel heaters. These two types of heaters produce carbon monoxide because they burn fossil fuels, for starters.

Moreover, the surfaces of these two types of heaters become pretty hot when they run for a long time. As a result, the heaters can cause severe burns if one touches them when running. However, the manufacturers of kerosene and diesel heaters include some of the most reliable safety features.

Notably, many kerosene heaters and fuel heaters have a feature that triggers them to shut off automatically when the internal temperature rises to very high levels. This feature helps prevent these two types of heaters from causing fires or even being damaged when they get exceptionally hot. 


Diesel heaters and kerosene heaters require essential maintenance for them to function correctly. It would help if you cleaned these heaters to function well regularly.

In addition, you should replace the wick occasionally. The level of maintenance of these two types of heaters generally depends on how regularly you use them. 

Kerosene Heater Fuel Alternative

There are many alternative fuels to kerosene. Here are some of the most common ones. 

  1. Liquid hydrogen: This is a beautiful alternative fuel to hydrogen because of how it burns. Hydrogen produces much fewer combustion gases and soot than kerosene. Besides, hydrogen is lighter and more portable than kerosene. 
  2. Synthetic kerosene: This type of fuel is an excellent alternative to ordinary kerosene because it has all the benefits of regular kerosene but does not have disadvantages. Notably, synthetic kerosene produces much less odor than ordinary kerosene. 

FAQ About Kerosene vs Diesel Heater

Is it better to use kerosene or diesel in the heater?

Your choice of fuel for the heater depends on various factors, including the desired heating capacity and the fuel cost. For example, kerosene tends to burn faster and hotter than diesel.

This is because kerosene has a higher level of viscosity than diesel. Therefore, using kerosene means that your heater will become hot quite fast. 

Can you use diesel in a kerosene heater?

You can use kerosene in a diesel heater. Kerosene is more viscous than diesel. Thus, burning kerosene produces much lower BTUs than burning diesel. On the brighter side, kerosene produces less odor and other byproducts of the combustion process than diesel.

Diesel, sadly, produces a lot of soot and smell. This means that if you burn diesel in your kerosene heater, you should be prepared for the soot and smell. The soot usually causes the wick to become black after some time.  

How to mix diesel for kerosene heater

You can mix 20% of kerosene with 80% of diesel. You may adjust the ratio to 1:1 if there is an excellent reason to do so. However, mixing kerosene and diesel in the ratio of 1:4 is perfect for solving the problems associated with diesel during freezing days. 

Is 1 diesel fuel the same as kerosene?

No, 1 diesel fuel is not the same as 1 kerosene fuel, although they are similar. Diesel is generally heavier than kerosene. Thus, diesel burns much slower and produces more byproducts of the combustion process than kerosene.

The good news is that diesel has more BTUs than kerosene. Therefore, using diesel produces more heat than burning kerosene. 

What burns cleaner kerosene or diesel

Kerosene burns cleaner than diesel. This means that kerosene produces more negligible amounts of soot and combustion gases, including carbon monoxide, than diesel. Kerosene is almost similar to jet fuel.

Jet fuel is a version of kerosene that has been much distilled. It is lighter and more efficient than kerosene. Diesel is at a much lower level than kerosene.

Therefore, burning diesel produces a much higher amount of BTUs than kerosene. However, diesel combustion produces more significant combustion gases, including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. 

Does kerosene burn cleaner than diesel?

Kerosene burns cleaner than diesel because of its composition. Kerosene contains fewer compounds than diesel. This means that it is lighter and burns faster than diesel. More so, kerosene produces less odor than diesel when it is burning. 

Can you use diesel fuel in a kerosene torpedo heater?

You can use diesel in your kerosene torpedo heater, but you should brace yourself for the consequences. The most significant and unpleasant consequences of burning diesel in your kerosene heater are the bad odor and more fumes. Diesel produces more fumes and a higher level of odor than kerosene. 


Kerosene and diesel heaters are ideal as primary or supplemental heat sources. They are portable and beneficial in times of emergencies.

Choosing between these two types of heaters may be a challenge. It would help to consider the cost, BTUs, and the smell they produce when they burn. Diesel tends to burn slower than kerosene.

However, it has more BTUs than kerosene; thus, it produces more heat than kerosene. Kerosene is lighter and burns faster than diesel. In addition, kerosene produces much less odor than diesel fuel.