Although the answer may be different for everyone depending on the specific situation and heating needs, preppers may wonder which is best: kerosene or propane?
Whether you’re preparing for a power outage or looking to supplement your main heating system, if this is a decision you’ve been wrestling with, there are several factors to consider when making your decision. We’ll touch on these factors below. But one thing is certain. If you want to survive any kind of extended SHTF situation, you’re going to need a good fuel source.
One of the key factors to research if you are trying to decide whether to use kerosene or propane for a fuel source is fuel efficiency. When comparing fuel efficiency, make sure you are comparing correctly.
It’s best to compare heat content in MM per BTU and consider the efficiency rating of any heating appliances when researching fuel efficiency to ensure you are making equal comparisons. Kerosene has more potential energy in BTU per gallon than propane which gives it the potential to be more efficient.
Cost of Fuel
For most people, the cost of fuel will be a significant factor. For those who are deciding between kerosene or propane for a long term heating solution, cost can be prohibitive. If you need a short term heating solution as a backup to your main heat source in a short term emergency, cost of fuel might not be as big an issue.
You can use a heating fuel comparison chart as a general guide. The approximate average cost of residential kerosene per gallon is $2.25. I’ve seen it as high as $4.65 per gallon in some areas.
The popular belief up until recent years was that propane is less expensive for heating than kerosene. And this may still be the case if you are buying small amounts via your local gas station.
But recent price hikes have turned the tables and you may find propane costs more than kerosene when bought in bulk amounts for residential heating purposes.
Make sure you do the research for pricing specific to your area to be certain. When researching prices, ask about off season pricing. You may find it’s cheaper to buy heating fuel in spring or summer months which are slower months for fuel companies.
If so, a little advanced budget planning can pay off in dollars saved. Also ask about bulk delivery, if you have the proper storage container, which can help make both fuels more budget friendly.
One factor you definitely need to consider when choosing between propane and kerosene is fuel storage. Think about your heating needs, the location of your fuel supplier, and how often you could be snowed in or otherwise unable to travel to purchase additional fuel. This will help you determine how much fuel you may need to keep on hand.
For longer term storage needs, propane often makes more sense. While propane is flammable and storing in your home is not recommended, it is more shelf stable than kerosene and be stored for years without breaking down.
Store propane tanks a minimum of 25 feet from your home for safety. Underground propane tanks should be no less than 10 feet from your home. Storing propane in cold weather may require additional preparations to ensure the propane can be used when you need it.
Kerosene is a flammable liquid, and red dyed kerosene or K-1 is manufactured for residential heating purposes. Kerosene can become contaminated if stored improperly, so make sure you use only new containers, clearly identified for storage of kerosene.
Stored properly, kerosene can be stable for up to five years, less if you use plastic containers. Bacteria, condensation, mold, and water vapor can cause kerosene to break down more quickly.
When choosing between kerosene or propane, it’s also important to consider other factors. Once you’ve determined the proper fuel based on efficiency, cost, and storage, one or more of these additional criteria may sway your decision.
Safety & Reliability
Both kerosene and propane heating solutions require proper ventilation when used in any type of enclosed space. Since kerosene can break down and has a shorter shelf life, propane can be a more reliable fuel source when you are storing quantities long term.
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You should also make sure you have working carbon monoxide alarms, a low oxygen alarm, and working smoke detectors in any area where you are using propane or kerosene. When buying either fuel in bulk, be sure to clarify with your provider if there are any additional costs for fuel delivery which could significantly increase your costs.
Ease of Use
If you are using portable heaters, either kerosene or propane, you’ll want to consider how often you may need to move the heaters and how long a period you might need to use them consecutively.
Kerosene heaters are more difficult to move and to refill as it’s a liquid fuel with a strong odor. Propane is harmful if inhaled and it can be harder to detect a leak. Either fuel works great as a backup for short term use, kerosene heaters give off a dry heat that will feel warm quicker whereas propane heaters heat up gradually and may not feel as toasty initially.
When it comes to kerosene or propane for preppers, keep in mind that with proper planning, propane fuel will give you a bit more fuel flexibility. You can use propane as fuel for furnaces, portable heaters, or fireplaces.
You can also use propane for tankless hot water heating, radiant floor heat, to run a refrigerator, stove, bbq grill, a generator, lanterns, to heat your pool or even to run a clothes dryer. It’s even used to fuel some vehicles, although it has a lower Btu rating than gasoline and thus will use more fuel. It also burns cleaner than kerosene which makes it better for the environment and less of a health risk for your family.
Of course, kerosene and propane are not the only two fuels to consider for your heating needs. Other fuels to consider include firewood or wood pellets, solar, wind, or hydro power, and geothermal heating techniques.
The best everyday heat source for your family will largely depend on your location, your budget, and your specific needs. Choosing your fuel source is as individualized as choosing your favorite gun.
Do you currently use kerosene or propane for your residential heating needs? Do you have one of these fuels stored as a backup fuel source? Feel free to tell us why you chose the fuel did and share any issues you’ve experienced in the comments below. And if you don’t, be sure you pin this for later on Pinterest!
A mother of four and grandmother of nine boys and one girl, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she’s a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.