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Kerosene for heating

Most people don’t think of John D. Rockefeller as a friend of nature, but you know who loves the guy? Whales, and not just the Wall Street types. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil started refining and selling kerosene at scale in the mid-19th century, which ended the market for the more expensive and dirty whale oil as the major source of fuel for household heating and lights. Kerosene’s moment was relatively short, though, as a few decades later electrification slashed household kerosene consumption in the United States.

Modern day heating uses

Kerosene remains an important fuel for heating, cooking and lighting around the world. In the US, kerosene is still used for heating homes and businesses – mainly in New England and other regularly frigid places, but here in the south, too. It’s also used for jet engines, but that’s a little outside of what we do at Whatley Oil (although it would be cool, you have to admit).

Home heating oil has a lot of properties that make it the go-to option for keeping houses warm in the winter. However, it has a few drawbacks. It’s not particularly efficient, and it does not burn as cleanly as, say, natural gas. It’s definitely cleaner than wood or coal, but it still puts out a fair bit of emissions.

advantages of kerosene over heating oil

Kerosene improves on these downsides. It burns more cleanly than home heating oil, although still not to the level of natural gas; and it is also more efficient, so you get more heat per unit of fuel.

Kerosene has one additional feature that makes it particularly well-suited for heating homes in very cold regions. Kerosene’s freeze point is around -40 °F. That means it will stay a liquid throughout the entire winter pretty much any year, anywhere in the US – definitely in the lower 48. Home heating oil, on the other hand, starts to gel up at 16 °F (hydrocarbons don’t actually freeze at their freeze point – they start turning into something of a jelly). For much of the northeast and northern Plains states, 16 °F is not all that unusual during the winter, reducing the usability of home heating oil. People in these areas need a backup plan, and kerosene is a common one.

While we’re talking about key temperatures, though, kerosene does have a significant mark against it at the other end of the scale. Kerosene’s flash point can be as low as 100 °F. That’s a pretty serious risk. Home heating oil’s flash point, on the other hand, is 140 °F. 

To put those in perhaps a more familiar context, when it comes to flash point and fire risk, kerosene is closer to gasoline while home heating oil is closer to diesel. 

The prices of both kerosene and home heating oil have gone up significantly in the last year, so there’s not much of a price argument to make for one over the other. 

Unfortunately, there’s no “perfect combination” of kerosene and home heating oil. They have to remain separate. Combining the two can cause toxic emissions when they combust, have a substantial risk of explosion and a guarantee of significant damage to your entire heating system. Heaters, hoses and the rest of the infrastructure are designed for one or the other, as you would expect when combining them ratchets up the explosion risk.

where and how to buy kerosene

Whatley Oil supplies kerosene to homes and businesses throughout the southeast. Get in touch with us today to ensure you have the right fuel to keep your properties warm, whatever this winter and the next throw our way.

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