Can You Use Diesel in a Kerosene Heater? [Solved]

Did you run out of kerosene and wonder if you can use diesel in your heater?

Or maybe you want to save money by using cheaper diesel or even biodiesel you made yourself.

Whatever the reason, here’s what you need to know about using diesel in a kerosene heater.

Also read:

Can You Use Diesel in a Kerosene Heater?

Yes, you can use diesel in your kerosene heater. Kerosene heaters are multi-fuel heaters and can run off several different fuels, including diesel. You can even use pure vegetable oil in a kerosene heater! However, some types of fuel will perform better in a kerosene heater.

Which Type of Diesel Can I Use in My Kerosene Heater?

Any diesel fuel will work in a kerosene heater. However, the type of diesel you use could affect performance.

Generally, you want to use either #1 diesel or ULSD heating oil in your heater. It doesn’t matter whether it is dyed red or not, but red diesel is taxed less and thus cheaper than clear diesel.

#1 Diesel

This type of diesel is very close to kerosene. The paraffin wax has been removed and burns cleaner than diesel #2. It is more viscose than #2 diesel, so it draws up the wick better and is less likely to have gelling problems in cold weather.

#2 Diesel

Diesel #2 is less refined than diesel #1. It will work in a kerosene heater but not burn as cleanly or efficiently as diesel #1. However, it is cheaper and also has more energy capacity.

Red Dyed Diesel

Red dyed diesel also goes by many other names, including farm and off-road diesel. It can be either #1 or #2 diesel.

Why is it dyed red?

There is no difference between dyed diesel and clear diesel you buy at the pump. The dye is there for tax reasons: diesel used for on-road vehicles is taxed at a higher rate than diesel used for off-road vehicles.

Red diesel is much cheaper than clear diesel because it has no road tax. You can legally use it in a heater. However, you cannot legally use red diesel in your vehicle.

It used to be that red-dyed diesel could contain more sulfur than clear diesel. However, this is no longer the case. As of 2014, all red diesel for off-road vehicles must also be ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD), which means it must contain less than 15ppm of sulfur.

Diesel Heating Oil

Here’s where things get confusing. Like off-road diesel, heating oil is also dyed red. This is to distinguish it from the taxed diesel for on-road vehicles. However, heating oil is not always the same as red-dyed diesel for tractors and other off-road vehicles.

Heating oil is exempt from the Clean Air Act and can contain over 15 ppm of sulfur. Some home heating oil might contain high amounts of sulfur and could stink if used in an unvented kerosene heater!

But most home heating oil is ULSD. That is because NY and many other states in the Northeast now have laws that home heating oil cannot have more than 15ppm sulfur. As a result, almost all diesel heating oil sold in the Northeast is ULSD and won’t stink in your kerosene heater.


Yes, you can use biodiesel in your kerosene heater. If you buy biodiesel, it will be made of 5% organics and 95% diesel. It functions just as well in a kerosene heater as regular diesel.   If you make your biodiesel, the burn quality will depend on the purity and viscosity of the final product.

Potential Problems When Burning Diesel Fuel in a Kerosene Heater

Wick Burning Issues

Diesel is thicker than kerosene and also has a higher burning temperature. Because of this, you might have issues getting your wick lit and burning evenly when using diesel fuel. It’s even trickier when using biodiesel.

You’ll have to keep the wick down much lower than usual. Your wick will burn much faster, and you’ll need to replace it sooner. Looser cotton wicks do better when burning diesel in a kerosene heater. Avoid fiberglass wicks, as these don’t work well with diesel.

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Efficiency Issues

Even though diesel has more energy than kerosene, it isn’t always the most efficient fuel to run in a kerosene heater. The first reason is that kerosene is generally more refined and burns better. Likewise, diesel does not always combust completely and thus is less efficient.

When using biodiesel in a forced air kerosene heater, you may have issues when the fan is on. The biodiesel may not burn fast enough, and the heat output could suffer. You may have to fiddle with the fan settings to get it burning efficiently.


Diesel fuel, especially #2 diesel, starts to gel up at cold temperatures. It is not recommended for furnaces with outdoor fuel tanks.

If your home is already below freezing, you might have issues getting it fired up indoors. And, if the heater is in freezing temperatures, the diesel left inside can gel in the heater. Don’t be surprised if you need to clean your heater sooner than expected because of this.

Using additives can prevent the diesel from gelling inside the kerosene heater. More on that later.

Is It Safe to Use Diesel in a Kerosene Heater?

Yes, it is generally safe to use diesel in a kerosene heater. However, if not careful, you could end up with more fumes or carbon monoxide.


Diesel #1 is not as pure as K-1 kerosene, so it will not burn as cleanly. However, you should not get dangerous fumes from burning diesel in your heater. However, getting diesel burning well in a heater designed for kerosene can be tricky. You might end up with the wick burning, which will produce fumes.

Also Read: Why Does My Kerosene Heater Smell Bad?

Carbon Monoxide

In general, kerosene and diesel will produce similar amounts of carbon monoxide. However, getting diesel burning completely in a kerosene heater can be tricky, especially if you have a fiberglass wick. As a result, there may be less complete combustion and more CO.

Remember that CO gas is produced with all fuels. You must follow proper venting requirements and have a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Because heater venting requirements are usually listed with kerosene in mind, you may want to increase the amount of venting to play it safe.

Diesel Additives for Heaters

You don’t have to add anything to diesel before using it in a kerosene heater. However, a lot of people report better results with additives.

Some options are:

  • Isopropyl alcohol: Add 40ml (a bit more than 1/8 cup) of 91% isopropyl alcohol per 5-gallon can of diesel. I’ve also seen much higher amounts of alcohol to diesel recommended, e.g., 80ml of alcohol per gallon.
  • Kerosene: You can mix kerosene and diesel in any ratio and burn it in your heater. Most people recommend using a 1:4 ratio (1 part kerosene to 4 parts diesel).

Don’t forget that you should always have a backup for emergency preparedness. See these other emergency home heating options.

Do you use diesel in your kerosene heater? What tips can you share? Let us know in the comments section below.

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  1. OMG, help. We used additive then are adding isopropyl because it’s just not working or smoking us out. It’s all we got so any help would be appreciated. It will run good for maybe an hour. Then it’s a smoke stack and ever fading flame(s).

    • It sounds like you are using diesel #2. If not, have you tried the heater with kerosene? If you are having issues with kerosene too, then it’s a problem with the heater or your wick settings.

  2. I had tried Conoco USLD diesel, with terrible results. It was as if it had water in it, and simply would not burn properly.
    I cleaned my wicks, and tried some USLD Diesel, from my local Wawa, and THAT, actually burns just as well as pure Kerosene.
    I have had to lower the wick, just a bit, as the flame was too high.
    What I do find, is that at the point where it seems tough to lower the wick, to shut the unit down. Then you have to burn-off the wick, by letting it run dry.
    And, it will burn off any tars on the wick (fiberglass).
    Then refill, and you’re good to go, for about 15 more refills., then repeat burn-off.

    • its better just to relit it again after it goes out.. and put it up on high before liteing it up..
      Not every 15 tines.. You want to do it everytime….. Diesel fuel is fuel RED DYE or not red dye. EVEN HOME HEATING OIL is just plain diesel fuel…. So i dont know where people get this garbage of it being refined ppm JUNK.. it is just plain diesel fuel.. #1 #2 clear up to #10 diesel if there is such a thing, burns fine in my kerosene heaters. FANCO , KERO-SUN have no issues burning diesel but you may want to wipe up around the wick area once every 3 times, because diesel does leave some loose tar behind..

    • ONE last detail i wish to add.. DONT BOTHER USING ADDITIVES RUBBING ALHOAL… just burn it straight with the previous comment i left here.
      What i found that works best. Is doing just doing a double whammy on it.
      Let it go out. THEN PUT THE WICK UP ON HIGH then lit it up again… May stink some but it does get rid of most of the tar..
      Also there be a lite build up of hard tar around the metal part of the wick housing. Just take a rag and rub it hard dont use a screw driver to get it loose. do this bout every 4 tines. it will work weill..

  3. Some heaters do not burn #2 very well in colder climates. They tend to smoke bad enough to smoke you out of a confined area. When it’s cold I use # 1 without any issues no matter the temp.

  4. I have a Protemp Sun Stream 70k ‘almost’ torpedo kerosene heater, it’s shorter and much bigger diameter, but burns much quieter and has a catalytic face that afterburns the flame. I think I got it at Harbor Freight years ago, it puts out an amazing amount of heat, highly recommended. With the catalytic afterburner, after a minute or two there is absolutely no smell of kerosene. Problem is, my local oil company quit selling kerosene, which had gone up to $5 gallon before they quit carrying it. Now I’m paying $37.00 for 2.5 gallons at Lowes, what a ripoff but what’s the alternative? I’m better off using an electric heater at these prices. So, either I switch fuels or… I was looking at the 12 volt diesel heaters (mostly Chinese crap) but saw that was not an alternative. Guess I’ll try the diesel with alcohol additive. I’m hoping Tom D’s post is a positive. Is there any others out there in my boat?

    • I’m using ULSD, in my kerosene convection heaters, in my garage. For the moment, they all have fiberglass wicks (I do have all cotton to install when these burn out). I have added about a 1/2 quart of 91% Alcohol, per 5 gallons of fuel.
      What I’ve noticed, is that I have to run the wicks up higher. And they do not heat exactly as well as the pure kerosene.
      Although, that may be because of the currently installed wicks.
      The ULSD, is also harder to ignite, but once it’s going, it’s fine. AND, there is LESS smell, than with the kero! Pretty interesting!

      • I switched to diesel with my kerosene wick heaters as well and have found that I need to run the wick up as high as it will go and even doing so I am only getting about 1/4-1/2 the head production that I was getting running kerosene. I have not tried any additives or alcohol with it but I am still using the fiberglass wicks as they worked very well with the kerosene. I have a surplus is diesel and this is the reason I want to run diesel. Works fine in my torpedo shop heater but not getting great results with my wick heaters unfortunately. I may try a 50/50 mix of diesel and kerosene to see if that helps make more heat in them.

        • most likely it b/c of the extra tars (or whatever is the correct name). The wicks will gum up, after 1 or 2 full tanks. Burn off the tars, by letting it run completely empty, and then relight the wick w/ no fuel to burn off more gunk. Brush the wicks w/ a brass or SS brush, then refill and use. I found that the heavier fuel oil cause the poor combustion.

  5. I use diesel fuel in my torpedo heater and it burns cleaner than any other fuel I’ve tried. It doesn’t stink like Kerosene does.
    When I first tried it… I expected the diesel to stink up the place but…. it was WAY better than kerosene.
    Final thought… In my torpedo heater, kerosene gives me a headache, diesel does not.

    • Just be careful in cold climates. I’ve seen pumps burn out on those torpedoes when people use diesel. The fuel sits overnight and starts to congeal and really does a number on the pumps and nozzles on those things the next morning lol.


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