Can You Use Diesel Fuel In Kerosene Appliances?

Can You Use Diesel Fuel In Kerosene Appliancesby Jeff in Ohio

It is well-known that diesel engines are capable of using other fuels besides diesel. This includes kerosene (with added lubrication). But how well does diesel work in items designed for kerosene? Theoretically, they should be almost interchangeable. But are they? I decided to find out for myself.

First, I will describe the items used followed by the results of using diesel fuel in them. The fuel used in the testing was off-road diesel that had been dyed red for tax purposes.

23,000 BTU Kerosun brand kerosene heater.

I currently use this to heat my garage but it will be used to heat the house if needed. Diesel burns surprisingly well in this heater. I could detect no difference in flame height or heat output and no odors. A friend that works at the local fuel co-op told me that diesel may reduce the life of the wick but so far I can’t tell any difference.

Even if it does occur, wicks are fairly cheap and the difference in fuel price can result in significant savings over the long haul.

Butterfly brand 22 wick 14,000 BTU kerosene stove.

I love this stove because of its simplicity and versatility and I have two of them. It uses rope wicks that are simply moved up and down to adjust heat output. It is made as a cook stove but works quite well as a heater.

Be aware that these stoves do not have an auto-shutoff feature if knocked over. Flame height and heat output were the same. However, I could detect a slight increase in odor and a very small amount of black smoke as well. For temporary use indoors I don’t think this would be a problem. I believe diesel is a viable alternative fuel in this stove.

Dietz Monarch lantern.

This is the”railroad” lantern most people are familiar with. Like the Butterfly brand stove above, these are a model of simplicity. Light output was about the same and I could detect no difference in odor but it was quite smoky.

It didn’t take long to soot up the chimney. This was bad enough that it would have to be cleaned off every day. I would not want to use this in a closed up house unless I was desperate. Outside use would be fine.

Coleman Exponent multi-fuel stove with kerosene jet installed.

This is a rugged backpacking stove and is quite a little powerhouse. Diesel did not work well in this stove. There was spiking yellow flames among the normal blues flames and it constantly spit and sputtered.

I’m theorizing that the less refined diesel fuel was not vaporizing properly resulting in the mediocre performance. While it would be ok to boil water with, I would not want to cook on this, unless once again I was desperate.

I did not try using diesel in any of my Aladdin lamps after the Dietz experiment above. If the Dietz would smoke as much as it did I had no doubt that the Aladdin would not run on it with the wick and mantle setup. So I passed on that one.

So now that I know the above what good does it do me? Well, a lot. I can store cheaper diesel instead of more expensive kerosene. In my area, off-road diesel is usually at least 1 dollar a gallon cheaper. That is a significant savings if you store fuel in quantity or allows you to store more fuel for the same price.

It seems that in many areas kerosene can be difficult to come by but diesel is readily available. Even when kerosene is available diesel seems to be sold in many more locations.

Also if in an extended TSHTF scenario and my kerosene stock starts to run low I can switch to diesel in the items that run well with it thereby extending my supply of kerosene. Next is what I call “scroungeability”. In short, diesel is almost everywhere.

The tractor sitting in a barn or field. The long-haul truck. That bulldozer sitting at a construction site. Also, many diesel trucks have large fuel tanks in the beds. I am not advocating stealing but this does provide a lot of opportunities for bartering or scrounging in certain circumstances. Also, my own diesel vehicle can be used as a source as well and a large one if the tank is kept at least half full.

While I have not tried home heating oil in the above, I have no doubt that it would work. Home heating oil is virtually identical to diesel. In many areas, the heating oil tanks at houses are more common than propane tanks. Again, another potential source of fuel. A homemade 12v fuel transfer setup would be nice to have here as well.

When trading for or buying fuel of unknown quality it is essential that it be filtered properly for both water and sediment before use. Fuel filters are cheap insurance. I was once stranded along a country road due to clogged fuel filters in my Mercedes diesel.

I had been using scrounged diesel and had not filtered it at all. Both the primary and secondary fuel filters were so clogged that the engine couldn’t run and kept stalling. Not only was I using fuel of questionable quality without filtering it I did not have spare fuel filters with me for the car. Lesson learned.

Many people use kerosene appliances and fuel as their primary backup for emergencies both short and long-term. They are both relatively cheap and readily available. As a bonus, kerosene as a long shelf life if stored properly and more importantly is a safe fuel to store in quantity.

By knowing what alternative fuel can be used in them and their limitations it only increases my options. Fuel interchangeability is a great option to have. Plus be sure to store plenty of extra wicks as needed. Also if used indoors be sure to use more than adequate ventilation and a CO2 detector.

Now for storing that fuel beforehand. Large underground tanks for storage are good to have but may not be practical for several reasons including the cost. Plus, like a lot of people, I live in a small town and large amounts of fuel kept at the house is not practical.

But do you have unused land somewhere or a trusted friend with some property? Then you can make what I call my “mini fuel storage depot”. This is simply a wooden pallet set up on some bricks to keep it off the ground.

On the pallet, there is room for a 55-gallon drum with either diesel or kerosene, five 5 gallon metal jerry cans of gasoline and two 20 lb propane tanks or whatever combination you prefer. On top of this goes a heavy-duty tarp properly secured to keep the weather out and provide some camouflage.

A camo net could go over this for additional concealment if needed. By placing the above in a shaded area it avoids large temperature swings and if the fuel is properly treated this works very well long-term.

By having several of these over a wide area or on different properties you avoid having all your eggs in one basket. If one is compromised or destroyed by fire your entire fuel storage is not lost.

By being above ground you run a slight risk of exposure. However, if sited properly and carefully camouflaged (possibly as a junk pile?) they are not hard to conceal. I hope people find this useful and remember to follow all safety guidelines as outlined by the heater and or appliance manufacture and keep in mind that these are my results and yours could be different… see the disclaimer policy here.

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4 Responses

  1. Stu says:

    I read the problem you had using duff diesel in your vehicle. I have an old Landover that runs on vegetable oil, usually sourced from local take away. Aren’t vehicles in the states capable of running on this alternative fuel?

  2. jay says:

    How about a 50 / 50 blend diesel kerosene ?

  3. RayK says:

    I tried to use off road diesel from my farm tank in a 23k btu kerosene heater out in my rabbitry. My results were much different than yours. For the first few hours the thing burned fine, but once the diesel began to reach the flame area, the heater began to smoke like a smudge pot, and the flame was greatly reduced, resulting in a colder, smoke filled rabbitry. Diesel is denser than kero and does not rise in the wick the same way that kero does. I ended up replacing my wick(s) to get my heaters working again.

    YMMV, so try this experiment with caution.

  4. Jack says:

    It is good to know where diesel fuel might work as a substitute for K1. I think you can “get away” with this in more applications these days due to the drastically lower sulphur content in diesel fuel compared to the diesel of years ago. One caution I will offer is in the long-term storage of today’s diesel fuel. The modern “guberment approved” fuel is far more susceptible to microbial growth. If you store fuel, you should consider treating the fuel with a biocide to prevent the growth of filer clogging organisms. Please keep in mind that even a vehicle that sits in storage should be treated or you may get a nasty surprise after driving a few klicks. The higher sulphur fuels of years past did contaminate the lubricating oil faster because of the sulphur in the blow-by gasses but it also had two distinct advantages. Remember that sulphur + moisture equals corrosion to internal engine parts. The advantages were: 1. Higher sulphur fuels stored better as the sulphur acted as a biocide. 2. The sulphur in the older fuel acted as a lubricant for the injection pump. This is why older mechanical diesel injection pumps are failing so fast, it is due to the lack of lubrication in the fuel. K1 kerosene is a highly purified product and will store almost indefinitely. K1 may be added to #2 D to create your own winter blend. Do so in moderation (up to about 10% )as there is less lubricity in kerosene. You will also lose power on K1 and get less mileage due to the lower energy content of the fuel. Finally, I would love to suggest the addition of #2 heating oil or simply running on it (after thorough filtration) in your older diesel engines. The issue is doing so is illegal. I heard before I moved to the Philippines six years ago that the government planned to begin mandating lower sulphur levels in home heating oil. I have no idea if this mandate is now in place in the US or not. Even if the sulphur has been reduced to somewhere between where #2D used to be and the new USLD, it will help extend the life of older injection equipment. Be sure to filter well. Every home with a heating oil tank is a potential fuel source in an extreme emergency, just use it with proper precautions.