Hear this: you just bought a nice-looking kerosene heater. It does its job, it’s warming up the house – but it’s also incredibly smokey. You are sacrificing your air for warmth and that does not sit well with you.
When that happens, what can you do in order to stop your kerosene heater from intoxicating you to death? Is there something that you may do to fix this problem, or do you have to get used to a warm life without breathing?
Thankfully, that’s not the case – and you can indeed solve the issue. You just need to identify it first. So, here are the main reasons why kerosene heaters may start to smoke:
5 Reasons Why Kerosene Heaters May Start to Smoke and How to Stop It
1. You Are Using the Wrong Fuel
Kerosene comes in two grades: 1-K kerosene and 2-K kerosene. The 1-K type is the only one that is accepted for unvented, portable kerosene heaters. Therefore, if your first instinct was to use 2-K because “kerosene is kerosene,” you might want to rethink that. Not every type of kerosene is the same.
That being said, even if it says “1-K kerosene” on the package, it doesn’t mean that it’s perfect for use. For example, red-colored 1-K kerosene features dyes, which means that the burning won’t be as safe as it is with clear kerosene. If you’ve been using the red-dye type until now, consider changing the current kerosene to a clear type.
The quality of the fuel will also determine the smoke level and the smell the heater produces. For example, cheaper kerosene might cause carbon buildups – which, in turn, can lead to smoke. Make sure that you are only using high-quality kerosene if you don’t want your heater to start sending smoke signals.
2. You’re Using the Wrong Wick
Yes, the type of wick that you are using might also influence whether your kerosene heater releases smoke or not. For example, if you are using a generic wick, it might not fit properly on the unit.
If you see that your kerosene heater usually has a wick that has a cotton bottom and a fiberglass top, don’t use a wick entirely made from cotton just because “it’s cheaper.”
In most cases, the manufacturer will give you a recommendation as to what type of kerosene heater wick you should be using – so, make sure to follow them religiously.
Buy the wick that they told you to. Also, make sure that you replace the wick as per their recommendations because an old wick might be a smoking wick.
If the wick is definitely right and it’s also new, then there’s a chance that you might have installed it too high. Adjust it so that it’s at the height recommended by the manufacturer of your unit.
3. You’re Burning the Wick Dry
This might not specifically be a problem with some units, but some kerosene heaters recommend against burning the wick dry – something that is also directly related to the quality of the wick.
If you burn it dry when you shouldn’t, then it might lead to an accumulation of smoke. Check the manual and see if you’ve been burning the wick correctly.
4. The Chimney Isn’t Seated Correctly
Kerosene heaters might release smoke if the chimney has not been seated correctly. Check to see if there’s a high flame on the heater’s side.
If you see that one side has a higher flame than others, then it might mean you need to fix the chimney’s seating. Sometimes, it might require a small adjustment on your part – but in other cases, if it’s been manufactured that way or if you can’t properly adjust it, you might want to take it to a professional.
Make sure that you also keep the chimney clear. Sometimes, even if the chimney has been seated correctly, it might have buildups that can lead to the creation of smoke. Check the heat reflector as well – if the kerosene heater is old, it might have gathered dirt and dust.
5. There’s a Problem with the Cylinder
If you’ve had a forced air kerosene heater for a while, it has a new (and correctly adjusted) wick, but it still seems to escape smoke, then it might mean there is a problem with the cylinder.
Check whether it’s clogged or dented. If it got clogged, you may be able to unclog it yourself or to have it taken to a professional. However, if it is dented, then there is nothing else to do and you will have to take it to a professional.
While it’s normal for kerosene heaters to produce little bits of smoke now and again, the amount should not be too high. If the smoke is continuous and visible, try the tips above. Once you find the problem, you should be able to easily fix it.
Jesse Pinkman is a passionate HVAC professional writer who grew up repairing any home appliance on which he could lay his hands. He is responsible for ensuring that every article we publish is SPOT ON. When he’s not in the office, he enjoys hiking, watching football, and spending time with his family.