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Old 09-22-2010, 09:22 AM   #1
sjt78
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Default Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

Last spring I purchased a new 70,000 btu Reddy Heater on clearance from Sears. The Reddy brand has been discontinued, but for around $50 I figured I'd be ok to be without a warranty. Anyway, I have not used the heater yet and have been doing some research here and on the internet on the pros and cons of using kerosene forced air heaters.

I haven't found too much information besides keeping some air flow in the garage and that kerosene burns cleaner than diesel in these heaters. The manual states that this model is 99.9% efficient at burning the fuel, etc. Do most people find that to be true that don't smell like kerosene after working around these heaters? Will keeping the the garage door opened even more than recommended help with the stink? What can I do to reduce the smell?

Another problem I've read about is the added moisture these heaters introduce. Should I really be concerned about all my tools rusting, etc.? The cold winter air is usually dry so is it really a big deal?

I guess I just want to hear from some people that use this kind of heater and what they do when they run them. I plan on using kerosene out of the pump at the local gas station. As this unit is brand new, I would consider just selling it if all I hear is negative. I'll be using it in a 2 car garage about 18'x24'x9'. I plan to use occassionally when I need to work on the cars in the dead of winter. I've used electric heaters in the past, but the small ones I have take a long time to bring the temp up...basically need to start running them hours before I plan to work in there. Thanks for any help you can provide.
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Old 09-22-2010, 09:34 AM   #2
wbrian63
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I have a 120,000 BTU forced-air "salamander" heater that I've used in my shop.

Heats the space very acceptably, but kerosene is no longer cheap - $2+/gallon last winter, and I've seen it as high as $4.

Don't run diesel - the fumes will drive you out.

There is a small amount of odor from the kerosene - anything objectionable means the heater needs to be adjusted.

I've never had issues with the moisture, even with a buch of cast-iron equipment, but the shop wasn't very tightly sealed, and wasn't used every day of the week.

Mine has a thermostat that's reasonably effective. At least I don't have to constantly turn it on and off manually, but the temp swings between on and off can be fairly dramatic, especially at the edges of the shop furthest away from the heater.

Biggest complaint? Noise. A forced air kero heater is basically a low-power jet engine. Being a smaller unit than mine, your's will probably be quieter, and the size of the heater should be more than sufficient for your application.

Also - think of the heater like a gun. Be careful where you point it. The "nose cone" on my heater gets red-hot during use. Put it too close to your subie, or point it at your subie could melt the plastic bumpers if left alone long enough. Just point it into open space - maybe even use a couple of fans to move the heat around the space and you'll do fine.

If your garage is tightly sealed, I'd get a carbon-monoxide detector, just to be safe, and you may need to crack a window or prop a door open a bit to ensure a good supply of fresh air.
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:17 AM   #3
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

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Originally Posted by wbrian63 View Post
If your garage is tightly sealed, I'd get a carbon-monoxide detector, just to be safe, and you may need to crack a window or prop a door open a bit to ensure a good supply of fresh air.
Thanks for the advice! It's great to hear from someone who has experience using a salamander, torpedo, whatever you want to call them heater. I will address the CO issue with buying a CO detector with a digital read out. I have one of those in the hallway that is directly above the garage that I will also monitor to make sure it is not getting into the house. When my house was built in the late 50's they decided to run the forced air ducts into the garage to have a 'heated garage.' Well for a number of reasons that is a bad idea, so I've since sealed up the two vents that are in the garage. Before running this heater I'll probably just double check that they are still sealed well.

I realize that the cost effectiveness of kerosene is not really great right now. I'm figuring that I'd probably go through no more than 20 gallons all winter so it might not be that bad. I plan to use the heater for 30 minutes to an hour on full blast to bring the temp up to the high 50's/low 60's then manage the rest of the time with the electric heaters. That way I'll not be using much fuel and hopefully will keep the stink down a bit. My heater does have a thermostat as well, so if it is really cold I can keep the Reddy heater

I do plan on keeping the heater a good distance from anything, especially the car but thanks for the reminder. I will also leave the garage door open 6" or so, or keep the man door open a bit while running the heater just to be safe.
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:27 AM   #4
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

The main thing I don't like about running a fuel burning heater that doesn't exhaust outside is that the moisture generated from combustion gets dumped into your space. I used to run a propane reddy heater and noticed that condensation would start to build up on my tools and other items after some period of use. Then someone pointed out that combustion generates moisture, and with that style heater you're dumping the moisture into your workspace.

That kind of unit I am guessing burns best on genuine K-1 clear kerosene?
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:33 AM   #5
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I bought the same type unit last February, I used it twice in a 20 x 20 garage and it would cycle on and off as needed. it was nice to be able to get my lazy ass out of the house. I had no moisture issues. I have herd that diesel is more odiferous, and not worth the $1 less a gallon in cost. Nice to have the option thought, kerosene is a minimum of 10 miles away, and I always have diesel for the tractor.
thye are loud however.
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

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Originally Posted by porcupine73 View Post
The main thing I don't like about running a fuel burning heater that doesn't exhaust outside is that the moisture generated from combustion gets dumped into your space. I used to run a propane reddy heater and noticed that condensation would start to build up on my tools and other items after some period of use. Then someone pointed out that combustion generates moisture, and with that style heater you're dumping the moisture into your workspace.

That kind of unit I am guessing burns best on genuine K-1 clear kerosene?
Yes, I do believe it runs best on clear kerosene. I haven't purchased any fuel yet so I'm not sure what is sold out of the pump around here. I'm still trying to figure out if this heater suits my situation. I got a good deal on it so if I can leave with the negative of burning kerosene I'll keep it. When I was younger, my dad and I would go to our cabin and that place was heated by a wick type kerosene heater. I remember that there was smell and that we had to keep the windows cracked at night, but it wasn't too bad. I know the forced air models are different though. I've never heard one run so I'll probably be surprised by how loud it is.
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:35 AM   #7
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

Yes I have a forced air propane Reddy heater 80,000 btu, and while it is nice, the thing sounds like a jet is taking off in the distance the whole time you're using it. It makes it hard to listen to the radio with that thing blaring away.

My boss pointed out to me the issue about the moisture. He restores cars and said those kinds of heaters are not suitable for body work because the moisture of course lends way to faster rust and other issues.
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:52 AM   #8
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I have an older 100,000 BTU torpedo heater. I've never had any issues with condensation, but I usually keep the garage door open about 8 inches for lots of fresh air. There is some smell but not bad. As others have said, noise is the worst part.

I estimate that mine burns about a gallon of kerosene per hour. There were some cold days when I had it running practically all day, but I don't spend a lot of time in the garage during winter if I can help it. I used probably close to 20 gallons all winter.

If you have to be out there then the cost, smell, and noise are all manageable compared to the cold.
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Old 09-22-2010, 11:45 AM   #9
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

Pros: Cheaper than a "nice" setup

Cons: Stinks, moisture, noisy, ventilation (I kept the side door cracked).

On REALLY cold days I saw the condensation build up on floor, car, and tools. Other that that it's not a huge deal.
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Old 09-22-2010, 07:56 PM   #10
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I have 2,a 175k and a 225k. I use them to jump start the big shop and to assist in thawing groomers.I run diesel and really cant tell any difference when I tried k-1.The smell is not something we have found offensive.The moisture is not an issue either as we are thawing equipment.When the coal/wood burner comes up I shut them down ,sometimes leaveing one on and aiming it at the most frozen spots!My shop is pretty tight ,we dont open doors for air. Nobody has died yet!
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Old 09-22-2010, 08:39 PM   #11
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I run one in my pole barn when working out there in the winter. I just point it at whatever I am working on and wrench away. My only complaints are the noise and the huge puff of stinky smoke that I get when I turn it off. Wouldn't be without mine.
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Old 09-23-2010, 12:50 AM   #12
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

Id worry about the fire dangers associated with portable heaters, with a properly installed, Reznor type electric, gas, or lp heater the dangers are greatly reduced. Just my opinion.
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Old 09-23-2010, 08:37 AM   #13
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

Thanks everyone for all the great advice. I feel a bit better about trying the heater and seeing how I like it. I understand the negatives associated with this type of heater, but it might be workable in my situation. I can't afford a full blown heater at this point so hopefully this will do.
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Old 09-23-2010, 08:47 AM   #14
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I used a torpedo style heater in my shop for the first couple of years that I had it and it was a darn sight better than nothing but I sure am glad to have a furnace in there now. The two big things that I disliked about the torpedo were the noise and the intense localized heat. It seemed like I was always either too hot or too cold.
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Old 09-23-2010, 10:05 AM   #15
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I was helping my neighbor who had one of these in his garage last winter. We were doing some engine work on his plow vehicle when it was below freezing outside. It generated enough moisture to put condensation all over the windows and the cold body of the plow vehicle. Even worse than that was that was the fact that it would eat up the oxygen in the room pretty quickly (or fill it with CO) and give you a headache if you didn't leave a window opened, which kind of defeated the purpose...

I would use one in a crunch, but I wouldn't want to heat my shop with it on a daily basis.
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Old 09-28-2010, 03:01 AM   #16
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I used a 45,000 BTU torpedo in a 24 X 32 garage and it got up to about 65 from 35 in about an hour with the man door half open. I then switched to a 70,000 BTU heater thats forced air, but more of a radiant type. It's about half as loud as the torpedo styles, but runs on kero or diesel as well.

I prefer diesel since it's alot cheaper, I can't smell a difference, and it doesn't smell on my clothes either. The 70,000 BTU heats up the garage from 35 to 70 in about a half hour with the man door half open. I need to get a carbon monoxide detector out there and I could probably shut the door alittle more, and keep some cold air out.

I haven't seen any condensation on anything. It's the way to go for me since I only get 1 day a week to utilize my garage at home.

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Old 09-28-2010, 08:46 AM   #17
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I use one too. Got a new one last year at the HD for an off-site project and ran it with a generator. Works great in my garage. Love the thermostat!

Last winter when my furnace went out for three days I had the kids carry it upstairs and move the couches to one side of the living room and then go back to bed. The fumes are heinous in the house and when I use it in the garage I dont leave the house door open. Wife complains. The kerosene smell does NOT bother me in the garage as it leaks out fast enough. In the house it took about one week to dissipate after using for three nights. Even though the house stunk, it didnt bother any of us to the point of watering eyes and the CO issue is a non-issue as long as its running well. You would notice the CO if it started running ill. I know CO has no odor but the kerosene not being fully burned (like a diesel) will smell foul quickly!

I dont leave it plugged in as too many things can happen!
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Old 09-28-2010, 09:18 AM   #18
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I agree with most of the above comments. I have 275,000 size and a 35,000. They are loud. I think the clear K-1 burns better than Diesel. If you are getting a monitor I wouldn't worry about leaving the door open especially if you aren't planing on running it for hours straight. There is some smell but I don't think it is too bad. I think the moisture that shows up is more due to condensation of temp change than coming from the burning of the fuel. Try not to let the heater run out of fuel that seems to be when most of the smell/smoke comes out.

I think that you will be good running the Salamander to get the room up to temp and then running the electric heater.
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Old 09-28-2010, 10:18 AM   #19
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

I've had a 70,000 BUT Reddy torpedo heater for 16 years and it's worked fine, even in deep Wisconsin winters in an uninsulated garage. I also used diesel as the fuel.

Last year I insulated the garage. I went to ACE hardware and picked up a 120VAC thermostat for $15. It's placed between the plug and the wall outlet. I made up a pigtail and box for it so I could place it anywhere in the garage I had an AC plug. It heated the 1100sqft garage just fine; it just takes a while to come up to temp when I walk in and plug it in...



I put the thermostat at 60F. The thermostat would cut the AC to the heater and restore the AC to the heater when the temp drops. When the AC is restored the heater would go through it's start-up and 6 seconds later be blasting out heat. It was a comfortable working temp.

I kept one door up about 3" and that seemed to replenish the oxygen in the garage just fine.... but then... I'm kind a stupid before I started using the heater... so not much would be noticed. It was a worry for me.

This winter will be the first one with a pellet stove installed to heat the garage. The Reddy heater will be retired an installed the 12'X12' shed I'll be be building in the spring.

Last edited by LEVE; 09-28-2010 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 09-28-2010, 11:08 AM   #20
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Default Re: Pros and Cons of using kerosene heater in garage?

The only bad thing about my radiant style torpedo is you can't run a thermostat (I don't think) because you can't cut the power from it. When you shut it down, you have to flip the switch on it, and it goes thru a cool down cycle where just the fan blows, no heat, no flame, just a fan cooling the unit down, then the power can be cut.

I guess if I wanted to take the switch part apart, I could maybe come up with something to hook a thermostat too, but I don't want to get that involved. For now when I get too hot I just hit the switch. But I must say I am really happy with the way it heats, and it's much quieter than the traditional torpedo.

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