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Old 29-06-2007, 11:52   #1
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Stove/Oven - Kerosene vs Propane

Does anyone have anything to say on the stove/oven Kerosene vs Propane debate. I am looking at a boat that has a kerosene stove/oven and know you don't see this too often. If it is a bad choice, how easy is it to replace?
Thanks for your input.
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Old 29-06-2007, 12:34   #2
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My personal choice is propane. Easily available most anywhere and instant lighting. They tell me kerosene doesn't smell if properly maintained but the ones I've seen smell and are fiddly to light, requiring priming with alcohol or a butane torch. Replacing kerosene with propane will be costly. The stoves are expensive and you'll require proper lines and propane lockers that vent overboard.
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Old 29-06-2007, 12:44   #3
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It's purely personal preference. There are some simplicities to non LPG stoves. We have lived aboard this boat and cooked with an alcohol stove for 2 years full time. However, since they are less and less common, getting parts can be tough.

LPG is dependent on finding a filling station. I always hated that on my old boat. I had more trouble getting LPG to cook with... "your tank is too old", "your tank is too small", "I'm not filling that thing" etc...

With alcohol/kero, you just pick up your fuel at a gas station or hardware store and you're good to go.

But there are also drawbacks: Alcohol apparently doesn't deliver as much heat per minute of burining (i'd say it depens on your burn rate as well!). We haven't noticed any difference. And another biggie: It is expensive to get alcohol (not sure about kero) in the islands. LPG becomes more attractive in that case.

Next time (as soon as the boat is sold), I am building my own alcohol stove. I'm going to just rip off the simplicity of the Origo design and build it myself. I don't like LPG at all, and would rather have non-pressurized acohol.

As to replacing your stove:

It's dead simple, with the exception of getting all the LPG fittings and electric control devices, etc... that you need to put in to regulate the flow of the LPG. Plus, you'll need a spot to put the LPG tank that has an overboard drain for explosion safety.
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Old 29-06-2007, 13:02   #4
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We lived aboard and cruised with a 2 burner/oven kerosene Shipmate stove for more than 3 years. The stove was used daily and for almost every meal as we seldom ate out. Once we figured out the foibles of kerosene, it worked a charm, required no maintenance, and produced some truly outstanding meals under my wife's creative talent. I like kerosene and am installing it on our new, to us, boat. That's not to say that there aren't some compromises to be made, however.

Pro's of kerosene
1. It's available everywhere. There were some out island locations where propane was not available to cruisers. We personally knew of more than one boat that had to cut short their stay and sail more than 300 miles to refill their propane tanks. You also have to schlep those heavy propane tanks to a refill place which probably isn't within easy walking distance of your boat. Availability of propane is probably not an issue in the Carribean, etc. but if you are wandering to remote areas, it could be.

2. Kerosene is relatively safe. No worry about explosive gases lurking in the bilge to pop the top off your boat. You can store extra kerosene in Gerry Jugs almost anywhere without fear. No expensive, prone to failure, solenoid valves or hassles with shutting valves at the tank with every use.

3. Kerosene burns hot, hotter than propane and WAY hotter than alcohol. Fuel goes a long way. A 5 gallon gerry jug and the stove tank will get you through many many months of daily use.

4. Kerosene is cheap to install. No expensive plumbing, valves, tanks, or lockers to worry about.

Con's of kerosene:
1. It's not instant on. Kerosene burners need to be pre-heated with alchohol to burn properly. It's not a big deal and only takes a minute or two but some people have no patience. For us, it became second nature. One thing that made it easy was an alcohol dispenser that Primus used to make. It stored and metered out the proper amount of alcohol which greatly simplified the priming process. I'll probably use a medical squeeze bottle with spout for the new boat.

2. Kerosene puts out a fine carbon soot. Not something that you notice on a daily basis. After a year, the overhead above the stove began looking dingy and needed a scrub. A spray with 409 and a few minutes wiping had everything sparkling. May not be so easy with a vinyl overhead.

3. Burners weren't adjustable. Found out quickly that running burners at anything but full blast caused them to gum up and become throw aways. We bought flame diffusers at a kitchen store which solved the heat issue. Throw one or two of these on the burner when we needed to slow simmer something and worked a charm. Oven was a perfect temperature for baking so it wasn't a problem.


Kerosene isn't the perfect fuel for a boat but it's close enough for us. I'd stick with it as it can be very expensive to install propane from scratch. Stay away from LNG stoves. You can't get fuel in many civilized areas like Hawaii and heard it's even a problem in may popular cruising areas. Alcohol is a non starter. The smell is obnoxious and doesn't produce enough heat to cook a lobster.

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Old 29-06-2007, 13:17   #5
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Propane is the hottest fuel and very adjustable as well as available world wide. It's also the most complex to install from scratch. The propane locker being 100% vented overboard can be difficult depending on the boat.

Peter sums up the Kero issues quite well. The quality of the stove matters. In most repsects cooking aboard means learning how to cook all over again. The eating part still works the same though.
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Old 29-06-2007, 22:27   #6
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Why wasn't electric included. Still the safest and a 120 volt unit works quite well. I have had in the past; pressurized alcohol, pressurized deisel, and propane. I now have a Princess electric range and prefer it to all the others, even if it means starting the generator.
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Old 29-06-2007, 22:43   #7
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A comment on the availability of kerosene world-wide. Once upon a time it was true that if a port had only one fuel it was kerosene. I am not sure that is true today. I know of one boat that left Germany 7 years ago with a kerosene stove because "you could get it anywhere". The now have a propane stove for the same reason.

Becareful of second hand reports (like this one :-) )
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Old 30-06-2007, 06:02   #8
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Originally Posted by Lancerbye
Why wasn't electric included. Still the safest and a 120 volt unit works quite well. I have had in the past; pressurized alcohol, pressurized deisel, and propane. I now have a Princess electric range and prefer it to all the others, even if it means starting the generator.
Maybe nobody mentioned it because the cost to cook a meal would be more than it would be to eat every meal out.

Factor in the fuel and the oil changes as well as lifespan of the genset (and genest starter - starting 2 or 3x a day??) and you end up with a very expensive way to cook.

You could always pull teak bits off your boat and start a BBQ with them. Might be cheaper.

(just giving you a hard time - it would be expensive though)
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Old 30-06-2007, 07:21   #9
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Electric is actually common with the trawler folks. Given you already run a loud engine all the time a genset is quiet by comparison and cheap as well, but only comparing it to the main engine(s) of a trawler. Inverters from the main engine alternator are not that bad even if inefficient if you are moving along with 100's of horsepower all day.

That same analogy on a sail boat with far less engine power makes Sean's point pretty well.
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Old 30-06-2007, 09:45   #10
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The genset I have puts out 12 KW and is very quiet. It wastes 3 litres an hour and total day's usage would run about $3.00 if I don't use the inverter and don't use the BBQ. Then it would be less. I know this is a bit expensive, but for the peace mind I personally think it's worth it. But then that is only me. I have also had a Dickinson slow oil burner which drove me out of the cabin with the amount of excess heat it generated. Was great in the winter time though. We also use the Microwave a lot.
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Old 30-06-2007, 15:12   #11
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Originally Posted by Lancerbye
The genset I have puts out 12 KW and is very quiet. It wastes 3 litres an hour and total day's usage would run about $3.00 if I don't use the inverter and don't use the BBQ. Then it would be less. I know this is a bit expensive, but for the peace mind I personally think it's worth it. But then that is only me. I have also had a Dickinson slow oil burner which drove me out of the cabin with the amount of excess heat it generated. Was great in the winter time though. We also use the Microwave a lot.
Ok, understood. I'm not yet a trawler guy, but I'm working on it!!

I have a 6KW genset too... so I'm a big fan of them. I just couldn't see using my genset to run an electric stove, although I've dreamed about it, since the advantages of no condensation in the cold climates I am in would be fantastic!

We spend close to the same - I spend $15/wk at the max for my power on board using the diesel genset. (we are at anchor most of the year)

Actually... I dream of being able to cook on an electric top and oven. Do you use the stove/oven 2 or 3 hours a day? Maybe it's that we cook so much that the numbers didn't work out. I had factored in the cost of the genset along with the cost of diesel and oil changes and it wasn't looking good.

What is your setup with the electric range? (wattage of range, number of hours per day used)
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Old 30-06-2007, 16:43   #12
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I lived with kero Shipmate on my first boat and got used to it. I never liked it though. It didn't light when I wanted it to and if it did light there was a chance of a flare up. My friends who cooked all hated it. We ate cold stuff a lot.
I will be putting an old Shipmate propane stove aboard in a couple of months. You can convert some stoves to propane from kero but the conversion kits are not cheap and the older stoves may not even be built any longer. So check the company that built your stove.
Electric is out of the question for most sailors. I wouldn't even consider it an option. I don't want to run my engine all the time and don't want a genset.
Hope you don't mind opinions.
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Old 30-06-2007, 19:33   #13
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Just to throw another curve in here I have been considering the Wallas diesel stove and apart from being relatively expensive it doesn't seem to have the downside of earlier Diesel stoves, ie, weight, venting problems, and the possiblity of it flaming up if you don't follow the lighting proceedures correctly. Both the air in and the exhaust out are through the deckhead, so no fumes, dry air, rather than the moisture that is ever present with a propane appliance and the biggy only one relatively safe fuel to be carried.
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Old 30-06-2007, 20:48   #14
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I am not familiar with the Wallas but having heard many horror stories about diesel stoves I stayed away from them after I sold my Dickenson about 20 years ago. Carbon Monoxide poisoning took more than a few lives on Canada's West coast where these diesel stoves were common throughout the Commercial fishing fleet. I guess they would soot up and block the vent becoming a silent killer. One day after one of these incidences I haul the heavy beast out of my boat put an ad in the local buy and sell and was sold very quickly. Never did look at them again.
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Old 01-07-2007, 07:59   #15
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hi jp. i used a shipmate kero stove for years. it has its ups and downs, mentioned above. the only real issue i had against it was the priming. at sea, with the boat bashing around, stove was gimballed, (i weighted the bottom by wiring on dive weights to slow the sway and could be locked also in various angles of heel), was that the little cups for priming would splash burning alchohol and i had a few scary moments of running fire. i did try absorbant things, (can't remember what), that would soak up the alchohol and then do the lighting, but was never successful with that technique. i kept a box of baking soda alongside the stove to douse these bonfires. once after such an occurance crossing the gulf stream to the bahamas, the customs man had a good look at my galley which was buried in white powder which he tasted! i have since changed boats and installed propane and would never go back.
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