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Old 11-08-2008, 09:24   #1
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Why Not Kerosene?

I'm a Newbie and I've been wondering: why don't more sailboat stoves, heaters etc. use kerosene?

Propane is dangerous. I would never have anything propane in an enclosed space. You'd need a sniffer and you would want to pressure test the system before every use. There are enough other things to worry about on a sailboat.

CNG is better, since lighter than air. But you need to keep it under high presssure in those scuba tanks.

What's wrong with Kerosene? It's odorless, not particularly volatile and provides plenty of heat per cubic foot. It's inexpensive and available everywhere. You could use it for the stove, a cabin heater, a hot water heater, even lighting.

Years ago I owned a ski house in Vermont with a kerosene heater. It was great, and I was able to heat 1200 sq. feet for 10-12 weekends a year for under $100. There was no noise and it was odorless. Easy to light.

Is there some reason why kerosene isn't used more on boats?
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Old 11-08-2008, 09:52   #2
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Quote:
I'm a Newbie and I've been wondering: why don't more sailboat stoves, heaters etc. use kerosene?
It's dirty and has a lower heat value than propane. It isn't odorless unless you have an old building that leaks air and has a decent chimney. CNG is fine but finding it is more like a treasure hunt and is not available most places. Folks around here that use CNG drive 1.5 hours by car to where you can get it refilled and they don't often have exchanges so that makes 2 trips. It works fine but you don't get as much use per tank as propane. It may be lighter than air but it will explode.

Kero may be fine for a space heater and probably no messier than the diesel heater we have. The diesel heater uses the same fuel as the engine. You still have to store it. Kero stoves don't work that great for cooking even if they are OK for heat. I'm not aware of any boat with a kero hot water heater. I'm not sure I see the economy of 10 - 12 weekends "years ago" for $100 either.

Propane is hands down the best for cooking. Even in 3rd world countries small propane tanks for cooking are very common. I do not however think it's all that great for heating if you need to heat an enclosed space the issue of fuel is greater. We heat water with propane on demand and in the mid summer weather we don't need to heat water at all.

Alcohol stoves are more common than kero stoves. It burns cleaner but is not as hot as propane. I'm not aware of folks using alcohol for heat.

Using propane can be made safe. A poorly adjust kero burner could kill you from carbon monoxide too. How you store it becomes a secondary issue as well. You don't store propane in the boat as the locker must be drained overboard and not connected to the rest of the boat. Sintex makes a nice controller with built in sensors so you can detect internal leaks.
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Old 11-08-2008, 09:59   #3
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Thanks Paul, very informative response.
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Old 11-08-2008, 10:55   #4
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"What's wrong with Kerosene? It's odorless, "
No, it is not. Even the best "water white odorless" kerosene has a distinctive and sickening odor--to many people. Other folks seem unable to smell it, and I would bet there's a genetic difference akin to the way some folks have innately different taste abilities.

Kerosene, also known as "paraffin oil" outside the US, has been replaced in the mass market because many people think it is oily (can leave a mess) burns dirty (soot) and leaves an odor.

Yes, propane can blow up. And does blow up, at least a dozen homes and businesses blow up from propane or natural gas explosions in the US alone every year. If you want real safety, learn to eat cold food. Fire is dangerous. Fuels are dangerous.

But used in moderation...many of us prefer to be with them, despite the dangers. Particularly the "new" clean fuels, like propane, that can be used without any mess or odor.

Got a kerosene stove at home? Why not? [vbg]
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Old 11-08-2008, 11:14   #5
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We have a Taylors kero, two burner with oven. Would have nothing else below deck.

If the preasure is right and the fuel is clean it doesn't get any better IMHO. Fuel usage is low and fuel is cheap and available everywhere. It will even run on mineral spirits in a pinch. It will smoke a little if burners are not pre-heated just right.

I had a problem initially, but resolved minor issues quickly. Purchased ours used but nearly new. It had not been used for some time.
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Old 11-08-2008, 11:24   #6
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We have a Taylors kero, two burner with oven. Would have nothing else below deck.
So how long does a 1 1/2 gallon tank last if using everyday? A Week, a couple of weeks - month?? Appreciate depends on what and how many you are cooking for - but I have no idea if 1 1/2 gallons is a lot, or it means needing to keep another 5 gallons onboard to top up twice a week.......

I keep reading that Kerosene / Paraffin is "widely available worldwide" - but where is it usually sold? (Garages / supermarkets?) Can't say I have ever noticed it for sale - course never had to look.........and also not been to most places


Oh, nearly forgot......does a Taylors make good toast? I.e an even colour all over! and how many slices in one go!
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Old 11-08-2008, 11:32   #7
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Since the original question has been pretty thoroughly answered by a few people now, I would like to ask a related question. I have been wondering if the connector on a propane bottle is a universal standard? If not, are there adapters to fit other countries standards? Do other countries do propane bottle exchanges or have filling stations?
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Old 11-08-2008, 11:47   #8
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I have no idea how long it might last if using it daily. Our tank holds 2 1/2 gallons. We are not living aboard at this time. We use the stove occasionaly as we stay aboard some while docked and for local cruising. I have added one gallon in the last year but again, this is only very light use.

Kero can be had almost everywhere. Home Depot, Lowes, and every hardware store I have visited.

Toast. Don't know about toast. We have an inverter driven toaster and microwave, which share the load.
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Old 11-08-2008, 12:06   #9
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I have no idea how long it might last if using it daily. Our tank holds 2 1/2 gallons. We are not living aboard at this time. We use the stove occasionaly as we stay aboard some while docked and for local cruising. I have added one gallon in the last year but again, this is only very light use.

Kero can be had almost everywhere. Home Depot, Lowes, and every hardware store I have visited.

Toast. Don't know about toast. We have an inverter driven toaster and microwave, which share the load.
Fair enuf. Cheers.
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Old 11-08-2008, 14:37   #10
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Our 1981 Hunter has a Kemyon Kerosene 2-burner. Once you learn the drill of heating the burners first it works flawlesly. A liter will cook about 25 meals.
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Old 11-08-2008, 15:16   #11
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there's already enough problems with gasoline/ gas; a family from my town owned a motor boat; after the refueling vapors ignited; she was quite burned
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Old 11-08-2008, 15:17   #12
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The best thing about kerosene is that you can be independent of petroleum suppliers. Remember, before there was kero, folks went whaling and sealing and rendered the bludder to make their own premium whale oil that kept millions of oil lamps and stoves burning for many many years.

Any handy marine mammal, a couple of sharp knives, a goodly sized kettle, and you too can help solve the fuel crisis! Side benefits include lots of meat and some nice furs, once you get the hang of using the whole thing.

Can't do that with propane, although with a composting toilet and a methane conversion kit, you might give it a try.
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Old 11-08-2008, 21:55   #13
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We had a shipmate 2 burner kerosene stove that we used daily in almost 4 years of cruising and live aboard. A really hot, yes hotter than propane, safe, economically fueled stove. You have to be willing to put up with the preheating ritual but that was no big deal once we got used to it. Fuel seemed to last forever. We had a 4 gallon pressure tank and took a 5 gallon Gerry jug when we did French Polynesia and still had fuel left when we got back after more than a year.

The kerosene when properly preheated burns clean, hot and without smell. The alcohol for preheating was the only smell I remember. Kero does put out a little carbon but not enough to be a bother. After two years of daily use, noticed the overhead was a bit dingy. I took a little 409 and about 5 minutes to wipe the carbon residue off the varnished wood overhead above the stove and it was fine for another two years. That's in sharp contrast to the oil lamps that can soot up the overhead in no time. Looked just like new afterwards and good for another 2 years. We burned paint thinner instead of kerosene because it was cheaper and used to be readily available in 5 gallon tins at professional paint stores. Might not be the case now. In any case, the stove was trouble free for the 10 years we owned the boat. No solenoid valves, no turning off the supply at the bottles stored out in the back 40, no rusty bottles, super expensive aluminum bottles, constant refilling hassles, etc. of propane.

I like kerosene so much that I just picked up a Taylor's 028 stove for my 'new' old boat.

Oh, did I mention, kero doesn't go boom in the night. Lost another boat last year in Mexico to propanes propensity to test the hull to deck joint.

Aloha
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Old 11-08-2008, 22:14   #14
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Peter,

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us!

What kind of 2 burner stove were you using? I picked up a sea swing with a primus style kero single burner, but haven't put it all together yet. (Gotta build the galley first... grin!)

Zach
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Old 01-07-2009, 23:51   #15
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I have a Dickinson Bering Diesel cookstove....it was suggested to that I burn kerosene in it instead of diesel (I have a kerosene "carborator" from a karosene heater)..any suggestions, how does the cost of diesel ($2.75/gal as of Jul1,2009 where i live) compare to kerosene
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