If your home's heating system uses oil, there might come a time when you find yourself wondering if you can mix kerosene with heating oil.
Whether you've run out of your oil supply or someone told you to use kerosene as an anti-gel agent, think again before adding one to the other. With so much conflicting information out there, it is important to understand the differences between kerosene and home heating oil. Mixing these can negatively affect everything from your safety to your wallet.
Are Kerosene and Home Heating Oil the Same?
Though kerosene and home heating oil are similar, the two have distinct differences.
Kerosene, also called paraffin or lamp oil, has a few defining characteristics. Its flashpoint is lower than home heating oil due to its higher viscosity and lower density. A flashpoint is the temperature at which a substance gives off flammable gasses that increase the risk of fire or explosion. Kerosene's flashpoint is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while home heating oil's flashpoint is around 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Home heating oil, also called fuel oil, is less explosive than kerosene. Because of this, it is slightly safer for at-home use, and since it is readily available, it costs less money. It is safe to store, though you should be extra careful in low temperatures. Home heating oil can gel during the colder winter months, and it may not be the best option for homes with outdoor furnace fuel tanks.
However, kerosene does not gel during the cold winter months. In fact, people have used kerosene as an anti-gel agent in other oils, though most oil providers do not condone this. Both kinds are best used for heating systems in homes with great ventilation.
Can You Mix Fuel Oil and Kerosene?
We wouldn't recommend mixing fuel oil and kerosene. Doing so could cause the following effects:
- Unsafe emissions: Adding the two together can produce toxic fumes. These can then release into your home, increasing the risk of fire and health concerns.
- Combustion: These components can ignite when mixed in your heating system. Both fires and explosions can occur.
- Appliance damage: Fire can damage your appliance. Mixing the fuels could mean ruining your heater entirely.
- Unpredictable heat: When kerosene and heating oil mix, they have a less predictable heat output.
Mixing these oils could cost you hundreds of dollars in repairs if something goes wrong.
Is Mixing Kerosene and Heating Oil Dangerous?
Combining kerosene and heating oil can be very dangerous because they have different ignition temperatures and different outputs during burning. These factors can lead to fires and excessive fumes. Because of this, carbon monoxide alarms often sound when the two are mixed together in a heating system.
While some heating appliances can burn various kinds of fuels, manufacturers mainly design each model for one specific type. You should use compatible furnace systems and fuel types for the safest heating experience.
Is Mixing Home Heating Oil and Kerosene Ever Safe?
While it is best not to mix kerosene and home heating oil, heating systems can typically work with either type. If you need to switch over, this is possible without any additional dangers. Even one-off uses of a different kind of oil may be fine. However, regularly doing this could ruin your appliance.
Only in dire situations where you need to keep your heat on for survival is it okay to mix the two together. This should be a last resort and never done if there are other viable choices available.
Perhaps your oil tank has run out of your home heating oil supply. If you are interested in switching to kerosene, research if you can add kerosene to your heating oil tank safely.
Most residential oil furnaces can burn either kerosene or home heating oil without a problem. However, you should be aware that burning different oils yields different heating outputs and varying costs.
Is Kerosene or Home Heating Oil Better?
If there comes a time when you need to choose between kerosene or home heating oil, you should know which one is better suited for you. In addition to the type of heating oil tank you have, consider these main points:
- Tank location: When deciding which oil to use for heating your home, think about your tank's location. You can enjoy either kerosene or home heating oil if the tank is indoors. If it is outdoors, you will likely want to opt for kerosene.
- Flashpoint: If you want to optimize home safety, you'll likely want to choose home heating oil since its flashpoint is higher than kerosene's. This means it takes higher temperatures for the chemicals to ignite.
- Budget: When choosing between these options, consider your budget. Kerosene tends to be more expensive, while heating oil is typically more cost-effective and provides longer-lasting heat.
Are There Laws Against Mixing Kerosene With Heating Oil?
Over 5 million households in the United States used home heating oil as their main heat source in the winter of 2019 to 2020. The Northeast region alone used nearly 2.9 billion gallons of heating oil in 2019. Despite the many homes that utilize heating oil every winter, there are few regulations regarding mixing it with other fuel types.
In fact, there are no federal regulations that bar you from combining kerosene and heating oil, even though it can be quite dangerous to do so. If you search on the state level, you will also not find any laws against mixing the two.
However, a few local municipalities throughout the U.S. have codes prohibiting residents from combining kerosene and home heating oil for safety reasons.
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