Perfection Kerosene Heaters | Are Old Kerosene Heaters Safe?

Perfection Kerosene Heaters | Are Old Kerosene Heaters Safe?

Perfection kerosene heaters are a timeless, no-tools needed solution for heating small spaces quickly, cheaply, and without electricity. They’ll keep your patio in use long after the summer season, make a cool room toasty without the cost of heating the entire house, and equip you with a non-electric heat source during winter power outages.

But are they safe?

Keep scrolling to see why I’ve chosen to use Perfection kerosene heaters to supplement our winter heating costs (and comfort)!

An important component of everyday life that is often overlooked, kerosene heaters have a history that many people don’t often consider.

Perfection Kerosene History: A Brief History

Perfection Kerosene Heaters or “lamp stoves” as they were initially called in 1884, were extremely common in American homes through the mid 1900s. They were regularly featured in magazine advertisements as a practical and decoratively pleasing heating solution. Perfection Kerosene stoves were quickly adopted in rural farm kitchens as households transitioned primarily  from wood or coal to oil fuel.

Compared to its energy predecessors, kerosene become a popular alternative to coal or wood because oil offered the benefit of being cleaner, quicker, cooler, lighter and more portable. By 1918, over 5,000,000 (yes, million) heaters had been sold for use in American homes!  

The marketing of Perfection heaters had a very simple, yet successful sales model. Originally, horse drawn carts with large tanks of kerosene and Perfection heaters allowed consumers to purchase these stoves directly off the cart as delivery men traveled through towns and cities. During the late 1920s, when automobiles became more popular, trucks would deliver stoves, wicks and kerosene within a licensed delivery area or to neighborhood shops. 

Before electricity, almost every home had Perfection Kerosene Heaters!

As a result of their popularity, the “golden age” of the Perfective Stove Product line lasted from 1916 until the middle of the 1950s, when the perfect storm of post-war economic boom, cheaper electricity costs, and power line infrastructure projects were completed in most rural areas. Collectively, this wave of change marked the end of the Perfection Stove Company’s rural and city door step distribution routes that had guaranteed reliable sales of kerosene stoves, ranges, hot water heaters and other appliances for nearly 100 years. 

Luckily, Perfection Kerosene heaters are experiencing a modern-day renaissance as more people consider ways to back up electric heating, affordably heat small spaces, and have portable heating options. 

Why I switched from modern to antique kerosene heaters. 

Honestly, I stumbled into it. On especially cold winter weekends, my mom would pull 2 kerosene heaters from the garage and I loved the toasty warmth they provided. Out of habit, I purchased my own box kerosene heater and found myself doing the same on from time to time. Now usually my husband changed the kerosene wicks, but–drats–I’d forgotten to add the task to his honey-do left before he deployed. This time, it was my job.

I wasn’t worried—I mean, how hard could it be?

But that’s where I was wrong. Have you ever tried to change the wick on a modern kerosene heater? 

It’s a pain in the arse. 

The process involves unscrewing a million wing nuts and bolts (fine, more like 6-8, but still)to remove the exterior shell, removing the knob, wind cover, wick adjuster assembly, unlocking the wick cover, perfectly aligning the studs of the wick to the holes into the teeth of the assembly, installing the wick holder. And then work your way backwards throughout those steps to reassemble the dag-on thing.  

It sounds tedious… because it is.  

And then, after you go through all of that hassle, if your wick is slightly higher on one side (something you don’t want) you’ll have to repeat those steps all over again

Like I said, pain in the arse. 

Old vs. New Appliances: Sometimes the ‘upgrade’ isn’t worth it. 

I know this from first hand experience, and, after spending several hours assembling and disassembling a model dhk kerosene heater, I found myself asking, “how did they do it in the early days, there’s no way it could’ve been this complicated.”

I went to “The Google” and my inkling was right—the early designs of kerosene heater assembly were painfully simple. They featured a simple, industrial interior design that I was instantly intrigued by and wanted one! Modern kerosene appliances have dozens of parts, but a Perfection Kerosene heater has just 4!

The 4 Parts of a Perfection Kerosene Heater:

  1. Body: Produced in a variety of models, colors, and features the body of a Perfection Kerosene heater is steel coated.  
  2. Font: The font is the ‘control center’ of the heater. It holds the kerosene, burner, flame spreader and wick. The font also includes a cork float fuel gauge that indicates the amount of fuel in the tank. The font is portable and fits any Perfection Kerosene heater model. 
  3. Flame Spreader: This controls the height of the wick while it’s burning. To get the ideal burning height, you’ll turn the wick up enough to touch the flame spreader. 
  4. Wick: Your wick draws the kerosene to the flame, which gives off heat and warms your room. With regular cleaning, your wick will last a long time and replacing it is simple! Only use a wick designed for Perfection heaters. You can find them online, here

Modern kerosene heaters aren’t easy to fix

“Modern” kerosene heaters are needlessly complicated in a way that antique heaters, just, well aren’t. Antique and vintage appliances are overwhelmingly more robust and easier to fix than their “modern” day counterparts. The relatively small scale of mass production meant that things were made stronger and easier to repair. If you think I”m being hard on modern heaters, I’ve got some data to support my bias. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shortly after the modern, portable, kerosene heater was introduced in 1979, the number of people hospitalized because of kerosene heater accidents increased four times over the previous year!

Perfection Kerosene heaters are easy to use, portable, and give off slightly over 10,000 BTU’s of heat. It’s .8 gallon tank will heat a space for 8 to 10 hours. Better yet, changing the wick won’t require cracking out a manual, toolbox, or viewing complicated youtube videos. Let me show you how simple it is to change a perfection kerosene heater wick.  

How to change a Perfection kerosene heater wick

  1. First, remove the flame spreader cap by lifting it and giving it a slight turn. 
  2. Then, twist off the gallery by turning it counter clockwise to unscrew.
  3. Finally, remove the wick. The wick is good until it burns down to the wick carrier, which is the metal sleeve that the wick is attached to) by turning it up as high as it will go with the adjusting wheel. You can grab the wick with two fingers and pull it out. Discard. 

Congrats! You’ve just removed the wick. Now let’s replace the old wick with a new one (ppst, its also a simple 3 step process)

  1. Take the new wick out of the carton and flatten out the folded-in end tales of the wick. Place the wick tail side down over the wick tube making sure that the tails straddle the cog-wheels that move the carrier. 
  2. Apply pressure and pull the wick down until the cog-wheels latch with the holes in the metal wick carrier.  Adjust the wheel so that the wick is turned down as far as it can go.
  3. Screw the gallery back back and place the flame spreader back on top. You’re done.

Did any of those steps require tools?


Did the names of the parts have a combination of numbers, letters and dashes?


There’s an easier, better kerosene design that’s been around for over a century. Watch a video to see how I enjoy using this heater in my townhome. I also show you how easy it is to use and maintain your heater.  

3 Reasons Why You’ll Love Perfection Kerosene Heaters

Here are the top three reasons why’ll you’ll love Perfection kerosene heaters:

  1. Incredible Versatility and Portability.  Perfection Kerosene heaters are incredibly portable so they can be used almost anywhere! They are the perfect outdoor appliance for a garage, barn, deck, patio or a fishing trip. Of course, you’ll also be able to place your heater in nearly every room of your home, too!  Depending on your model, the shell of a Perfection Heater weighs between 2-4 pounds. The majority of the models measure 2 ½ feet tall and 1 foot wide and have a sturdy carrying handle. Since the fuel tank is removable its easy to move it to different locations in a cinch. This ain’t the case with “modern” heaters where designs either includes a permanently attached fuel reservoir (not ideal for indoor use or refilling) or heavy/awkward shapes. Let’s be honest–side handles aren’t nearly as easy to move as a simple carry handle.
  2. They are GORGEOUS. Your Perfection Kerosene heater is design, decor and heat in one. One hundred years ago they were gorgeous and that legacy endures.They are so stunning, in fact, that I’ve found no good reason to store them out of season. Perfection Kerosene heaters have a small footprint and barely take up any space. Treat them as a plant stand during the spring and summer months and plop a plant on top when not in use. Even if you find one that needs a paint job, don’t let that scare you! Grab it if it’s a good price.
  3. Perfect for Power Outages. Perfection Kerosene heaters don’t require electricity or batteries to operate. You only need kerosene (which can be safely stored for years in proper containers).  The freedom of being able to heat your home without relying on the power grid and natural gas is…liberating. It also provides a considerable amount of safety and security in your life.
When not in use, this heater remains a beautiful decor element in any room. Or, use as a plant stand!

I just love my Perfection Kerosene Heater (trust me, you will too).

Are Perfection Kerosene Heaters Safe to Use Indoors?

I want you to be a confident kerosene user, but one who carries around a healthy dose of fear.


It’ll make you careful!

The moment you decide to take short cuts is the moment you start taking risky moves. Stay safe and don’t put yourself or your loved ones at risk. As long as you follow safety guidelines,Perfection Kerosene Heaters remain perfectly safe to use indoors. But, if you ignore the guidelines, all bets are off! Please refer to U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission has kerosene heater safety guidelines to reduce the risk of fire and potential health effects.

When operating your Perfection Kerosene Heater, keep the following in mind:

  1. Provide Proper Ventilation. Do not use your heater in a room without doors or windows that are completely closed. Crack a window (1 inch opening) to allow fresh air to come in and old air to escape. As kerosene burns, it consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and other gases. Avoid potentially toxic fume build up by providing sufficient ventilation and fresh outside air. 
  2. Never, ever blend fuel types. Stick with 1-K grade kerosene–no substitutions allowed! Do not use colored or cloudy kerosene as it will give off strong fumes, smoke or above average amounts of pollutants like sulphur dioxide. Do not use gasoline or campfire fuel. These fuels will gum up your wick, or potentially start a fire or explode. 
  3. Avoid Fire Risks. Use common sense, dear. Don’t hang clothing above or near the heater to dry your clothes. Don’t operate your heater close to furniture or fabrics that can potentially catch fire (i.e., linen, sofas, beds, curtains). 
  4. Store and Fill Kerosene Outside. Don’t fill your kerosene heater inside your home. This way you’ll avoid spills on your floor that leave linger kerosene odors in your living space. Store extra kerosene away from central heating units. The best place to keep your kerosene is in a garage, storage shed, or basement. 
  5. Don’t overfill. Kerosene expands when it warms up so only fill the tank until it’s 90% full. If you top things off at the full mark it could overflow and spill out of the tank as it heats. 
  6. Supervise kids and pets. Always supervise children and pets when using or refilling your kerosene heater. You don’t want the heater accidentally knocked over or serious burn injuries to occur.
  7. Don’t Leave Unattended. Never leave a kerosene heater unattended, especially when sleeping. You don’t want your heater to run out of fuel. Operating an unattended kerosene heater is simply not safe. 

How to Maintain your Perfection Kerosene Heater

  • Inspect the wick regularly: The wick is one of the most critical components of the kerosene heater. You need to inspect it regularly (ideally before every use) to ensure it’s in good condition. A low flame, flickering flame, tar deposits, and difficulty turning the knob are some of the signs you have a bad wick.
  • Clean the wick: After the heater has cooled down, remove the cover and use a small brush to dust off any tar deposits around the wick adjuster.
  • Replace the wick: If the wick absorbs less fuel or is damaged or in any other unusable state, remove it and replace it with a new one.
  • Store the heater safely: Before storage, clean the wick and heater, drain the fuel tank, and store the heater in a cool, dry place.  

Credit: :

Your fury friends might love these heaters even more than you!

Commonly Asked Questions about Perfection Kerosene Heaters 

1. Are Perfection Kerosene Heaters Smelly?

According to the Insurance Information Institute ,”a well maintained  and regularly cleaned Perfection kerosene heater doesn’t emit smoke or any odor when it’s operating. Despite this, you might notice a faint kerosene scent when you enter your house.” When a kerosene heater is initially lit or extinguished, a brief release of kerosene smell ventilates. This smell quickly dissipates once the heater begins to burn so the odor is only noticeable for a few minutes. Keep in mind that kerosene has a significantly milder smell than gasoline and the odor is not unpleasant. Luckily, you can easily eliminate this smell with a few sprays of white distilled vinegar or placing a few bowls of it in the room you’re heating. Try it, it really works!

2. Can Kerosene Fumes Kill You? Cause Cancer? Make You Sick? 

Almost anything that burns has the potential to release chemicals that may harm your health. The fumes released from burning kerosene in a well-ventilated area are unlikely to have a significant impact on your health, compared to other particular pollution (also known as particulate matter or PM) you breathe in any other time. Kerosene heaters aside, the air you breathe indoors or outdoors always contains particle pollution.

According to the World Health Organization, “kerosene is not considered a cancer-causing substance (carcinogenic)”. As a result, kerosene fumes do pose an immediate health threat in a room that is not ventilated. These fumes can cause pain in the eyes, nose, ears and find a way into internal organs causing dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and general weakness. 

3. Do I need a CO detector?

First off, you can avoid all these hassles if you don’t slack on regularly inspecting and cleaning your kerosene heater and only use it in a well-ventilated room with a carbon monoxide detector, smoke detector, and fire extinguisher. Secondly, before you even think about purchasing a Perfection (or any) kerosene heater make sure you have these items on hand. According to the Insurance Information Institute, “the real danger is that misuse of kerosene heaters is that it could replace room oxygen with carbon monoxide and lead to death by asphyxiation.” A carbon monoxide detector can alert you of high CO levels in the air and that you should seek fresh air immediately. And, in the event of a fire, you may be able to quickly put it out, or get out safely. 

Any appliance unsafely operated in your home could pose significant risks, which is why it is important to follow safety tips. You can prevent your Perfection Kerosene heater from becoming a hazard by regularly inspecting and cleaning your heater and only using it in a well-ventilated room. 

4. Where can I find the original Perfection Kerosene Heater Manual? Advertisements?

I love that you’re asking this question. It’s part practical, part nostalgic. Here are some

New Perfection Stove Manual, Circa 1919

The Connection between Quaker Oatmeal and Your Perfection Heater

The Rise and Decline of the Kerosene Kitchen

Perfection Heater Trade Catalog

Cleveland in the Gilded Age

In conclusion, Perfection Kerosene heaters allow you to have a piece of history in your home that’s both practical and decoratively pleasing.

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