Using Your Heater For The First Time

Wick Changing Instructions

Express Answers

Table of Contents

  1. Can red kerosene be used?

  2. How should kerosene be stored ?

  3. How long can I store kerosene?

  4. How can I tell if my kerosene is good ?

  5. What causes bad odor ?

  6. Why won't my heater stay burning ?

  7. Why does my heater smoke?

  8. Why won't my heater light?

  9. Why won't my igniter glow?

  10. Why won't my heater shut-off?

  11. How often should I change my wick?

Can red kerosene be used?

The Federal government requires that kerosene that is not intended for road use and therefore not subject to a 24.9¢ tax to be dyed red.  As long as it is advertised as K-1 kerosene it can be used in your heater.  We recommend the use of clear K-1 kerosene when available as it is much easier to see contamination in the clear kerosene.

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How should kerosene be stored?

Store kerosene only in a new, clean, sealed container clearly marked for kerosene. Such containers as used drums, milk containers, used plastic jugs, and used gasoline cans will contaminate kerosene and will harm the wick or cause a fire.

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How long can I store kerosene?

One to three months is the longest we recommend storing fuel. Kerosene should not be stored from one season to the next, including inside the heater tank.  If allowed to sit over the summer, the fuel will break down and absorb water.  There are bacteria and molds that live in the kerosene and feed off fossil fuels.  As this process speeds up over the warm summer months, sludge develops in the fuel. If this fuel is used the following season it can clog the wick and cause odor, low burn and wick hardening.  It is best to buy kerosene in small quantities so that you are assured of the freshest fuel possible.  Find a supplier that you can trust to have good fuel and stick with them.

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How can I tell if my kerosene is good?

The best way to tell if you have good fuel is to siphon off a small amount of fuel from the bottom of your storage container into a small clear jar.  It is important to pump from the bottom because if there is water present that's where it will be since it has a higher specific gravity than kerosene.  Allow the sample to sit for at least an hour and observe to see if there is anything floating in the fuel.  Bubbles at the bottom are not good – they are water bubbles, not air.  You should not be able to see particles floating.  If the fuel is clear it should be crystal clear with no separation.  Anything cloudy or yellowed is contaminated and should not be used.  Red fuel will be harder to see contamination but should be translucent – much like Kool Aid , not cloudy or opaque.  The fuel should also smell like kerosene and have no diesel or gasoline smell to it.  If you have any doubt about the fuel - get fresh. The final test is burning the heater; the flame should be bright and even.  Any  kerosene odor should become very faint after the heater reaches optimum burn (usually after 45-60 minutes).

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What causes bad odor?

Bad odor after the heater is burning is most often caused by low quality fuel.  If there is high sulphur content in the fuel you are using or if it is lower grade kerosene it cannot be burned completely at the temperatures reached in a portable kerosene heater.  These unburnt hydrocarbons collect on the wick and harden causing low burn and odor problems.  Also be very careful when fueling your heater to not let any fuel drip on the heater.  Fuel on the outside of the heater or on the drip pan can cause a strong kerosene smell when the heater gets hot.  In addition, if the heater is operated at too low of a temperature setting or with the wick installed too low, incomplete burning of the fuel will cause odor.  A heater should always be operated on high, turned down just enough to keep from sooting.  Refer to your owner's manual for the proper wick height for your model.

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Why won't my heater stay burning?

When having trouble keeping the heater burning there are several things that you should check.  Is this the heater's initial use?  If so, then the problem may be caused by not allowing the wick to soak long enough before lighting.   Because it is the kerosene vapors that burn above the top surface of the wick, it is very important to wait at least 30-60 minutes with the wick in the down position in a full tank of fuel to be sure that the wick is fully saturated and can support the burn. 

If you light the heater too quickly it may light, but air bubbles may develop in the capillaries of the wick and then it isn’t able to keep enough kerosene “wicking” to the surface to keep your heater burning properly.  If a problem develops after the first tank of fuel has been burned, then the problem may be fuel-related.  Poor quality or water-contaminated fuel clogs the wick fibers and impedes the fuel flow to the wick surface.  This starves the flame of fuel.  The best solution may be to replace the wick and fuel in your heater and start over.

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Why does my heater smoke?

First of all make sure that the heater is filled with K-1 kerosene. Other fuel, such as gasoline, burn too hot causing the heater to burn out of control. NEVER USE GASOLINE or any other fuel described as flammable.  If there is any question about the fuel in your heater it is best to drain it and replace the wick and start with fresh K-1 kerosene. If you are sure of your fuel and your heater is giving off sooty black smoke it is a sign that the fuel/air mix is off. Make sure the chimney is seated correctly.  If it didn’t seat into place correctly after lighting you may be getting a very high flame on one side.  If it’s a high orange flame all the way around try rolling the wick adjuster knob down within the adjustment range - the wick may just be too high.  If these things do not fix the problem wait until the heater is cool and inspect the burner cylinder. If there are any holes plugged with soot it needs to be cleaned or if it’s dented or buckled it needs to be replaced.  After you have checked the fuel and burner you should check to make sure the wick is installed at the correct height.  Refer to the owner's manual for exact height.  If the wick isn't installed correctly or there is no obvious defect it is best to take the heater to a service center to determine the cause.

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Why won't my heater light?

Is this the first time lighting the heater?  If so, then you need to make sure the heater has been filled with good K-1 kerosene, and that the wick has been allowed to soak in the lowered position for 60 minutes in a full tank of fuel.  This insures the wick is completely saturated with kerosene.  Then raise the wick to the “high” position. 

When you push the “ignite” button you should see the igniter move into position to light the kerosene vapor above the top of the wick surface.  The igniter should be glowing a bright orange. 

The igniter should come into position right to the top surface of the wick but not touching the wick.  If the igniter goes into the side of the wick it will not light – only the kerosene vapors just above the top surface of the wick will light.  You may have to lower the wick adjuster mechanism a bit to make sure that the igniter is coming into contact correctly.  If the igniter isn’t glowing check the batteries.  They may need to be replaced or the igniter filament may be broken.  If the batteries need to be replaced use only regular duty non-alkaline replacement batteries.  Alkaline batteries deliver too strong an initial jolt and may blow the igniter. 

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Why won't my igniter glow?

When your igniter won’t glow the first most obvious cause is dead batteries.   The batteries should only be replaced with regular duty non-alkaline batteries.  Although alkaline batteries perform better and last longer in some small appliances they have too strong an initial jolt and often burn out the igniter filament.  Strongest isn’t best in this application.  If you have fresh non-alkaline batteries and it still won’t glow, the igniter probably needs to be replaced.  To prevent igniter burn-out do not let the igniter come in contact with the side of the wick or stay in the flame after ignition.

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Why won't my heater shut-off?

When you hit the shut-off knob and the wick won’t drop, it is most likely because of tar and carbon build-up.  If the heater has been burnt too low or contaminated fuel has been used, a sticky tar forms on the wick and it hardens.  As the wick gets harder and thicker it becomes more and more difficult to raise and lower the wick until it will no longer slide between the wick adjuster and the primary air tube.  Bad water contamination in the fuel can also cause the cotton fibers in the wick to swell and not allow it to move freely in all cases.  The wick should be replaced.

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How often should I change my wick?

The American Lung Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (in a brochure titled “What You Should Know About Combustion Appliances and Indoor Air Pollution”) recommend you check and replace the wick yearly.  You may have to change the wick more often if you use low quality fuel or burn your heater on too low of a heat setting.

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