A few weeks ago I wrote about my new love, my kerosene heater. Since then, we’ve had a fairly cold few weeks, including the dumping of about 20 inches of snow on us in Maryland and I’ve kept up with the Kerosene heater usage. My initial hypothesis was that the more I used the heater, the more money I would save because the electric heat pump is so darn inefficient. So how did I do?
Compared to the previous year, the story is interesting but ultimately not good. Ignore the dollar values and the size of the bars (A year ago I accidentally double-paid the bill the month before so we had an overage) and just look at the kWh usage and the average temperature.
The glass half-full view is that even though it was a colder period, we managed to keep our utilization relatively flat, so using the kerosene heater helped offset the electric cost. Conversely, I’ve spent about $60 on kerosene in this period, so the gains in efficiency were offset by the cost of the fuel. However, when the heater is on the temperature in the house sometimes gets up to 71 or 72 which we would never do without the heater.
So are kerosene heaters frugal? Without having a whole-house system that’s attached to a thermostat and automated, it’s too hard for a person to maintain the temperature and cycle the heat on and off appropriately. At this point, it’s closer to a luxury, like running a traditional fireplace.
Is it nice to have? We sit in the same room as the heater, so there’s the soft woosh of the fire and heat pouring off makes it nice and cozy. It’s reassuring to have a heat source that’s off the grid. The house gets much warmer than we’d keep it if we were electric-only.
My best argument in favor though is deeply irrational. When the nights are long and the days are short the caveman wants to huddle around a fire and paint pictures on the wall.