Heating Oil vs. Diesel vs. Kerosene – What is The Best Option?

Nobody likes working through a cold day or sleeping in freezing conditions. So there is a need to install a working heating system in your home or workspace. The beauty of this installation is that you have multiple fuel options.

The three popular options here are heating oil, diesel, and kerosene. According to the Energy Education Encyclopedia, they are all products of fractional distillation of crude oil. However, each product has its unique features and characteristics.

So what is the best option for you? Which fuel type serves your budget plan? This article gives complete detail about the three fuels. At the end of this read, you will know all that is necessary to make an informed decision.

Why is it Important to Know the Three Oil Properties?

There are many reasons why you should know the fuel oil details before selecting one. Your choice will determine if you will continue to enjoy your new or old heating system for a prolonged time.

Some heaters have specifications. Which is why it is essential to pick the oil type that suits your heater. Here are a few benefits of making informed choices:

  • You can select suitable oil for your heater.
  • You learn the best choice for various weather conditions.
  • Pick the oil that guarantees the safety of properties.

Heating Oil, Diesel, and Kerosene on a Table: Getting to Know Your Pick

Key Points Comparison Table

Heating Oil




Heavier products of the distillation of crude oil.

Lighter products of the distillation of crude oil.

Refined extraction from the fractional distillation of crude oil.

Flash Point

126°F to 205°F

125°F to 200°F

108°F to 162°F

Gelling Out

Gell by forming wax in cold weather.

Paraffin content forms wax in cold weather.

Stable and remains liquid in colder conditions.


Safest option with high flash point

A safer option with a relatively high flash point

Requires careful handling due to a low flash point.

Suitable Use

For domestic and commercial use depending on oil type

Suitable for emergency use in domestic settings

Suitable mainly for domestic use.


Readily available for mass use.

Readily available.

Not readily available.





*Note: Red diesel is cheaper than typical or taxed diesel. Red diesel does not have a government-imposed tax and it is not proper for road use. However, it is suitable for domestic heating.

Heating Oil Basic Features

Domestic heating oil is the general name for different fuel formula types that serve various roles.

However, the type suitable for heating is the #2 fuel oil. Others forms of fuel oil extracted from fractional distillation of crude oil number from #1 fuel oil to #6 fuel oil.

While heating oil is also a popular option for domestic use, it is also a suitable option for commercial use. Heating oil has many characteristics that make it good for both usage. This product burns at a higher temperature than other heating fuels.

One notable feature is this product’s high flash point, which is about 140°F (or 60°C). This high flash point means the fuel does not ignite easily. Heating oil passes through pressured chambers to aid ignition.

In terms of safety, it is the best option for your household. The risk of fire accidents or explosions is minimal, thanks to the flashing point. What’s more? When it ignites, it burns at a high temperature. It is, however, not as high as kerosene.

Extracting heating oil from petroleum is a straightforward process. It is readily available and cheaper when there is no scarcity. This safety property is a significant reason for being a suitable option for mass commercial use.

Diesel Fuel Basic Features

Diesel is a lighter product when distilling crude oil. Only gasoline is heavier than this product.

However, there are different types of diesel based on their tax level and sulfur composition. Red diesel is illegal for road use. It is only suitable for heating furnaces.

Red diesel and domestic heating oil have similar features; a reason why many people tend to use them interchangeably. One common feature of heating oil is the high temperature. Diesel burns at a high temperature, so it quickly heats the room or space, depending on its use.

One major problem with diesel is the production of sulfur during combustion. This product of combustion means that burning diesel is dangerous without proper ventilation. However, with a proper ventilation system, there is no need to worry.

As a proper safety measure, diesel users prefer to use the product as heating fuel for outdoor or commercial heating systems. Outdoor use ensures there is enough ventilation for sulfur release.

Another note is that diesel tends to gel out in colder conditions. Gelling of diesel means it changes from liquid and forms a wax-like texture. You can’t use it for heating at this stage because it is solid. Hence, there might be better options during a extreme cold.

Kerosene Basic Features

Kerosene is another product of the fractional distillation of crude oil. After extraction, it undergoes further refining to make a purer oil form.

The purity means that kerosene burns cleanly without any residual fumes. It is a popular option for heating systems within many homes.

The purity guarantees that you get a fuel-efficient product for your heater. However, this pure form of combustion is one of many reasons this product is famous for homes. Kerosene also has a low density and viscosity compared to other fuels.

One notable feature of kerosene is its lower flashing point of about 100°F (or 38°C). The low flash point means that kerosene ignites at low temperatures. However, it burns at a higher temperature meaning it readily heats the room and burns for a long duration.

Kerosene burning at a lower temperature easily lights up and heats the room. However, there is a need to be careful to avoid fire accidents. This product is readily flammable, and that increases the risk of explosion.

The low viscosity also means that kerosene is stable in colder conditions. It doesn’t “gel” during the winter. Hence, it is a good heating fuel source during this colder period. It is another point worth considering.

Note that kerosene burns with fewer fumes and end products. However, the formation of carbon monoxide is still likely. So, proper ventilation is essential.

Heating Oil Vs. Diesel vs. Kerosene: Which Fuel Oil Takes all the Heat?


Heating oil is cheaper and readily available compared to diesel and kerosene. Kerosene is the most expensive fuel due to its refining process. The prices vary depending on location.


The three fuel types give you different efficiency. Heating oil and diesel are cost-effective, meaning you get your money’s worth. Kerosene is fuel-efficient, meaning it burns completely with few by-products.

Best for Heating

Burning kerosene gives you a cleaner fuel option. It also burns at a higher temperature and for a more extended period. Kerosene is the best for heating when you are not on a budget. Heating oil and diesel have similar properties in this regard.

Some other functions

Heating oil is fuel for the heating system. However, other uses depend on the particular fuel formulations. For example, heavier heating oil serves as marine or jet fuel.

Diesel has a wide range of other functions and uses. You can use diesel in vehicles with compatible engines and generators.


Heating oil is the safest option for heaters at homes. This oil does not ignite in its liquid state. Hence there is little risk of explosion. Diesel is next on the safety list. It is best to be careful when using kerosene because it does not offer safety when used in home heating system.


Here are some common questions by various users and proper answers to help lay your worries to rest:

Q: Which is better for a heater: kerosene or diesel?

A: Kerosene is better for heaters, especially during very cold weathers. However, using a fuel type compatible with the installed heating system is essential.

Q: Can I use diesel instead of kerosene in my heater?

A: Yes, you can use diesel as an emergency heat source if you run out of kerosene. However, diesel is only suitable for short periods and emergencies. Here is a video that explains suitable options during an emergency. It also shows how to use these options.

Heating Oil Emergency Fuels

Q: Can I mix heating oil with diesel?

A: It is okay to mix the two oil types. However, it is not a safe option for prolonged use. The two are different in sulfur content. Hence, a mixture might produce more fumes than individual products.

Final Thoughts

The three heating options give you the power to choose based on preference or use. If you are installing a new oil tank, follow the your government regulations on oil storage.

The regulations may vary depending on country or region.  With the proper installation, you can rest assured that your nights will be warm and comfortable.

We have described the different features that these fuel oils give you. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Kerosene is the best option for colder conditions.
  • Heating oil is the safest option to prevent accidents.
  • Diesel is a readily available option but only for short-term use.

Keep these points in mind; keep oil in your tank; and keep the warmth in your home.