Propane vs. Kerosene – The Pros and Cons of Each Fuel for Prepping

What is Better, Propane or Kerosene?

If you have ever experienced long periods without electric, you know the need for a clean-burning fuel as a backup plan. When it comes to storing a flammable fuel for emergencies, many are skeptical and don’t feel comfortable storing it near their home. I have selected two of the most popular fuels for this article and there are characteristics to each that need to be considered before you choose the right one for you.

Propane as a SHTF Backup Fuel

Propane, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is a clean-burning fuel derived from petroleum. Propane is then compressed until it becomes a liquid. When the pressure is released, the liquid propane is returned to its gas state. Propane is usually stored in metal tanks from one to hundreds of pounds. For our purposes, I will be discussing the one pound up to 40-pound tanks for home storage. Although storing propane is safe, care must be taken to avoid dangerous situations.

Disadvantages of Propane

Emergency Essentials
  • Propane is toxic and dangers if you breathe it in or ingest it in other ways.
  • Propane can leak so it is not recommended that you store propane indoors. It is extremely volatile as well and the slightest spark can cause an explosion.
  • Propane does not perform well in extremely cold weather. In extreme cold, propane loses its ability to return to the gas state making it hard to maintain flame.
  • Propane is heavier than air, a propane leak in an enclosed area will sink and become concentrated at the floor level, where it becomes more difficult to detect.

Advantages of Propane

  • Propane can be used in many different types of equipment. Cooking, generators, heating and lighting just to name a few.
  • Propane is a very stable fuel lasting for years without breaking down or becoming unusable.
  • It can be purchased just about anywhere and in many different sizes for your storage situation.
  • Propane is a cost-effective way to fuel your equipment, producing many more unites of energy than similar fuels.
  • Propane is a clean burning fuel, so equipment maintenance won’t be needed as often.
  • Propane is listed as a clean fuel in the 1990 Clean Air Act as well as the Energy Policy Act of 1992 making it an environmentally friendly fuel.

Kerosene as a SHTF Backup Fuel

Kerosene is a clear, flammable liquid and like propane, it is derived from petroleum. Red dye is added to some kerosene that is intended for home use. The reason is that kerosene isn’t taxed like other fuels because it isn’t used primarily for transportation purposes. Kerosene is easily stored in a standard gas can, but the container should be new, clean, clearly marked and used solely for kerosene storage. Contaminants in the containers may create problems and make the kerosene burn with more toxins and fumes.

Disadvantages of Kerosene

  • Kerosene has a shorter shelf life than propane and some experts limit its life to about five years.
  • Water vapor, bacteria and other contaminants can form over time rendering the kerosene a less effective fuel source.
  • Stabilizers often do not work well with kerosene and may not extend the life as expected.
  • Kerosene in areas where it is used as a primary heating source, may be more expensive. Where kerosene is not used as a primary heating source, it may be harder to find.
  • Kerosene when burned, produces carbon monoxide and a foul odor, therefore requiring a Carbon Monoxide Detector and adequate air flow.

Advantages of Kerosene

  • Storage containers for kerosene are cheaper than propane.
  • It is a fairly affordable energy source compared to other sources.

Propane or Kerosene for SHTF Situation

I prefer propane for the clean burn and stable shelf life. It can be used to heat, light and for cooking and I use it for our generators in emergencies. Although I do store some kerosene for our Dietz Lanterns, it is a clear, clean version more suited to indoor use. The catch is that this cleaner kerosene comes with a cost. Propane’s clean burn, affordability and availability make it our go to fuel for emergencies.

Safety First

When you decide it is time to start storing fuel for an emergency, be sure to read the warnings and store it in a safe, well ventilated area away from your home. It is not recommended to store any fuel in your home, basement or even garage.