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How to Heat a Small Greenhouse With Kerosene

By Meg Butler ; Updated September 21, 2017
Kerosene is not a suitable heat source for large greenhouses.
greenhouse image by Serg Zastavkin from Fotolia.com

Kerosene heating is the simplest and cheapest way to heat a greenhouse. And these relatively simple and sturdy heaters will give you years of service. However, even large kerosene heaters are only suitable for small greenhouses--200 square feet and smaller. And even then, they are unlikely to do more than keep greenhouses in relatively mild winter climates frost free. Gardeners with dreams of growing subtropical plants in Minnesota winters will have to look to other, more powerful, heating sources.

Calculate the BTU's Needed

Calculate the temperature difference your plants require. To do this, take the lowest average outdoor temperature in your area and subtract the temperature you would like to maintain in your greenhouse. For example, if your greenhouse plants need 60-degree temperatures to survive and you expect this winter to fall to -10 degrees, your temperature difference is 70 degrees.

Calculate the square footage of exposed glass or plastic in your green house.

Multiply your greenhouse's square footage by the temperature difference.

Factor in the layers. If your greenhouse has 1 layer of plastic or glass, multiply the number that you got in step 3 by 1.2. If your greenhouse has 2 layers of plastic or glass, multiply that number by 0.8. The resulting number will be the minimum required BTU's per hour of the Kerosene heater you will need to purchase.

Heat Your Greenhouse

Make sure that your greenhouse has or is installed with a vent. This can be as simple as an opening in the roof or as complicated as an exhaust fan. Kerosene heaters release carbon monoxide and sulfur which needs to be released.

Install three or more thermostats at even intervals in your greenhouse to monitor the temperature.

Place a circulating fan in the greenhouse. Without it, the heat will not be uniform. Instead, warm air will rise to the ceiling and the cool air will settle around the floor. Place two fans in opposite corners of your greenhouse. Each fan should have a cubic-foot-per-minute air-moving capacity equal to one-fourth the volume of your greenhouse.

Turn on your kerosene heater. Most units come with their own thermostat control and will turn on and off on their own depending on the external temperature. Continually check the thermostats installed in your greenhouse anyway, to make sure that it is heating evenly.

Refill the kerosene heater periodically. Most fuel reservoirs last between 16 and 24 hours.


Things You Will Need

  • 2 fans
  • Vent
  • Thermostat


  • Forced air kerosene heaters with thermostat controls are the best for greenhouses.
  • Only use high-grade kerosene. It is low in sulfur and less likely to produce damaging sulfur dioxide.
  • Your kerosene heater should have a high ignition temperature to avoid carbon monoxide and ethylene buildup.

About the Author


Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.