Kerosene and Paraffin: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve been looking for heating oil, you might have heard the terms kerosene and paraffin. Although very similar products, kerosene and paraffin work well in different applications, so keeping these distinctions in mind will help you fully understand which fuel is right for you.

We look at the meaning of both fuels and their differences, including which is best to heat your home.

Is kerosene the same as paraffin?

While there is a crossover between the terms ‘kerosene’ and ‘paraffin’, the latter has a much broader meaning and range of applications as discussed below.

Although there are some differences between the fuels, the name can simply differ depending on where you’re located. The term kerosene is common in Argentina, Canada, India, Australia, America and New Zealand, while the term paraffin is common in the UK, Chile, South and East Africa and Norway.

What is kerosene?

Kerosene is a combustible hydrocarbon liquid and its name derives from Greek κηρός which means wax. Historically, the heating oil was made from shale oils and coal tar but after the drilling of the first oil well, petroleum soon became the main source.

If your home is located off the grid, kerosene (heating oil or 28-second oil) is more advisable for home heating oil. It’s a light, efficient and clean fuel and is widely used across the UK. With a high flash point, it’s an extremely safe choice for domestic heating.

Kerosene is also commonly used for aviation fuel to power jet engines and rocket engines as well as for cooking and lighting fuels such as fire toys.

What is paraffin?

This is where things get a little complicated. Paraffin is used in many different forms, including:

  • the liquid fuel (kerosene)
  • paraffin wax to form crayons and candles
  • lubricants for machinery
  • coolant for electrical systems and petroleum jelly
  • hydraulic fluids

Liquid paraffin is more viscous and highly refined and can be used as a laxative, whereas paraffin wax is a waxy solid.

Generally, paraffin is used to describe a group of hydrocarbons that have the chemical formula CnH2n+2. They are key elements of petroleum and natural gas. Those with less than five carbon atoms per molecule tend to be gases at room temperature, whereas those with between 5 and 15 carbon atoms are usually liquids. Straight-chain versions with over 15 carbon atoms per molecule transpire as solids at room temperature.

Can I use paraffin instead of kerosene?

In the UK, people often use the term paraffin to refer to kerosene so it’s likely that you’ll get the same product, whatever you call it. The important thing to remember is that whether a supplier refers to it as kerosene or paraffin, you can use it regardless in your heating system.

There are some instances, however, when paraffin is used to refer to a more refined and distilled version of kerosene for use in stoves and lamp. This makes it more suitable for use indoors and additives are usually added to reduce the odour and produce less soot when burnt.

So there we have it! In terms of heating oil, the likelihood is that if you hear an oil supplier referring to kerosene or paraffin, they are both referring to the same fuel.

To learn more or to simply purchase kerosene (or paraffin) give our kerosene experts call today on %tel%. From 205-litre barrels to 36,000 litres and more, we can deliver across the UK within 24-48 hours of placing an order.

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