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What are the Pros and Cons of Paraffin Greenhouse Heaters?

Kaitlyn N. Watkins
Kaitlyn N. Watkins

A greenhouse heater may be needed during the cold winter months if freezing weather and overcast skies cause the temperatures inside the greenhouse to dip too low. One of the oldest types of auxiliary heaters is the paraffin greenhouse heater, one of the most basic heaters available on the market. While there are several benefits to using these types of heaters, such as the low cost, stable heat, and beneficial emissions, there are cons as well. It can be difficult to find fuel for them and they require ventilation. Manual control is needed to ensure the correct temperature.

Like kerosene lamps, paraffin greenhouse heaters have a wick that can be turned up or down, and they require chimneys to channel the flames. They use a crude form of petroleum which is usually fairly inexpensive to buy but can be difficult to find in stores because it is not popular. It may be necessary to shop for fuel in camping stores rather than typical home and garden centers. The fuel soaks into the wick and is burned slowly, while the heater is refilled as necessary. In addition to using an inexpensive fuel, the heaters themselves are usually inexpensive.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

This type of heater is useful for greenhouses because it does not require electricity, which can be expensive and difficult to install in an auxiliary building like a greenhouse. In small greenhouse spaces, paraffin greenhouse heaters provide an even, stable heat, though it may take more than one heater to heat a larger space. There is also no automatic shut-off or thermostat for the heater, so it has to be manually turned on and off. If left on for too long, the greenhouse may become too hot and plants can be damaged. Conversely, if the paraffin burns out, the temperatures in the greenhouse will fall, so frequent monitoring is necessary.

Plants benefit from the carbon dioxide emissions put out by paraffin greenhouse heaters, but there are also carbon monoxide emissions, which can be dangerous to plants if not properly ventilated. Like other flame-producing devices, these heaters use oxygen, which is another reason that good ventilation is needed. It is also important to take care when refilling paraffin greenhouse heaters because paraffin spills on fingers can cause burns when lighting the heater.

Discussion Comments


I think paraffin portable heaters get a bad reputation because they are often used improperly. For some reason, people seem to think they simply put the heaters in their greenhouses when the weather gets cold and not take the standard precautions you would take with any other type of heating system.

Regardless of whether you use heat, gas or paraffin heaters you need to make sure there is adequate ventilation or you are going to create a dangerous situation.


I'm considering replacing my greenhouse wood heaters, and I have heard that paraffin heaters are an inexpensive way to heat a greenhouse. I really like wood heaters, but cutting wood for them can take a good bit of time, and buying wood can get expensive.


Speaking from experience, I have to say that the paraffin greenhouse heaters are not the best option if you're going to use them for extended periods.

If you live in a climate where there may be a couple times a year when the temperatures drop overnight to a point that you need some additional emergency heat to save your plants then the paraffin heaters are fine. Otherwise, you should find another source of heat.

The article talks about some of the concerns and dangers with the heaters, such as spilling the fuel onto yourself and the release of potentially dangerous fumes. You can put up with the negatives of a paraffin heater for a short time, but you don't want to deal with them for months.

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