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Different fuels?


not really sure where to ask this, or if it can be asked in this forum at all. But perhaps someone here can tell me.

What is the practical difference between diesel #1, diesel #2, red or clear diesel, kerosene, home heating oil, winter and summer blends and what is interchangeable for use in home heaters and diesel trucks and other ag equipment? I've heard some people say they can run diesel in their home heaters instead of the much more expensive kerosene with no problem (despite what the fuel sellers say) and I've heard other people say it can't be done with diesel at all because it smells so bad.

Being from southern calif I have no practical experience with any fuel other than gasoline and natural gas, but the extremely high cost of heating fuel in northern calif is killing me. What is interchangeable?

Thank you for your comments.


Active member
I've run lots of different 'fuels' and oils through my listeroid diesel generator and many of them run just fine.

Basically diesel #2 is your standard on road diesel with #1 being winter diesel which is similar to k1 but with some added lube for injector pumps. Red vs. Clear the only difference is the .42 cents road tax is not charged on the red and perhaps a bit more sulfur to lube the ip. The old diesels did smell bad, but the new ulsd (ultra low sulfur diesel) is not bad for smells.

Then there is bio-diesel which is made from vegetable oils and will burn in unmodified diesel engines, but it gells around 34f compared to #2 which gells around 0f. Bio-diesel is an excellent ip lubricant and system cleaner, so plan to change your fuel filters a couple of hundred miles after you start using it in an older vehicle.

Right now my listeroid is running on a mixture of red k1, an old barrel of clear k1 and b20 (20% biodiesel) just fine. In the past it's run on waste motor oil, waste vegetable oil, waste hydraulic oil and b100. Most of these were mixed with rug (regular unleaded gas) to thin them a bit.


Greg R

I've worked on oil heating units back in the day, so my 2cents is just 2cents so here I go.

#2 diesel and heating oil are almost the same in heat value, but engine fuel is more filtered and has additive like fdchappie says. The down side is they tend to gel around 0*f. I've had to put anti-gel in above ground tanks if we anticipated really cold winters.

#1 diesel has a higher fractionate or lighter blends (lower boiling points) that make for easier engine starting and doesn't gel like #2. It also doesn't have the heat value (btu's/lb or gallon) that #2 has so it gets used up a bit faster for a given load or output.

#2 heating oil is close to diesel fuel.

#1 heating oil is close to kerosene

kerosene originally came from cooking coal. The name came from that period and then they went to petroleum for it. It burns hotter and cleaner than diesel or heating oil, but it's expensive and lasts like #1 diesel.

In servicing the burners for central heating, we often had to match the nozzle sizing to the fuel. (we're talking a thou or 2 in orifice sizes) you checked by the flame pattern and color; then used a co tester on the flue gas to adjust the damper for complete combustion that translates into economy.

Winter/summer blends usually refers to spark ignition. Winter blended fuels have the lighter volatiles for easier starting and running in the cold. If held over into summer, they can make for hard starting because they can evaporate so quickly and contribute to vapor lock.

Summer blends have the high "boilers" or less volatiles for the hot weather and don't contribute as much to vaporization from heat. They tend to pack a slight bit more energy in btu's/lb than winter blends; maybe something you would notice on the track. If held over to winter, they make for hard starting from reduced vaporization due to the cold and can on some instances puddle in the intake manifold until the engine/manifold is at operating temp.

All this is regional as well. Distributors also factor in mean cold days or average days for a season, and altitude.

Red & clear refers to road tax. All yore fuel saving goes pffft in that dandy little fine you might get if smokey catches you on the road with red fuel your tank; except if you're driving tractors or ag equipment or construction machinery.

I've used #1 heating oil in pot burners as used in coleman space heaters which is what #1 was for. It burns nice once you get it lit and up to temp, but it is stinkier than kerosene. Kerosene is nice but spendy. Make sure the draft is up to snuff and no flue leaks; depending on how the wind blows, heating with #1 ain't too bad.
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