A quick puff of smoke on startup is normal. My current Reddy 50,000btu heater has done this since new, as did the other brands and sizes that I've owned and used in the past.
While a keresone torpedo heater will never be stink free, one that is out of "tune" or has poor fuel will stink more than it should. A couple tips i've learned over time:
- Use fresh, quality, clear, kerosene. If it's not clear, it will smell more. A yellowish tint is sulfur, and stinks, badly. Dye can hide the color of the sulfur, and also make it's own stink. They make kerosene additives you can add to help keep out moisture, and some of the additives are scented (though I can't really say that I've noticed the scent over the kerosene fumes...). Moisture will cause poorer combustion, and smell. I've also read that the moisture can help promote some type of algae growth if stored for years on end. I've never experienced that though, and frankly, I don't see how anything could live in it??
- Make sure the heater is maintained. Almost all of them have air filters, and they do get clogged up from time to time. I believe this throws off the mixture a bit, causing poorer combustion.
- Some heaters have adjustable air bleeds to adjust the flame. Ideally, you want the metal disc in the end to glow completely, bright red/orange, with no flame coming out of the end, except the occasional flicker of a yellow flame tip getting past the disc. If it's a flamethower, or the disc doesn't glow fairly brightly or not at all, the flame isn't right. A non-glowing disc will smell very bad. You'll need to read the instructions for your heater on how to adjust, if it's even possible. One that I had in the past went so far as to specify putting a low PSI gage on a specific port on the back of the heater, and adjust the bleed to get a specific PSI (5 or 7, I can't remember, but that was likely specific for that brand/model)
Just my $0.02