When it comes to van life, so many gadgets and accessories can take your experience to the next level. Today, I’ll share my knowledge and experience with one of our most essential pieces of equipment that have kept me warm and toasty during my countless journeys across the UK and Europe – the diesel heater.
For those of you who may be new to the motorhome and campervan world, I’ve been travelling and living full time in my motorhome for a few years now. I’ve weathered the storms, endured the bitter cold, and even enjoyed some of the most breathtaking sunrises you can imagine, all from the cosy confines of my trusty motorhome.
Over the years, I’ve tried and tested an array of heating solutions, but nothing quite compares to a camper diesel heater’s efficiency, reliability, price and simplicity.
In this post, I’ll delve deep into the world of diesel heaters for motorhomes and campervans, sharing my first-hand experiences and expert advice to ensure you make the right choice for your home on wheels.
From selecting the perfect heater to understanding the requirements for installation and maintenance, I’ve got you covered. So grab a warm cup of tea or coffee and join me as we explore the ins and outs of diesel heaters – the ultimate solution for a comfortable and cosy motorhome or campervan experience.
What is a motorhome Diesel Heater?
As a motorhome enthusiast with a few years of experience, I can’t emphasise enough the importance of having a reliable heating system while exploring the open road.
Trust me when I say, a good camper van diesel heater can make all the difference in the world, especially when you’re up against the chilliest weather.
Let me give you the inside scoop on what a motorhome diesel heater is all about. This little marvel is a fuel-efficient, compact, and powerful heating solution designed to keep your motorhome or campervan toasty warm in even the coldest conditions. The secret to its success lies in using diesel fuel as its primary energy source, ensuring consistent and comfortable warmth throughout your living space.
The magic happens when the diesel heater draws fuel from your vehicle’s tank and mixes it with air from the surrounding environment. This combustible blend is ignited within a combustion chamber, producing heat. That heat is then transferred to the air, which is blown into your motorhome or campervan through a series of ducts or a single outlet.
And don’t worry about safety – the exhaust gases containing combustion by-products are expelled safely outside the vehicle.
One of the most impressive things about these heaters, which I’ve come to appreciate over the years, is their remarkable fuel efficiency. They consume only a tiny amount of diesel, making them a cost-effective choice for long trips or living winter van life.
Their low noise levels, low emissions, and rapid heating capabilities have made them a go-to choice for motorhome and campervan owners like myself.
Why Do You Need to Use a Diesel Heater on a motorhome?
A diesel heater is a great way to keep your Campervan, Motorhome or Caravan warm during the day and at night. Diesel heaters have many great features, they are very reliable because they require less maintenance than electric heaters, but they can be more expensive to operate.
A diesel heater is useful for motorhomes and campervans when doing van life full time, including the winter months, as you are likely to experience below-freezing temperatures. A diesel heater is better than other types of heaters because of the following:
- Less Fuel Consumption: diesel heaters are economical due to their design and slow fuel consumption rate.
- Easy Temperature Control: Most diesel heaters are equipped with processors, including fans, to ensure sufficient control over the temperature.
- You can use the diesel from the main van supply if plumbed in, meaning you don’t have to carry an extra fuel supply
- Use less electricity compared to big heating systems.
Are campervan diesel heaters safe?
Diesel heaters are safe to use in a campervan, motorhome or caravan if used under the right conditions. They should be placed away from any fabrics, especially curtains or carpets, and outside of the reach of children. The best location for a diesel heater is in the back of your vehicle where there is plenty of space available.
Downsides of using diesel heaters:
Diesel Heaters can be a little noisier compared to other heating systems. If you invest in a good silencer, it does help reduce the sound even more.
You can sometimes get a smell of diesel fumes, and they require regular maintenance to ensure this is kept to a minimum. Additionally, diesel fuel is often more expensive than other types of fuels so running them is sometimes not the most economical option.
How Does a Diesel Heater Work in a Motorhome or campervan?
Cooler air inside the motorhome cabin is pulled in with an external inlet pipe. This is located on the floor. This first air intake is key for the combustion process, as it’s transferred to the combustion chamber, mixing with the diesel and igniting, which heats up the surface of the thermal exchanger. This creates the heat necessary, which is then circulated through the room.
Depending on the space you are trying to heat, the max heat output will change. For a small caravan, motorhome or campervan then, we recommend a 2kw, most people will go for a 5kw, we believe this will be efficient enough for most options.
Plumbed or not
As I mentioned above, you can either connect your diesel heater directly to your main diesel tank, or you can have a separate fuel tank. This is subject to personal preference and ease of installation. Connecting directly to the main tank is a much more efficient way due to low cost, space-saving and ease of filling up.
If you are planning on using your diesel heater at altitude, then you will need to bear in mind that a budget diesel heater will struggle at around 3000 Meters, unlike some of the top-end models which are built with altitude in mind, so this is something to think about.
Dependability & Reliability
If your diesel heater is your only source of heating, then having something you can rely on is crucial. The cheaper Chinese diesel heaters offer great prices and do a fantastic job, but they are not always known to be the most reliable.
A more expensive model will come with a manufacturer’s guarantee and could be a better choice in the long run.
Some diesel heaters are noisier than others. I have tested a few and found the more expensive ones come with a better-grade silencer and filter, and some of the cheaper ones don’t come with a silencer at all.
The noise can make a difference depending on where the heater is located. If it is installed under the bed and you are going to be using it as your camper van night heater, you will want it to be quieter, so the noise may be more of an issue.
Most things that run on diesel require regular maintenance as it’s quite a dirty fuel, and they can suffer from a carbon build-up.
You should always follow the regularly maintained information provided by the manufacturer and also ensure it’s given a small run once or twice a month, even during the summer, just to avoid any build-up.
What Are the Top 3 Motorhome Diesel Heaters?
|Feature/Specification||TriClicks Air 12V 5KW Diesel Air Heater||12V 5KW LCD Monitor Air Diesel Heater|
|Weight||6.82 kg||Not specified (Manual measurement might result in a deviation of 1-3 cm)|
|Warranty||Not specified||Not specified|
|Manufacturer||Not specified||Not specified|
|Fuel Efficiency||Low fuel consumption||Low emissions and fuel consumption|
|Operating Temperature Range||-40℃ to +50℃||-40℃ to +50℃|
|Remote Control||Yes (Allows operation from a distance and utilization of pre-heating features)||Yes (Allows adjustment of oil volume, temperature, and wind speed)|
|Display||Dynamic LED display||Dynamic LCD display|
|Dimensions||389mm x 145mm x 145mm||Not specified|
|Additional Features||– Suitable for vehicle and indoor use<br>- Quick defrosting and warming of interior space||– Suitable for a wide range of vehicles including trucks, boats, car trailers, and motorhomes<br>- Features an optimized frequency conversion ECU<br>- Reduced noise|
can you put red diesel in a campervan diesel heater?
Yes, red diesel can be used in a campervan diesel heater as long as it is appropriate for the heater model that you have. As the diesel isn’t being used for driving, it can be used for heating.
It is essential to check with your manufacturer to ensure the fuel type is compatible before making any changes. Additionally, follow all safety instructions when using red diesel in your heater to avoid any accidents or issues.
Are diesel heaters hard to fit?
There are two types of diesel heater installation; you can plumb it into your existing fuel tank or connect it to a separate fuel tank.
Diesel heaters plumbed in are a bit more challenging to fit and may require you to hire a technician to fit it. A diesel heater’s installation process could take up to an hour or two and requires that you have at least one electrical outlet available suitable for use with this type of device.
A non-plumbed-in heater requires extra space for a separate fuel tank. Whilst these are more common due to them being easier to install, I would also advise seeing a professional when dealing with fuel and carbon monoxide.
Both options will still require running fuel lines to and from the heater, ensuring it’s free from any rough surfaces and anything that could harm the cable.
You will note you will also need to drill an exhaust for the outlet and inlet. The outlet is very important as you don’t want any carbon monoxide to get the van into the campervan.
How much fuel does a diesel heater use?
A campervan diesel heater uses fuel efficiently to heat your vehicle. Depending on the size of the unit and heater, it can use up to approx 0.25 litres of diesel per hour when running at full capacity.
How much power does a diesel heater use?
A campervan diesel heater uses a nominal input power of approx 10 – 15 watts per hour, which is very energy efficient. The amount of power required varies depending on the size and output capacity of the heater.
What size fuse for Chinese diesel heater
The size of length of the fuse you will need to install in your campervan diesel heater depends on the model and the size of the heater itself. Generally, a 3 Amp fuse should be sufficient for most campervan heaters. However, it is best to consult with the manufacturer for the exact size.
Are diesel heaters noisy?
Campervan diesel heaters are typically very quiet when they are running. However, there may be a slight humming noise coming from the fan inside the heater, which you can usually hear. There will be a slight ticking noise too which is perfectly normal and should not be cause for concern.
Can I use kerosene in a campervan diesel heater?
Generally, it is not recommended to use kerosene in a campervan diesel heater. Kerosene has a higher flash point than diesel, meaning that it can ignite more easily. This could potentially be dangerous when used in an enclosed space like a campervan. It is best to stick with the fuel that was recommended by the manufacturer of the heater for optimal safety and performance.
Can you leave a diesel heater running all night?
Generally, it is not recommended to leave a campervan diesel heater running for long periods of time. If the heater runs for too long, it could put an excessive strain on the engine and potentially cause it to overheat. It is best to keep an eye on the temperature gauge when you are running your heater and shut it off if necessary to avoid any unnecessary damage.
Do diesel heaters smell
Diesel heaters do emit an odour, but this should not be too prominent in most cases. The odour comes from fuel burning, which is necessary to provide enough for the heater to generate heat. Additionally, modern diesel heaters are designed to minimise emissions and odours, so the smell should not be too strong or unpleasant.
Do diesel heaters produce carbon monoxide?
Yes, diesel heaters can produce carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that really can pose serious health risks if inhaled in large amounts. Therefore, it really is important to ensure that your heater is installed correctly and that the area you are using it in is well-ventilated. You should always have a CO2 alarm in your campervan to alert you of any issues.
How long will a diesel heater run on a gallon of diesel?
The runtime of a diesel heater on a gallon of diesel depends on the heater’s fuel consumption rate, which can vary by model and manufacturer. Generally, diesel heaters consume fuel at a rate of 0.1 to 0.5 litres (0.03 to 0.13 gallons) per hour.
Assuming a consumption rate of 0.1 to 0.5 litres per hour, a diesel heater would run for the following durations on a single gallon (3.785 liters) of diesel:
- At 0.1 litres per hour: 3.785 liters / 0.1 liters per hour = 37.85 hours
- At 0.5 litres per hour: 3.785 liters / 0.5 liters per hour = 7.57 hours
So, on a gallon of diesel, a diesel heater could run anywhere between approximately 7.5 and 38 hours, depending on its fuel consumption rate. To get a more accurate estimate, check the manufacturer’s specifications for the specific model of diesel heater you have or are considering purchasing.
Finally, motorhome and campervan heaters are a necessary part of comfortable living for a full-time van life, making cold winter much easier to bear and quickly creating a homey, warm atmosphere in your motorhome cabin. Being small, portable and easy to install, these heaters make a great addition to any motorhome or campervan. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions at all.
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I love everything about travel, from seeing new places, learning about new cultures and trying new foods! I believe that travel is one of the best forms of education you can get, I have learnt so much about myself and about the world from travelling all over. Travel is something I feel so passionately about, and I love the fact that we are now lucky enough to have this opportunity to do what we love as much as we can, it’s a dream come true.
Before we started travelling, I worked in local government in administration. I had been in this job for several years and had reached a complete brick wall where I was so fed up, but didn’t know what else to do. The only thing I knew that I wanted to do was to travel, and had wanted to do that for many years.
There were hundreds and hundreds of places on my wishlist that I wanted to go to, and I knew that going on a weeks holiday maybe twice a year if we were lucky wasn’t going to cut it.
After being in lockdown due to the Covid pandemic, and working from home staring at the same 4 walls every day, 2021 seemed like the perfect time for us to take the risk to finally do what we had dreamed of for so long.
It was a hard decision to completely change our lives, but so far it has been the best decision we have ever made!