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What type of heating is best for my campervan?

Home > Blog > What type of heating is best for my campervan?

Campervans are a great way to enjoy the outdoors whilst maintaining home comfort, but they can often lack central heating. One of the most common questions asked about campervans is what heating solutions are available and which one is best.  

Regarding campervan heating alternatives, there are generally three primary contenders: diesel, wood, and gas. Other heating methods, such as a portable heater are still an option, these three choices are the most beneficial for campervan installation. 

Determining the optimal campervan heating option for your needs is based on several main factors including: 

  • Campervan size
  • Fuel availability 
  • Installation costs
  • Maintenance expenses
  • Fuel costs

Diesel heating systems 

Diesel heaters use the vehicle’s primary diesel tank, in conjunction with power from the leisure battery or an electric source to operate. Diesel heating systems are a popular choice in larger vehicles, offering integrated solutions for both hot air and hot water, which is a key feature for year-round campers seeking a warm shower. 

A typical diesel heater consumes approximately 0.1 litres of diesel per hour, it is also essential to note that fuel consumption occurs only during the combustion process. 

The controls and fans of a diesel heating system require 12-volt electricity. Power consumption varies depending on the required heating capacity and the heater model, typically ranging from 10 to 50 watts. Typically the manual of the heater will specify the minimum wattage required for proper heating operation. 

Most diesel heaters, along with gas heaters, employ a heat exchanger to warm the air. This heated air is then circulated throughout the vehicle using a 12-volt fan. Both combustion air and exhaust gases are sourced directly from the exterior, ensuring that no harmful fumes enter the vehicle. Safety precautions should always be followed during installation. 

Advantages of Diesel Heating in Campervans:

  • Diesel heaters are highly dependable.
  • Work well in low temperatures.
  • Accurate internal fuel gauges reduce the risk of running out of fuel.
  • Replacement fuel is easily found abroad.
  • They have relatively low operating costs, covering both electricity and fuel requirements.
  • Many can be installed externally, preserving interior space.
  • Achieves quick heating of the van when matched to the vehicle’s size. Thermostatic controls enable temperature regulation.

Cons of Diesel Heating in Campervans:

  • The heating system can be noisy, potentially disturbing neighbouring campers.
  • Older or poorly maintained units can emit fumes.
  • Diesel heaters typically consume more electricity than gas heaters, which can be mitigated with solar panels.
  • Diesel heaters, such as Webasto models, can be costly, ranging from £800 to £2000 based on the KW output.
  • Alternative models, while gaining popularity, may come with challenges if purchased from abroad, including language barriers in understanding instructions.
  • Reconditioned units are available for around £450 but require regular servicing and maintenance.

Wood Burning Stove in A Campervan

Log burners offer the ultimate cosy feelings in a setting, so why should a campervan be an exception? However, with any heating system, it is vital to adhere to relevant regulations. We always recommend speaking to a qualified installer before taking on a DIY installation. 

One of the main advantages of wood burners is their sheet simplicity: fire, and savour the warmth. Once installed, they require minimal maintenance, mainly involving keeping them clean and free of ash. They unquestionably offer the cosiest and most atmospheric heating option and can even double as a cooking source.

It’s imperative, from a legal standpoint, to keep flammable materials away from the stove. Wood and hardboard should be safely stored, a task that can be stylishly integrated into the van’s main body. If your van’s ceiling contains wood, you might need to explore the option of a twin-walled flue — extensive research is warranted before puncturing the roof!

Pros of Wood Burner Heating in Campervans:

  • Typically, a 2kW unit costs between £100 and £300.
  • Wood can be sourced inexpensively or purchased by the crate from online retailers.
  • Wood burners operate quietly.
  • They provide unparalleled warmth and ambience.
  • Wood burners have no electrical components that could malfunction.
  • Ideal for drying clothes and boots.

Cons of Wood Burner Heating in Campervans:

  • Inexperienced users may experience smoke-related issues.
  • Finding space for kindling and wood can be a challenge.
  • Some insurers may not cover fire damage caused by a solid fuel heater; confirm this with your provider.
  • A few campsites may prohibit the use of wood burners.
  • Smaller units may require more frequent refuelling, potentially going out overnight.
  • A larger unit might produce excessive heat for the van’s size, necessitating uncomfortable adjustments in colder months.
  • Meeting safety regulations can be complex.
  • Starting and maintaining a fire can be an art form, leading to smoky nights and odorous clothing during the learning process.

For long-term investment value, consider purchasing a high-efficiency stove. Cleaner combustion leads to fewer particulate emissions, increasing your likelihood of compliance with potential future regulations.

It’s worth noting that not every wood burner needs to be store-bought; some resourceful individuals have crafted their own from reclaimed items, such as a gas cylinder and a garden fork.

Gas Heating in Campervans

Campervan gas heaters operate by blowing warm air through the van through dedicated vents. Whilst they may lack a rustic feel like a wood burner, their practicality and efficiency have made them a popular choice. 

This heating option is fueled by gas canisters or a tank, which can be mounted either internally or externally. The choice between the two depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Many of these heaters feature thermostatic controls, maintaining a consistent temperature and reigniting as needed. This automated function proves invaluable during chilly nights, ensuring you wake up to a cosy environment rather than an icy one.

The cost of implementing this type of heating system can vary considerably, depending on whether you opt for an underslung LPG Auto tank or an internal Butane bottle. The former, complete with a filling point, regulator, and level indicator, may cost you between £500 and £1000. An appealing aspect of this option is that it doesn’t encroach on precious interior space. Moreover, the refill points, universally compatible throughout the EU and the UK, typically offer more cost-effective gas per litre compared to bottled gas. On the other hand, an internal cylinder is a more budget-friendly installation choice, but you might need to adapt the connector when travelling abroad. For those embarking on cold-weather journeys, internal cylinders might deplete faster, but carrying a spare may not always be practical.

Regarding the heaters themselves, costs can vary significantly. Propex gas heaters, particularly the HS2000 model, are among the most popular choices. However, they do come with a brand name price tag, typically priced around £480.

Advantages of Gas Heating in Campervans:

  • Cost-Effective Operation
  • Convenient Fuel Refilling (When Using Auto-Gas)
  • Precise Temperature Control via Thermostat
  • Affordable Fuel Source (Generally)
  • Capability to Operate Overnight
  • Swift Heating to Desired Temperature
  • Suitable for Extremely Cold Conditions (Propane Gas)

Drawbacks of Gas Heating in Campervans:

  • Potential Interior Noise from the Fan (Can Be Mitigated with Sound-Muffling Ducting)
  • Inadequate Ventilation Planning: Insufficient ventilation for the van’s cubic meter space when it’s empty (without units or appliances) may necessitate retroactive ventilation installation.
  • Cost Considerations: Acquiring an underslung unit can be costly, and cheaper internal tanks typically have limited capacity.

So which one is best?

The choice of which campervan heating system is best will mainly depend on individual preferences, persuaded by research and specific circumstances. 

At Nomadic Leisure, we have a variety of heating and cooling products designed for motorhomes, caravans and boats. All products are available to purchase online today. We stock a range of Truma and Propex products. Truma’s next-level technology will make sure your motorhome stays at the right temperature through all climatic conditions. View our range today!

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