Choosing the right air heater for your van or RV is important. With an investment of well over $1000 you want to get it right and there are a few things you definitely need to consider. These include brand, heater size and installation considerations, like fuel source, heater location and if you install it yourself or get it installed.
Choosing Heater Size
Having a heater that is too big is just as much of an issue as having one that is too small. With an oversized diesel heater you most likely will never turn it up high. It will spend most of its time on idle. This causes carbon build up and shortens service intervals. An undersized heater will struggle to keep you warm and will be operated on high most of the time. This is fine operationally, but it’s the most noisy setting.
At Dieselheat our experience has shown that, generally speaking, a caravan that is less than 21 foot will be fine with a 2kW heater, and longer vans up to 24 foot are well served by a 2.2kW heater. For really big vans, 5th wheelers and busses we suggest using the 4kW heater. Generally, flat floor campers, pop tops and anything with lots of canvas gets a 2.2kW because canvas loses heat more quickly.
In terms of space required for installation, a 2kW and 2.2kW heater are almost the same size and use 60mm ducting, whereas the 4kW heater is larger and uses 90mm ducting. Please see our selection of heaters for the exact size.
This is of course a guide. If you have an expanda or a pop top with lots of canvas you may need a bigger heater, as canvas loses heat easily. Environmental conditions also may have an impact on your final decision. Our sizing advice is based on the assumption that you are camping in and around typical Australian areas with temperatures mostly above freezing. If you will be spending extended periods in cold alpine areas or in desert winters where it can get well below zero, you may want to consider installing a larger heater.
There are basically 3 tiers in the diesel heater market. The top of the line brands are Eberspacher and Webasto. They are European made and are the best quality available. We sell Eberspacher heaters with complete, ready to install kits for around $2000.
In the middle tier are our Chinese made Belief air heaters. These heaters are some of the best heaters made in China. They are a quality product and backed by our 2 year warranty. We have sold thousands of these heaters for over 5 years with only a few needing service or replacing. Complete installation kits for these heaters are around $1250.
The bottom level is composed of heaters from brandless factories in China. These factories sell heaters directly online with no service, parts or backup. Their heaters are generally made of inferior parts and are generally unreliable. Additionally, they are often marketed falsely above their specifications; for example some 5kW heaters are listed as 8kW. We do not sell these heaters due to reliability problems. Read more about these cheap heaters here.
For camper trailers and caravans which don’t have a diesel fuel source you will need an ancillary tank. All of our full kit heaters include a fuel tank of your choice. Our options include wafer tanks, which can either fit behind your gas bottles on a bracket or on a front box, or the easy fit tank, which is designed to go in front or tunnel boots and is easily disconnected and taken out for filling. We also have other tank options including 10L and 20L jerry cans. Check the fuel tanks on our website for the full range. The choice of fuel tank can be very specific, depending on your layout and available space.
For diesel fuelled motorhomes and busses it is ideal is to take fuel out of the main tank. On Fiats and big busses, accessing the top of the fuel tank is quite easy as they have a removable cover. Other brands of motor homes often don’t have removable fuel tank covers, so accessing the top of the tank is more difficult. In these cases the only way to install a fuel straw may be to drop the tank out and have a mechanic do the install. We do not recommend tapping into existing vehicle fuel lines. Modern vehicles often have pressurised fuel lines which won’t work with the heater. Cutting into them may void your warranty or pose a safety risk.
Generally speaking, the heater needs to be installed under a bed or in a cupboard where it is out of the way, but has a clear space underneath it (no water tanks, chassis rails etc.) as the mounting plate will need to extend through the floor. Heaters don’t need return air ducting so space on the inlet side is not as important as the outlet side, where you will need to install at least a bit of ducting. If the heater is in a storage area we suggest using a heater cover to protect it from damage.
Other things to consider when installing is to have the outlet in a place where it can blow hot air down the length of the interior. This is to minimise ducting and will increase heater efficiency. We always suggest putting the controller where you can reach it from your bed so you can turn the heater on in the morning when it’s cold. The fuel pump should be installed under the kitchen or bathroom to minimise noise. Our kits include a silent mount kit, but the pump, located under the chassis, can still make a clicking sound during operation. All of our heaters ship with a comprehensive set of installation instructions that include advice on all important considerations. If you need additional help, just get in touch. We are always happy to help.