If you’re an avid camper, a long-haul trucker, or you’re traveling the country living the charmed van life, it’s no secret that winter can be harsh. The worst thing is to wake up in a camping trailer or campervan to find it 15 degrees inside after bundling up warmly. Idling your ride while parked will waste a lot of fuel. Additionally, most truck stops and many states have laws against excessive diesel idling.
You need a diesel air heater if you want to stay warm at night. How do you choose the best one? It depends on what you’re looking for. Let’s examine each of these diesel heaters in more detail.
What Is a Diesel Air Heater?
Diesel air heaters, or portable diesel heaters, are popular heating choices for RVs, campers, and vans.
Diesel fuel is the primary fuel used in diesel air heaters. Small and efficient, these heaters are ideal for small spaces.
A diesel air heater doesn’t produce wet heat, so it’s perfect for small spaces like campervans and RVs where condensation is a concern.
Installation is easy and these heaters are small. Diesel heaters are portable, and can be mounted on any vehicle regardless of fuel type.
Are Diesel Heaters Safe?
Compared to propane heaters, diesel heaters are generally considered to be extremely safe. They produce dry heat and emit less carbon monoxide. Dry heat is important in small spaces due to concerns with condensation.
Are Diesel Heaters Expensive To Run?
Campervans and RVs can benefit from diesel heaters due to their fuel efficiency.
You can also use your propane supply for other things like heating water or cooking if you use a diesel heater.
It only takes 0.1 to 0.6 liters of fuel per hour to run a diesel heater continuously. Due to its efficiency, the heater is inexpensive to heat depending on the current fuel prices.
How Do Diesel Heaters Work?
A combustion chamber heats a heat exchanger coil inside diesel air heaters.
It’s no surprise that diesel fuel is the fuel used in diesel heaters.
An air blower motor draws cool air in and passes it over the heated coil. Cool air is heated by the coil and blown into your vehicle, camper, or RV through the vent.
Electricity is used to drive the blower motor and pump fuel into the combustion chamber of a 12v diesel heater. If you have a decent battery or solar setup, these heaters won’t be a problem for you.
Do Diesel Heaters Need to Be Vented?
Diesel heaters must be vented. Diesel fuel combustion produces exhaust that must be vented outside of the vehicle to make heat. You might be surprised by how easy it is to install.
Several YouTube videos explain how to install a diesel heater. If cutting a hole in your RV or van to vent seems intimidating, there are plenty of instructions available.
Why Choose a Diesel Air Heater for Your Van
A diesel heater is an excellent choice for van life for two major reasons:
- Dry Heat
A propane furnace or heater releases water vapor into the air when they burn. It is called wet heat.
Water vapor forms condensation everywhere. Your mattress gets wet, your windows get wet, and your clothes get damp.
Humans and pets can be affected by mold and mildew that is produced by condensation.
You won’t have to worry about condensation or mold with diesel heaters.
- Fuel Efficiency
A diesel vehicle can also tap into its main tank for fuel, which means it will never run out of fuel. Diesel fuel is also cheap, and diesel heaters are efficient.
With a diesel heater, you don’t need to worry about running it all day while you are gone.
Comparing the Best Portable Diesel Heaters in 2022
Keeping warm with a diesel heater is convenient and efficient, but it will increase your fuel costs slightly since you will need to connect it to your vehicle’s fuel tank. To help you choose the right model for you, we’ve compared models at a range of price points.
As a well-established company, Webasto is known for making high-quality products that are reliable and well-supported. This is an expensive product, but it is well worth it. Since they are a bit cheaper for the comparable quality, I chose this heater over a similar model from German company Eberspacher.
This heater has no noise due to its quiet fuel pump and anti-vibration mounting. It also features a constant ambient temperature control that keeps the heat at a constant level. Compared to cheaper models, the Webasto pump will make much less noise.
The Eberspacher Espar Airtronic D2 weighs only 16 pounds, making it easy to carry and install.
In addition to producing 7500 BTU of heat, this heater also has a silent fuel pump, which makes it more silent while heating your van or camper. The heater costs $1,300, which is typical for a diesel heater of this quality.
The Eberspacher Espar Airtronic S2 is the second Eberspacher diesel heater on our list. As with the previous heater, it has a maximum heating output of 7500 BTU, which is more than enough to heat your camper or van.
Although this unit is slightly more expensive than the Airtronic D2, it is still an excellent choice for anyone looking for a diesel heater that meets their needs.
One of the best diesel heaters at this price is the MaXpeendingrods 5kW diesel air heater. It can produce up to 17,000 BTU per hour, which is the highest we have seen yet on our list. Because it has such a high heating output, it is a great choice for large vans or campers.
In addition to being a powerful heater that’s designed to fit all types of vehicles, the maXpeedingrods 5KW 12V Air Heater measures 15.3 inches long, 5.5 inches wide, and 5.9 inches thick. Due to its small size, it can easily be positioned in tight spaces compared to most heaters. A standard 12-volt power supply is used, and a wiring harness is also included. Therefore, any vehicle can be hardwired to it quickly.
In addition to diesel, the maXpeedingrods heater can also burn gasoline and fuel oil. With its wide operating range, it can operate down to 40 degrees below zero. The fuel will start to gel below that temperature, so you’ll need an overnight heater. 122 degrees is the maximum working temperature, which isn’t necessary at all, but if you need it for some reason, you can.
In addition to an overheating sensor, it has a fuel level sensor, which shuts off the heater automatically when the fuel runs out. This heater features a built-in overheating sensor. There should be no problem with this, for two reasons.
First, the 10-liter fuel tank is large enough for several nights of operation. Second, you’ll always know how much fuel you have left. An LCD is wired into the unit to show the current fuel level.
Aside from adjusting the temperature, this display can also perform other basic functions. The display cord is only about 18 inches long, which makes it difficult to position if the heater isn’t directly under your dashboard. You can also switch on your heater before going outside with a remote control fob.
When you’re in your camper van up in the mountains, you can use the digital controller to reduce the fuel pump rate. This will allow the heater to operate when you’re at higher altitudes.
If you’re looking to save some money while staying warm, this is a great option.
Anbull 8KW All-in-one Air Heater
Designed for larger vehicles like semi-cabs, the Anbull 8KW All-in-one Air Heater is big and robust. Aluminum is used for housing, which measures 15.3 inches high, 6 inches wide, and 16.3 inches deep. Its six-inch width allows it to fit into a lot of tight spaces despite its size.
Additionally, a bracket can be attached to your floorboard to reduce motor vibration, as well as noise. Moreover, it comes with a very easy-to-use LCD.
This heater has an overall heating capacity of 8KW, which is sufficient for applications like delivery vans, which are constantly being opened and closed. It will operate on diesel, gasoline, kerosine, fuel oil, or even cooking oil, so you don’t have to worry about losing all your heat every time you open up the back of the van. It will also be sufficient for a small cabin or hunting blind. However, like most gas heaters, it runs best on diesel or kerosine.
In a pinch, it can be used to kill bedbugs and perform other heat treatments at a temperature up to 176 degrees. The low-end temperature is the same as the last heater, at -40 degrees. However, the high heat isn’t really what it was designed for, but it’s available. There is a little bit of a shortage in the fuel tank, only five liters. This is enough for 10 to 12 hours of operation. You’ll need to refill it often. The smaller tank was probably a wise choice given the size of the unit already.
Despite being the final option on our list, this is still a good choice for affordable heating in your camper. Thanks to its cheap price, it is one of the most popular diesel heaters on the market.
Just like the Webasto diesel heaters we discussed earlier, this heater can produce 7000 BTUs per hour. The most appealing feature of this heater is its low fuel consumption – the Happybuy uses 0.1 to 0.3 liters of fuel every hour, so you don’t have to pay as much for diesel fuel.
A campervan heater is an important piece of equipment, so I wouldn’t recommend cheap brands nobody has ever heard of, because you typically get what you pay for. That said, Happybuy has TONS of options beyond diesel heaters and it’s worth checking them out.
The Happybuy heater, however, has proven reliable with many van lifers. Many avid campers and van lifers are on a budget, and this is an affordable option.
It’s a cheap Chinese version of the Webasto, but if it works, why not? However, you should be aware that the lifespan of this heater is likely to be much shorter than that of a Webasto or Eberspacher. We bought it with the assumption that it would last only 1-2 years and need to be replaced.
The budget heater comes in several versions, all offering different power options. This 5KW version works well, but there are more powerful versions available. It works fine for Sprinters or Transits. I would recommend the 2KW version if you have a smaller, Transporter-sized van.
You can adjust the heat setting on the digital control panel or via the remote control. A timer is also available. You can enjoy immediate heat right from your bed.
As well as the 10-liter tank if you prefer to keep it separate, this model includes everything you need to plug it into your van’s diesel tank. This will be considerably easier to install if the heater is run from the 10-liter tank that comes with it.
A pick-up line is provided with this kit to attach to the top of your diesel tank. However, to install the tank on our van, we had to remove it, which was not possible without ramps or an inspection pit. To tap into the diesel return line, we bought a fuel line connection T-piece. This may not be possible on every van, so some independent research is required.
There is also a silencer on this model, which makes the heater much quieter. However, the pump makes some noise when it is running.
Another pint-sized heater is the Bestauto 12V 8KW Air Heater. With its 15.5-inch long, 5.5-inch wide, and 5.9-inch thick dimensions, it fits almost anywhere. Part of this versatility is that its 9-liter fuel tank is separate, so it can be placed anywhere. Depending on the temperature, the tank can support up to 20 hours of operation. The Bestauto is designed for diesel but can handle kerosine or gasoline as well.
As with the Anbull heater, the Bestauto heater has a heating capacity of 8KW, making it ideal for large or high-traffic areas where a smaller heater might not be enough. It has a temperature range between -40 to 176 degrees, similar to the Anbull heater.
A key feature of the Bestauto heater is its simplicity. It has a separate LCD panel that can be easily attached to your dashboard or control panel. You can also turn on your heater from inside with a handheld remote. Bestauto heaters work just like any other stock parts of your car once they’re installed. There is also an 8V version available for a few dollars less.
Summary: What Is the Best Diesel Air Heater for Van Life?
Your personal preferences and budget will determine which diesel heater you ultimately choose for your camping or van life needs.
You should choose the Webasto or Eberspacher heater if you want a long-lasting, well-made heater that will last for 5 years or more. With both brands, customer service is excellent, warranties are two years or 2,000 hours, and automatic altitude adjustment is included (plus a silencer).
If you’re on a budget and only plan to keep your van for a few years, choose the Happybuy diesel heater. These less expensive diesel heaters are a great option for budget-conscious shoppers or those who cannot afford to spend over $1,000 to stay warm in the winter.