If you’re living in a van full time or part time and plan on visiting cold climates, either high altitude or high latitude, then it is vital that you have a way of heating your van up.
If not you run the risk of catching frost bite or hyperthermia!
Ok, ok, I know that that’s a bit dramatic, but at the very least you'll be extremely miserable if you get caught stuck out in the snow and cold with no backup to heat your home on wheels.
Its always the best option to have a backup plan even if you don’t count on going anywhere cold.
And in our opinion diesel heaters are the best way to heat up your vans. They are fast, take up little space, and if you have a diesel van then they run on the same fuel that your van runs on so it will be unlikely that you ever run out of fuel. They are also extremely energy efficient, they usually require 0.1 liters of fuel per hour and have low power consumption, and they have amazing heat output.
What is the best quality diesel heater?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best quality diesel heater for your van conversion will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
However, some of the factors you may want to consider when choosing a diesel heater include its size, diesel fuel efficiency, and how quickly it can heat up your van. Additionally, you may want to choose a diesel heater with a built-in thermostat to help regulate the temperature inside your van.
What is the difference between the Chinese diesel heater and their German counterparts?
Well, the most obvious difference is the price tag!
Webasto’s prices range from £700 for the compact heater model and cheaper models, all the way up to over £1700 for their top model.
Espar’s price for its Airtronic D2 is £1325
And for the Chinese diesel heater the price is only £80 - £100
You're probably wondering how is it that they can cost so little when they work the same as their German forefathers?
Well everything comes at a price and in this case it’s quality, but just how different is the quality between them and is it worth all that money?
When it comes heating in general let alone heating in a van there will always be some inherent risks that you want to try your best to avoid as much as possible. Here’s a list of how you can maximize your safety when it comes to heating your van:
- Always follow the manufacturers guides for safe installation and safety measures. If you don’t feel comfortable installing it then get a professional to do it for you.
- Keep the heater well away from anything flammable to avoid fire hazards
- Avoid blocking any intake or exhaust vents
- Make sure you cant easily knock the on/off switch by accident. A good place to put it is somewhere high so you can’t easily knock it.
- Always include these safety features incase of a fluke accident!
- Fire extinguisher
- carbon monoxide detector
- fire alarm
It goes with out saying that when you are buying the Webasto or Espar heaters they come fully fitted with top of the range safety precautions and are made out of high end materials. There is no doubt in my mind that these two heaters are unsafe for use in a van when you follow the above safety precautions.
How safe are these Chinese diesel heaters?
Short answer: Not as safe as the Webasto or Espar models.
Long answer: It varies depending on which supplier you buy from. Chinese diesel heaters have had a lot of hate for being extremely unsafe with reports of some of them even having the heat exchanger burn through its thin metal case to the heated air outlet allowing exhaust fumes to escape.
Not only is this a fire risk, but it also means carbon monoxide could enter the living space of the caravan. (which is why it is always important to add a carbon monoxide alarm in your van).
It is also important to note that the 2Kw Chinese diesel heaters advertised on amazon may actually be 5Kw models that can be turned down to 2Kw.
This is important to note because carbon deposits are reported to occur in high power 5kW units bought for use in too-small spaces. This means they’re so effective at heating they’re never run on high power which causes the combustion chamber to choke up with excessive carbon deposits. Another Fire hazard.
To avoid these safety concerns you should do these things:
Always ask the seller if the diesel heater includes the following safety features
- Under / Over voltage cut-off
- Overheat temperature sensor (in case of a blocked vent)
- Heater lockout after three failed start-up attempts
- In case of an error or fault code, the pump will shut off preventing the burner chamber flooding with fuel.
- Don’t buy from amazon or eBay. These are usually products that have been dropped shipped from suppliers in china. The people who are selling these products won’t be able to offer you new replacement parts, they can only offer refunds.
- Instead, buy directly from the seller in China. Not only will it be cheaper but you will be able to ask them all of the above safety questions and if their diesel heater doesn’t have these safety features find a different seller who does have a diesel heater that includes those safety measures.
- Get a warranty! these cheaper heaters are a lot more likely to break so find a seller who offers a warranty and save yourself some money in the future!
- direct the waste fumes towards the back of the van and outside if you have fitted the heater internally
You can find these sellers on Alibaba, a lot of them only offer to sell to you if you are going to buy multiple heaters however if you ask for a sample then you will be able to still get a good quality diesel heater for a very good price.
The Chinese diesel heaters are rumored to be a lot louder than the Webasto or Espar models. Especially when the diesel tank is bellow the heater, which if you have a diesel van then it most likely will be.
Unfortunately even though the Chinese diesel heaters are a lot louder you won't find a silent fuel pump on the Webasto or Espar models either, they still make a bit of a noise.
This is because they tend to be fitted with cheaper pumps that are extremely loud.
To help solve this noisy problem you can look at the specifications of the heater itself and see what pump is fitted to make sure you can check how loud it is before you buy, or you could switch the pump out once you have bought it, for a more expensive, quieter one.
I have seen a few people who have written about this on Facebook groups but I do not endorse it as it could damage the safety features of the heaters.
When it comes to diesel heaters and altitude they don’t mix very well.
Air diesel heaters are basically air heaters. A heat exchanger coil is heated inside a combustion chamber. The heater draws in fresh cool air, passes it over the heated coil and blows out warmed air into your camper.
For the diesel to combust inside the combustion chamber you need oxygen otherwise nothing will happen. And that’s the problem with diesel heaters and high altitude. The higher up you go the less oxygen there is. Anything above 5-6000 and you’re going to see big problems with your Chinese diesel heater.
The high end models from Webasto and Espar have high altitude kits at additional costs. So if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the mountains then it might be a worthwhile investment to get a Webasto or Espar heater instead.
Where can you fit your diesel heater
Most people install them under the driver or passenger seats in the crew cabins, but they can also be installed in other places inside the van. You just need to make sure there is enough ventilation. The heater needs to be able to take in fresh air, and also needs a way to get rid of the fumes.
If you're going to install it under one of the seats, then you'll need to make sure that the seat is on a rail so that it can be moved easily. This is because you'll need to be able to access the heater for maintenance.
If you're installing it in another location, then you'll need to make sure that there is enough ventilation. The most important thing is that the fumes have a way to escape. You don't want them building up inside your van.
You also need to think about where you're going to put the fuel tank. This is usually mounted underneath the van, but it can also be mounted in the back.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind when you're choosing a diesel heater for your campervan. First, you need to make sure that it's safe. Look for features like automatic shut-off and tip-over protection. Second, you need to find a model that is designed for high altitudes if you're going to be spending time in the mountains. Third, think about where you're going to install the heater and make sure there is enough ventilation. Finally, get a warranty if you can. These heaters are a lot cheaper than the premium models from Webasto and Espar, but they're also more likely to break. By getting a warranty, you can protect yourself from expensive repairs.
I believe that Chinese diesel heaters are definitely worth getting if you are building a van on a budget they can be great little things that will give you a lot more pleasure than heart ache and are easy and cheap to replace if they brake making them the most cost effective option.
If you have a larger budget and want something that is going to last a life time then definitely get an Espar or Webasto. They are amazing pieces of equipment, extremely efficient and worth the price if you have the budget to spare.
I would also consider getting a Webasto or Espar instead of a Chinese diesel heater if you know for a fact that you’re going to be spending a lot of time in mountains and high altitude climates.
My last piece of advice is repeating what I mentioned earlier. If you do get a Chinese heater, buy from the supplier!
I cant stress this enough! it will give you the freedom of going over every little specification and you will be able to get replacement parts sent to you and a warranty if anything does go wrong.