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The 6 Best Diesel Heaters for Camper Vans

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The 6 best diesel heaters for camper vans

Traveling in an RV throughout the colder months would be rather unbearable without a way to keep warm. While duvet covers and blankets are great options for when you’re in bed, you quite literally need to be mobile while operating a van. And no matter how well-insulated your campervan conversion may be, I can guarantee you’ll still want a diesel heater—a legit one, at that.

While several fuel sources can heat your camper, diesel heaters are often considered the best and most affordable for van life. When it comes to diesel heaters, you have two options: German-made heaters or China-made heaters.

Throughout this article, we’ll cover the differences between the two, along with the functionality and importance of diesel heaters. We’ll also run through the best diesel heater options available now. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Diesel Heaters 101: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

What is a Diesel Heater?

Diesel heater installed in camper van

Diesel heaters are very similar to the gas and propane heaters you often find on the market. The one obvious difference is that diesel heaters run on diesel fuel instead of normal gas or propane. Diesel heaters also tend to use far less fuel than other types of heaters, which can save you a chunk of change.


Why Choose a Diesel Heater for a Camper Van?

Speaking from experience, diesel fuel not only appears to burn hotter but also much longer when compared to propane. With most propane heaters, a 1-pound propane tank on high will typically run for about 5 hours of heating before the tank is empty.
Comparatively, a diesel air heater with a full tank (most being around 2.5-3 gallons) can run anywhere from 50-100 hours, depending on the heater! Further, if your camper van runs on diesel fuel, you have the ability to run your diesel heater directly to your fuel tank to supply it with fuel without the need for a separate fuel tank. 

How Do Diesel Heaters Work in a Van?

A diesel air heater works by burning diesel fuel in order to heat the air surrounding the heater, using an air-to-air exchanger.  Cold air is sucked into the heater from inside the fan, that cold air is warmed by the heater, and warm air is pumped back into the van. As the heater burns fuel, all of the fumes from the machine are pumped out of the vehicle through an exhaust tube.  

What to Look For When Buying a Diesel Heater

Upon comparing one diesel air heater to another, here are a few considerations we recommend keeping top of mind.

Heat Output

Heat output is a critical factor to consider when looking at various heaters.  Most of the heaters don’t list their BTU (British Thermal Unit), but use kW (kilowatts) instead.  Some simple math will convert the two.  Each KW equals 3,412 BTUs. Most diesel heaters produce an average of 7,000-17,000 BTU (2-5kW) per hour. That’s enough power to heat the entire area of your van or camper to a comfortable temperature within 30 minutes.   

Altitude Settings

Using diesel heaters 5,000 feet and higher above sea level can be tricky because the air is thinner, making the fuel harder to burn. Some of the more expensive diesel heaters, such as the Webasto and Eberspacher, offer altitude adjustment settings that can automatically change the mix of fuel and air. These are the best diesel heaters to buy if you camp in mountain ranges or at higher elevations.

Electricity Consumption

Different heaters draw electricity from your vehicle’s battery in order to start. The initial surge to start a diesel air heater can be quite sizable – up to 15 amps – which is something to keep in mind. They also use power to run the fuel pump and the fan; however, this is minimal (.5-1 AH on average). You can easily run this off your car battery without much worry, so long as you run your vehicle to keep your battery charged every once in a while.
If you would like to take extra precautions, you could also purchase a separate battery to run your heater.  Check out our review of the best batteries for RVs and campers here.  And if you want to learn more about how camper electrical systems work, click here.

Machine Noise

When you think of a diesel heater, you probably imagine a very loud machine. However, this isn’t the case all of the time. Although these heaters can be rather noisy, the more expensive units tend to lean more on the quieter side. If you are a very light sleeper, it may take a few nights to adjust to your heater’s noise, but overall it’s truly pretty manageable. Some people actually end up enjoying the low humming sound; it can help them fall asleep!

Fuel Efficiency

When it comes to fuel efficiency, diesel heaters are extremely efficient. Many of these heaters that run on diesel fuel can average anywhere from 50-100 hours on one tank of fuel!  This is extremely fuel efficient compared to propane heaters.

Let’s put things in perspective, and give some nerdier math.  A 20lbs bottle of propane has 430k BTUs in it and each gallon of diesel has 137k BTUs.  My RV furnace burns at 20k BTU/hr, so it would get approximately 21 hours of constant use before burning through a tank of propane.  Let’s say I have a 20k BTU/hr diesel heater (for easy math), that same 21 hours of use would take a little over 3 gallons of diesel.  A smaller van would take significantly less energy to heat up and stay warm than my RV.  So a few gallons of diesel should go a long way!


Price is one of the most important factors people often consider when purchasing anything. Diesel heaters can vary pretty widely in terms of price. The high-quality German-made heaters run around one to two thousand dollars, whereas Chinese heaters are a few hundred. Overall, we feel the savings of a Chinese heater is worth it, despite the more complicated installation and potentially louder running noise. 


Webasto or Espar heaters both come with very good warranties. These heaters can be expensive, so it’s imperative to have a warranty. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Chinese diesel heaters. These units do not come with a warranty. But at a fraction of the price, you can purchase a new one if the old one dies and still save over a thousand dollars.

Where to Install a Diesel Heater in a Van

How to install a diesel heater in a van

Where you install the heater in your van depends on both the model you’re building and your overall personal preference. That said, every van install has a few of the same requirements.
You will want to install your diesel heater near a window or vent system to exhaust the fumes. You also need the fuel tank to be outside the living space, as it must vent and you don’t want that exhaust in your van. Lastly, the heater needs to intake fresh air to burn, so it needs an intake from outside the vehicle.

Here’s a video of an example install of a diesel air heater in a van build:

German vs Chinese Diesel Heater

German diesel heaters have been on the market for a very long time. They’re made with high-quality materials and they come with features like automatic altitude adjustment and noise reduction. You will also find that German heaters have tons of positive reviews and feedback due to their long time in the market.
However, in recent years, new Chinese diesel heaters have emerged as high-quality heaters for a much lower price. The only downside people tend to point out with some Chinese heaters is that they can be a bit tricky to install. With that said, once you get a Chinese diesel air heater installed, you will never look back! The massive money savings can often be worth it.

The 6 Best Diesel Heaters for Van Life

Here are the best diesel heaters for camper vans, in (rough) order of highest quality to most affordable.

1. Webasto Air Top 2000 STC

  • Price: $1,085
  • Weight: 5.73 lbs
  • Dimensions: 12.25 x 4.78 x 4.85 in
  • Heating Power Output: 0.9-2kW
 The Webasto Air Top 2000 STC is considered the best diesel air heater on the market. This heater is the perfect combination of lightweight and small while also offering a high heating output of up to 7,000 BTU (2kW).
Although this unit does have a fairly high price tag, it is still one of the cheaper options on our list. But price certainly doesn’t mean everything because this diesel heater is still a top-quality pick for anyone!

2. Webasto Air Top EVO 40

  •  Price: $1,699
  • Weight: 13 lbs
  • Dimensions: 16.7 x 5.8 x 6.4 in
  • Heating Power Output: 4kW
The Webasto Air Top EVO 40 is another one of Webasto’s most popular diesel heaters on the market today. This unit can produce up to an astonishing 12,000-13,650 BTU of heating output. 
That said, it is also the most expensive, sitting at around $1,700. However, if you have the money to spend and want the most heating power output, then this is surely the diesel heater that you should purchase.


3. Eberspacher Espar Airtronic S2 D2 L

  • Price: $1,205
  • Weight: 16 lbs
  • Dimensions: 14.09 x 11.42 x 11.1 in
  • Heating Power Output:  0.85-2.2kW
The Eberspacher Espar Airtronic S2 D2 L is the first of the diesel heaters made by Eberspacher on our list today. This diesel heater has a total weight of 16 lbs, which will make for easy installation and carrying.
This heater also can produce a max heating output of 7,500 BTU, which is more than enough to heat your van or camper! It has a price tag of $1,205, which is pretty typical for a diesel heater of this quality. It has a silent fuel pump, which means quieter operation, automatic altitude adjustment, and real-time temperature monitoring.

4. Vevor 8kW Diesel Heater (our favorite inexpensive heater!)

  • Price: $119
  • Weight: 18 lbs
  • Dimensions: 15 x 12.6 x 11 in
  • Heating Power Output: 8kW

Next is this monster with the Vevor 8kW diesel air heater.  If you’re needing to heat up a larger RV, camper or bus, this may be your ticket at almost 24,000 BTUs.   With everything in one, this unit is easy to set up and install as well.  It only draws 40 watts to run the fuel pump and air fan, but it will definitely drink down the diesel faster than the others on our list.  And with a relatively small 5L tank, you will need to fill it a bit more often as well.  Another really good review video can be seen here.  If you prefer a more narrow, but taller version, see Vevor’s other 8kw diesel heater.  Vevor has a plethora of other-sized heaters as well.


5. MaXpeedingrod 5KW 12V Air Diesel Heater

  • Price: $150
  • Weight: 21 lbs
  • Dimensions: 15.35X 6.02X 6.34 in
  • Heating Power Output: 2-5kW
The MaXpeendingrods 5kW diesel air heater is definitely one of the best diesel heaters you can find for this price. It’s a more affordable Chinese diesel heater option that can produce up to 17,000 BTU per hour, which is the highest we have seen so far on our list. This heating output makes it an ideal option for any large camper or van.
The MaXpeedingrods heater doesn’t feature an automatic adjustment for higher altitudes. However, you can reduce the fuel pump rate using the digital controller, allowing the heater to function when you’re in your camper van up in the mountains. Overall, this is an ideal heating option for those looking to save money and stay warm!

6. Happybuy 2KW Diesel Heater

  • Price: $140
  • Weight: 13 lbs
  • Dimensions: 18.2 x 17.6 x 10.2 in
  • Heating Power Output: 2kW
The Happybuy 2kW diesel heater is one of the most popular options around. This is another affordable Chinese diesel heater option. Although this is the final diesel air heater on our list, it is still a great pick for affordable heating in your camper.
This heater can produce up to 7,000 BTU per hour which is just as much as the Webasto diesel heaters we discussed earlier. Probably the best thing about this heater is its low fuel consumption – the Happybuy will only use 0.1 – 0.3 liters of fuel per hour, so you won’t need to spend as much on diesel fuel!  For a bit more heating capability, consider the Happybuy 3kW diesel heater as well.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this insight helped you feel more confident in choosing the best diesel heater for your van. If you have questions about any of the heaters listed above or their installation processes, feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.
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