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?
Why Choose a Diesel Heater for a Camper Van?
How Do Diesel Heaters Work in a Van?
What to Look For When Buying a Diesel Heater
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
Here’s a video of an example install of a diesel air heater in a van build:
German vs Chinese Diesel Heater
The 6 Best Diesel Heaters for Van Life
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
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
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
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
6. Happybuy 2KW Diesel Heater
- Price: $140
- Weight: 13 lbs
- Dimensions: 18.2 x 17.6 x 10.2 in
- Heating Power Output: 2kW
Here are some other van life articles to help you learn more:
- How Much Does it Cost to Live in a Van?
- The 40 Best RV Destinations in America
- The 15 Best Vans for Van Life, Compared
- Affordable Camper Vans Under $25k
- Best Camper Van Awnings For Your Van Conversion
- 8 Van Life Shower Ideas to Stay Clean On the Road
- 17 Amazing Camper Van Interior Ideas for Van Build Inspiration