If you don’t want van life to end when it starts to get cold, you might want to get a heater!
While there are many options for heating a camper van, diesel heat is one of the best and most affordable. But which heater should you buy?
With diesel heaters, you have two options to choose from: High-quality German-made heaters or a cheap Chinese diesel heater.
We’ll talk about the differences between these two types of diesel heaters, why you might want a diesel heater instead of other heating options, and the best diesel heater available now.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- 6 Best Diesel Heaters for Van Life
- What is a Diesel Heater?
- How Does a Diesel Heater Work?
- Why Choose a Diesel Heater for a Camper Van?
- German vs Chinese Diesel Heater
- What to Look for When Buying a Diesel Heater
- Where to Install a Diesel Heater in a Van
- Final Thoughts
6 Best Diesel Heaters for Van Life
Here are the best diesel heaters for camper vans, in order of highest quality to most affordable.
1. Webasto Air Top 2000 STC
- Price: $1,200
- 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 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.
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: $2,000
- 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. This is the highest BTU of any heater currently on our list which goes to show just how amazing this heater is!
Although it is also the most expensive sitting around $2,000. However if you have the money to spend and want the most heating power output then this is surely the diesel heater that you need to purchase!
3. Eberspacher Espar Airtronic D2
- Price: $1,300
- Weight: 16 lbs
- Dimensions: 14.09 x 11.42 x 11.1 in
- Heating power output: 0.85-2.2kW
The Eberspacher Espar Airtronic D2 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 7500 BTU, which is more than enough to heat your van or camper! It has a price tag of $1,300, which is typical for a diesel heater of this quality. It also has a silent fuel pump, which means quieter operation.
4. Eberspacher Espar Airtronic S2
- Price: $1,350
- 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 is the second diesel heater that we will cover today made by Eberspacher. Much like the previous heater it has a max heating output of 7500 BTU which once again is more than enough for heating your camper or van.
However this unit does have an average price of about $1,350 which is a tiny bit more than the Airtronic D2. With that said you will find that this diesel heater is another great option for anyone looking for the perfect diesel heater!
5. MaXpeedingrod 5KW 12V Air Diesel Heater
- Price: $170
- 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 cheap chinese diesel heater 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, which will allow 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 some money and still stay warm!
6. Happybuy 2KW Diesel Heater
- Price: $150
- Weight: 13 lbs
- Dimensions: 18.2 x 17.6 x 10.2 in
- Heating output: 2kW
The Happybuy 2kW diesel heater is one of the most popular options around. This is another cheap 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 7000 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, which means you won’t need to spend as much money on diesel fuel!
What is a Diesel Heater?
A diesel heater is very similar to the gas and propane heaters that you will find on the market. The one obvious difference is that it runs off of diesel fuel instead of normal gas or propane.
Diesel heaters also tend to use less fuel compared to other types of heaters, which can save you money compared to a propane heater.
How Does a Diesel Heater Work?
A diesel air heater works by burning diesel fuel to heat the area around the heater. As the heater burns fuel to heat the area, all of the fumes from the machine are pumped out of the vehicle through an exhaust tube.
Why Choose a Diesel Heater for a Camper Van?
From my experience with using different types of heaters, diesel fuel appears to not only burn hotter but also longer. With most propane heaters, a 1-pound propane tank on high will run for about 5 hours of heating before your propane 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!
And, if your camper van runs on diesel fuel, you can run your diesel heater directly to your fuel tank to supply it with fuel without getting a separate fuel tank.
These are the reasons I always recommend using a diesel heater over propane or electric.
German vs Chinese Diesel Heater
German diesel heaters have been on the market for a very long time. They use high-quality materials and their diesel heaters come with features like automatic altitude adjustment and noise reduction. You will also find that these German heaters have tons of positive reviews and feedback due to their longer time in the market.
However, in recent years, these new Chinese diesel heaters have emerged as high quality heaters for a much cheaper price. The only downside people tend to point out with some of these 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.
What to Look for When Buying a Diesel Heater
When comparing one diesel air heater to another, here are a few things we recommend looking at:
Heating output is a very important factor to consider when looking at heaters. Most diesel heaters produce an average of 7000-17000 BTU per hour. This is enough power to heat the entire area of your van or camper to a comfortable temperature within 30 minutes.
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 plan on camping in mountain ranges or higher elevation.
Different heaters draw power from your vehicles battery 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 as long as you run your vehicle to keep your battery charged.
You could also purchase a separate battery to charge your heater if you’re worried about it. 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.
When you think of a diesel heater you probably think of a very loud machine. However, this is not the case all of the time.
Although these heaters can be a bit noisy, the more expensive units tend to be on the quieter side. If you are a very light sleeper, it may take a few nights to get used to your heater’s noise, but overall it’s not that loud.
I personally enjoy the low hum sound – it helps me fall asleep!
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, which is why these diesel heaters are the ideal heating source. But not all heaters are made equal. Some are more efficient than others.
One of the most important things when purchasing anything is price.
Diesel heaters vary pretty widely in price. The high-quality German-made heaters run one to two thousand dollars. In comparison, the Chinese heaters are just a few hundred!
Overall, I personally feel the savings of a Chinese heater is worth it despite the more complicated installation and potentially louder running noise. But it’s your choice.
The Webasto or Espar heaters both come with very good warranties. These heaters can be expensive, which is why it is important to have a warranty.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the Chinese diesel heaters. These units do not come with a warranty. But at a fraction of the price, you can just 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
Where you install the heater in your van depends on what model you’re building and personal preferance.
That said, every van install has a few of the same requirements.
You want to install it near a window or vent system to exhaust the fumes. You also need the fuel tank to be outside the living space because it needs to 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:
Hopefully you found the best diesel heater for your van! If you have questions about these heaters or the install, feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.
Here are some other van life articles to help you learn more: