Campervan heaters for cold nights – the five best options# Camping
If the summer’s over or you’re heading for colder climes, you’ll soon feel the chill creeping into your campervan. If you were at home, you’d probably just turn up the heating – problem solved. Depending on what equipment you have, staying warm in your campervan could be a little trickier, as not every motorhome has a heater. Self-build campervan conversions are increasingly popular but they often have no built-in heating system. As with most of life’s challenges, inventive minds have come up with some great solutions for keeping your campervan cosy and warm in winter.
From fuel heaters to classic wood burning stoves or DIY alternatives, we’ll take a look at the most popular solutions and help you find the best heating system for your campervan.
Upgrading your campervan – installing a heater
Not every campervan comes with a good heating system. Smaller camper conversions often don’t have heaters due to a lack of space. But even if your campervan does have a heating system, it may not be sufficient for your needs. There are many different heating options for campervans: Anything is possible, even installing a wood burning stove is more viable than you might expect.
Installing a heater in your campervan – no problem!
In general, installing a heater in your campervan should not present a problem. You can also replace and upgrade an existing heater with a more efficient model that better suits your needs. If you’re wondering what type of heater would be best for your campervan, read on! You’ll find answers in the next section.
What kind of campervan heater is best for me?
When you’re trying to find the best heating system for you, it’s important to consider the different fuel options. For example, if you’re thinking of installing a diesel-fuelled heater, it’s an advantage if your campervan also has a diesel engine, as this means you won’t need to install an extra diesel tank. In the same way, electric heating is only suitable if you have regular access to a mains power supply as a small vehicle battery will not be enough to power an electric heater.
There are five main types of campervan heaters and these are powered in different ways:
- Gas heaters
- Petrol Heaters
- Diesel heaters
- Electric heaters
- Small wood burning heaters
1. Gas campervan heaters
If you want to heat your motorhome independently, fitting a gas-powered campervan heater is a great solution. Why is this a good choice? Well, you may well already have gas-powered appliances in your campervan, such as a gas stove. So the advantage of a gas heater is that you already have the fuel in your campervan, which means you save the trouble of installing a new energy source. There is however, one significant disadvantage: campervans with gas heaters have to comply with many more safety regulations and requirements than those with other heating systems.
It’s also important to note that not all gas heaters are suitable for use in enclosed spaces due to safety issues. So make sure you check this carefully before you buy a heater. It’s essential to ensure that the heater is correctly installed so that no gas escapes and that fumes do not present a risk. You should also make sure you install a carbon monoxide detector in your campervan. We generally recommend getting any motorhome heating system installed by a professional as this can be tricky and hazardous.
2. Petrol campervan heaters
If a gas heater is not an option for your motorhome, there are lots of other alternatives, including petrol heaters. This type of heater makes sense if your campervan has a petrol engine because the heater can be connected to the petrol tank.
So how does it work? A burner powered by petrol heats up the heat exchanger and the warm air is circulated around the vehicle by a fan. A major advantage of heating your campervan this way is the wide availability of petrol wherever you are in the world. Every time you refuel your campervan at a petrol station, you are also refuelling your heater. This is not only straightforward, it also saves you additional costs for gas. A campervan heater’s petrol consumption is relatively low – between 0.07 and 0.09 gallons per hour. However, you should also consider the environmental aspect. Just like driving a vehicle, using a petrol heater causes emissions, so this is not the greenest option.
3. Diesel campervan heaters
The only difference between diesel and petrol campervan heaters is the fuel used to power them, so the same pros and cons apply. In addition, there is the problem of low emissions zones and various other restrictions on diesel vehicles across Europe. We don’t want to bore you with politics here, but it makes sense to consider current developments when investing in a heating system.
Although diesel heaters cost much more than gas heaters, it is also worth remembering that there are more than 100 different types of connection valves for gas cylinders in Europe alone! So refilling gas canisters from the UK in other countries could present a challenge and, in the worst case scenario, could lead to some very cold nights.
4. Electric campervan heaters
Electric heaters are one of the most eco-friendly campervan heating options. This is the only completely emission-free heating method as it produces no CO2. We see this as a clear advantage and a good reason to opt for an electric campervan heater, even though electricity is usually more expensive than gas, petrol or diesel. Unfortunately, suitable electric heaters only run on 230 volts mains power and are not particularly energy efficient. Even if you have a compatible built-in inverter in your campervan, the energy required would be too great to power the heating on your batteries for any length of time. So electric heating for your campervan is only the right choice if you always stay at campsites where you can connect your camper to the mains supply.
Electric campervan heaters don’t take long to start up and provide an instant source of heat. To take full advantage of this, we recommend installing an electric heater with a fan to ensure that the heat generated is quickly circulated around your campervan.
5. Wood burning heaters
Wood burning stoves may be the latest trend in campervan heaters, but they are also the oldest and most traditional heating method. Your campervan probably doesn’t have a built-in fireplace and it’s unlikely that you have a lot of space to spare. So you’ll need a wood burning stove that is small enough for a campervan. There are several reasonably priced wood burning heaters available in the UK, which are suitable for motorhomes.
Once you’ve bought and installed your wood burner, Mother Nature can supply cheap, sustainable fuel, which can be found everywhere. If you have an axe on board, you can save money on firewood and will soon make up for the initial investment of installing a stove.
As with other fuel heaters, safety is crucial when it comes to installing and using a wood burner. If the air supply is insufficient or the chimney is too small, using a wood burner in a campervan could be deadly. What’s more, there needs to be a minimum distance between the stove and other objects in your campervan to prevent the radiating heat from causing a fire. You should also make sure you have a fire extinguisher close by. So there is a lot to consider if you are planning to fit a wood burning heater in your motorhome.
Now you know about the five heating options for your campervan. The price factor is sure to influence your decision, so we’ve compared a few campervan heating systems.
Campervan heaters: prices and useful tips
The most important and decisive factor for keeping your campervan warm is insulation. The same principle applies to your campervan and your home – even the best heating system won’t be effective unless you have good insulation. If your campervan is not properly insulated, it will let in cold air and all the warmth generated by your heating system will immediately escape. So it makes sense to invest in insulating your motorhome to make the most of a new heating system.
You should pay particular attention to thermal bridges. These are the uninsulated connections between the inside and outside of your vehicle. In a campervan, the best example of this is the windows. Regular vehicle windows provide no insulation at all and allow the outside temperature to be transferred to the interior of the vehicle almost unhindered. But there are also differences in the quality of motorhome windows in terms of insulation. If you want to ensure that your investment really pays off, then proper insulation should go hand in hand with a good heating system. You can find out all you need to know about campervan insulation .
In terms of price, buying and fitting a campervan heater is not cheap. A gas heater is one of the lower price options, however, obtaining gas whilst travelling across Europe can involve significant costs as you may need to buy a new gas cylinder in each country you travel to. Diesel and petrol heaters are more expensive but they have a clear advantage in this respect. Although the initial investment is higher, you’ll have no problems refuelling wherever you are in the world. The prices for standard diesel or petrol campervan heaters range between about
The best campervan heaters – our verdict
It is not easy to reach a clear verdict on the which is the best campervan heating system. Whether you opt for heating powered by gas, electricity, petrol, diesel or wood, every system has its pros and cons. If you’re only planning to travel in the UK, a gas heater is a great solution. But if you’re heading for wherever the road takes you over the years, a diesel or petrol heater could be a better choice (depending on which type of fuel your campervan runs on). If you always stay at campsites when you travel, an electric heater is probably just what you need. This is also the most environmentally-friendly option. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what works best for your motorhome and your travel plans.
In case you’re caught out by a sudden cold snap on your trip before you’ve installed a heater in your campervan, we have a hot tip for you: there are some great YouTube videos on how to construct a simple but effective campervan heater. You can make an evening in your campervan a little cosier using a ceramic flower pot and a few tea lights. As with any type of heating, make sure you pay attention to safety and ensure there’s enough ventilation.
Good luck installing your campervan heating. We hope you stay snug and warm during the cold season. If you first want to test out motorhomes with different types of heating, why not hire a campervan for a few days andexplore Wales in winter or the Peak District in autumn? There are quite a few campsites that stay open all year round.