Not going to lie. When my van is complete, I aim to be a fair-weather van camper. Sod heading off to extreme colds – the way I see it is that cold adds complexity to some of the elements I have built in my headplan. Add the fact that I am an utter wuss with anything vaguely chilly and I don’t really see the fun in cold. To be avoided.
Adding a heater however does give greater flexibility. In my case, this will help to keep the van in toasty and dry when not being used, but also gives me and my friends and family the freedom to go bravely into the cold.
So What Are The Options For Van Conversion Heating?
- Diesel heaters – the acclaimed Eberspächer and Webasto diesel heaters but be aware of the significant £££ – somewhere in the region of £500+ upwards.
- Chinese diesel heaters – pretty much clones of the above at a fraction of the cost and currently trending around the £100 bracket on eBay and others.
- Wood burner – beautiful, inline with #vanlife prettiness but not 100% sure I want a flame in my van and the potential for a burning mess and the required pipe and chimney eliminates any stealth.
Diesel Heaters Pros and Cons
I am unlikely to be heading down the big established brand route as costs are prohibitive. Setup cost versus usage equals a bad deal.
The Chinese diesel heaters are effectively the same as the Webasto and Eberspächer models but at a fraction of the cost and there is plenty of support out there.
Slight niggle in my head is that there is a LOT of support out there which implies that a LOT of support is needed? Does this indicate that the Chinese diesel heaters are poor quality or just need some TLC when being setup?
The Facebook Chinese Diesel Heater Group provides plenty of help and at the risk of annoying #vanlifers yet again, this Facebook groups seems to be more “real life” van heating and support. More your survive on the road type of trucker guys and girls, so I suspect that you have to be pretty thick skinned when asking questions:-
Me: Can anyone help please, my diesel heater is spluttering excessive diesel?
Geoff: ffs mate, you need to get the flange seal tighter
Bob: chatting crap Geoff, sounds like the gasket head
Susie: have you tried adjusting the flow rate?
refers to original Chinese diesel heater manual and withdraws
Diesel heater all the way for me and I see the following pros and cons:-
- Chinese diesel heaters are cheap in the £100-120 range.
- They are compact and there is a ready space under the passenger driving seat base.
- Plenty of support.
- Mid-range diesel heaters come with a keyfob that allows you heat the van before you get to it.
- Cheap to run and same fuel as the van.
- Can put all the nasty stuff outside the van.
- For the utter muppets like me, this is relatively inexpensive way to cut my teeth in all things motor, electricity and fuel. Connecting all this schizzle together, will be a good testing ground and it can be first tested in a standalone environment.
- Great source of carbon monoxide and death in your sleep kind of scenarios.
- Diesel stinks – spill it and you will forever smell like you are dating Eddie Stobart
- Needs a few holes cutting into the flooring
Where Am I Putting My Chinese Diesel Heater?
The headplan says that I will place the diesel heater body under the passenger seat base. This will fuelled by the diesel tank and pump that sit underneath the van – naturally in a very clever place – out of site with easy enough access. The pump itself will be set at the suggested 45 degrees and should all be at the front end of the Sprinter neatly tucked away.
Air intake will be far from any source of smelly polluted air with the exhaust also going into a tidy recess under the van.
The internal dashboard LED controls will be wall mounted and with my clever key fob thing I will be able to scramble up a glacier, press the key on the way down and head back to the van for some gentle yoga and overnight soaked oats in the luxury of my warm van.