Without a technique to stay warm, wintertime living in a camper would be intolerable.

Without a heater, there are many methods to stay warm in a van.

But it’s wise to think about alternative possibilities if you’re going to spend any significant amount of time winter camping.

The fuel types used for campervan heating are varied.

Many people think 12v diesel heaters are the greatest heating for living in RVs and vans since they are safe to use all night long even in the coldest winters.

However, there are a few options, ranging from expensive and well-known names like Webasto and Espar to less expensive and obscure Russian and Chinese manufacturers.

So which diesel heaters work best for campers, RVs, and motorhomes? Read on!

A Quick Look at Our Favorite Diesel Heaters for Campers

#1. Webasto STC 2000

  • Expensive product
  • Multiple controls
  • Noise muffler
  • Fits small-to-medium campervans

#2. Webasto Air Top Evo 40

  • Premium goods
  • Multiple controls
  • Noise Muffler
  • Excellent for big campers and high elevation

#3. Espar Airtronic D2

  • Premium goods
  • Electronic controller
  • Perfect for light to medium campers

#4. Espar Airtronic S2

  • Premium goods
  • Electronic controller
  • Perfect for big campers

#5. Unbranded imports

  • Affordable, convenient
  • Excellent Facebook Support Group

The Function of 12 Volt Diesel Heaters

In essence, diesel heaters are air heaters.

In a combustion chamber, a heat exchanger coil is heated.

Fresh, chilly air is drawn in by the heater, which then circulates it over a heated coil before blowing warmed air into your camper.

It’s that easy.

The Benefits of a Diesel Heater

Diesel heaters have a few benefits that we believe make them the clear choice for heating a camper.

You’ll never run out of gasoline if your camper runs on diesel.

There is no need for separate storage for various fuel types since the diesel heaters may be powered straight off of your main tank.

Diesel is inexpensive, widely accessible, and since diesel heaters are so effective, its operating expenses are negligible.

Anything that lowers the expense of living in a van is beneficial.

The warm, dry air that a diesel heater emits slowly and steadily keeps the vehicle at a pleasant temperature.

It decreases relative humidity since it has an exterior vent, which prevents moisture from entering the vehicle.

This is the ideal environment to aid in preventing condensation in a vehicle.

The exterior vent also reduces the possibility of carbon monoxide accumulation, however we also strongly advise installing a carbon monoxide monitor.

Check These Things Before Purchasing a Diesel Heater for Your Camper

When evaluating diesel heaters, keep an eye out for the following characteristics and specs.

#1. Heat Emission

It’s crucial to choose the correct size diesel heater to avoid wasting money on an over or undersized component.

If the room is too tiny, the diesel heater won’t be able to heat it effectively, so you’ll have to use more electricity and fuel than required, run it at its loudest and highest level, and you may not even get warm.

If it’s too large, you’ll have to make a much larger initial investment.

It won’t often need to operate at full capacity, and more carbon will accumulate, necessitating more frequent maintenance.

Additionally, it will cycle more often.

Aim for a size to keep the cycles low since diesel heaters are the noisiest and consume the most electricity when turning on and off.

How much room needs to be heated will determine the appropriate size.

Keep in mind that installing overhead cabinets will make the area that requires heating smaller, whilst taking down the bulkhead into the driver’s cab would make it larger.

For medium-sized vehicles, a 2KW heater power is recommended.

Look for 4-5KW for anything greater.

#2. Height Setting

At high elevations, anything exceeding 5–6000 feet above sea level, diesel heaters may be troublesome.

The more expensive versions contain technologies that alter the air and fuel mixture so they can continue to fly at greater altitudes.

Our Webasto struggled at 15000 feet above sea level in Bolivia even with the high altitude gear, but it was really high altitude.

If you anticipate spending a lot of time at high altitudes, seek for a model with a feature or add-ons that will make them functional.

#3. Noise

Particularly when you’re attempting to go asleep, diesel heaters may be rather loud.

On their loudest settings and at startup and shutdown, they emit the most noise.

By maintaining a suitable temperature on the thermostat and installing the appropriate heater for your vehicle, you may lessen the beginning time.

Top-tier versions contain components that reduce the noise they create.

We survived a Patagonian winter and have a Webasto in our Sprinter conversion.

We had it running constantly and it never bothered us.

#4. Electricity Need

Diesel heaters need a 12 volt electrical source to operate.

They employ a trickle while in use and a surge when starting up and shutting down.

Although not a drawback, it’s important to keep in mind that the first start-up requires a significant power surge.

This may be as high as 15 amps from cold.

They only use this for a short period of time before ours lowers to 3 or 4 amps for perhaps another five minutes.

Once heated, it operates at a rate of around 1 amp per hour.

Make careful to account for this when calculating the size of your solar battery bank.

Some manufactures of diesel heaters offer versions that work with both 12V and 24V batteries.

The 12v variations of every model are described in this article.

#5. Maintenance

Diesel is a somewhat filthy fuel, therefore with time, the heaters may have carbon buildup problems.

Give the heater an hour at full power at least once a month to avoid this.

If not, according to the manufacturer’s maintenance and cleaning instructions to maintain it in peak condition.

#6. Energy and Efficiency

Of course, diesel fuel is used in diesel heaters, but the best brands now provide gasoline versions of their goods.

All diesel heaters have excellent efficiency and very low operating costs.

Some use between 0.1 and 0.5 litres per hour, depending on the settings, and some are significantly better than others.

When compared to alternative heating methods, the cost of operating a diesel heater in a camper is quite inexpensive.

#7. Cost

The most expensive versions are expensive, particularly when compared to an equivalent Propex gas heater.

The low end Russian and Chinese versions, however, are a great deal less expensive if cost is a concern at this point of your DIY campervan conversion.

Additionally, the price difference is so great that you won’t feel like you’ve wasted much money if you decide to switch to one of the higher-end brands in the future.

#8. Service & Reliability

When it comes to the quality of the construction and the dependability of the product, the premium brands Webasto and Espar have a solid track record.

However, you would anticipate that at the very least given the rates they are asking.

They both provide a respectable coverage of service centers across Europe and North America in case you have any warranty claims or maintenance concerns.

The budget models lack such a history and servicing facilities.

When it comes to getting guidance or services, you are essentially on your own.

Because of how well-liked the budget models are, there is a large and active Facebook community where people can share tips and seek assistance for resolving common issues.

We would absolutely take them into consideration for future campervan conversions since so many people are utilizing them right now without any problems, and because their client base is expanding.

Comparison Table For Campervan Diesel Heaters

* An additional charge is optional for the altitude function.

** Estimated technical specs

Webasto STC2000 & Air Top Evo 40

Webasto is one of the top two manufacturers of diesel heaters for boats, RVs, and campers, along with Espar.

They have a network of service centers and dealers, particularly in Europe, and they offer high-quality, dependable components.

STC 2000 & Air Top Evo 40 heaters are the most popular campervan heaters.

#1. Heat Emission

The Air Top Evo 40 is better suited for larger RVs, while the STC 2000 is best for campers up to medium size.

Our extended wheel base Sprinter conversion has an STC 2000.

We have a lot of room to heat since we don’t have any above cabinets.

Even if the Air Top Evo 40 suited us better if we had to do the switch over again, it did serve us well over a Patagonian winter.

#2. Height Setting

Anything beyond 2000 meters on both models may be useful if you want to spend a lot of time at high elevations.

The standard for the Air Top Evo 40’s built-in altitude sensor claims that it will function up to 5500 meters.

When it comes to specifying the altitude it operates at, the STC 2000 standard is a bit less detailed.

Ours features a control panel with an altitude boost.

However, it was only effective up to a height of around 2500 meters.

After then, a fairly difficult hand electrical adjustment is required.

If your altitude fluctuates regularly, that’s not ideal.

#3. Electric Use

You won’t notice much of a drain on your campervan batteries since both Webasto types operate at low amps.

But keep in mind that they need a stronger surge to begin from scratch.

If at all possible, keep the temperature at a comfortable level at all times to reduce the number of start cycles.

To help you size your solar installation, use our electrical calculators.

#4. Usage Of Fuel

The fuel usage is quite low, as would be anticipated from a diesel heater.

The STC 2000 will use less than 3 litres of fuel in 24 hours of continuous usage when set to its lowest level.

#5. Cost

Products from Webasto, like those from Espar, are expensive.

You get what you pay for, however, like with most things in life.

With Webasto diesel heaters, your money is being spent on a high-quality, solidly constructed equipment with a stellar track record.

The majority of the northern hemisphere also has merchants.

Espar Airtronic D2 & M2

Espar is one of the main diesel heater brands for boats, RVs, and campers in addition to Webasto.

They have a network of service facilities and dealers and create highly dependable and high-quality components.

Although the M2 rivals the Webasto Air Top Evo 40 in terms of heat production, the Airtronic D2 is the most popular Espar heater for campervans.

#1. Heat Emission

The Espar Airtronic D2 and the Airtronic D2 are best suited for small to medium-sized campers and larger RVs, respectively.

Think about the area you need to heat.

If there are no overhead cupboards or bulkheads separating the driver’s cabin from the living area of a medium-sized camper, you may require the bigger size to keep that area warm.

Both Espar models produce more heat than comparable Webasto devices.

#2. Height Setting

It is assured that the Espar D2 will function up to 1500 meters above sea level.

A high altitude sensor or pump kit is required when spending lengthy amounts of time up to 3000 meters.

Every 300m of height gain, the altitude sensor, which detects air pressure, automatically modifies the frequency of the metering pump.

The high altitude pump set is more manual but less expensive.

A second pump must be installed, and it must be manually turned on.

When you change altitude, you can flip between the two, however it’s not the most elegant approach.

#3. Electric Use

Low amps are used by both Espar versions.

They have a minor edge over the Webasto at lower power but are somewhat thirstier at maximum power.

They need a larger surge to start from a cold position, like with all diesel heaters.

If at all possible, keep the temperature at a comfortable level at all times to reduce the number of start cycles.

To help you size your solar system, use our solar battery bank calculator.

#4. Usage Of Fuel

The Espar diesel heaters also have very low fuel usage.

In 24 hours of continuous operation, the Airtronic D2 will use less than 2.5 litres on the lowest setting.

#5. Cost

Although Espar’s goods are expensive, they are often somewhat more affordable than Webasto items.

Nevertheless, they don’t skimp on quality, and in terms of dependability, Espars are comparable to Webastos.

The majority of the northern hemisphere also has merchants.

Service centers are more accessible than Webasto in North America.

Russian and Chinese Imports

Try not to be quickly turned off by these imports from China or Russia, but stick with us here.

Normally, we wouldn’t think of using a low-end product for our camper conversion, but there is rising interest in them.

There are many “brands” to choose from.

Simply perform a 12v diesel heater search on Ebay.

You may choose from unbranded choices as well as brands like Planar, Snugger, Ambienceo, and Happybuy.

This seems like a cause to avoid a component that, if installed incorrectly, may have disastrous effects.

Except that the cost of a Webasto or Espar is less than 10% of these components.

Because of the many trials and errors over the years, thousands of campervans all over the globe now have these components installed.

Unbranded items often don’t come with warranties, or at least not ones that are worth the paper they’re printed on.

You won’t locate a service center on this planet, and operating manuals and installation instructions may be missing or written in Chinese.

However, there is a dedicated Facebook Group of like-minded users who have installed or are thinking about installing a cheap substitute for the Webato and Espar models.

There are some installation concerns, but the most of them are widely known since so many people have already installed them.

90% of the time, someone in the group will have had the same problem as you and will be able to provide a solution.

Therefore, we believe you should at least investigate them as a possible feasible option because they have specs similar to the Webasto and Espar diesel heaters and cost a fraction of the price.

In Summary

Finding a clear victor among all of the diesel heaters for campervans is challenging.

It actually depends on your intended usage and budget, much as with so many other aspects of campervan conversion and van living.

  • Choose a budget Chinese or Russian model if you’re looking for something affordable.
  • Choose a Webasto Air Top Evo 40 for camping trips over 3000 meters in elevation.
  • The Espar Airtronic D2’s high-end diesel heater offers the finest value.

Check out our other advice on how to heat a camper without power if you want to rough it in the winter.

Diesel RV Heater Videos Suggestions From Youtube

(UPDATE) 6 Months Using Webasto Gas/Diesel Heater in RV – RV with Tito DIY
Dry Heat WITHOUT Propane – Webasto Gas/Diesel Heater Installation in RV – RV with Tito DIY
Stay Warm for Cheap! Diesel Heater Install for your Bus, Rv, or Van – Mobile Dwellings / Gilligan Phantom

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Written by Bob Matsuoka
Bob Matsuoka is a blogger and founder of RVing Beginner blog. He has been blogging for over five years, writing about his own family’s RV adventures, tips for people who are interested in buying an RV or taking their family on an adventure by RV.