There’s nothing worse than spending your entire holiday in your caravan freezing to death. While winter in Australia isn’t as severe as North America and Europe, it certainly does get quite cold, especially in the southern states.
While our counterparts in those countries tend to avoid caravanning entirely in the cold months (they ‘winter’ their vans), here in Australia we can get out and enjoy the van life all year round, with just a few additions to our rig.
One of those additions is the caravan diesel heater. The humble diesel heater has the potential to transform your caravan from an icy box into a warm home - provided you choose carefully!
In this article, I will run you through the best caravan diesel heaters in Australia to help you figure out which one is right for your RV!
Let’s get started!
Best Caravan Diesel Heaters Australia (12V)
Eberspacher AirTronic 12V 2.2kW
Eberspacher is a German company one of the most reliable names when it comes to caravan diesel heaters. Their units and accessories are all high quality and built very well.
This kit in particular comes with just about everything you need to get started, including a controller, wiring, fuel pump and more. You will need to purchase the diesel fuel tank separately, as well as the intake silencer if you want to reduce the noise from the heater.
The heater itself is a very high tech bit of kit, capable of varying the fuel to oxygen ratio automatically thanks to a built-in altitude sensor.
There’s also a mode for night time operation, which reduces noise by adjusting the fuel pumping regime.
The unit is compact, light, efficient in terms of electrical and fuel consumption, and comes with a 2 year warranty. Overall this is a fantastic unit and the best on the Australian market.
The only real drawback with this unit is the high price.
It is also available in 24V/2.2kW and 12V/4kW varieties.
Autoterm 12V 2kW Diesel Heater
Autoterm is a Russian company, and they offer this 2kW heater at a fraction of the price charged by the likes of Eberspacher and Webasto for similarly sized units.
In saying that, this isn’t a dodgy Chinese heater made from poor quality parts - this is still a quality unit produced from Russian and German parts.
Autoterm have focussed heavily on noise reduction with this unit, implementing a number of features to this end such as a redesigned, low noise pump system and balanced fan operation.
It also includes the silencer in the base price, which typically costs at least $100 from the other brands.
It is an inexpensive yet reliable unit that comes with a decent 2 year warranty. It may not be as reliable as the likes of Eberspacher and Webasto, yet it isn’t too far off.
It is also available in a 24V variety.
Webasto 12V 2kW Single Outlet With Ducting & Controller
Another highly regarded name in the heating industry is Webasto. They have been around for over 100 years and have developed a reputation for producing high quality units.
This unit is no exception. It comes with the standard installation kit, including ducting, controller, fuel hose and more. It’s a light, compact unit that will fit just about anywhere in your van.
It’s fuel efficient and generally gets the job done with few complaints! As with the other heaters, it comes with a 2 year warranty.
It is also available as a 24V unit, and with twin outlets instead of a single outlet.
Truma Combi D 6 Kit (Hot Water And Air Heater)
Best Combo Water/Air Heater
The Truma Combi D 6 is quite different to the other diesel heaters on this list for one big reason - it’s a hot water and air heater combined in one!
As it is built for heating hot water, it puts out a lot more heat than the other heaters on this list - a whopping 6kW! Thanks to this heat output, it can heat it’s entire 10L tank from 15°C to 60°C in just 20 minutes.
Of course, this extra heat output corresponds to increased fuel consumption. In saying this, it is actually a very efficient unit as it uses the same heat to perform two duties, hot water and space heating.
It can also simplify your setup, as you only need one fuel (diesel) for all of your heating, rather than LPG and diesel.
Thanks to the large heat output, it is great for larger caravans or motorhomes.
Just remember that it is a lot heavier and takes up a lot more space than the other heaters on this list, and is considerably more expensive! However, if you factor in the cost of a separate hot water boiler, this may work out to be a better option for you.
It comes with a 2 year warranty.
What To Consider When Purchasing A Diesel Heater
If you’re purchasing one of these heaters for the first time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the different options, features and brands out there. Below is a checklist of the most important things to consider when choosing a diesel heater.
Heat output (kW)
This is basically a measure of how much heat the unit is able to produce, and therefore how quickly it can heat your van up to your desired temperature.
2kW will be enough for most caravans, although you may want to upgrade to a 4kW heater if you have a larger van or motorhome. For reference, most 240V electric heaters you buy for your house are 2kW heaters.
Combined or regular heater?
Most diesel heaters are regular space heaters, yet some, like the Truma Combi D 6 are capable of heating both the air and water in your van.
If your caravan water system doesn't already have a hot water heater, you may wish to get one of these - it’ll save space and money compared to two separate units!
The heating unit itself is not enough to get started with warming your caravan. You’ll need quite a bit of ancillary equipment, including a controller, wiring, ducting, a fuel pump, intakes and exhausts plus mounting equipment.
All decent brands should include these in the package with their heater, and the ones recommended in this article are no exception.
Some brands include intake silencers in their offering, although almost none of them include the diesel fuel tank (also essential unless your vehicle already runs off diesel).
The fuel tanks often come in a variety of sizes, with the larger sizes better for those who will be off grid for longer. Just make sure that you consider where you will store the tank in your van!
Have a think about where in your caravan you will mount the heater.
It has to be somewhere with 12V power, decent air circulation, room for the external intake and exhaust pipes, sufficient space for the heating unit, and preferably not too close to your bed, as they can be a little noisy.
When considering where to mount the unit, make sure that you take careful measurements of the area and compare that to the measurements of the unit itself. You’ll need this much space PLUS clearance around the heater for good circulation and safety reasons.
If you are planning on putting your heater into a tight area, a smaller unit might be better for you.
Most diesel heaters aren’t very noisy, thanks to a number of improvements that have been made to their operation in recent years. In saying that, the fuel pumps can still be a little noisy, with a ‘ticking’ sound being the most common complaint.
Most brands include or sell separately air intake silencers which should reduce the noise further. If you want to run the heater at night but are a light sleeper, consider getting one of these silencers.
You might also be interested in the Eberspacher models, which come with a ‘night mode’ function (reduced noise).
Cheap units that aren’t installed properly can present a major hazard to you and your family. One such danger is improperly sealed ducting, which can result in carbon monoxide entering your van.
Another danger can be overheating and fire, which is possible if the unit doesn’t have sufficient clearance or an auto shutdown feature.
Only use reputable brands, such as those recommended in this article.
While it is quite small in the grand scheme of things, all diesel heaters require a 12V power connection to run the controller which manages your heater.
When sizing your battery and solar panels, keep the power consumption from your heater in mind!
What Are The Two Main Types of Fuel-Based Caravan Heaters?
Fuel-based caravan space heaters are categorised into two types - gas and diesel. Note that there are types of caravan heaters, such as reverse cycle AC units, but we'll just take a look at these two here.
LPG or gas heaters are quite common in caravans. In fact, some even come pre-installed. These heaters make use of LPG or liquified petroleum gas for heating purposes.
The LPG heaters have an external intake pipe that allows the air to flow in. This air mixes with the LPG and is then combusted. This produces heat which warms up the heat exchanger area.
Diesel heaters are another common type of caravan heater. They have a similar working mechanism as that of LPG heaters. However, here, instead of LPG, diesel is used to power the combustion process and release heat.
Here’s how they compare against each other.
Ease of Installation
Requires a licensed professional
No license is required and installation is easier
Less space needed
More space needed
Cheap upfront, but gas prices may fluctuate
Slightly more expensive, but diesel price stable
Produces more humid air
Produces dry air
Slightly more dangerous
Gas isn’t always readily available
Diesel is typically available everywhere
With this out of the way, let’s now take a closer look at caravan diesel heaters.
How Does A Caravan Diesel Heater Work?
As the name suggests a diesel heater makes use of diesel for the combustion process. The heater itself consists of various parts such as an air inlet pipe, air filter, air outlet pipe, exhaust pipe, silencer, fuel tank, and other bits and pieces.
These parts work together in the following way:
Step 1: Combustion
Via an intake duct, outside air is brought into the combustion chamber of the heater (the ‘dirty’ side). Diesel, which is being held in a separate fuel tank, is also introduced to this chamber and the contents are ignited. Combustion occurs and hot gases are produced.
These gases pass through a metal heat exchanger, which results in heat being transferred from the gases to the metal surface. The gases are then expelled outside the caravan.
Step 2: Intake of Cold Air
Next, the diesel heater uses a separate intake duct which allows cool air to be pulled into the ‘clean’ side of the heater.
Step 3: Conversion of Cold Air Into Hot Air
Once the cold air has entered the heating unit, this air is passed through a hot metal cylinder, which is part of the heat exchanger. The cold air is heated to hot air as it passes through the exchanger, which is being heated by the hot gases on the other side.
The clean air never contacts the combustion gases from the other side.
Step 4: Hot Air Moves To The Outlet
The warm, clean air from the heater is then expelled into the inside of the caravan, which warms up the air temperature here.
This process repeats itself until your caravan reaches your set temperature!
How Safe Are Caravan Diesel Heaters?
High quality caravan diesel heaters are safer than people generally think, for two main reasons.
Reason 1: Auto Shutdown Feature
Rather than heating indefinitely and potentially causing damage, diesel heaters typically come with auto shutdown capability. This feature works by shutting off the heater automatically if the system’s temperature goes beyond the safe level.
Reason 2: Fewer Leakage Hazards
LPG heaters are actually more dangerous than diesel heaters because their leakage can cause explosions or health problems, like nervous and respiratory issues.
This is due to the fact that LPG is highly volatile and will naturally evaporate into gas form when not under pressure.
On the other hand, there are fewer leakage or combustion hazards and health risks with diesel, thanks to its comparatively lower volatility.
All of the combustion fumes are kept separate from the air circulated inside the caravan, so there is no risk of combustion gases accumulating inside your van.
Are Caravan Diesel Heaters Noisy?
Caravan diesel heaters don’t make a lot of noise. However, keep in mind that they’re still noisier than LPG heaters.
If you notice that a caravan diesel heater is making a lot of ticking noises or even louder, mechanical noises, the cause is probably one of the following.
If the diesel heater hasn’t been installed properly, then it may make repeated ticking noises. Rubber mounts for the fuel pump can be a way to dampen the noise produced here. Alternatively, you could cover the entire fuel pump in an enclosure to limit noise.
Cheap Unit and/or Parts
If you’ve bought a cheap diesel heater, don’t be surprised if it’s quite noisy! You get what you pay for when it comes to equipment like this, so the savings you’ve made on your unit will come at the expense of the peace and quiet in your van!
Do Diesel Heaters Smell Bad?
No, diesel heaters typically won’t cause a bad odour inside the caravan. But, if you are outside the caravan while the heater is on, you may notice the diesel smell, especially if the unit has just started up.
These heaters don’t have perfect combustion efficiency, and some diesel will make it through uncombusted and be expelled with the rest of the combustion gases.
The smell is worse when the unit starts up, but gets better with time.
What About Chinese Diesel Heaters?
Most caravan diesel heaters today are manufactured by European brands such as Eberspacher and Webasto (ie. those recommended in this article). However, today, you can find diesel heaters manufactured in China for almost half the price!
But are they really worth it? Yes, they are cheaper, but there have been a number of safety concerns with them in recent times. If combustion gases are not properly segregated and start leaking into your caravan, you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
This is a silent killer and not something that should be considered lightly.
As you would expect, a lower price corresponds to poorer quality parts that are more likely to fail and put you in danger.
Furthermore, if there are any faulty parts, it’s almost impossible to find any spares. You end up stuck with a faulty heater that can’t be used at all!
What may have seemed like a bargain at the time ends up costing you more in the long run, when you need to pay again for a proper unit with a reliable warranty.
Caravan diesel heaters are simple units, yet they have the ability to warm up your caravan quickly and effectively, allowing you to go caravanning all year round, regardless of the weather.
When installed properly, they are noise-free, safe and cheaper to run than LPG heaters.
If you still have any questions, feel free to comment and ask!
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Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.