Cheap Camper Diesel Heater: Helpful Tips

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As is true with most things, you get what you pay for. So if you are considering buying a cheap camper diesel heater over one of the original more expensive versions, there’s a few things you should know.

Disclaimer: We’re not professional plumbers. All the skills we employed in converting our van are completely self taught. So, basically, if you follow what we did something goes wrong, that’s on you. Just saying.

Camper Diesel Heater

The model that we installed in our van conversion is the Triclicks 12V 5KW Air Diesel Heater with 10L tank. It cost just over £100 and arrived within a week. We’ve been running it every day over winter and are super happy with it.

diesel heater for motorhome

It’s extremely efficient and heats our van space up in around 10 minutes. Plus the remote control means we can put it on before we even get out of bed. However there are a few annoyances, particularly at the install stage that you should be aware of.

Campervan Heater Instructions

They’re crap. And by crap I mean virtually unreadable. Because there’s just so many spelling mistakes and missing words and punctuation. This is a complaint we saw in the reviews of all of the cheaper 12v diesel air heaters.

However, going straight onto the next point…

Diesel Heater Installation

Our camper van heater was relatively straightforward to the install. Well, once we’d got all the extra parts we needed – we’ll come onto that next. And although there are plenty of different parts, once you start putting them together you’ll see they only really fit together one way.

The electrics literally can’t fit together any other way because each connection is a different size/shape. Plus there are plenty of helpful YouTube videos.

But there are a few common things that people often get wrong when it comes to the diesel air heater install. Specifically the positions of the exhaust/inlet pipes and the fuel pump.

air heater exhaust
van heater fuel pump
  • The exhaust and air inlet pipes need to be pointed in different directions underneath the van. This is so that exhaust fumes aren’t just being sucked up through the air inlet.
  • To prevent build up on it, the filter on the air inlet should also not be facing towards the direction of travel.
  • On the exhaust muffler there’s a small drain point, make sure that is facing downward so that it can do its job.
  • You should also try to ensure that there isn’t a low point in the exhaust pipe. That it is gradually sloping downwards. This is so that water condensation doesn’t build up and cause rust.
  • In order to be running efficiently, the fuel pump needs to be sat at a slight angle of between 15-30 degrees. This is to allow air bubbles to escape.
  • Be sure that the filter is also attached the right way around, so that the fuel is going into the mesh basket and not the other way around.
  • Also make sure you have adequate airflow around the internal air inlet side of the van heater.
12v diesel air heater

DIY Diesel Heater Extras

As already mentioned there’s a few extra parts that we would recommend buying before starting your DIY diesel heater installation.

First up a mounting turret. There is a mounting plate included in the camper diesel heater kit, but it is just a flat plate with several holes in it. So if you use this you’ll have to figure out how to seal whatever flooring layers you have. And also make sure you drill all the holes in the correct place.

Using a mounting turret is way easier.

mounting turret hole
mounting turret

Next we’d recommend picking up some better quality jubilee clips. The jubilee clips that came with our camper diesel heater kit weren’t great. We just couldn’t get them to grip properly. So we got some heavier duty ones.

But in order to get a proper seal between the exhaust parts we also used an exhaust putty sealant.

And lastly we bought some extra fuel pipe that was a slightly larger diameter than the enclosed fuel pipe. This was to protect the fuel pipe as it feeds back up into the van to the diesel tank and pump etc.

We didn’t need to do this. But know that if the fuel tank that comes with the indoor diesel heater kit doesn’t fit in the space you want it too, you can purchase a smaller, better shaped one.

campervan diesel heater installation
filling diesel tank

But the most important extra to buy when installing an air diesel heater in your van build is a carbon monoxide alarm.

If you have no idea what carbon monoxide is, it’s an odourless, deadly gas caused by inefficient fuel burning. You won’t know it’s there unless you have an alarm fitted.

Van Heater Operation

Just a few things worth noting about our camper diesel heater whilst in operation.

The first time that you use your van heater make sure that you properly prime it with diesel otherwise you will damage it. It’s very unlikely you’ll be able to decipher how to do this from the instructions, but again there’s plenty of YouTube videos explaining how.

And you’ll see the diesel moving through the pump and fuel pipe so you’ll know it’s making its way into the boiler.

van heater filter

Unless your diesel air heater installation is the very last thing you do in your van build, like us you’ll likely still be turning the electrics off and on to work on them. If you’ve had your camper diesel heater on, make sure you don’t do that until it’s completely cooled.

Basically when you turn the diesel air heater off it goes through a circle of burning at a higher temperature to clean itself, then goes through a series of cooling stages. If you disconnect the electricity while it’s doing this you will damage it.

If you’re putting the control display inside a cupboard like we have, just bear in mind that is where your thermostat will also be. So it will be colder than the actual living space. We thought about putting it in a different place, but it is quite ugly, so not entirely sure where.

And we always use the handy remote control to turn it on/off and up/down.

diesel hot air heater control
indoor diesel heater control

We were using 5-7 litres of diesel per week at the peak of winter. In money here in the UK, that’s around £6-8 GBP. Which I don’t think is too bad to say we had it on most of the day some days.

We also keep our 5L jerry can full up in winter so we don’t run out of fuel either.

Diesel Parking Heater Cons

Be careful of any wood you have nearby the heat outlet. Some of our cladding opposite has been slightly damaged through shrinkage with the heat being blown directly onto it.

Another negative you’ll find in any of the cheaper motorhome diesel heaters is the loudness of the fuel pump.

It’s just a constant dull ticking and we have to admit when we first heard it we thought it would be super annoying. But it’s not – you kind of just get used to it. And because ours is in the garage and underneath the mattress that deadens the sounds a little too.

I’m sure these two points are actually specific to the cheaper diesel heaters, but either way in our experience it is totally worth going with one of these over the more expensive versions.

heating a van

As mentioned above, if you’ve found this review helpful and decided to take the plunge and nab yourself the same van heater, our diesel tank will do a happy dance if you buy it through one of our links.

Finally, if you have any questions about our campervan diesel heater hit us up in the comments and we’ll do our best to help.

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