What Are the Best Diesel Heaters?

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Camping in the off-season or at higher altitudes can leave you with the chills. There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a beautiful but cold destination without heat. No amount of wool socks, down comforters, or earmuffs can take the place of warmth that reaches your bones. That can only come from a diesel heater!

Many van lifers and even car campers have learned to embrace these small but mighty machines. They sip fuel and can run on DC power, making chilly camping trips a thing of the past.

What is a Diesel Heater?

A diesel heater uses diesel fuel for combustion to heat the air around it. The heated air passes through a heat exchanger, disseminating the warm air into an RV or car. Because a diesel heater uses compression to ignite the fuel, you don’t need a spark, unlike a gasoline or propane heater. 

How Does a Diesel Air Heater Work?

Like any diesel engine, a diesel heater has a combustion chamber. The air compresses until it heats to about 550 degrees. At that point, diesel fuel injects into the chamber and ignites due to the heat.

No spark is necessary, so this is a more fuel-efficient process than a gasoline engine. You can use a DC current to power the compression, and if you maintain it properly, a diesel heater will use less energy than an electric one.

Are Diesel Heaters Safe?

Diesel heaters are generally safer than propane heaters as they don’t require a spark for ignition. If diesel fuel were to leak, it would be challenging to ignite it outside of the compression chamber.

The fact that diesel heaters put off less carbon monoxide than their propane counterparts is worth noting, although we would still suggest you vent the heater.

A heater of this type has several safety mechanisms, including an auto shut-off if the temperature gets too high or if the heater tips over.

Do Diesel Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?

When compression ignites diesel fuel in these heaters, the compression chamber is sealed, producing less carbon monoxide than propane heaters.

The exhaust is vented to the outside of the vehicle. Like propane, diesel heaters need a way to release exhaust outdoors for the safety of all vehicle occupants.

Keep in Mind: While diesel heaters are great, you’ll want to implement other tips for staying warm. Read our guide on How to Stay Warm in Your RV.

Can A Diesel Heater Be Used Indoors?

Using a diesel heater indoors is acceptable. They make great furnaces with little off-gassing, and they use fuel sparingly, making them an excellent choice as a budget-oriented appliance.

They are more than 90% efficient and are portable. Because they are mobile, they shouldn’t be used long-term in a home without adequate ventilation.

Even though they do not create as much carbon monoxide as a propane heater, some residual gas needs to be vented outdoors.

What to Look for When Buying a Diesel Heater

When selecting a diesel heater for purchase consider several factors. Like the quality of the parts used to assemble the heater and how much heat you can expect to get out of the unit.

Below are some items you should pay close attention to before settling on your heater.

An Airtronic diesel heater installed in a van
Source: Amazon Review/Steve

German vs Chinese Diesel Heater

German diesel heaters are dependent on high-quality German parts. These heaters are usually much more expensive than the recent Chinese ones, often because of the dependability of the components during assembly.

If a glow plug is faulty, your entire heater is useless, so choose carefully, as you may get what you pay for.

Heater Output

Know the volume of space you want to heat. Then select a diesel heater with a relevant BTU rating to warm that space. Most heaters run from 10,000 BTUs to 27,000 BTUs. 

Low Diesel Fuel Consumption

Look at the fuel consumption numbers on available diesel heater models. Lower numbers are better, as the unit will be more efficient.

Silent Fuel Pump

Some heaters can be noisy. The sound usually comes from the movement of the fuel pump, so search for diesel heaters that have a rubberized mounting bracket, which will quiet the machine.

Keep in Mind: If you’ve decided diesel heaters might not be right for your camping style, check out The Best RV Propane Heaters to Keep You Warm.

Cost

Diesel heaters can run from $100 to $2,500. The difference between prices is often the quality of the heaters and their components.

For instance, a German heater with 2200 watts of power can cost $2,200, but a Chinese heater with 5000 watts might run you $300.

When buying a less expensive model, the heater may not last long. You will want a long-lasting appliance. Think of it as your home furnace. You don’t want to replace it every two years.

A vent in an van of a diesel heater that has been installed

These Are The Best Diesel Heaters

To give you a general overview of diesel heaters, we’ve listed three of the best below. They offer a variety of prices, assembly kits, and control options.

Webasto 12V Diesel Air Heater Kit

A complete kit to install a diesel heater comes with this German heater.

The Webasto has everything you need in its kit, except for a fuel tank, so you can install this diesel heater to utilize the existing tank in your vehicle. It has a built-in thermometer and a timer, which acts as a thermostat, regulating heat when you need it. 

Eberspacher Espar Airtronic Diesel Air Heater

Eberspacher Espar Airtronic S2 D2 L 12V 2.2kW 7500BTU with EasyStart PRO 7 Day Timer Fault Diagnostic and Automatic Altitude Adjustment with includes FREE floor mounting plate | LATEST MODEL
  • Diesel fired air heater with 2.2 kW 7500BTU heating power.
  • Automatic altitude adjustment - up to 3000m above sea level. No additional altitude kit required.

Another German offering is this Espar Airtronic. It puts out 7500 BTUs, has a timer, and comes with a floor mounting plate.

It does not include an installation kit, so you will have to find your parts, but you won’t need an altitude kit, as this heater has an automated altitude adjustment built-in.

12V All-in-One Air Diesel Heater

This Chinese diesel heater is much larger than its German counterparts and has a fuel pump. It has a timer and thermostat with an LCD screen for controls, along with a remote. It is 5KW, which translates to about 17,000 BTUs.

A red 12V All-in-One Air Diesel Heater sitting in the corner of an unfinished building
Source: Amazon Review/Jake

Stay Warm With the Best Diesel Heater

If you want to feel warm and cozy on your next trip, a diesel heater may be worth the investment. Most are dependable and can crank out plenty of heat to make your camping trip comfortable in even the most inhospitable winter environments.

Do your research and know what you are getting before you purchase one. Where would you travel with your diesel heater?

Last update on 2022-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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