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Caravan Diesel Heater

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Our van is a 21ft Jayco Starcraft which we have been living in for two years. Like others, we thought we would follow the sun but that isn't always the case. We often talked about getting some form of diesel heater for those colder times. As we work while on the road (see here) and farm sit. We go where and when is needed. Neither of us like the cold but would like to spend more time enjoying those places. Tazzie is a place we want to prepare for and enjoy!

Mandurah caravan and Tourist Park jayco starcraft van

Our 21ft van

Why Did We Choose Diesel?

When plugged in to power we can use our reverse cycle aircon. Alternatives are needed when free camping so we chose diesel. From what we had read, we found these points suited our situation.

  • Diesel is cheaper to run than gas

  • Easier to install if you can do DIY

  • Don't need to pay extra for a tradie to install

  • We already carry extra diesel for the Ute

  • Cheaper to buy

What Diesel Heater Did We Buy?

Larry had read a lot of people had been buying from Pinnacle Wholesalers. Having read reviews on them and their heaters we decided to get one. We chose a 12 volt, 2KW Diesel heater. 

Pinnacale have 2KW and 5KW heaters for sale here from the Pinnacale website.

We bought our 2KW from pinnacles ebay site for $820 with a plastic 10l fuel tank

Choosing Where To Install It

We chose to install the heater under our bed. The front of our van houses our batteries and is chokers full. Our slide out bed is towards the back of the van. We chose this area as it has heaps of space and we wanted to mount the 10 lt diesel tank at the back of the van.

We could also mount the controller next to the bed for easy reach on a cold morning.

Installing The Diesel Heater

Tools we used

  • Battery drill with hole saws
  • Jigsaw
  • Screw driver and spanners
  • Socket and Ratchet

When our box of goodies arrived we were very exited. I more so when the box was opened. I'm not into tools and parts but the tiny exhaust that comes with it, is sooo cute 😀 Anywayyy....

Finding the right location

Larry had decided where under the slide out bed to place the heater and marked out the area. It took a couple of placements before he was happy.

He then started cutting out the floor so the pipes would fit through. He started with a hole for each pipe as this is what the instructions indicated. However the instructions are geared towards fitting the heater against sheet metal not 18mm think floor boards so this wasn't practical.

One larger hole was made instead and the two supplied metal mounting plates used to sandwich the floor and be able to attach the heater. This larger hole was also beneficial so the heat of the exhaust didn't touch the van.

Larry headed under the van to attach the fuel line and exhaust. Also to screw the diesel heater in place.

Once it was all in place we made sure it wasn’t going to let anything in. I was worried about water or bugs. Smearing heat resistant silicone between the floor and the heater mounting plates to ensure a proper seal was the go. We didn't need to do this but I wanted to be 100% sure nothing was getting in and it wasn't going to budge. Larry also put a sealant around the cut made in the floor so water can't be sucked into the wood.

We had a aluminium metal plate made to house the fuel tank and to protect it. We attached it to both the caravan and the back bar. Larry also added sikaflex to the screws so they don't try and wiggle out while we travel.

Tips To Fitting It

  1.  Adding the outlet fitting to the base of the fuel tank - Use a long piece of welding wire or similar to direct the fitting to the hole in base of the tank. Then slide it down the wire and pull it through with some pliers
  2. Making the whole in the floor - Before cutting any hole in the floor make sure to check you're not going to come across chassis rail, wires or pipes on the underside of the van. 

How We Have Found It

Heat: We are in Queensland at the moment and not in the freezing cold but it has been nippy. We have had the heater on a few times and it makes a big difference. Like any heater you notice it more when you come back in from the cold. I can still wear shorts in the van and not have to rug up to much.

It takes a while to warm up the van first thing on a cold morning but that might be our van? As with a house, closing the bathroom door, closing the ceiling hatch blinds etc. help keep the warmth in.

The 2kw heater is fine for at least a 21 foot caravan and they use next to no diesel when operating.

Noise: On starting, stopping and re-booting you hear it the most. Nothing that your neighbours would hear. While its running it blends in to the background. I'm not sure if we would leave it on over night as once it gets below your set temperature it re-boots and then beeps on start up. This would probably wake me at night but probably not Larry. In saying that if I was in the freezing cold it would be going on!

Alternatives:

We asked our Facebook followers what they use and this is the feedback we got.

  • Hot water system/air heater. The Truma Combi 4E water/air heater kit uses gas and operating on 12 volts, the system can generate up to 4000 watts of heat. See more here on the Truma website. 
truma heater caravan

Truma Caravan Heater

gas heater caravan

Truma Gas Heater

electric heater

But you can buy them from cheaper shops, such as the Reject shop.

  • Oil Heater: This one is $39 from Target. It has adjustable thermostat control, overheat protection system, tip over protection and 3 heat settings. See more here

Oil Heater From Target

  • Dyson Fan Heater: I didn't know Dyson made heaters until one of our followers told us she used one. You can see it here.
Dyson Heater

Dyson Heater

Cheap Alternatives

  • Extra blankets, doonas

  • Hot water bottle

  • Cook a roast, dinner or bake in your oven. This kills two birds with one stone. (But make sure you still use ventilation so you don't gas yourself)

  • Electric blankets
  • Sleep with the dog on the bed

  • Snuggle up butter cup 😉

Obviously common sense should prevail when dealing with safety and heating. We do recommend the diesel heater over the other suggested alternatives. Your decision lies in what you feel safe and happy using. 

Do You Have Any More to add?

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    • Anne
    • July 18, 2018

    Thanks guys,I got a small gas heater . haven’t used it in the van yet but good inside my unit.

    • Sonia Beimans
    • August 4, 2018

    Have a heater from Pinnicle and we are in Lower South Easr so very cold. Love our diesel heater. Try a cup of Kero in cold weather in the diesel. Always check bateries charged as if down will not power 2nd stage firing leading to more carbon in.chamber and on gloplug.

      • Sue
      • August 5, 2018

      Thanks for the tip Sonia, great tip. We will keep that in mind.

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