Van Heating Systems

Having adequate heating in your van can be a dealbreaker for life on the road. There’s nothing worse than a poor night’s sleep because you are too cold. While you are driving, you can use the van’s heaters to keep you warm but after the van is turned off, the bitter cold starts to set in.  While insulation can help, there are many places where insulation alone isn’t enough.  Here are the main types of heaters to help you stay cozy during those long winter months:

Types of Heaters:

  1. Propane fixed heaters – These are considerably more expensive than the portable options, both in initial and installation cost, but they can also run on butane. These vent to the exterior of your rig, rather than the portable option, which also means less condensation inside. Some can also be mounted on the outside of your vehicle, saving space as well.  A popular brand is Propex. Compared to diesel/gasoline heaters, propane heaters require almost no maintenance since propane burns so cleanly.  Also, they are relatively quiet compared to diesel or gasoline heaters.

  2. Propane portable heaters – Portable propane heaters are great because they are, well, portable. The most well-known brand is probably Mr. Heater Buddy. These range from 4,000 to 9,000 BTUs and are equipped with safety shut-off systems.  These van heaters can be used with 1 lb. propane bottles or most can also be used with an adapter for 20 lb. propane cylinders.  They have a convenient carrying handle and can be moved to where you need them most. While they are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of heaters on this list, propane does produce a “wet” heat and so may have more trouble with condensation in your camper.  Also, 9,000 BTU units may not be enough to heat your space and there is no fan to circulate the air. Keep in mind that burning propane produces carbon monoxide, so be sure to follow all of the manufacturer’s guidelines to keep safe. As an additional safeguard, you might consider installing a carbon monoxide detector in your rig.

  3. Electric heaters– Electric heaters are easy to find and are relatively cheap. Many have an auto shutoff feature in case the unit should tip over. However, these are a much better option if you have good access to electricity, such as being plugged in to shore power as they consume a lot of energy.  These heaters will overwhelm off-grid solar panels rather quickly.  You might consider using an electric heater as an auxiliary heat source, rather than your primary heat source.  You also might consider just using an electric blanket to keep warm instead.

  4. Diesel/gasoline heaters – These heaters produce a drier heat, and are vented externally. Although they do require higher amps for startup than the Propex heaters. Better known brands are Webasto and Espar.  An advantage of these heaters is that they use the fuel from your tank, rather than worrying about carrying lots of propane bottles in your vehicle and finding somewhere to refill or restock.  These heaters do not burn as cleanly, so they can get clogged and fail.

  5. Solid fuel-the sound of a crackling fire just makes you feel cozy! This option creates super dry heat and can work well if you are in an area where there is lots of wood to be found for free. In addition, the stove can be used for cooking or heating water. Although, these small van heating stoves can be heavy, and not all places you might want to travel have abundant trees. You might also find that chopping down wood into tiny pieces to fit in your stove isn’t your idea of a good time. It would be easier to pull up to your destination with another heater type and be warm instantly than waiting for your stove to heat up.  Also, the temperature isn’t self-regulating so you need to keep an eye on it.  I bet we’ve all had a time when we’ve woken up frozen in the wee hours of the night and wished we could just turned up a dial instead!

If you’re ready to add heat to your van, contact Wasatch Overland for fully customized interior installations.

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.