Updated 2020

Safe caravan and motorhome heating

This article is about safely heating caravans and motorhomes using diesel or LP gas. It explains how it works. It lists what is available. And moreover, how you can safely install it. To ensure safe caravan and motorhome heating correct installing is essential. Apart from carbon monoxide, there is furthermore a risk of oxygen deprivation. For a technical and medically-referenced explanation see Gas Risk in Caravans.

Safe caravan and motorhome heating

Diesel or LP gas-powered heaters draw fresh outside air into a tiny sealed furnace. The fuel burns in this furnace. Air is blown across the furnace’s hot outer skin. Flexible hose directs the heated air as required.

For safe heating, you must air-seal the furnace unit from the living area. This is essential. Fumes from burning fuel are expelled outside.

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The Webasto diesel space and water heater installed in a TVan.

Several manufacturers make caravan and motorhome heating products. These include Eberspacher (‘Dometic’ in Australia), Webasto, Truma and Diesel Heating Australia. All are available as space heaters. Moreover, some are space plus water heaters. The smallest produce ample heat for medium-sized RVs. The next size up readily heats a cabin or large RV.

webasto-airtop-2000-diesel-heater Webasto space heater. The Dometic unit is virtually identical. Truma’s is similar but taller. Pic: Webasto.

Safe caravan and motorhome heating – space heater

The main heating units are about the size of a brick. They usually mount with intake and exhaust outlets downward. A separate tiny 12-volt pump draws from a tank. Alternatively, you can tap into your vehicle’s tank. Some may have a larger separate water tank or radiator. Furthermore, most have a control panel that you locate where convenient.

diesel water GENesis II-SCHEMATIC

The Genesis II combines space heating and water heating. Pic: Diesel Heating Australia.

I used a Webasto diesel unit in outback Australia. There, after sun-down, temperatures drop quickly. Often to below freezing. On its lowest heat setting, the heater kept the interior at 24º C. It used a litre per five hours.

The unit was slightly noisy. You can, however, reduce by adding an inlet silencer. Reports indicate all brands are much the same.

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The Truma LP gas space heater. Pic: Dometic Australia.

Space/water heaters

Combined space/water heaters initially heat glycol. The hot glycol flows through an exchange unit. That unit, in turn, heats water to a scalding 80º C. A tempering valve is legally required. It mixes cold and hot water, limiting the water to 50º C. Water heating water takes about five minutes.

webasto-1The Webasto space/water heater. Pic: Webasto Australia

See also Gas Risk in Caravans on the Articles section of this website.

Further information

 RV heating is specifically covered in The Camper Trailer Book, Caravan & Motorhome Electrics and the Caravan & Motorhome BookOur other books are Solar That Really Works (for cabins and RVs). In particular, Solar Success is for home and properties.

These books help tens of thousands to make the right decisions. Any saves you many times its cost.

For information about the author: Click on Bio.