Even if you only intend to go away in your van to warm countries and in the summer, fitting a good heater is still highly recommended in campervans and motorhomes. Its amazing how cold it can get in a van at 3am, and its amazing how satisfying it is being able to flick a heater on with your big toe without even getting out of bed! If you're thinking about being warm in your campervan or motorhome, you might also want to read what we've written about campervan insulation and window insulation mats. If you've already decided to install a heater, then you can use our shop to buy heaters for campervans and motorhomes.
There are two main options for heaters - gas or diesel fueled. The only heaters we recommend for campervans are the 'room-sealed' type ones where all of the combustion gases produced are vented to the outside of the van. Open convection type heaters always scare us and having one on while you're asleep is not to be advised!
Here we cover the installation of the Propex 2000 blown air heater (currently on offer in our shop!). Our preference is for propane fueled heaters as tapping into the vehicle's diesel supply can be trickier and is harder for DIY-ers to achieve. The main advantage of diesel powered heaters is that its generally going to be pretty easy (and essential anyway) to fill back up with diesel, but the prices of diesel these days are such that we think gas is the more cost effective option - the vast majority of campervans and motorhomes need gas anyway for their stoves, so it makes alot of sense to power your heater off the canister at the same time.
Pictured: Propex 2000 campervan heater - currently on sale in our shop. We also sell a more powerful version for bigger campervans or motorhomes - the Propex HeatSource 2800 heater.
How to Install a Heater in your Campervan
You need to have a bit of a think in advance about where the heater in your camper van will be located. As it involves drilling a couple of small holes through the floor of the van it is best to do this early on (before all the units and before the floor is in place) so it is easy to clear up all the metal filings you will generate.
You then need to drill 2 holes in the floor of your van for the external exhaust pipe and air intake pipe. These pipes come out of the bottom of the heater and need to go to the outside of the van. Take the chance to double check your positioning. A room sealed heater like this needs a source of oxygen and a vent for the combustion gases which is separate and "sealed off" from the inside of the van. This is what these pipes and the holes in your floor are for. There are 2 issues here:
Once you've created the holes for the intake & exhaust (either use a hole cutter or just use a big drill bit followed by a round file), you can fix the heater down using the mounting brackets and some self tapping screws. Use anti-rusting paint (e.g. hammerite) at every opportunity and make really sure you get rid of any metal filings produced.
Once the heater's in place, you need to fit the under-van pipes and cut them to size. You then need to run the internal piping. The heater will pull fresh cold air from the interior of the van in through the air intake, warm it through the heater and then pump it back out into the van as nice hot air. The heater intake and out vent need to be mounted inside the van. The norm is to put them in the side of a unit which surrounds the heater. Remember to give yourself enough room for all the ducting - you have one intake right beside the heater and then you can have one or more outlets with ducting leading from the heater to the outlets. When you buy one of our heaters (available in our online shop here) you also get a 'fixing kit' which includes all the ducting, pipes, vents, fixings,etc - we aways sell the Propex 2000 heater with the single outlet kit and the bigger Propex 2800 heater with a double outlet kit which we reckon makes alot of sense and works well for the vast majority of installations. Small vans don't really need more than one outlet and big vehicles can often benefit from the extra power of the bigger heater. You should think carefully where you put the vents and make sure they'll be somewhere where they won't be blocked and remember warm air rises!
Heater Vents (cold air in through the left, hot air out on the right)
It actually makes have made sense to position the cold air intake slightly further away from the hot air outlet, and pick your vent locations carefully so they aren't going to have things dumped in front of them all the time. You'll also need to pick a convenient spot for the thermostat which controls the heater going on and off - the usual is to place it in a position similar to where you'll be sitting in the van and somewhere fairly central where you can easily reach it from your seat / bed / etc.
Finally you need to wire the heater and thermostat up to the second / leisure battery which for these heaters is really quite a straightforward task and explained in the instructions that come with the heater. There is more info on campervan and motorhome heaters in the heater section of our online shop.