How To:

Campervan Heaters


Find lots more details in the NEW Self Build Campervan Conversions book

How to Install Campervan Heaters

1. Introduction to Campervan Heaters

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. It’s amazing how cold it can get in a van at 3am, and amazingly satisfying to be 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, 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 read on to find out how.

Types of Heaters for Campervans

2. Types of Heaters for Campervans

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.  Our preference is for propane fueled heaters as tapping into the vehicle's diesel supply can be tricky and is not so simple for those DIY-ers to achieve.  The main advantage of diesel powered heaters is that it’s generally going to be pretty easy (and essential anyway) to fill back up with diesel, but the price of diesel these days is such that we think gas is the more cost effective option - the vast majority of campervans need gas anyway for their stoves, so it makes a lot of sense to power your heater from the same canister.  There is also the option of installing an underfloor refillable LPG gas tank and this is a great solution which has many of the advantages of using diesel, without the down-sides.

How to Install a Campervan Heater

3. How to Install a Campervan Heater


  • Step 1 - Locate where you will mount the heater.
  • Step 2 - Drill holes for the external air intake and exhaust.
  • Step 3 - Fix heater to floor.
  • Step 4 - Run piping and fit the internal heating vents.
  • Step 5 - Wire electrics.

You need to have a bit of a think in advance about where the heater in your campervan will be. It involves drilling a couple of small holes through the floor of the van which it is best to do early on (before all the units and floor are in place) making it 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 and air intake pipes. 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 a couple of things which shouldn’t be forgotten when drilling the holes through your van floor:

  • Be careful about what you are drilling into – check the underneath of your van first and try to pick a spot that isn't cluttered up with tanks / cables etc.
  • The air intake has to be positioned where it will be able to draw up clean air i.e. not near the van exhaust or the heater exhaust pipe.  You also need to ensure there will be room inside the van for the heat ducting pipe which protrudes from one end - do a dummy run with everything attached & positioned first before drilling any holes.

Once you've created the holes for the intake & exhaust (using either a hole cutter or 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 really make sure you get rid of all the metal filings produced.

Campervan Heater Ducts

4. Installing Campervan Heaters Continued.

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 buying a heater you often also get a 'fixing kit' which includes all the ducting, pipes, vents, fixings, etc - as standard the Propex 2000 heater is sold with the single outlet kit which we reckon makes a lot of sense and works well for the vast majority of installations. Many vans don't really need more than one outlet... however, there is the option to add additional vent and ducting kits, should you so choose.  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!

It actually makes 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.