How to Install a Diesel Heater In a Camper (What Size Fits)

Almost all RVs use propane to heat water, the air, and the stove. Not everyone is thrilled with having that flammable liquid so close to their living area. Plus, they do not like the cost in time or money when it comes time to re-fill those propane tanks.

The diesel heater has found success in the trucking and school bus industry. They are slowly making their way into individual RVs simply because they are cheaper to operate, more efficient, easy to install and come in a very small size.

To learn more about installing a diesel heater in your RV or trailer just continue to read our article. it has that information and more. There seem to be a lot of benefits to switching from propane to diesel to heat your camper.

Why Make the Switch from Propane


Propane has a lot of good uses and almost every RV or travel trailer comes equipped with propane-fueled appliances. That makes everything convenient and keeps everything in a nice package.

However, there are a few drawbacks that come with using propane to heat your RV. First, as the fuel burns, it creates a moisture vapor, and usually, a proper heater will vent this moisture outside.

That is not always the case as many propane-type heaters do not have venting attach to them and the vapor creates condensation which in turn creates mold and mildew. Second, large propane heaters have large fans or blowers.

These blowers can use a lot of electricity when operating. Their up to 8 amp or more power need creates a power drain on your batteries. This is one reason why many RVers use smaller non-venting propane heaters.

While propane heaters are basically standard in RVs and the gas is very easy to get, it is not always the best method to heat your camper.

The Benefits of Switching to Diesel Heaters

While you may not be comfortable with the added expense, switching to a diesel heater has its benefits. here are some of those benefits you get when you explore your heating options:

1. It is safer to use- all the components are sealed inside the heater and the fuel line, exhaust, and combustion intake are all located underneath the RV so you get no smell. You also do not need to vent.

2. They are very efficient- these little heaters use up to 2.4 amps only and maybe as little as 1 gallon of diesel in 24 hours.

3. It is a dry heat- that is a good type of heat when you are worried about extra moisture and what it can do to the inside of your camper.

4. They are not large- their small size makes them easy to install in hidden locations. Once installed, you never have to move it to storage when not in use. Plus, heater controls are small allowing you to place them anywhere you want.

5. It regulates its performance- once you select your settings, the heater does everything else. The heater will make adjustments to make sure the temperature remains even.

Can a Diesel Heater be used Indoors?

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Yes, this is the ideal spot for these types of heaters. Their size makes it easy to find an out-of-the-way yet ideal spot to install them. There is only one hole you have to cut into the floor of your camper but that one hole handles all the hoses and lines you need for smooth operation.

Then that hole is sealed to keep the fumes and other issues out of your camper. That makes this an ideal heat option when you do a lot of boondocking. if you are always plugged into a power source then one of these heaters will not be as much good.

An electric heater that comes with your RV will suffice in these situations. also, if you do not do a lot of boondocking, the propane and electric options you have will suffice for short periods. But if you go off-grid a lot, then these heating option is perfect and you should not run out of fuel anytime soon.

The dry heat will be a bonus when you are camping in a very moist or humid area. Your RV’s interior should not get as moist as it would if you used propane or electric heaters.

How Does a Diesel Heater Work?

The process may be difficult to understand fully. Once you have installed the heater, it draws in cool or cold air from outside the camper. From that entry point, it works its way to and through the combustion chamber where it is mixed with the diesel fuel.

A high-pressure area does the mixing while igniting the mixture. After ignition, you get enough heat to warm your camper. The amount of heat you get depends on the temperature level you set the controls.

This system is very reliable and does not use a lot of fuel even in colder temperatures. Plus, it is very fast-acting, warming up your camper sooner than you expect. With the wide availability of diesel fuel, it is easy to fill your new gas tank to heat your camper.

Another good point about these heaters is that once they are up to the set temperature level, it does not take much fuel to maintain that level of heat.

What Size Diesel Heater For a Camper?


There are different sizes to these heaters and you should select yours based on how big your camper is. Or how small it is. You do not need a large heater when you own a small trailer or RV.

For the smaller models, a 2 kW heater will suffice. They may also work for medium-sized trailers. if your RV, etc., is large, then you will want to move up to the 5kW option. These are about twice the size of the 2kW heaters.

There is an 8 kW heating option but these may be too powerful and too big for most sizes of RVs, etc. Also, it is said that the 8 kW heater is not a true 8 kW. It is more like a 5 kW heater.

But you be the judge and check all the specs out first before buying. You won’t need more than one as these heaters are very good at producing heat. Also, if you go smaller, you need less space to house the heater.

Then to give you a size to help you make your calculations a 5 kW heater in a 14-foot camper would cook everyone, even when on low heat.

How to Install a Diesel Heater in a Camper

One of the most important parts of installing your new diesel heater is attaching it to the fuel source. It is recommended that you don't tap into an existing fuel line. It's better when doing your installation to tap directly into the fuel tank or give its own fuel tank to use.

If you do the latter option, you can make the tank as big or as small as you want or will fit in your existing leftover space. The next key area you have to watch out for is the location of the heater. You want it in the right spot where you can align the intake and exhaust hoses as well as the fuel line.

That means the cut-out has to be large enough to handle all three lines. Both the intake and the exhaust hook-ups are on the bottom of the heater. Point the intake hose with filter towards the front of the camper and the exhaust hose with muffler towards the back of the camper.

Mounting the independent fuel tank depends on the design of your camper. Some people place it under the hood of their van or tow vehicle but you may have some better options available to you.

Keep the tank close to the heater and try to elevate it up with a 15 to 45-degree tilt towards the heater. Next, locate the controller in an ideal spot where it is easy to use and not a long distance from the device.

Always use the controller to shut the heater down as many of these devices have a process to go through before turning off completely. To get photos and far more details than we can provide here, just click on this link.

How to Fit Diesel Heater in a Camper

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There is some good news if you are a DIY with some basic mechanical skills. Many of these heaters come in a kit making them easy for you to install. These kits have all the parts you will need, and all you have to do is supply the skill and tools.

These heaters are not that large in size. This makes fitting them into tight spots a simple task. The hard part will be getting the elbow room and the space to bend your body into unique shapes to install the heater.

Where you fit the heater will depend on the make and model of your camper. In a Jayco RV, the only available spot was under the sofa. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you are getting ready to find the right spot for the heater:

  • What is under the floor? (The most important question you need to answer).
  • What modifications have already been made?
  • Can you afford to lose storage space?
  • How far away is the battery?
  • Where is the best spot for the fuel tank? (you can always make it larger if you think the one in the kit is too small).

How to Prime a Chinese Diesel Heater

Priming may depend on which model of diesel heater you purchase. For some, you don't need to prime them at all. All you have to do is turn them on and the heater will do the priming itself.

In other models, the control panel may have the buttons you need to push to get the heater primed. There is a sequence you have to go through to start that process. The key o priming is to make sure the heater is facing the right direction and all the hoses are connected to the right intake, fuel, or exhaust openings.

As with other companies, there are more than one model of diesel heater labeled as Chinese. Each one may have a different priming method and if you are lucky enough to get directions with your purchase, those should tell you the process.

For the one we looked at the instructions are as follows: Prime pump – press bottom 2 buttons “OK” and “down arrow”. H Off is showing but press “Up Arrow” to turn “H on”. Apparently this primes for about 2 minutes and then shuts off. (source link).

Each model will be different and you should check with a dealer to find out the proper priming instructions.

Why Aren’t Diesel Heaters Very Popular?


For the most part, it is because most RVers do not do a lot of boondocking. If you are in a campground and hook up to shore power, you really do not need one. These heaters are for those people who like to boondock a lot.

Another reason is that they can be hard to find right now.

Some Final Words

If you do boondock a lot, installing a diesel heater is a good idea. That way, you can preserve your propane and batteries using those power sources for other purposes. The biggest drawback is they may be expensive to buy. they are easy to install if you have the right spot for them.

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