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Which is Best? Propane, Electric, or Diesel Heater for Van?

 photo by Zephyr18 via iStock

Heating a van is one of those subjects that is difficult to answer. It’s not that it is difficult to do, the problem here is that it is hard to find a source that is efficient, safe, does not lead to condensation, and does not make much noise. 

With all the above criteria you can imagine that producing a satisfying product can be difficult.

Companies have come up with products that use different kinds of fuels to achieve the above results. 

Consequently, the number of choices has led to questions. Which is the best diesel heater for van use? What about a propane heater for van use? Is an electric heater for van use a good option? Should a 12V heater for van use be on your radar?

In today’s article, we are giving the pros and cons of the above options and the type of fuel and unit we would go for. 

Diesel Heater for Van Use

Planar 2D Forced Air Diesel Heater

Planar Heaters

The diesel heater for van use has been a great answer to the problem of heating a van and sticking to the criteria mentioned in the introduction.

You see, a diesel heater for van use produces dry and warm air which helps avoid condensation. In the case of vans, this can help prevent bad smells from mold build-up, rust, and a lot of cleaning and drying up every morning.

Furthermore, a diesel heater is far safer than something like a Mr. Buddy heater as there is no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

A diesel heater for van use does not rely on an open flame inside your sleeping area. Instead, it acts as a heat exchanger using diesel for combustion to produce heat and then transferring that heat in the form of warm air into the tent.

In the case of the diesel heater for van use all dangerous gases and the combustion area are kept separate from your sleeping area. Furthermore, the air only passes around the heated elements of the heater; therefore, there is no risk of it getting contaminated. 

You should also keep in mind that if your van uses a diesel engine, you can use the van’s main tank as a fuel source; therefore, saving the hassle of needing to refuel the heater. 

Of course, one of the main drawbacks of the diesel heater for van use is all the plumbing needed to make it work. You will need to route the intake and exhaust hoses and if you are using the fuel tank of the van as a source you will also need to make some modifications there.

As we all know diesel engines are also noisy and can be smelly; therefore, this should also be taken into account. 

However, it must be mentioned that most good quality units like the Planar 2D Forced Air Diesel Heater do not make as much noise as you think, and most users did not report noise as an issue. 

Propane Heaters for Van Use

Propane Heater

Propex

Propane is another form of power for heat and heaters using this method work similarly to diesel heaters. 

The main difference here is that the heat exchanger uses propane for power instead of diesel and that has both pros and cons.

The pros are that propane is easy to transport. You have cans that can be stored easily without worrying about getting any spills. 

Furthermore, some propane cans can also be used for powering cooking stoves; therefore, saving you the hassle of carrying two fuel sources.

The smell from the exhaust gases is also less than those of the diesel heater as propane burns cleaner. 

The above may seem like appealing points, but we should also consider the negatives of propane heaters.

The first one is running out of propane. If you run out of propane in a remote area there is a chance you may not be able to find a way to refill. 

However, with a diesel heater, you will most certainly find a way to refill as most trucks and machinery in remote areas run on diesel. 

Furthermore, propane will freeze at a higher temperature than diesel which can also present issues. The last thing you want is trying to warm up a propane tank in the cold. 

Finally, if you do not run propane in your van and do not like carrying cans you will have to get a more permanent system installed by a professional which can be far more expensive than the installation of a diesel heater. 

Electric Heater for Van Useelectric heater

 

Unlike the propane or diesel heater for van use, an electric heater does not use any type of flammable fuel to produce heat. 

To some, this provides a great sense of safety as portable heaters such as a Mr. Buddy introduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and the propane and diesel options produce clean warm air; however, they emit emissions and are still based on a flammable source. 

The electric ones will also produce heat instantly, they are silent and can be easily used in multiple vans unlike a propane or diesel heater for van use which in most cases will be permanently mounted due to all the plumbing needed with it. 

This choice will also be great in temperatures well below zero as you will not have any issues with freezing fuel or getting a fossil-burning heater going in the cold. 

Finally, the electric choice is far cheaper than the other options as they are usually mass-market-built heaters that also work in homes. 

The negatives of the electric heaters are mostly the amount of electricity they require. You will need plenty of juice to power the heaters needed to get a big van toasty. Therefore, in most cases, inverters and batteries won’t be able to deliver enough power to keep the heaters going for multiple hours, so you’ll need a generator to power the heater.

4WDTalk’s Heating Fuel and Unit of Choice 

Planar 2D Forced Air Diesel Heater

Planar Heaters

In our opinion, a diesel heater will do the best job of heating your van.

We have chosen the diesel heater for van use because the installation is not too complicated, diesel fuel can be found anywhere in the world, it can be paired with your van’s actual fuel system, it is slightly cheaper than the propane options, it produces dry, and safe heated air, and does not require complicated electrical installations to keep running. 

Our choice of a diesel heater for van use is the Planar 2D Forced Air Diesel Heater and that is because of the safety standards it meets and the clever features it provides.

With this heater you will get operation on both 24V and 12V, a fuel consumption of about 1 liter per 5 hours of operation, 7,000 BTU/h with strong airflow, fully automated temperature control, self-diagnostic system, compact packaging, and plug-and-play installation. 

Planar Heaters is a well-known brand and one of the best sellers in the industry of diesel heaters. Therefore, you can be sure that when it comes to diesel heaters for van use the one from planar will be safe, efficient, and most importantly warm. 

If you have any questions regarding heating systems for vans, feel free to post them on our forum page! 

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