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Top Heating Options for Campervans in Australia

It may be too late for this season (since we’re already in winter now) to install a diesel heater into your van… but if you’re in the midst of a build now, or looking to improve your heating for next year, we’re going to explore the various heating options for vans in Australia.

Travelling around Australia in a camper van is awesome, but it’s not always the tropical and warm weather that everyone thinks it is. So for those times you’re exploring the chilly highlands of Tasmania or when you’ve got those cool nights in the Outback, having reliable heating in your camper van is gonna be very much appreciated.

So in this article we’ll have a look at both built-in systems and portable heaters, each option has its pros and cons. 

Enough faffing on…

Installed Heaters

Unlike our North American and European friends, we don’t suffer through 6 months of freezing temperatures at a time, and if it all gets too much, there is also the option of heading north during the winter months. 

So deciding whether you’ll go through the hassle and expense of installing a heater, will depend largely on how you plan to use your van.

If you just want to chase the sun… why bother with a heater?

If you’re planning on spending some winter months in the colder areas or you want to take your van on some skiing holidays, then a heater will be your best friend. And an installed heater means that it is out of way, you don’t have to worry about tripping over it when in use, or finding a place to store it during summer.

Diesel Heaters

Everyone’s talking about diesel heaters these days.

But the biggest question that seems to be coming up the most is “Are the chinese diesel heaters any good, or are they just a waste of money?” 

So let’s have a look first at how diesel heaters work, and this may help you to determine if you’ll go ahead with a diesel heater imported from China, or not.

A diesel heater in a campervan works by burning diesel fuel to generate heat, which is then distributed throughout the living space.

It draws diesel from the vehicle’s fuel tank and mixes it with fresh air to create combustion in a burner unit.

This combustion produces heat, which is transferred through a heat exchanger.

A fan then blows air over the heat exchanger, warming it up before circulating it inside the van.

The heater is controlled by a thermostat, allowing you to set your desired temperature.

Safety features ensure any exhaust gases are safely expelled outside.

  • Efficient fuel use.
  • Reliable even in severe cold.
  • Direct connection to the vehicle’s fuel system.
  • Can be installed by DIYer.
  • Availability of diesel, even in remote areas
  • Regular maintenance like burner cleaning.
Cost Range:

AUD $200 (for an import from China) to $2,300+

Eberspacher Airtronic AS3 D2L Diesel Air Heater Kit, 12Volt, Single Outlet with ePro


Webasto 12V Diesel Heater Single Outlet with Ducting & Digital Controller


Belief 12V 2.2kW Diesel Air Heater Full Installation Kit


VEVOR Diesel Air Heater, 12V 2KW Diesel Heater with Remote Control and LCD Display, 10L Fuel Tank Diesel Parking Heater, Rapid Heating for RV Trailer Camper Van Boat And Indoors


Gas Heaters (LPG Heaters)

An LPG gas heater works in a similar way to the diesel heater.

When you turn on the heater, gas flows from the tank through a device called a regulator, which controls the gas pressure to ensure it’s safe and steady. The gas then reaches a burner, where it’s mixed with air and ignited to create a flame. This flame heats up a metal part called a heat exchanger.

The heat exchanger transfers the warmth from the flame to the air inside your campervan. Some heaters have a fan that blows air over the heat exchanger to distribute the warm air more evenly throughout the space. Others rely on natural convection, where warm air rises and spreads on its own.

To keep things comfortable, the heater has a thermostat. This thermostat lets you set your desired temperature and automatically turns the heater on or off to maintain that temperature. If the temperature drops below your set point, the thermostat signals the heater to light the burner again. When the campervan reaches the desired warmth, the thermostat shuts off the gas supply, extinguishing the flame.

Safety is a big concern with gas heaters, so they come with several built-in features. For example, there’s an oxygen depletion sensor that turns off the gas if it detects low oxygen levels, indicating that the air might not be safe. There’s also a flame failure device that cuts off the gas if the flame goes out unexpectedly, preventing gas leaks. Overheat protection ensures the heater turns off if it gets too hot, and it’s always a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector in your campervan to alert you if CO levels get too high.

Installation must be done by a certified gas technician to ensure everything is set up correctly and safely. The heater needs to be placed in a well-ventilated area, often under a seat or in a cabinet, with proper venting to the outside to expel harmful gases.

  • Lower running costs compared to electric options.
  • Rapid and effective heating.
  • Requires installation by a certified gas technician.
  • Potential gas leak risks.
  • LPG availability in remote areas.
Cost Range:

AUD $500 to $2,000 plus installation.

Truma Vario Eco Gas Heater with Black Cowl


Electric Heaters

If you should be lucky enough to have a reverse cycle air conditioner in your van already, well then you’re set.

These do a good job of heating as well as cooling, but they do have a big power draw so really only suitable when you’re hooked up to 240V power. Unless, of course, you have a hefty lithium battery set up that can power it.

  • No emissions inside the vehicle
  • No extra components to install or maintain
  • Quiet operation
  • Need main power… or a hefty lithium battery bank
  • Air can become too dry
Cost Range:

AUD $1,500 to $3,000 plus installation.

Dometic FreshJet RV Air Conditioner 7 Series Plus FJX7457IHP + ADB


FURRION 12000 BTU Rooftop Air Conditioner – 3.5kW


Combo / Hybrid Heaters

A diesel combo heater is a smart solution that uses diesel fuel to heat both water and air through one integrated system.

Here’s how it works: The heart of the system is the diesel burner, which is like a little furnace that burns diesel fuel to create heat. This heat is then transferred to a heat exchanger, which acts as a bridge to pass the heat to both water and air.

When you need hot water, say for a shower or washing dishes, the system detects this demand. It then directs the heat to the water tank, warming it up so you can get hot water from your taps. It’s quite efficient because it heats up the water directly from the burner.

Now, for heating the air inside your van, the system works in a similar way. When the temperature inside drops below your set preference, the system kicks in. It directs the heat to a fan that blows warm air over the heat exchanger and then circulates this warm air throughout your living space, keeping it cozy.

What’s great is that the system can do both jobs at once – it can heat your water and keep your living area warm simultaneously. It manages this by balancing the heat between the water tank and the air blower, ensuring you don’t have to choose between a hot shower and a warm caravan.

With the diesel combo heater you can choose to tap into your vehicle fuel tank, or have a separate tank specifically for the heater.

So, in essence, a diesel combo heater in your campervan provides a dual service of heating water and air, all from a single, efficient system that runs on diesel, making your travel experience more comfortable and convenient.

  • Single fuel source
  • Space saving
  • Reliable even in severe cold.
  • Direct connection to the vehicle’s fuel system.
  • Availability of diesel, even in remote areas
  • Regular maintenance like burner cleaning.
Cost Range:

AUD $1,800 to $4,000 plus installation.

Truma Combi D 6 Kit, Diesel Heater / Hot Water System with Black Cowl


Combination Diesel Air + Electric Water Heater For Caravan + Motor Homes


Portable Heaters

You might want to consider a portable heater (sometimes called a space heater or an area heater) if you’re not planning to do much cold weather travel, and you just need it for a one off trip/season.

Portable heaters offer flexibility and convenience for van dwellers, making them a popular choice for those who need a temporary or supplemental heating solution.

They’re a cost effective option, but you do need to factor in where it will fit (both when in use and when it’s stored away).

Electric Heaters

As you can imagine, electric heaters comes in various forms such as ceramic heaters, fan heaters, radiant heaters and oil-filled radiators. This is the easiest option (in my opinion) since you could choose almost any electric heater you like from K-Mart, Bunnings or Harvey Norman.

One of the main considerations for van dwellers though, is whether you have the electrical capacity to power one of these heaters. You’ll be fine if you’re hooked up to power at a caravan park, but if you’re planning to be off-grid you’ll need to make sure you will have enough power.

  • No emissions, making them safe for indoor use
  • Variety of options and features like adjustable thermostats and timers
  • Quiet operation and even heat distribution
  • Requires a power source, which may not be feasible off-grid
  • Can drain batteries quickly if not connected to shore power
  • Generally less heat output compared to gas heaters
Cost Range:

From as little as AUD $20

LPG (Propane) Heater

Propane heaters use liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a fuel source. They are known for their high heat output and portability.

  • High efficiency and quick heating
  • Suitable for off-grid use as they do not require electricity
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Requires proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide buildup
  • Propane tanks need to be refilled or replaced
  • Not ideal for continuous use in small, enclosed spaces
Cost Range:

AUD $150 to $200

Companion Portable Propane Heater


Mr Heater Portable Buddy Gas Heater


Butane Heaters

Similar to propane heaters but use butane gas, and they are typically smaller and more compact.

  • Easy to use with butane canisters
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Good for short-term use or emergency heating
  • Butane canisters can be more expensive and less available than propane
  • Lower heat output compared to propane heaters
  • Requires ventilation to avoid gas buildup
Cost Range:

AUD $60 to $150

Portable Gas Camping Heater, Portable Butane Double Burner Infrared Ray Gas Heater Outdoor Camping Fishing Gas Warmer


GasmateDeluxe Butane Heater


Ultimately the best heating option depends on your specific needs and travel plans. Whether you choose a diesel combo heater a gas combo heater or a portable heater each has its own set of advantages. Make sure to consider your budget the climate and your comfort preferences to ensure a cosy and enjoyable camper van experience in Australia.