Updated: Aug 24
Hi everybody, it's not long now until the nights start drawing in and it starts getting dark and cold again.
Winter in a van can be horrible when the temperature drops making not much fun at all if you don't have a decent way of heating your van. If you haven't got a well insulated van it can be even worse but with the added complication of condensation on all of your panels.
However there is a way to solve both of these problems at once turning your van into a nice, cosy, warm and dry year round home or weekend get away.
Diesel heaters are amazing little things that pump out an amazing amount of heat with minimal fuel consumption and very little battery power meaning you can keep your van warm all day everyday without any worries about killing your batteries or running out of fuel. they can also be left on for days, weeks and even months at a time without needing to be turned off at all.
These heaters can be purchased nice and cheap new and last for years once they are installed making them an awesome solution for any van lifer, weekend warrior or even day tripper.
They are also very simple to install yourself at home and that is what we are going to be talking about today.
Fitting Your Own Chinese Diesel Heater - Everything You Need To Know
So first of all you are going to need a decent Chinese diesel heater to install. There are lots of different options out there to choose from but i'm not going to lie it can be a bit of a minefield. Some claim to be 2KW when they are really 5KW, some claim to be 8KW when they are really 5KW, some claim to be in the uk but they are really in china, some have pictures that are nothing like the ones that turned up the list goes on and on.
I have ordered quite a few online to fit for people and I have found some trusted brands that are always as advertised and here are my two preferred models. As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases
Triclicks 12V 5KW Air Diesel Heater Parking Heater Diesel Night Heater with Silencer LCD Switch Remote Control
USUALLY CHEAPEST ON THE FIRST LINK ON EBAY
2KW Diesel Air Heater Planar 2000W 12V For Trucks Boats Silencer
FlowerW 2KW Air Diesel Heater Planar 12V Parking Heater with Silencer Diesel Heater lcd switch 10L Tank for Trucks Motor-Homes RV Trailer
For more tried and tested recommended heaters with different option please check out this post...
2KW OR 5KW?
If you are wondering of you need 5KW or 2KW then that all depends on the size of the space you want to heat. If you have anything smaller than a LWB van then I suggest only going for the 2KW as the 5KW pump out a lot of heat even on the lowest power. You will probably get away with a 2KW in any van as they are powerful enough but if you have a large van/space and need an extra power boost then go for the 5KW.
As well as the power there are also a few other massive differences between the 5KW heaters and the 2KW ones, the main one is the physical size. The 5KW units are considerably bigger that the 2KW units so if you only have a tight space to fit it into like under a seat then you should go for the 2KW.
MAKE SURE YOU FIT A CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM
Just like anything that you might fit into your van that uses combustion to work for example your gas hob, a three way fridge, wood burning stoves and of course your vans engine there is always a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning... It's the nature of the beast.
However just like all of the things listed above if they are installed correctly, you have ventilation and you get yourself a decent carbon monoxide alarm then you have no need to worry at all.
SO BEFORE YOU INSTALL YOUR CHEAP CHINESE DIESEL HEATER INTO YOUR VAN MAKE SURE YOU HAVE INSTALLED A CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM IN YOUR VAN... After all they are cheap and Chinese!
Fireangel CO-9D Digital Sealed for Life Carbon Monoxide Alarm, White
Once you have your heater and a carbon monoxide alarm there are a few more bits and pieces that you are going to need to install the heater safely, If you are installing the heater in the van not underneath it the first thing you will need is a turret plate. These are to replace the cheap useless mounting plate that come in the heater package and I would recommend anybody that is fitting one of these heaters to use it instead.
Not only do they make the heater safer after installation they also make them a lot easier to install yourself. They are particularly needed if you already have a wooden floor down or if your van floor isn't flat where you want to install the heater.
With these turret plates you need to cut a 127mm hole in a suitable location in your floor with a hole saw, mount the heater to the turret and bolt it down and then it is ready to insert in your new hole. But don't do this yet.
Mounting Bracket for Auxiliary Heating 30 mm
This has a 30mm collar for a wooden floor without insulation underneath, if you have an insulated floor you will need the turret plate below with a 60 mm collar
Mounting Bracket for Auxiliary Heating 60 mm
This turret plate has a 60mm collar for wooden floors with insulation underneath, if you do not have any insulation you can use the 30mm plate above
Chinese diesel heater floor mounting plate - planar 100mm
This turret plate has a 100mm collar for wooden floors with extra thick insulation underneath, not as good quality as the items above but good enough and cheap ish
Starrett FCH0500 Bi Metal Fast Cut 127mm Hole Saw
Starrett A2 Arbor to Suit 32mm-210mm Holesaws
We have also started our very own Chinese Diesel Heaters UK facebook group, it is quite new at the moment but growing quickly. Please follow the link below to join the group and join in our new community. We are happy to answer any questions you might have.
FINDING A SUITABLE LOCATION FOR YOUR HEATER
One thing I have noticed when fitting these heaters for people is that they normally have an idea where they want the heater to go to make things easy for them and their build, and thats the way I planned my first ever heater in my first camper. In reality it's not always that easy, once you look underneath the van there is quite often something already under where you want to mount the heater rendering it unusable.
Not only do you need to find a nice handy gap to fit the heater above the floor (to suit your build) and underneath the floor (avoiding van parts) you also need it far enough away from your vans exhaust pipe so that you don't suck exhaust fumes through your air intake and close enough to something suitable to screw your P CLIPS into for securing your air intake and exhaust pipe to your van.
Another thing you need to take into consideration when finding a perfect location for your heater is you need to leave at least a 3 cm gap between the fan end of the heater and any obstruction.
And the final thing you will need to find a location for is your fuel tank, the fuel tanks that come with the heaters are a stupid shape to say the least. They are tall and flat making them pretty hard to fit inside anything that you might have built already like bench seats etc and in my opinion it is harder to find a decent place for the fuel tank than it is the heater. The one good thing about them is because they are flat you can screw them to things to keep them into place however if you are going to do this make sure the tanks lid is above whatever you are screwing it to or you wont be able to screw the lid on or off.
There is some good news though you don't have to use the fuel tank that is supplied with it as there are plenty of others out there that are not a stupid shape and can fit wherever you want them.
Qmcmc 5.5L Plastic Fuel Oil Gasoline Tank For Car Truck Air Diesel Parking Heater
Hulk 12 Litre Portable Marine Outboard Fuel Tank Yacht Sailing Boat Fishing
UK 7L Plastic Fuel Oil Gasoline Tank For Car Truck Air Diesel Parking Heater Box
CUTTING THE HOLE IN YOUR FLOOR
Once you have found a location for everything it's time to bite the bullet and cut your hole in your floor. To do this you need be certain that you are cutting in the right place so measure.a few times before drilling your first hole.
Before I start using the hole saw to cut a big hole in the floor I like to go underneath the van and drill a small hole with a drill bit in the centre of the area where I want to fit the turret plate, then I go into the van and check that the hole is in the correct place to avoid any costly mistakes.
When you are ready to cut your large hole you will need a 127mm holesaw and arbor
Starrett FCH0500 Bi Metal Fast Cut 127mm Hole Saw
Starrett A2 Arbor to Suit 32mm-210mm Holesaws
Be very careful when using a holesaw of this size and make sure you have a FIRM grip on the drill with BOTH hands as these can get snagged and kick back on the drill with enough force to do some damage to you wrist and or smash your hand into something close by. If you have weak wrists or poor upper body strength this is probably a job for a helpful neighbour.
You will also need a decent drill for this as it the holesaw is very heavy in the first place and it will need to work hard to get through a layer of thick wood, then insulation, very often thick tar sound deadening and not so often but sometimes the van has had a thick rubbery undercoat sprayed onto it to stop it from rusting. I fitted a heater on a T4 not long ago that had all these layers with a cordless drill and it took me about half an hour to get through all of the layers. I would suggest a 240v drill not a cordless, you can use a cordless but the cheap ones will overheat and burn the motor out in no time.
Makita HR2630 26 mm 3 Mode SDS Plus Rotary Hammer Drill
Once you have cut your hole out of your floor the metal around the edge of the hole will be exposed to the elements so before you do anything else you need to sort that out by covering it in a suitable paint. I always carry a tin or this with me. Before you do this make sure the turret plate fits in your hole, if you need to grind anymore away then the paint is pointless until after.
Hammerite 5158238 250ml Number 1 Rust Beater - Grey
And then you want to put a top coat of paint once it dries, I carry white, silver and black on me and just use them as it will be hidden but if you want to match your body work it can be easily done.
MOTIP Spray Paint - Gloss White - 500 ml
Before you fit your heater to your turret plate and bolt it into place you are going to need to figure out how to get the fuel pipe back through your floor into your van. I always like to install the pump and fuel filter inside the van to stop them from being damaged so I like to bring the fuel pipe straight from the heater into the van.
There is already an extra hole on the turret plate but that is directly underneath the heater so if you bring it back through there it will have to bolted under the heater and pop out the rubber gasket on the bottom of the heater and this isn't ideal for lots of reasons.
I like to drill an extra hole in the turret plate inside the circle but as far to the edge as possible so you can pass the fuel pipe through with ease once the heater is bolted to the turret plate. To do this you will need some a rubber grommet.
Rubber Grommet Assortment Kit Electrical Conductor Gasket Ring Set for Wire, Plug and Cable, 180 Pieces
INSTALLING THE HEATER
Once you have drilled the hole for your fuel line and popped a grommet into it you can bolt your heater to your turret plate, these can be a bit of a hassle to get on as the bolts never seem to line up exactly with the holes but they always go on with a wiggle and a little bit of gentle persuasion.
Before you put the turret in the hole you can also attach all of your pipes to it and tighten them into place to save rolling around under your van with dirt dropping into your eyes.
There are three pipes that you need to attach to the bottom of the heater and they are the exhaust pipe, the air intake pipe and the fuel pipe.