Updated  1 June 2017

This article explains safe caravan and motor home heating using diesel or gas. It explains how it works, what is available and how to safely install it. To ensure safe caravan and motor home heating it must be done correctly.  Apart from a build-up of carbon monoxide, there is a risk of oxygen deprivation. For a full technical and medically-referenced explanation see article Gas Risk in Caravans.

Safe caravan and motor home heating

Diesel powered or LP gas powered space and water heaters draw fresh outside air into a tiny sealed furnace. Diesel oil or LP gas is ignited in this furnace. Waste products are thus expelled to atmosphere. Air within the area to be heated is blown across the hot outer skin of the furnace. You can locate the hot air vent/s where desired – via flexible hose. Then fan-ducted to wherever required.

For safe RV heating you must air-seal the furnace unit from the living area. This is essential. It specifically ensure fumes from burning fuel are totally sealed from heated air, and thus expelled outside. 


The Webasto diesel space and water heater installed in a previously-owned Tvan. 

Several manufacturers make safe caravan and motor home heating products. These include Eberspacher (marketed as ‘Dometic’ in Australia), Webasto, Truma and the Snugger unit. All are available as basic space heaters. Some are space plus water heaters. The smallest produces ample heat for annexes, camper trailers, small caravans and motor homes. The next size up readily heats a cabin or large RV.


         Webasto space heater. The Dometic unit is virtually identical in appearance. That from Truma is similar but taller. Pic: Webasto (Germany).

 Safe caravan and motor home heating – space heater

The main heating units are typically the size of a brick. They usually mount with intake and exhaust outlets downward. A separate tiny 12 volt dc pump, may be connected to an (optional) 10 litre tank. Conversely, you can tap into a main vehicle tank. Some, such as the Genesis II (below), may have a larger separate water tank or radiator. In addition, a small electric control panel is mounted wherever convenient.  diesel water GENesis II-SCHEMATIC

The Genesis II provides space and water heating in one unit. Pic: Diesel Heating Australia.

I used a Webasto unit in our OKA in outback Australia. There, after sun-down, temperatures typically drop quickly. Often to below freezing. On its lowest heat setting, the heater nevertheless kept the interior at a comfortable 24o C. Furthermore, it used only a fifth of a litre of diesel/hour.

If unsilenced, the exhaust is intrusive. The noise is thus likely to bother nearby campers, particularly at night. It’s considerably reduced by the (now standard) silencer. Noise is likewise further reduced by an inlet silencer. The units are not, however, generally silent. Furthermore, reports indicate all are much the same.
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       The Truma LP gas space heater provides safe caravan and motor home heating. Pic: Dometic Australia.

Safe caravan and motor home heating – space/water heaters

The combined space/water heater’s furnace unit heats glycol. The hot glycol flows through an exchange unit. That, in turn, heats water for taps and showers. This water, however, reaches a scalding 80o C. It is thus necessary (and legally required) to include a tempering valve. This valve mixes cold and hot water such that the water is specifically limited to 500 C. Heated water is typically available within five minutes.

webasto-1The Webasto space/water heater. Pic: Webasto Australia

See also Gas Risk in Caravans on the Articles section of this website.

Safe caravan and motor home heating – further information

Safe RV heating is specifically covered in The Camper Trailer Book, Caravan & Motorhome Electrics. And likewise in the Caravan & Motorhome BookOur other books are Solar That Really Works (for cabins and RVs). In particular, Solar Success is for home and properties.

These books typically help tens of thousands worldwide to make the right decisions. Any one will thus save you many times its cost.

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