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Our Top 4 Electric Campervan Heaters – Buyer’s Guide

Just because the summer is drawing to a close doesn’t mean you have to park up your campervan until next year. There are plenty of great places to explore in the autumn and winter months. If you can keep nice and warm then it doesn’t really matter what the weather’s doing outside.

Choosing the right heater for your campervan is crucial – remember that keeping safe is just as important as keeping warm.

What is the best heater for a campervan?

In our experience, the best kind of heater to use in a campervan is definitely an electric heater. They are much safer than gas heaters, can generally be thermostatically controlled, and are inexpensive. Obviously, you will need to be staying on a campsite with electric-hook-up (EHU) to use an electric heater, so they’re not going to be suitable for wild camping (unless you have a generator).

OK then, without further ado, here are our top 4 electric campervan heaters to keep you nice and toasty when the weather turns cold.

Our No. 1 electric campervan heater is:

An 800 watt Mini Oil Filled Radiator

  • Very safe, can be left on overnight
  • Unlikely to trip the campsite’s EHU
  • Does not dry the air
  • Compact and portable
  • Thermostatically controlled
  • No smell or fumes
  • Affordable
  • Silent
  • Not fan assisted 

Our number one choice for keeping warm in a campervan is a mini oil filled radiator. Last year, we bought one exactly the same as the one shown above, and absolutely love it.

We believe that an oil filled mini radiator is the safest electric heater for a campervan. We felt totally comfortable leaving the radiator on low when we went walking from the campsite, and it was really lovely coming back to a warm campervan. We also kept the mini radiator on overnight with no problems at all, (in fact it’s the only type of electric heater I would feel comfortable leaving on whilst sleeping).

Although the mini radiator is tiny, it managed to keep the campervan warm and cosy, even though it was just 3 degrees outside.

electric campervan heater
Our mini radiator

The 6 fin mini radiator is lightweight and very compact, measuring just 38 cm high x 31 cm wide x 14 cm deep. There is no smell or fumes produced by the radiator. It has a built-in thermostat so works exactly the same as the radiators at home. You just set the dial at the front anywhere between Low and High and the radiator maintains that temperature setting.

electric campervan heater - high low

Another plus point with an oil filled radiator is that they don’t dry the air out like some other electric heaters can. The heat is more gentle which is just what you need in a confined space like a campervan. Also, they are virtually silent apart from the occasional tick.

Mini radiators come in a number of sizes, ranging from 500-watt to 1000-watt, 5 to 9 fins. (More fins basically mean more heat displacement.)

We chose to go for a 6 fin, 800-watt model which has proved an excellent choice for us. The 800-watt power output has provided plenty of heat inside when the temperature drops outside. We’ve never had a problem with the mini radiator tripping the campsites EHU either, even with the thermostat turned up to high.

The SupaWarm 800-watt 6 fin mini radiator on Amazon looks to be the exact same model, size and spec as ours. (Ours is branded by Daewoo, but as far as I’m aware these are just generic radiators.)

One final bonus of this type of electric campervan heater… is that you can dry your socks on it if they get wet. I’m not joking, you really can!

Our No. 2 electric campervan heater is:

The Kampa Diddy Portable Heater

  • Fan assisted, so heats up the space quickly
  • Should not trip the campsite’s EHU
  • Safety cut-out if it tips over
  • Housing stays cool to the touch
  • Very compact
  • Affordable
  • Should not be left unattended
  • Not thermostatically controlled
  • No cool setting
  • Not silent

If space is at a premium in your campervan then the low wattage Kampa Diddy portable electric heater could be for you. Even though it’s only 22cm high x 17cm wide and 9.5cm deep this mini heater packs a real punch. It has two energy efficient heating elements and two power settings, 750-watt and 1500-watt, both are fan assisted. The really nice thing about this heater, however, is even when it’s on and throwing out heat the casing remains cool to the touch. It also has a tip-over safety cut-out feature for added peace of mind.

Reading through all the positive Amazon reviews would definitely make me consider buying one of these little guys.

Safety first:

Never leave this kind of electric heater unattended or close to any flammable fabrics. I would personally be reluctant to sleep with this electric heater turned on overnight.

Our No. 3 electric campervan heater is:

The Quest Portable Electric Camping Heater

  • Instant heat
  • Silent
  • Lightweight 
  • Low wattage – unlikely to trip the campsites EHU
  • Compact and portable
  • Affordable
  • Not thermostatically controlled
  • Should not be left unattended

The low wattage Quest slimline portable electric camping heater uses two 400 watt quartz elements for instant heat. The heater has two power settings: the first turns on one element (400 watts) and the second turns on both elements (800 watts). Two safety features that will be important for anyone considering using the heater in a confined space are:

1. When the heater is turned on, the main housing remains cool to the touch.

2. If the heater gets accidentally knocked over it will immediately turn itself off.

Affordable, lightweight and easy to store with its folding base this little electric heater is definitely one to consider for your campervan.

Safety first:

Never leave this kind of electric heater unattended or close to any flammable fabrics. I would personally be reluctant to sleep with this electric heater turned on overnight.

Our No. 4 electric campervan heater is:

The Warmlite Portable Fan Heater

  • Heats up the space very quickly
  • Thermostatically controlled
  • Can be used to blow cool air in the summer
  • Compact and portable
  • Very cheap
  • Does tend to dry the air if used for long periods
  • Should not be left unattended
  • May trip some campsite’s EHU on maximum setting
  • Not silent

The final electric campervan heater in our top 4 list is the good old electric fan heater such as this Warmlite Portable Fan Heater . 

We have one which is identical to the Warmlite and have found it to be very effective in quickly warming up the campervan on chilly evenings. We don’t use it all the time, as when it’s used for long periods it does dry the air up – but it is great for a quick burst of heat and taking the chill off.

The Warmlite fan heater has two settings, setting No. 1: which is 1000-watts and setting No 2: which is 2000-watts. We rarely use setting No. 2 though, because the heater has tripped a campsites EHU before. Usually setting No. 1 is more than enough to quickly heat up a small space like a campervan.

Another advantage of this sort of electric heater is that it can also be used to blow cool air in warm weather too!

A fan heater is a very effective way to quickly heat your campervan but there are some downsides to using one – they do tend to dry the air and they are quite noisy.

The thermostatically controlled Warmlite fan heater can be used both in a horizontal or vertical position, so there shouldn’t be any problem finding a suitable place for it in your campervan.

Safety first:

Never leave this kind of electric heater unattended or close to any flammable fabrics. I would personally be reluctant to sleep with this electric heater turned on overnight.

Our personal electric heater recommendations

For what they cost, my personal recommendation would be to buy a mini oil filled radiator and a fan heater. We always have a fan heater stashed in the bottom cupboard both in summer and winter – but when we know that the weather is going to get really chilly, we also pack our mini radiator too!

Other campervan heating ideas

There may be times in your campervan that you don’t have the convenience of connecting to mains hook-up. So what other ways are there for keeping you and your campervan warm, other than using an electric heater? Let’s look at a couple of alternatives.

Portable gas heater

Now, you can buy small portable gas heaters that use gas canisters about the size of an aerosol can. However a word of warning. They are not intended to be used in confined spaces like a campervan. Yes, if you read through some of the Amazon reviews for this sort of portable gas heater you will see that some people do use them in campervans. However, it cannot be stressed enough, that if this is something you intend to do, good ventilation is an absolute must, due to the dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

If you are considering using a portable gas heater for your campervan, please be sure you understand the risks and how to keep yourself safe. At the very least invest in a good carbon monoxide alarm/detector, it may just save your life!

Diesel heater

This is going to be the most expensive option for keeping warm in your campervan and will need to be properly installed (see the video below). Prices vary, a Planar diesel heater kit, for example, starts at around £450, whereas an Espar diesel heater starts at around £1500. However, if you spend a lot of time off-grid in your campervan in cold weather, it may be worth considering the expense.

Diesel heater safety

Diesel heaters are very effective and safe, they can be used on the move and whilst sleeping. There is no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning as the combustion chamber is a sealed unit and all exhaust gases are vented to the outside of the vehicle. Usually, diesel heaters use the fuel from the vehicles fuel tank to operate. Don’t worry about using up all the diesel in the fuel tank though, diesel heaters are very economical to run, this is one reason they are fitted to so many heavy goods vehicles.

How does a diesel heater work?

When the diesel heater is running, air is sucked in from outside of the vehicle into a combustion chamber where it’s then mixed with diesel. The fuel is then ignited and heats up a heat exchanger. The exhaust gases are vented to the outside through an exhaust pipe. At no point do the exhaust gases enter the interior of the vehicle. Finally, an internal fan sucks ambient air from inside the vehicle over the heat exchanger and back into the interior of the vehicle.

Tips for keeping warm in a campervan

  • A well insulated campervan will need less heating and will retain heat much more effectively than a non insulated campervan, so bear this in mind if your building your own campervan.
  • A proportion of heat will be lost through the windscreen and side windows of your campervan. As an example of this, a typical house will lose around 10% of its heat through the windows. The use of thermal window blinds in your campervan will significantly reduce heat loss. Thermal blinds will also keep your campervan cool in the summer.
  • Don’t wait until you get cold, wear plenty of thin layers including thermal underwear and socks. The air trapped between the layers will act as an insulator and help to keep you warm. If you get too warm you can just peel off a layer. Also wearing a hat is a good idea, around 10% of the body’s heat is lost through the head.
  • Invest in a good quality sleeping bag such as this hollow fibre Outwell Campion sleeping bag. Puff the bag up before you get in it, as the air between the fibres will hold the heat, keeping you nice and warm.
  • Take a hot water bottle or self-heating gel packs/hand warmers with you for instant heat.
  • If you are staying on a campsite with EHU, how about using an electric blanket for keeping really toasty.
  • When staying on a campsite, if possible park in an elevated, sheltered, sunny spot and avoid valleys where cold air/mist gathers.
  • Hot drinks will heat your core. but don’t drink too many fluids before going to bed as getting up in the night for a pee will lose all the heat that’s built up whilst you’ve been asleep.

You may also find this article useful – Preparing your Campervan for Winter

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