There are several types of stationary heating: fuel (diesel), gas or oil (diesel), electric. Stationary heaters can be forced air or water. In addition to bringing the ideal heat to the passenger compartment, they can also heat the water reserve to supply the kitchen or the shower. Read this article to find out more information about their workings, advantages, disadvantages and dangers.
What is a stationary heater?
Unlike auxiliary heating, auxiliary heating is only essential at certain specific times. It is only activated when the vehicle is stationary. It has been part of the standard equipment of converted vehicles since the beginning of the 2000s. Unlike the auxiliary heating of a moving vehicle, the stationary heating does not always work with electricity from the battery or with fuel. Other energy sources can also be used.
The different energy sources available for stationary heating
There are five possible energy sources to power the stationary heater.
- Gas heating
Stationary gas heaters are designed not only for boats, but also for camper vans and motorhomes. Remember that a heater of 2 kW is more than enough to heat the compartment in just 30 minutes.
The principle is not complicated: a valve sucks the air out of the van, while a bottle connected to the “ air heater ” supplies the compressed gas. The mixture between the gas on one side and the air on the other side will cause combustion. Heat is expelled from the heater as forced air. An internal 12V fan, powered by your van, distributes heat throughout your vehicle’s cell. The exhaust gases created by combustion are evacuated outside the van via the exhaust nozzles.
The forced air gas heating system is VASP approved. Its ease of use and its perfect adaptation to life in a van are also the advantages of this type of heating. Its maintenance is inexpensive and gas cylinders are found all over the world and can be used either for cooking or for heating. You need to have between €1000 and €2000 to afford the forced air gas heating solution. However, it cannot work with the engine running. In addition, it requires a high gas storage capacity.
- Fuel heating
Its principle is almost similar to that of gas heating. The difference lies in the energy used to generate the combustion: diesel in 99% of cases. The heat thus generated will then be distributed by numerous blowers and pipes and blowers, as in the case of stationary gas heating. It consumes little energy fuel, which will not increase the bills when you refuel.
Since the energy necessary for its operation is drawn from the diesel tank, it is then necessary to take into account the real risks of breaking down. As for its average consumption, it takes 1 liter of fuel for 10 hours of heating. You will therefore have plenty of time to notice an imminent breakdown and to find a petrol station nearby. Make sure that the system gives off no smell of diesel in the passenger compartment and is no more dangerous than a gas heater.
On the other hand, many “ vanlifers ” complain about the noise of the diesel pump that it creates when it works, but also about its electricity consumption, when it is started. Such a heating system then requires an auxiliary battery at the risk of no longer being able to restart the van.
- Electric heating
Electric heating is quick and easy to install. By the way, some manufacturers offer an optional auxiliary tank that can be filled independently. In apartments and houses, this heating system removes moisture from the air, which is a real advantage in humid regions. Its various electrical resistances generate heat, accumulating energy. Some diesel heater ranges are equipped with a pilot control panel to precisely regulate the heating power. Such a control panel can be digital or analog and operates on a thermostat to adjust the temperature to the nearest degree.
However, its disadvantage lies in its inability to provide the energy necessary for its operation. This heating system is very energy-intensive and your small auxiliary battery will drain within an hour, therefore the photovoltaic panels will not be able to produce sufficient energy to operate it.
The VAN IT company, for example, has an optional electrical kit, consisting of extension cords and sockets, which can be connected to an electrical source to recharge the auxiliary batteries while driving. It costs 10 euros during the holiday period.
- Wood heating
This heating system is almost identical to the wood stove in your home. Yet it requires sufficient space to store and dry firewood. Installing a wood stove in your fitted van creates a real economic advantage. The price of the fuel is not expensive, moreover, it restores approximately 30% of the accumulated heat. The biggest problems include the installation of a flue gas vent as well as possible carbon monoxide poisoning. The van equipped with this type of heating may not be VASP approved.
- Water heating
Installing a water heater in the campervan is quite feasible. This heating system aims to heat a heat transfer liquid, which will then be distributed in the dedicated circuit. Its principle seems almost similar to that of forced-air fuel heating. However, it heats water instead of air. Gasoline or diesel powers its heating unit. The latter provides the heat necessary to heat a liquid in a closed circuit. The heat transfer liquid flowing in a water network supplies the plate exchangers or unit heaters.
The dangers of heaters in a van or campervan
The use of a heater, especially in a confined space, such as a van or campervan, presents risks.
- The heat
There is always a risk of burns in the presence of heat. So, you must be careful when using powerful heaters, making sure that there can be no combustion caused by the heat (release of objects around…).
Make sure that the flame is completely confined within a heating element.
- Fuel leaks
Check the condition of the installation (pipes, pipes, etc.) and take the appropriate measures in the event of a fuel leak.
How to choose the ideal heating model?
Here are the main criteria to keep in mind:
- The budget which includes the cost of installation by a licensed professional and the cost of the heating itself. In France, generally, the labor for the installation corresponding to one or two days of work is between 300 € and 600 € of labor.
- The desired comfort temperature and the length of time desired to maintain it in the campervan.
- Insulation to find the ideal solution.
- The location of the heater, gas bottle and exhaust pipes for hot air.
- The options available according to the brands and ranges marketed.