Warm & Toasty – Camper trailer heating solutions

What’s the best way to take the chill out of your camper trailer? Well, there are a few options. Let’s take a closer look!

When it comes to installing a heater into our camper trailers there are a few options available, but it all really boils down to four main designs or fuel sources. If you’ve got access to the power grid, you can utilise a small portable 240V electric heater or a 240V reverse-cycle air-conditioning. For off-grid heating you typically jump into the realms of diesel or gas heaters. If you’re new to the wonderful world of RV heating, it’s time to learn a bit about their pros and cons. With that in mind, let’s take a crash course, shall we?

Cheap and Easy 

For a budget heating option, a small portable space heater is a popular choice. These days they can be quite efficient, with those featuring a ceramic core and thermostat-control function being the preferred option. The drawback, however, is you’ll have to have access to 240V power to run the appliance and seeing as they quite often draw 2400W a basic battery bank with an inverter won’t cut the mustard. Plus, you’ll need a safe place to sit the heater where it won’t get knocked over or overheat anything flammable nearby.

Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning 

If your camper trailer has a solid roof, there’s always the option of installing a reverse cycle air-conditioning unit. In fact, most newer hybrid camper trailers come standard with them these days.

While they are famed for allowing you to effectively set-and-forget the desired temperature, they do have a tendency to cause the air to become dry, which can irritate your throat and cause a dry cough. Plus, while we’re naming their downfalls, they also take a little while to kick-in and can be quite noisy. Not to mention, they require 240V power to run. That means you either need to stay at a powered campsite or drag a suitable sized generator along for the ride. The only other option is to run a pretty wicked power set-ups on board, which is definitely not easy on the budget!

Installing a Reverse Cycle Air-Conditioner 

These units are generally installed on the roof of a hybrid style camper trailer or caravan. But due to their weight, the roof must be reinforced. Some campers have roof reinforcement fitted from the factory, however, most don’t. The remedy in this case, is to install a H-frame support during the install.

In other scenarios, it may be possible to install the unit in a cupboard that faces the outer wall. Obviously, this will depend on your overall layout.

Off-Grid Heating Solutions 

Gas Heaters

An efficient heating solution in its own right, a gas heater has the advantage of utilising your current gas supply, So, you don’t need to carry a separate fuel source like you would for a diesel heater. The system is a ducted heater design that gets mounted inside a cupboard or under the bed and provides instant heat from the get-go. As such, they need plenty of space around them and room for the heat vent outlets to be installed. Plus, they still require a 12V power supply to run ancillary functions such as the fan and control unit.

Diesel Heater

Perhaps the most popular option for camper trailer owners is the diesel heater. It has the benefit of being cheaper and easier to install than a split system air conditioning unit or a gas heater. The next advantage is most vehicles towing camper trailers are also powered by diesel, so it’s not too much of a stretch to carry a small jerry can of diesel fuel and top it up while you refuel your vehicle. This system does require a 12V power supply to power the fan start the ignition system, but current draw is very minimal.
On the downside, these units do require some periodic maintenance, such as cleaning or removing any carbon deposits from the combustion chamber. The fuel filter should be replaced, and fuel and exhaust lines inspected for leakage or damage. The glow pin will also require replacement at times.

A common complaint of this system of heater is they can be noisy. However. More often than not, the excessive noise can be put down to poor installation with insufficient pump insulation causing louder than usual vibrations and rattling.

Portable Gas Heaters 

While portable gas heaters are available, the majority of units aren’t designed to be used indoors.

It’s important to follow the products guidelines, as incorrect use can be very dangerous. In fact, it can lead to death. There are however portable gas heater units that incorporate the use of a heating duct to direct heat inside your camper trailer directly from the gas heater placed outside. These can run directly off your camper trailers gas bottle or of the disposable butane canisters. While these can work a charm at times, they are notorious for turning off when the wind picks up and extinguishes the flame.