Motorhome parked on a snow-covered mountainside

Which auxiliary heating system should I choose for my motor home?

Finding the right auxiliary heater for your motorhome is more complicated than you might think. Whether it's a question of budget or the size of the area to be heated, you need to focus your choice on heat performance and energy cost.

If you have a large motorhome, you should consider a fuel or water heater, as these are particularly effective for heating large volumes. On the other hand, for a smaller vehicle, an electric auxiliary heater is more suitable.

What are the different types of motorhome heaters?

There are many space heaters on the market. However, you should bear in mind that you cannot heat your vehicle as you would a house. To help you avoid any mishaps, we have reviewed the various equipment available for sale.

In addition, if you wish to complete this guide, we suggest that you reading Fourgon Futé. You will find many tips on how to best fit out your motorhome.

1. Diesel/petrol heating

This device is by far the most common in vehicles of the van or motor home type. It has the advantage of running on the fuel of your thermal vehicle. Supplied with a practical and intuitive interface, you will have no difficulty in adjusting the internal temperature of your vehicle to the nearest degree. What's more, this equipment is very convenient because you can use it while driving (unlike a gas heater).

Functionally, this device is quite simple to understand: it captures air from outside the motorhome, heats it with a burner and then redistributes it to the passenger compartment. It is easy to install, as the heater - connected to your vehicle's fuel tank - can be placed under the chassis. It is also possible to connect it to an auxiliary tank if the main tank is inaccessible.

Finally, you should know that this heating system - available from €550 - requires a low power supply. However, be careful with the state of your battery: too much use could play tricks on you...

ValMarc | The best heater for your van

2. Forced-air gas heating

The gas-fired forced-air heater works on the same principle as fuel-fired heaters. Using a gas-fired burner (butane or propane), it heats the ambient air drawn in and then redistributes it inside the vehicle.

These heating systems are quite annoying, because :

  • You have to store the gas cylinders in your vehicle, which is almost impossible for small vehicles such as vans.
  • They must not be operated while your vehicle is in motion. Otherwise you risk endangering your life (and the integrity of your vehicle).
  • They require the installation of a carbon monoxide detector in your vehicle to identify any possible leaks.
  • They are quite expensive (the price can very quickly double compared to a fuel-based space heater).

Suitable for (very) large vehicles, the heater has fallen into disuse. Whether in terms of cost, constraints, installation or danger, it is now considered obsolete because its use is so coercive.

3. Electric space heating

Certainly the simplest and cheapest way to heat your motorhome. Indeed, the electric space heaters and radiators do not require special installation and are quite versatile. For a small blower model, you should expect to pay around €20.

The only drawback to this heater is that you need to connect it to a 220V to 230V power supply. To do this, you may need a transformer or voltage converter from 12v to 220v, plus a cell battery.

4. Water heating

Water heating is a good alternative to fuel systems. The principle is similar to diesel/petrol heating, except that it heats a heat transfer fluid in a closed circuit, rather than the ambient air.

Connected to the vehicle's water heater, this system supplies itself with hot water through small diameter ducts. The hot air is distributed in the vehicle through larger ducts. The only notable disadvantage is therefore its installation.

It's particularly difficult to install and you'll probably need to call in a professional to save you the trouble. You should expect to pay around €600 to €700 for a water heater, whether for your motorhome, van or camper van.

Cold woman warming her fingers in winter

Insulation: no good heating without good insulation!

If you are converting your vehicle, insulation is a key factor in the choice of your auxiliary heater. The better insulated your vehicle is, the less heat is lost. The advantage for you is twofold: in addition to reducing your energy requirements, you also heat the interior of your motorhome more quickly.

As far as insulation materials are concerned, the decision will depend mainly on your budget, but you should know that sprayed cork is one of the most popular techniques used by campervanners. This natural insulation is inexpensive, uses an environmentally friendly material and is highly insulating, both thermally and acoustically.