You could only go caravanning for about one season without heating. Sure, there are sleeping bags down to -30, but there are also expedition tents instead of caravans. Heating has been an essential part of caravans, motorhomes and campervans since their inception.
Heating usually uses gas, petrol or diesel. Almost all motorhomes use gas for heating and have Truma or Adle heating. In some cases, especially for campervans and camper vans, diesel heating is used
In most cases the heating is hot air, this means that warm air is blown around the caravan. Larger caravans also use hot water heating. The exception is probably our Joker, which is the size of an X7 and uses diesel hot water heating ?
The heating also heats the hot water in the boiler in most cases. The boiler is either part of the heater or separate. However, the most commonly used combination heaters are the Truma Combi 4 or Truma Combi 6. These run on either gas or diesel.
“Each type of heater has its advantage and disadvantage. There is therefore no better and no worse”
Some caravans have both types of heating. Both diesel and gas. You turn on the diesel when driving and the gas when camping.
There are also combi heaters with the option of running on electricity. Truma refers to these with the letter E. If you go camping, that’s great in the winter. You’ll save gas, but spend more on electricity, which is usually charged per kWh consumed at alpine campsites.
Of course you can heat water separately without turning on the heating. You will appreciate this especially in summer.
Gas heating uses gas from gas cylinders to heat air or water.
- low noise level
- almost no smell
- low electricity consumption
- gas is limited in quantity and therefore needs to be replenished
- if you want to use the heater while driving, you need to install DuoControl with Crash Sensor
Diesel heating uses diesel directly from the caravan’s tank to heat air or water.
- there is an almost unlimited amount of diesel
- the caravan does not need to have huge gas cylinders, which saves space, especially in small vans
- high electricity consumption
- smell when burning diesel
- noise when running diesel heating
Real consumption and our experience
The real consumption of course depends on the size of the caravan and the outside temperature. I will therefore write up our experiences with the Knaus, which was a 6m semi with a winter pack and the VW Club Joker, which is a VW T5 long van.
Gas heated, Knaus. It took quite a long time to heat a relatively small semi in winter. If we went skiing, I turned the heater on at lunchtime before we went skiing. The heating went bomb me and by evening the caravan was quite heated.
Gas consumption at very low temperatures was quite high. One gas cylinder lasted about 2-3 days with constant heating. In extreme temperatures even less. The torches handled the warm air blowdown with no problems and we were running off-grid.
One winter we were in the Alps for 2 months and off-grid almost all the time. One time we went to a caravan park and hooked up to the electricity there only because it was supposed to snow 2 metres.
Oil heating, Joker. It’s a piece of cake to heat the Joker. The interior space is so small that the van is heated within minutes of the heater starting – like a passenger car. As I wrote above, the main disadvantage of diesel heating is the high electricity consumption. With two 100Ah LiFePO4 batteries we can heat for 3 days without connecting to electricity. The calculation is a bit skewed by the fact that we also have a compressor refrigerator running on electricity, which also eats up some of it.
Heating control panel
Each heater has its own thermostat. You set a certain temperature and the heater works automatically. Some of the control panels are quite simple, there’s just a number on them from 1 to 5. So you just have to guess what number to choose.
More convenient are the panels with direct adjustment of the internal temperature. For example, you can set 22 degrees in the living area and 24 in the bathroom if you need to dry things. That’s all you care about.
You can also set a timer on modern control panels. With Truma Inet you can also control the heating via mobile phone, it works over the GSM network
“So you can switch on the heating, add temperature or start the water heater via your mobile phone before you arrive at the caravan.”