STAYING WARM IN THE COLD is hard to do for some people in your car, SUV, or even your van. In my ambulance, it’s much easier because it’s pretty darn well insulated. It stays warm pretty nicely. Of course, the more insulation you have, whatever your vehicle, the better off you are. The smaller it is, the easier it is to insulate, but the harder it is to run a heater. In a smaller vehicle like a car, you can hardly run a heater inside it because you don’t have the clearances. Even the small Little Buddy requires 30 inches above it. So it’s difficult for smaller vehicles, SUVs, minivans, and even minivans to have the heater inside.
Recently, we’ve all kind of fallen in love with cheap Chinese diesel heaters. They really are pretty fantastic. They’re cheap; for many people, they work reliably and well. One of the problems with the diesel heaters is the installation, and a lot of us can’t do it ourselves. So you’re going to end up paying someone. While the diesel heater is cheap, the installation can be expensive.
What is typically involved with installation?
Well, with just the diesel heaters, the unit isn’t very big. You can usually find a place to mount it, even under the front seat. It’s not hard to find a place to mount the actual heater. It’s pretty easy. But on the outside somewhere, you’ve got to mount the diesel fuel tank. Then, you’ve got to run the line from the diesel fuel tank into the unit. You’ll have to drill a hole or get that diesel line in somehow. Then, once you’ve attached the diesel fuel coming in, you have to have an exhaust pipe outlet. So you’re going to drill another hole somewhere, either straight down, which is risky in itself, or straight out. Then you run your pipe out, and you exhaust it. The key thing that makes diesel heaters so safe is that the exhaust goes outside. A big plus is that the moisture is going outside with the exhaust. So you’re not building up moisture; you’re not building up carbon monoxide. You’re safer and more comfortable. The diesel heaters are great!
But you would cut at least two holes in and then have an intake. Many people will run their intake outside, although you can argue that your intake should be inside. The reason you would want it on the inside instead of the outside is because it’s drawing in warm air. So the heater doesn’t have to heat cold air; it’s heating already warm air. But then you are recirculating the air inside. And if you’ve got a tightly sealed vehicle, that can be dangerous. So you’ll have to open the ventilation to recirculate that air through the heater.
At any rate, a lot of people are then cutting a hole for an intake. So you have an intake hole, an exhaust hole, and a diesel fuel line hole. That’s cutting three holes, mounting the thing, putting it all together, and doing it all right. And for a lot of you, that’s just too much. By the time you’ve paid someone, you might have spent a lot of money to get that done.
Problems with Diesel Heaters
All the diesel heaters have a problem with quality control. They actually are surprisingly good units in themselves. You’ve probably heard of a lot of people who got them with the bad this and a bad that, and then all they had to do was replace this, and it worked fine, and replace that, and it worked just fine. So, the quality control and the durability are suspect. But that’s true of all Chinese diesel heaters. A big problem for many of us is mounting the fuel tank outside and the intimidation factor of the installation, either paying for it or doing it ourselves.
The All-In-One Unit
Well, there is now a portable diesel heater, an all-in-one unit, kind of like in a suitcase. The fuel tank is mounted inside. It has a gallon tank mounted inside, and it’s completely self-contained. So, you can just put the heater inside and then duct your pipes out, only two, because now you have the exhaust and the intake. But again, I’d be very inclined to just leave the intake inside, so I’m recirculating air. You’ve saved one entrance and one mount; you do not have to find a place to mount the diesel tank outside; it’s contained in the unit. So I thought this was a brilliant idea.
There is another way to do it, and I think this might be the one that a lot of people will be doing because it’s totally portable. You take the unit outside, and then you buy a longer hose. It doesn’t come with a very long hose; you buy a longer one and run it inside. It’s just one hose. You could even just run it through a window and then close it off, say you roll down a window enough to get a three-inch pipe in it. You can just sit this thing outside; you have no fear. And for a lot of us, fear is the biggest issue. You’re burning diesel; you could spill the diesel; it can malfunction and pour out carbon monoxide. If the whole thing is in a suitcase, literally a metal suitcase, and outside, you’re risk-free. Everything’s going on outside; none of it’s going on inside. All you’re doing is piping in the heat.
These are very popular with the Overland and off-roading guys in rooftop tents because how do you have heat in a rooftop tent? It’s just a tent; it needs heat. If you’re going out for an extended period of time, you’ve got to have heat. But if you’re in a car, it’s the same thing. All that comes in is a hose. So there are some real advantages. They’re the same heater just mounted in a case, and everything else comes with it to make it work.
Of course, like all this Chinese stuff, a couple of three Chinese factories are making these, and they just mass-produce them. Any company can buy them and put them under their names. So they’re all going to come with weird names. The name of this one is Hcalory. You can find this exact unit under a dozen different names and under many different prices. You’ll pay more for the portable all-in-one unit, but you’re getting the case and all of it self-contained.
They’re not really stealthy. If you need to be stealthy in the city, this unit isn’t that. But for everyone else, I think this might be a good solution. If you have a fear of having diesel inside your rig or the difficulty of installation, this might be something to really consider.
In this video, I fire up the heater and test it… hear how loud it is and learn how to power the unit.
I hope this is a possibility to help make your life better, that your nomadic life will be more fulfilling and satisfying to you, and that your life will be improved by the things I choose to share with you.