What a success!!! I am happy to be smug as a bug in a rug having a tug on drugs!!!
The little diesel heater I installed works great! This means I’ve got SOOOO much flexibility about what I can do and where I can go, all year round!
Over christmas, for example, I had to be in Banbury for a few consecutive days working. If I didn’t have the heater, this would have meant a 1.20 hour trip there and another 1.20 hour trip back each day from Bedford where I’m based. This is over 100 miles a day and over £20 in diesel for each trip! Now the heater is in the van, i just loaded up water, food and bedding and tootled over there once and back once.
This alone probably saved me about £80 in diesel and that’s assuming I could have actually driven the roads. One of the days we had some quite persistent snow which could have prevented me doing any driving. But as I was already in Banbury – No issue!
I’ve got a few favorite overnight parking spots now, incase one of them is full. A couple are in town and a couple are in laybys on country roads outside of town. My favorite one is just outside Wroxton, a picturesque oxfordshire country village on the outskirts of Banbury. There is a nice layby that is wide and flat so i am well out the way of the minimal traffic and means i don’t have to sleep on a slope. I haven’t gotten myself any wheel chocks yet, so i sometimes have to drive around a bit to make sure my head is up the slope or find somewhere flatter.
The van is such a cosy warm place to hang out now, it’s truly the multi-purpose, mobile office/crash pad that I was looking for. Its lovely to just sit back on the comfy sofa-bed and look out at the snow falling all the while tucked up warm with a hot chocolate. Amazing!
Little things I’ve learnt
When installing it, definitely connect all the exhaust and air intake tubes BEFORE you bolt it into the van. It’s a freaking nightmare to do upside down under the van.
Some of the heaters advertised on Ebay come with a little remote control, like mine. This is absolutely essential kit. It means you can put the control panel somewhere out the way and still have the ability to turn it on and off while you are in bed. I just clip it to the wire racks above my bed and now i don’t need to freeze myself half to death to turn the heater on. I also used it a few times over winter to defrost the van before going out in the morning – even when i was at home!
On mine, the control panel is also the thermostat so if possible its worth putting this at about half height in the van or the same height as the bed. This is because heat rises and there can be a bit of a differential in temperature between the floor and the ceiling. I put my panel down by the heater about 30cm off the floor so this is not ideal. I have to set my temperature to 14°C to get a comfy 18°C air temp at bed height.
The fuel pump ticks fairly loudly. The jet engine noise of the heater fans when its on full power drowns this out but when its reached temperature and goes into low mode, you can hear a ticking noise which is a little annoying. I decided to keep my pump inside the van to keep road crud off it and hopefully make it a little more reliable. I’m sure this will be the case, but I now have a ticking noise… ah well…
There is also a noticeable dip in brightness of the LED lights when the fuel pump fires. I’m not sure if this is just because my battery was not 100% charged but it does dim them instantaneously each pulse of the pump. Not really a problem, but may annoy some people. I think when I get a second leisure battery this shouldn’t be a problem.
So… Should YOU get one?
If like me, you want to use your van all year around then, yes. You will need a van heater in the UK. I’ve got a really good sleeping bag and it does the job well, but its so uncomfortably cold getting out of it in the morning without a heater, its miserable. You will definitely need a heater to make life comfortable.
Should you install it yourself?
Hmmmm…. I’m pretty handy at DIY and it took me half a day. Everything is in the box and it’s all fairly straight forward but there are LOADS of tubes and screws. You need to spend most of the half day just fiddling around and making sure it fits where you want it to. If you aren’t that handy, then I would definitely give a pack of beer to your neighbourhood van dweller to install it for you. Before he realises its a lot of work he will have agreed and you’ll get a bargain job done!