Van life

Log Burner vs Diesel Heater: Which is Best for Heating Your Van Conversion?

With the rising popularity of van life and campervan conversions in the UK, one of the key considerations is how to heat your van cost-effectively and efficiently during colder weather. Two of the most popular heating options for van conversions are log burners and diesel heaters. Both have their pros and cons when it comes to factors like cost, convenience, efficiency, and safety. In this article we’ll compare log burner vs Diesel heater for heating UK van conversions to help you decide which might be the better option for your needs.

Log Burners

Log burners, also known as wood burning stoves, have been a traditional heating method for centuries. The basic concept is simple – logs are placed inside a metal box with ventilation and burnt, with the heat produced warming up the surrounding area through radiation and convection. Getting a log burner for van conversions is a popular route to take.

Pros of Log Burners:

Renewable fuel source: Wood is a renewable resource, so providing you source your fuel sustainably, you can heat your van using an environmentally-friendly energy source. This gives it an advantage over fossil fuel-powered options.

Lower running costs: Once you’ve purchased the initial stove, wood fuel tends to be cheaper than more processed fuels like diesel, LPG or electricity. If you can source wood locally or have your own supply, running costs can be very low. A typical log burner may cost £300-£600 to purchase. The cost of fuelling with firewood can range from £100-£300 annually depending on usage.

Self-sufficiency: Having a log burner allows you to become more self-sufficient and not reliant on external energy sources. As long as you have a supply of wood, you can generate heating and hot water off-grid. This can appeal to the ethos of van life.

Pleasant ambience: The flickering flames and gentle warmth created by a log stove can make a van feel cosy and inviting. The appeal goes beyond pure functionality.

Versatility: Log burners allow you to heat your van and cook on them too if you choose a model with a hotplate or oven. All-in-one heating and cooking makes efficient use of space.

Heating while stationary: Log burners work optimally when the vehicle is stationary, making them well-suited for when you’re parked up and living day-to-day in your camper.

Cons of Log Burners:

Smoke and venting: Burning wood creates smoke that needs proper ventilation. Van log burner installation requires putting holes in the side or roof for exhaust pipes. Proper installation is critical.

Fire hazards: Using an open flame in a confined van space comes with some risks which need to be managed. Embers, overheating or poor installation can all lead to potential fires. Regular maintenance and fire safety is a must.

Sourcing fuel: You’ll need to have access to a sustainable source of dry, untreated wood. Buying wood constantly can reduce the cost benefit. Storage space for wood may also be limited in a van.

Weight: Log burners are heavier than diesel heaters, so the installation adds more weight to your load. This may impact fuel efficiency when driving.

Ongoing cleaning: Log burners and their flues need regular cleaning to remove ash build-up and creosote. This added maintenance is necessary for safety and efficiency. Inconvenient on the move: It’s not practical to run a log burner while driving, so they only provide heat while stationary. You’ll rely on other heat sources when travelling.

black log burner for van

Diesel Heaters

Diesel heaters are a popular heating system choice for motorhomes and campervans. They utilize the vehicle’s own diesel supply to provide centralized heating and hot water both while stationary and on the move.

Pros of Diesel Heaters:

Compact and self-contained: Diesel heaters are small standalone units that can be fitted in several locations in a van, making efficient use of limited space. All components are integrated.

Heating while driving: Drawing fuel from the vehicle’s main tank means diesel heaters can operate while you’re driving. This allows you to heat your van before use and avoid freezing temperatures.

Consistent and controllable: Diesel heaters output a very consistent heat. Thermostats allow you to finely control the temperature. Radiators evenly distribute warmth throughout the van interior.

Fast heating: Diesel heaters warm up quickly in around 5-10 minutes. This makes them very convenient and flexible to meet immediate heating needs.

Low electricity draw: The only electrical requirement is a small power draw to run the glow plug and control system. Minimal battery drainage.

Easy installation: Installation takes 2-4 hours with basic tools. The only holes required are a 50-60mm diameter exhaust and a 40mm inlet for fresh air. A typical diesel heater system costs £400-£1000 for the unit and all accessories needed for installation. Estimated annual fuel cost is £100-£250, depending on usage.

Safe enclosed flame: The combustion chamber is sealed and the exhaust vented outside. This contained system poses minimal fire risks compared to an open log burner.

Cons of Diesel Heaters:

Fuel costs: Running an additional heating unit off your diesel may decrease your mpg and increase your fuel costs. This could outweigh any potential savings.

Ventilation: Diesel heaters require ventilation holes for exhaust and combustion air. However the roof/side holes are smaller than those needed for log burner flues.

Maintenance: Filters will need occasional cleaning and replacement to keep the heater running efficiently. Proper maintenance is key to reliability and lifespan.

Upfront cost: The initial purchase and installation cost of a diesel heater may be up to 3 times that of a basic log burner unit.

Noise: Diesel heaters require a combustion fan and fuel pump which creates a low humming noise when running. Log burners have more satisfying crackling.

Servicing: Diesel heaters will need professional servicing annually to replace seals, oil and filters. Log burners just need a chimney sweep when required.

Fuel quality: Diesel heater reliability can be impacted by poor fuel quality so a good fuel filter is recommended. Log burners aren’t as reliant on fuel purity and quality.

black diesel heater for van

Log Burner vs Diesel Heater Comparison

Log BurnerDiesel Heater
Purchase Cost£300-£600£400-£1000
Annual Fuel Cost£100-£300£100-£250
Installation Time4-8 hours2-4 hours
Running NoiseCrackling50-60 dB hum
Safety ConcernsOpen flame risksOverheating risks
Ongoing MaintenanceRegular ash cleaningAnnual service & filter changes
Log burner vs Diesel Heater

Key Considerations for Van Heating

When weighing up log burners versus diesel heaters for your particular van conversion, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Intended van use – Are you looking to live stationary for long periods or travel regularly? This impacts whether on-the-move heating is a priority.
  • Available installation space – Both options require holes for exhaust venting so check your van layout and facilitate optimal placement.
  • Power supply – An off-grid log burner may suit those looking for true self-sufficiency, while a diesel heater needs minimal but constant power.
  • Convenience and control – Diesel heaters offer more convenience and temperature control. Log burners require more physical fuel management.
  • Upfront cost – Log burners are generally cheaper to purchase but diesel heaters could save on fuel cost in the long run.
  • Safety and risk – Both carry fire risks if poorly installed. However diesel heaters are typically safer for confined van spaces when properly fitted.
  • Ongoing maintenance – Log burners need more hands-on cleaning while diesel heaters require technical servicing and filter changes.
  • Aesthetic appeal – Some may favour the ambience and visual impact offered by a classic log burner over a small heating unit.

Carefully weighing up these factors against your own needs and intended van use will help determine if a log burner vs diesel heater makes the better and safer heating solution for your campervan or motorhome conversion. Both can effectively provide cost-effective and practical heating when properly installed and maintained.


Our Recommended Heating Solution

Overall, for most campervan and motorhome conversions, we recommend installing a diesel heater as the primary heating source when comparing log burner vs diesel heater.

Though the upfront cost is higher, a diesel heater offers greater convenience, control and safety for enclosed van spaces. The ability to generate heat while driving and the integrated fuel system make it ideal for frequent travellers.

A basic 2kW diesel heater with integrated hot water and thermostat can be purchased for £600-£800. Paired with an existing LPG gas cooktop, this gives campers flexible and sufficient off-grid heating and cooking abilities.

Diesel’s efficiency and control also makes it more economical over the long term for full-time van dwellers. We estimate a typical diesel heater would have annual running costs around £150-£200.

For supplementing heat while stationary, a small wood burning stove starting at £200 could be added. This adds the charm and self-sufficiency perks of burning wood. However diesel remains the best central heating choice keeping safety and convenience top of mind.


Diesel heater for Van Conversions: Where to buy

There are several specialized online retailers offering diesel heater for van conversions and installation accessories in the UK:

  • CAK Tanks – Leading supplier of Chinese air and water heating systems from £400-£600. Offer installation guidance.
  • Leisureshopdirect – Sells brands like Webasto, Eberspacher, Mikuni, as well as Chinese models from £500-£1200.
  • Van Comfort – UK company supplying and installing Chinese and European diesel heaters from £550 upwards.

Checking reviews and warranties is advisable when purchasing cheaper models. Going through a professional installer is also an option.

Diesel heater for van conversion deals:


Log burner for Van Conversions: Where to buy

Several retailers offer a wide selection of log burner models, chimney liners and accessories in the UK:

  • Stovax – Leading UK manufacturer of steel and cast iron log burners from £300-£2000. Offer accessories like flue pipes.
  • Arada – British company making steel and cast iron wood stoves from £500-£1200. Provide insulated chimney liners.
  • DIY Log Burners – Budget retailer for small cast iron log burners from £200-£400, plus heatproof cement, stove paint and liners.
  • Logburners.co.uk – Broad range of cast iron and steel log burner brands from £400-£1500. Chimney liners, heat shields and fittings available.
  • Fireplace Products UK – Sells brands like Aarrow and ACR for affordable prices between £300-£800. Stove maintenance accessories available.

Be sure to choose a log burner size suited to your van’s interior space. Opt for EN certified stoves that meet safety standards.

Log burner for van conversions deals:


Conclusion

Heating your van conversion in the notoriously inclement UK climate is an important consideration for comfort, safety and enjoying your ideal van life. Log burners provide a more traditional self-sufficient heating option, while diesel heaters offer greater convenience and control. Each heating method has pros and cons, and your own travel habits, available space and budget will help determine which is the optimal solution for your particular campervan or motorhome needs. With their various advantages and drawbacks weighed up against your priorities, you can install an efficient, cost-effective and safe heating system in your van conversion that keeps you warm on every adventure.

Looking for ideas on your van conversion kitchen? check out some of our latest posts on van conversion sinks and hobs.

diagram of a diesel heater to show log burner vs diesel heater