Campervan Heating: JK’s Guide to Keeping Your Camper Warm

Campervan Heating: JK’s Guide to Keeping Your Camper Warm

JK's Marketing & PR Director
Published 13 June 2024
Josh Reynolds

We’ve put together this quick guide to the different options available for you to keep your camper (and yourself!) nice and warm while you’re driving and camping.

This guide will cover options for a whole range of campers, whether you’ve got a classic VW T2 Splitscreen, a modern VW Transporter, or you’ve converted your Fiat Ducato into a camper.

We’ve been part of the VW community here in the UK since 1989, so we’ve definitely picked up a trick or two over the decades!

This guide will walk you through various heating options and techniques to keep your campervan toasty, covering everything from the original heating system to insulation and specialized curtains.

Why Does My Camper Get So Cold Overnight?

Without having a look around your camper, it’s hard to tell if there are any specific issues which are causing it to lose warmth overnight, but here are a few areas which tend to allow heat to escape from your vehicle.

Windows:
Glass is a good thermal conductor, which means it will get cold when exposed to cold air, or hot when exposed to hot air.

At night, when temperatures drop, your campers windows will get cold because it’s exposed to the cold outside air. This will then mean that when warm air from inside your camper touched the glass windows, that warmth will be leeched away by the cold glass, cooling down the air in your camper.

We’ll talk about some different options available to help stop this from happening further on in this guide, including insulating curtains and thermomats.

Lack of insulation:
Like glass, metal is also a good conductor of thermal energy, which means that if you don’t have any insulation between the metal body of your camper and the interior, you’re going to lose heat quickly.

This works in much the same way as we discussed with glass, but you’ll be able to tackle it with more permanent solutions like insulation, which is covered further on in this article.

Draughts and damaged seals:
You may also find that your camper is letting all that nice warm air escape through holes or cracks in the seals around your windows and doors, or that these gaps are letting in chilly breezes from outside.

It may take some time to properly check every seal on your vehicle, but replacing damaged seals and plugging up any gaps can make a huge difference to how well you’re able to maintain a comfortable temperature in your camper.

Image credit: Johannes Andersson, via UnsplashImage credit: Johannes Andersson, via Unsplash
Image credit: Johannes Andersson, via Unsplash

Using Your Camper’s Original Heating System

Your camper will come equipped with a basic heating system which operates while the engine is running, although if you’ve got an older vehicle it may not be working at the moment!

This system is usually fine for short trips and mild weather, but it may not be good enough for extended stays or colder climates. It also has one fairly massive draw back in that it only works while the engine is running, which means it’s not really a viable option if you’re camping, except in emergencies.

If you do have an older camper and you’re looking to fix up the original heating system, then it’s not as intimidating as it seems – especially if you’re able to safely raise your campervan up to get access to the underneath. You can find information on this and all sorts of other jobs here at Just Kampers, as well as in essential books like the Robert Bentley official service manual and others.

Still, once it’s all connected correctly and working right, the original heater in your camper is likely powerful enough to warm up the interior of your camper, banish any condensation, and help you melt ice off the windows in the winter.

Pros:
• Utilizes the vehicle’s existing engine heat,
• No additional installation required,
• Easy to control from the driver’s seat.

Cons:
• Only works when the engine is running,
• Uses your camper’s fuel which isn’t ideal,
• Your heating system may not be working if you’ve got an older camper.

Maintenance Tips for Your Original Camper Heating
• Regularly inspect your campervan’s heating system to ensure its functioning correctly,
• Check that the cables are still properly connected, and haven’t frayed or snapped,
• Maintain your camper’s heat exchangers, to help them work as efficiently as possible,
• Keep the vents and ducts clean to maximize heat output.

Image credit: Luke Porter, via UnsplashImage credit: Luke Porter, via Unsplash
Image credit: Luke Porter, via Unsplash

Auxiliary Heaters for Your Camper

For more reliable and consistent heating which can be used while your engine is switched off, consider installing an auxiliary heater. There’s a few different types of auxiliary heaters available, each with its own benefits:

Diesel Heaters: These heaters run on your camper’s diesel fuel and can provide substantial heat without running the engine. Obviously these are only viable on more modern vehicles which run on diesel.

Gas Heaters: If you’d rather not put extra strain on your fuel tank, or your camper doesn’t run on diesel, then a gas heater might be the answer for you. These are fuelled by propane or butane, and can be fitted anywhere inside or outside of your vehicle which gives you a lot of options.

We’ve written a whole separate post about how to decide which heater is right for you, as well as another post on installing auxiliary heaters, so make sure you check those out if you think this is the option for you.

Campervan Insulation

Proper insulation is crucial for retaining heat in your campervan – there’s no point fixing up your heating system, or investing in a new heater, if all that warmth is going to escape straight away.

Without adequate insulation, any heat generated will quickly be leeched out of your camper, making it difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature.

There are a lot of different options when it comes to choosing the insulation material you’re going to use, each with slightly different properties. You’ll need to review what the best options are for your vehicle, budget, and needs.

If you’re looking for some more information on the different types on insulation available, and how to fit them, take a look at JK's Guide to Insulating your Camper.

Tips for Installing Insulation in Your Camper

Insulate the floor, walls, and ceiling of your campervan for maximum heat retention. This can be a challenge if you’ve already got furniture, wood panelling, and seats installed, but is easy enough if you’re just starting out on your camper conversion journey.

You can use a combination of insulation types to address different areas and needs, if you need to.

Make sure you seal any gaps and cracks to prevent drafts and heat loss, and ensure that everything is waterproofed and sealed against water ingress. Getting moisture trapped in your vehicle will lead to all sorts of problems from bad smells to rust!

Securing Your Campervan’s Windows & Seals

The windows in your camper are a common source of heat loss, as the glass will conduct heat out of your camper quickly. Properly sealing your windows can make a significant difference in maintaining a nice warm temperature.

Similarly, worn or damaged seals around your windows will let draughts in and warmth out, so it’s important to check these regularly – especially on older campervans.

Check for drafts around windows and doors and seal any gaps,
Consider installing double-pane windows for better insulation,
Use window film or thermal curtains for an extra layer of insulation.

Keeping the Heat in with Curtains

Since the windows on your camper are one of the main ways that you’ll lose heat, curtains are a great way to minimise heat loss.

We’ve got a great range of insulating blackout curtains for all sorts of different campervans, which are created with different layers to keep the warmth in and the light out.

Alternatively, if you’ve got the materials and equipment you can have a go at creating your own curtains with a layer of insulating material in the middle to help them retain more heat.

Benefits of Thermal Curtains

Heat Retention – Prevents heat loss through windows,
Privacy –
Provides privacy while adding an insulating layer,
Noise Reduction –
Helps reduce noise from outside.

Curtain Installation Tips

Make sure the curtains cover the entire window area,
Use curtain rods or tracks that allow the curtains to be easily opened and closed,
Consider using magnetic or Velcro strips to secure the edges of the curtains for a better seal.

Thermomats, an Alternative to Curtains

If you don’t want to install curtains, or don’t want them there the whole time, then a set of thermomats might be the right option for you.

Thermomats are specially designed mats which are created to fit the size and shape of the windows in your camper, and create a barrier between the nice warm air in your camper and the cold glass of your window.  

Inside each thermomat is several layers of insulation, and the side which faces out of your vehicle has a silvery reflective coating, to bounce sunlight away and prevent your vehicle from overheating in the summer, so they’re useful all year around!

Benefits of Thermomats

Easy to Install – They’ll fit into place with suction cups, which takes no time or effort,
Tailored to your windows – JK’s thermomats are already the correct size and shape,
Lightweight – Adds insulation without adding significant weight,
Easy to Store – Can be rolled away and tucked into their small storage bag,
Reflective – Helps retain heat by reflecting radiant heat back into the van.

A Quick Note on Insurance

Some of these options, such as installing a new auxiliary heater, will likely mean you’ll need to speak to your insurance company and update them about the changes made to your camper so that you’re properly covered.

Features like heaters are a great addition to your camper, so it makes sense to ensure they’re covered as part of your insurance policy.

This is easily done if you’re insured with Just Kampers Insurance, as they’ve been offering specialist vehicle cover to campervan owners since 1998.   

In Conclusion

Keeping your campervan warm during the colder months is essential for comfort and safety, as well as letting you use your camper throughout the year.

By understanding how your camper loses heat and how you can prevent it, you can create a warm and comfortable space that allows you to enjoy your camper year-round.

From the original heating system to auxiliary heaters, proper insulation, and specialized curtains, there are numerous ways to maintain a warm interior. Additionally, ensuring your windows and seals are in good condition and using thermomats and thermo screens can really help keep the inside of your camper nice and warm.

You can find all of the parts and accessories you’ll need to transform your camper from draughty to cozy here at Just Kampers, as well as how-to videos on topics from fitting insulation through to installing a new heater.

1 month ago