how does a diesel heater work

Who doesn’t love winters? Sitting on a rocking chair with a cozy cup of freshly brewed mocha in one hand and a book in the other can be the best way to spend your winter holidays. To make the experience even more therapeutic, you’ll need a heater. But which heater should you get?

Depending on the fuel used, there are a number of heaters to choose from. These include gas, electric, and even diesel heaters. While not as popular as the former two, diesel heaters can be a nice addition to your cozy life. But how does a diesel heater even work? Let’s find out.

How Does A Diesel Heater Work?

As the name suggests, these kinds of heaters use diesel as their fuel. Essentially, they draw in air to ignite the diesel similar to a combustion engine. This has earned them the title of diesel air heaters.

A good diesel air heater has an advanced temperature control system and heats a space quickly and efficiently. They are powerful heaters and are perfect for those living in extremely cold temperatures or harsh climates.

Diesel heaters have a better heating performance than standard water and electric heaters while being more cost-efficient.

Primarily, they are used for heating buildings, powering vehicles, generating electricity, cooking food, and providing power to factories.

What Is the Exact Combustion Mechanism of Diesel Heaters?

RED Diesel Heater

A diesel air heater burns fuel to generate heat. The main heating unit has two separate spaces, one to burn fuel and one to heat air. To ignite the diesel, a small pump delivers tiny amounts of fuel directly into the combustion chamber, where they are first lit by a glow plug.

Once the heating element is heated to the proper temperature, the glow plug turns off. All that needs to be done now is to keep the system supplied with air and fuel. Diesel is thus burned inside the engine and then blown out through the exhaust pipe.

Due to its mechanism, when the heater is started, the fuel consumption is initially very high. Therefore, it’s better to not start and turn off the device frequently, but instead set the settings so that a steady warm temperature is maintained.

Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Diesel Heater

In principle, all diesel heaters are the same. However, they can be categorized into different types based on their power, size, quality, price range, and some advanced functions.

Heater Power

Most diesel heaters come with a power rating ranging between 2KW to 5KW.

You can also find an 8kW one on the market, but they aren’t as useful for small-scale use such as vehicles or homes. This is because they can heat much larger spaces, making them ideal for commercial and industrial use.


Often, more powerful heaters are larger, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. You may even come across models that are relatively small but pack a mean punch.


Now, this may seem like an obvious factor, but you would be surprised to know how much quality varies when it comes to heaters. There are so many heaters available to choose from, and they definitely aren’t all of the same quality.

For example, German heaters are believed to be more efficient and have been heating our vehicles and homes for quite some time now. Their products are quality controlled, with most heaters including features like automatic altitude adjustment, noise reduction, etc.

Diesel Heater Vs Other Types of Heaters

Different heaters utilize different types of fuel to generate heat. These include kerosene heaters, electric heaters, water heaters, propane heaters, and LPG heaters. All of them have their pros and cons.

For the most part, caravan owners have always chosen diesel heaters as their first choice. Diesel heaters are also very well-liked amongst campers.

Fuel Supply

A diesel heater has an accessible energy supply because you can easily get diesel from any gas station. If your camper van has a diesel engine, then the heating system can draw its fuel from the vehicle’s gas tanks.

Fuel Efficient

They’re very efficient — diesel heat pumps are a good choice for heating systems. They don’t use as much energy as other types of heat sources.

Extra Safety

They’re safe to use too. They’re equipped with several safeguards, including an auto shut-off function. They’re efficient at heating homes because they use less fuel than traditional gas heat.

Effortless Installation

It’s easy to install a diesel heater. Unlike gas heaters, which need to be installed in a specific location, this kind of heater doesn’t need to be installed in any particular place — it can be placed anywhere.

Instant Heat

For caravan owners, diesel heaters are ideal for saving both time and money by warming up their caravans before they arrive at cold destinations.

Less Humidity

There’s zero humidity/condensation — a diesel heater is a good choice if you don’t mind staying dry and warm. They don’t produce any humidity or condensation that traditional humidifiers often do, so they remain cleaner for longer periods of time!

However, a diesel heater is not perfect and has several drawbacks that we’ll discuss in the next section.

Power Consumption

Power consumption is very high at the start.


Diesel heaters can be very noisy compared to electric heaters, especially the old diesel heater model and cheaper models. A newer, more advanced, and a little more expensive model shouldn’t be too loud.

What Can Go Wrong in a Diesel Air Heater?

Large diesel heater at a construction site

While most air heaters are pretty safe, you can never be too careful with a flammable machine at your disposal.

To give you an example, the heater could potentially malfunction and start a fire or even cause CO poisoning.

That being said, let’s take a look at some of the things that could go wrong in a diesel air heater.

Uncontrolled Heating

Expensive and high-quality diesel air heaters come equipped with advanced heat sensors.

The heat control technology allows you to choose from different heating options that work best for your specific scenario and limit the heating capacity of your heating device.

However, a leaking fuel tank or malfunctioning control panel could quickly lead to uncontrolled heating.

Heater Catches Fire

This is very uncommon, but your heater might catch fire if its installation was not done according to standard protocols. Similarly, an old heater that’s in bad shape could also be potentially dangerous to use in the long run.

Although unlikely, if it does catch fire, the heater could cause a lot of damage.

To avoid such a mishap, it is advisable to not use a heater if it starts making different noises or working inefficiently.

Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced during combustion processes such as those found in cars, power plants, heating systems, home appliances, burning coal or other fossil fuels, industrial processes, etc.

In the case of using diesel heaters, CO poisoning is unlikely for the most part. However, we still recommend that you follow a few safety precautions.

Make sure that the exhaust pipe is vented outside. You should also buy a carbon dioxide detector to see if this deadly gas is being produced inside your home.

Overall, however, the danger of CO poisoning from a heater is quite low, so this shouldn’t be too much of a concern.

Safety Features in Comparison to Other Types of Heaters

Diesel heaters come with additional safety features that other types of heaters don’t have.

For instance, in the case of a gas heater, a leaking LPG fuel line could cause serious neurological and respiratory complications.

Diesel fuel, on the other hand, does not ignite easily, so it can be safely used while you are driving. This makes it perfect for heating your caravan when you’re still on the way to your holiday location.

Using diesel air heaters during camping or in an RV or campervan on chilly winter nights can provide much-needed warmth for a good sleep.


So, how does a diesel heater work? These devices burn diesel to heat an area quickly and efficiently. Their design allows them to be installed easily and can be quite efficient in terms of fuel consumption.

For people who like to travel or who live in extreme conditions, diesel heaters can be the best way to go.

In this guide, we discussed the basic functionality of diesel heaters along with their internal mechanism. We also covered the main factors to look for when opting for a diesel heater.

Due to the potential hazards, getting a diesel heater can be a bit scary at first glance. However, if you opt for a high-quality model, the risks are quite low.

Thank you for reading!

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