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How to have hot water in your van

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

It’s getting colder and nights are drawing in…that warm shower is looking more and more appealing! So what is the best way to have hot water in your van?

There are a few methods:


1. Gas


Gas is the most common energy source for heating water in your campervan. You can be completely off-grid, and if you already have a gas cooker then it seems like a no brainer. However LPG can be an expensive installation, and you also need to find room for the bottle either underneath your van or a gas locker within your van, so it can take up valuable space. It can also be difficult to find replacement fuel when you’re travelling and there is also the safety aspect – some people don’t like travelling with pressurised gas on board.


2. Electric


The main battle with an electric water heater is that you don’t want to drain your batteries…which heating water will do if you let it! Unless you have a purely AC (240v) water heater that you only use when you are on electric hook up at campsites but this doesn’t allow you to have hot water whilst off grid. The other option then is to have a DC (12v) system, which you can use both on and off grid. Whilst using it on grid you will have to go through an inverter to convert the 240v to 12v, and when using this system off grid you will need to be extremely careful with your battery monitoring as this can be a sure-fire way to a flat battery. It can also be a very slow way to heat water as it contains a smaller element, and they tend to have a smaller tank. There is the benefit that it may be able to run off your solar power if you have solar panels installed, but you would still have to monitor this closely, and in the grey winter months in England solar isn’t much help!


3. Calorifier


Calorifiers heat water using coolant pipes from the vehicles engine. They are fantastic for those who use a lot of hot water as 30 minutes of driving is enough to heat 20 litres of water to over 80 degrees. Some calorifiers also have electric elements in them so you can heat the water from your hook up, but for extended periods of time off grid without moving they aren’t the best choice, and they can be quite large and expensive. They should also be professionally installed as cutting into the vehicle’s coolant pipes isn’t for the inexperienced!


4. Diesel


The best thing about using diesel to heat your water is that you already have a source of diesel in your van! There are diesel water heaters that purely use the fuel to heat your water…but here we’re going to talk about the Bobil Air Exchange which does work off diesel, but uses a diesel air heater to heat your water. This is a fantastic solution if you already have a diesel air heater in your van to keep you warm in winter.


The Bobil Air Xchange uses the hot air expelled from your diesel heater to heat your water through use of heat exchangers. It then uses injection moulded adaptors to join the diesel heater to the heat exchangers, and it is quick and simple to install. You can set the temperature you would like the water to be, and it will automatically switch off when it hits it.

If you are worried about the kit heating up your van there is a diverter included as standard which means you can direct the hot air out of your van whilst you heat your water. Alternatively, if you want to keep warm in winter, you can set the diverter to a 'middle' position so it heats you van and the water at the same time.


With gas being the historic choice for water heating in your campervan, we’re hoping to change that with the Bobil Air Xchange. In fact, if you’ve got lithium batteries then you may as well get that induction hob and scrap gas completely!


Hopefully this helps you with your choice of campervan water heater!

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