There’s a lot to be said for caravanning and campervanning in the autumn and winter – quieter caravan parks, no scramble for the best pitches, peace and quiet and the chance to enjoy autumn colours and crisp, frosty mornings.
But the obvious downside of staying in a caravan when the sun has lost is warmth, is you and your family getting very cold – particularly in the evenings, when you’re sleeping at night or when the wind and rain forces you to hole up in the daytime.
So how can you be prepared for these chillier times? Here are our tips to ensure you have adequate caravan heating and the most comfortable stay possible.
Remember that gas and electrical appliances can be dangerous if not used or fitted correctly. A big danger linked to gas heaters is carbon monoxide poisoning. This happens when carbon monoxide is trapped in poorly ventilated, contained spaces. It's a colourless, odourless gas which initially causes headache, mild nausea and fatigue and it you don’t spot the problem, will ultimately lead to unconsciousness.
For safety you may want to install a carbon monoxide alarm somewhere in your caravan – travel carbon monoxide alarms are also available to buy. It’s recommended to regularly check that your appliances are installed correctly and comply with regulations and the manufacturer's instructions. Qualified professionals should install and check appliances.
Types of Caravan Heating
In newer caravan models it’s likely that you will have built-in heating. If you own an older caravan or need to update the heater you have for safety reasons, it’s easy to have something reliable and safe installed. The other option is to invest in portable electronic devices that can be plugged in (electric) and fired up (gas) when needed.
Of course to preserve heat generally, it’s important to make sure all window seals are in good condition, that doors fit as closely as possible, and that roof lights are properly sealed and not letting too much heat escape. Take plenty of warm bedding with you and hot water bottles can help at night!
Factory fitted heating
All caravans will have some form of heating as part of their fixtures and fittings. Most offer either gas powered heaters or those that can use either gas or electric. The ability of the factory-fit heaters to keep you toasty will depend on their output and efficiency which may vary considerably. You may want to supplement the caravan’s own heater, or update it.
Caravan manufacturers have taken not of the increased demand for off-season caravanning and are looking at innovative ways to heat the latest models they are producing.
Gas only – this may get rather expensive. Your consumption will be high due to the fact that you will have your heating running more frequently and also that gas is utilised less efficiently in lower temperatures. Butane is not suitable at all for very low temperatures as it will not perform. Gas alone is rather impractical for winter usage as you will need to constantly replace used up cylinders and, depending on your set-up, even risk running out completely.
Gas with electric option heaters – these can be powered by gas alone, electric alone or a combination of the two and are generally better than the gas only option if you are on a campsite which offers electric hook-up.
A lot of caravans have been previously fitted with a Truma gas fire. Spare parts for these heaters are readily available or if you want to upgrade the system you have, by for example, fitting a Lighting Kit so that you can see the indicators in the dark.
You could have the complete system fitted - see the Trumatic S3004 Fire with piezo ignition which is an economically way of acquiring a reliable and safe gas fire. Another gas heater is the Trumatic E2400 LP Gas Heater which is the most compact warm air heating system available in its power rating class.
Buying a portable heater is a cost effective way of heating your caravan. Many older model caravan owners invest in these either to upgrade their original factory-fitted heater or to replace a unit which has failed a safety test/ceased working. There are many options to choose from though, so do plenty of research before you buy.
Free standing halogen heaters
These come in a wide range of sizes, are very popular as they are safe and automatically cut-off if knocked over. They have an immediate heating output, are relatively energy efficient and are usually small and unobtrusive. Additionally, of all the options, they are the cheapest to buy and easiest to use with no installation required.
Gas or gas with electric heater
Again there are many options here. The Hotspot Blue Flame Heater has blue flame technology, which means if cuts off the gas supply if the flame goes out or the percentage of CO2 in the air exceeds 1%. An electric example of caravan heaters is the Dimplex Cold Watcher which is a low voltage heater with 500W output.
Diesel powered heaters
Many of these heaters which store the fuel in the caravan’s usual gas cylinder compartment, have the useful option of switching to power by electric. This option is gaining some popularity and there is some talk of certain new caravan makes factory fitting such systems.
One major bonus of a diesel powered heater is that it can be operated while the caravan is being towed, so you arrive with a warm caravan.
Under floor space heaters
Relatively new to the market, under floor space heating is now being incorporated into several new build caravan models. The heater itself is fitted beneath the caravan in a weatherproof cover, can be powered by either gas (propane or butane) or electricity and claims to reduce caravan heating costs by 25% due to its innovative energy efficiency design. You may have to invest around £500 in this system though.
So if you are committed to caravanning in chillier climes, make sure you invest in the right heating. Caravanning experts say that having an electric or LPG heating system installed is going to be the best option. But do your research and get some advice about efficiency, safety and compliance with your caravan, before you invest in any new system.