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Do Diesel Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?

If you are planning to travel during winter, you have to think about how you will keep yourself warm. Now, most campers choose to invest in a diesel heater. It is generally considered safe since it comes with an auto-shutdown system for when the temperature exceeds a safe operating level. They have been around for a while now and many people consider them reliable and safe. But, do they produce carbon monoxide?

Diesel heaters do produce carbon monoxide, which can be deadly if inhaled in large quantities. However, these machines are typically self-regulated to prevent dangerous gasses from being released in unsafe amounts. Despite this, I always recommend having a carbon monoxide detector installed. All machines are prone to malfunctions and it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when such an error could cost you your life.

Here’s everything you need to know about diesel heaters – the good and the bad.


What Is a Diesel Heater and Why Do You Need One?

From the name, you can tell that it’s a device designed to heat the interior of your vehicle, powerboat, yacht, etc. By heating the air within the interior, this device produces warmth. However, the air is drawn from an external intake pipe to a combustion chamber, mixed with fuel, and ignited to heat up a surface area of a heat exchanger.

The device depends on diesel to function. Therefore, it’s suitable for vessels that operate on diesel as all that’s needed is connecting the unit to the existing fuel system. So, should you buy a diesel heater? Well, it depends, if you are traveling during cold temperatures, getting warm can be quite difficult since the cold is often at its peak. As such, it makes it difficult to move from one position to another because the cold makes you numb.

Thankfully, a diesel heater can provide you with the warmth you need. This device has proven quite effective and reliable in supplying an interior surface with the desired warmth. Other than that, it is also;

1. Safe to Use

It comes with various safety features so you don’t have to worry about the machine harming you. One is that it doesn’t overheat as it’s designed to shut down automatically when the temperatures exceed the specified safe level. Also, it comes with a sealed combustion chamber and the exhaust is vented outside. As such, you can sleep while the heater is operating.

2. Not Noisy

First installing a diesel heater is super easy. Even those who have never owned a heater in their van can install it quickly by themselves. You just have to follow the simple instructions given by the manufacturer. Also, these devices operate silently. This is in fact among the reasons individuals prefer diesel heaters over other heater types. So, if you are worried about sleeping well the heater is operating, don’t be.

3. Consumes Less Fuel

Another impressive thing about these devices is that while they deliver excellent heating performance, they don’t consume a lot of fuel. Most time, their consumption level ranges from 0.11 to 0.51 liters per hour. As such, they are a cost-saving way of warming your interior surface. Additionally, they feature an affordable and readily available fuel source.

Do Diesel Heaters Produce Carbon Monoxide?

When you’re in a confined space, carbon monoxide poisoning is the main risk of heating. Since carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, it is hard to detect. It foams when an LP gas or coal or any other carbo-based substance burns without enough air. This gas is termed a silent killer and it can cause issues like nausea, fatigue, headache, and unconsciousness.

Generally, diesel heaters are safe devices. While they do produce carbon monoxide, it is in less concentration so it shouldn’t harm users as long as there is enough ventilation. Plus, they come with a sealed combustion chamber, and their exhaust is vented outside. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about breathing in dangerous fumes as the exhaust pipes expel waste from the combustion process outside which leaves, the air in your cabin, fresh and safe to breathe.

Additionally, the devices are equipped with an automatic shutdown feature. However, this depends on the model you are using. Some models come with safety features like problem detection. As such, the heater will shut off to prevent putting users at risk.

However, some studies say that while the CO concentration produced by diesel heaters is lower compared to gas engines, the emissions could still be dangerous if given a sufficient duration in a confined area whose environmental conditions are appropriate.

Some reports of carbon monoxide poisoning directly linked to diesel heating have been noted. Now, while this area needs further research, you should ensure safety when using your diesel heater.

How Do Diesel Heaters Work?

It’s essential that you understand how a diesel heater works so that you can take the necessary protection needed. Let’s look at the steps a diesel heater takes to provide heating to an interior surface.

1. Activation

When you start your diesel heater, it becomes activated. You can activate it from your phone, setting a timer, or use a remote controller, depending on the control method you have. Once the unit is activated, it triggers activation automatically, thus initiating the heater.

2. Initiation of the Process

Once active, the blower fan on the heater blows air into its combustion chamber. Some air is channeled towards another chamber that has been preheated by a glowing element. While this is taking place, the fuel is supplied from the tank of the heater. But this process will start only if the chamber reaches a specific temperature. Do not forget to fill enough fuel in the tank to run your heater.

3. Ignition of Fuel

Air coming leaving the compartments mixes with diesel fuel and is ignited by the action referred to as glow element. This results in a flame that gets into a chamber where combustion takes place. Immediately the flame becomes stable, the action known as glow element shuts down.

4. Release of Heated Air

The hot heated air coming from the above mentioned chamber is directed into a heat exchanger and is circulated by a pump. The blower fan disseminates this air into the vehicle’s inner section, which starts warming the temperatures inside whilst the heater remains running.

5. Shutting Off the Heater

Immediately the required temperature is attained, depending on your set variables, the heater then gets switched off. But, the pump in charge of will keep running to heat the vehicle. This action helps save fuel while still giving you the arm you need.

What to Watch Out for When Using a Diesel Heater

While diesel heaters are generally efficient and reliable, sometimes faults can occur. Knowing some heater problems and how you can troubleshoot them will keep you safe and warm when your heater is operating. Check out for;

1. Overheating

This is usually caused when the heat exchanger is overheated. Does your heater at times shut down on its own, it could be that it’s overheated. The first thing you should have done is confirm the inlet and outlet of air pipes to see if there are barriers blocking air from flowing inside and outside of the heater freely.

Your heater needs proper air circulation, so ensure that you remove any obstruction from it. Also, check if the temperature sensor is working in order as it can cause overheating if it’s not functioning well. And inspect the exchanger to remove all carbon deposits and clean the combustion chamber.

2. Fuel Smells 

It is not normal to smell the fuel from inside the van. However, you can slightly smell from outside as the exhaust pipe releases some fumes. If the smell is too much, there could be a problem with your heater. Make sure that you avoid running it for too long as the exhaust gases are dangerous. Also, you may want to take it for servicing to fix the issue.

Where Can You Use a Diesel Heater?

Well, diesel heaters are designed to produce heating in indoor spaces. Their heating system works well for campervans, cars, trucks, and motorhomes. These devices can also provide heating for yachts and sailboats. Additionally, individuals living in extreme climates or cold locations can use them as well. A diesel heater makes your camping, living, and riding more enjoyable and comfortable. It provides reliable warmth and it’s cost-efficient since it uses diesel.

What Are the Disadvantages of Diesel Heaters?

Diesel heaters also have their drawbacks, which you should know before purchasing them. These include;

1. They Are Quite Expensive

High-quality models are generally expensive. In fact, diesel heaters are far more costly than LG gas heaters for most people. Worse is that the cheap alternatives are not that reliable. Please do some research and have a budget in mind before purchasing. This will help you get a good quality heater at the price you can afford.

2. They Need Regular Maintenance

Managing old and poor quality models can be a bit challenging, as they need constant servicing and maintenance. The common issues with such models include loud Moises and vibrations. They can also produce dangerous fumes which can be problematic.

3. Louder than Gas

While they operate quietly, they tend to be louder than the gas alternative. We advise weighing out the pros and cons of diesel heaters and gas heaters before choosing one.

4. Can Take Up More Space

Additionally, most of them require a large space to install and they need a fuel tank. So have these considerations when you are investing in a diesel heater.