Propex propane heat furnace kit with hoses and fittings

Using Propane Gas to Heat Your Van: Propex Review

Key takeaways

Propane heat is popular for good reason: it’s cheap, requires little maintenance, and can last for months at a time.

But there are 2 important reasons why propane falls short of diesel & gas heat.

Related: Heating Your Van: Diesel, Propane, or Electric

Propane vs Gasoline & Diesel

The first, is that propane is an entirely separate fuel source that’s not as convenient to keep track of as people imagine. Gasoline and diesel heaters plumb directly from your vehicles fuel tank, eliminating this concern.

Non-Ventilated Heaters

The second reason why you might want to avoid propane is that popular portable propane heaters like the Mr Heater, although cheap and efficient, don’t exhaust water vapor or carbon monoxide outside of your vehicle like ventilated heaters.

This can lead to mold and carbon monoxide exposure (which is one of the most dangerous risks vanlifers face).

(For short term heating, portable propane heaters like the Mr Heater are great, just be sure to use a carbon monoxide detector and proper ventilation.)

Both of these issues, monitoring fuel and dealing with condensation, are eliminated with ventilated gasoline and diesel heaters.

Ventilated air heater showing air intake, warm air outlet, and exhaust next to portable propane heater with all combustion exiting from same location

Propex Propane Heaters

If you want to use propane, Propex makes ventilated propane heaters that are great for vans and overland vehicles.

Propex recommends 3 furnaces for vanlife & overlanding: the HS2000, HS2800, & HS2211.

Each utilizes a simple electrical connection to control the thermostat and ignition, an inlet and exhaust hose for cycling air and fumes, and a propane inlet for supplying fuel.

Note: A portable propane heater is the best way to heat your van with no electricity. Propex units require a 12v connection, so although you don’t need a campervan inverter to run them, they do draw power.

Propex heating unit showing the location of the cold air inlet, hot air outlet, exhaust gas outlet, combustion air inlet, and gas inlet

The main differences between the 3 Propex models are:

  1. Heat Output
  2. Inside vs Outside Mounting

Inside vs Outside Mounting

Male stick figure holding wrench while looking at propex heater looks confused while female stick figure exclaims, "I could ask my dad".

There’s a lot of debate about inside vs outside mounting:

The HS2211 is externally mounted:

“I choose the external mounted for interior space…I do not mind the two holes coming up into the rear part of the van, also it will be more quite than inside.”

“I installed an HS2211 underneath driver side between frame rail & body about 6 yrs ago. It’s been great. Every cubic inch of space is important so I opted for the external version.”

The HS2000 & HS2800 are internally mounted:

“For me it came down to location and ease of install and I did end up doing an interior propex. The down side for me on the external was the fact that it required some rather large holes to duct the air into the cabin and I didn’t have the room externally for a satisfactory mount.”

“I’m installing a diesel heater that claims to be suitable for mounting under the van, but I was concerned about water intrusion. The propex looks like it’s sealed better though, but because I’ve been known to cross a few rivers, I opted to install it inside instead.”

Heat Output

Most vans will stay comfortably heated with 3,000-12,000 BTUs. How efficiently your van utilizes the heat put out by your heater depends largely on what kind of windows you have and how well your van is insulated.

Heater Mount Location BTU Output
Propex HS2000 Internal 6,650
Propex HS2211 External 7,500
Propex HS2800 Internal 9,200

To see if you need the HS2800, follow the formula mentioned in our diesel heater size article:

(Length x Width x Height of Living Space) x (20 BTU’s)”

20 BTU’s (or British Thermal Units) is the standard measure of heat output recommended per cubic ft of space used in home heating and air.

To figure out how much heat you need, just multiply the square footage of your vehicles living space by 20 BTU’s.

For reference, here are the heat needs of 7 popular vans:

Vehicle Length Width Height Cubic ft BTU’s
Sprinter 170 Ext 15.75 ft 5.83 ft 6.58 ft 604.19 ft³ 12,083
Ram ProMaster 159 12 ft 6.25 ft 6.41 ft 480.75 ft³ 9,615
Ford E-Series 10.11 ft 6.13 ft 4.49 ft 278.41 ft³ 5,568
VW Van 8.85 ft 4.925 ft 4.42 ft 192.65 ft³ 3,853
Dodge Caravan 7.29 ft 5.16 ft 5.08 ft 191.09 ft³ 3,821
Chevy Astro 10.5 ft 4.65 ft 3.90 ft 190.41 ft³ 3,808
Ford Transit Connect 9.79 ft 4.05 ft 4.12 ft 163.35 ft³ 3,267


Reviewing Propex Heaters

Propex heaters are definitely the best ventilated propane heater for van life and overlanding… but are they worth basically the same price as a diesel van heater from Webasto or Espar?

Turns out, yes.

Cost of Heater

When comparing the cost, there’s only a couple hundred dollar difference the Propex, Webasto, & Espar 6,000-9,000 BTU heaters.

Assuming you only need 6,000-9,000 BTUs, price probably won’t be the deciding factor.

Heater Cost Max BTU Output
Propex HS2000 $1,095 6,650 BTU/h
Propex HS2211 $1,167 7,500 BTU/h
Espar Airtronic S2-D2L $1,199 7,500 BTU/h
Propex HS2800 $1,183 9,200 BTU/h
Webasto Air Top 2000 STC $1,357 7,000 BTU/h
Webasto Air Top Evo 40 $1,599 13,650 BTU/h
Webasto Air Top Evo 55 $1,799 18,800 BTU/h
Espar Airtronic D4L $2,059 13,650 BTU/h
Espar Airtronic D5 $2,999 18,800 BTU/h

Male and female stick figures look at expensive Propex heater while the female says excitedly, "what if you get a job?"

Cost to Run for 24 hours

When you compare the cost of running each heater, propane furnaces are slightly cheaper because propane is less expensive. 1

Heater Cost Per 24 Hours 2 Gal/h Max BTU/h
Propex HS2000 $5.04 0.07 6,650
Webasto Air Top 2000 STC $5.76 0.06 7,000
Propex HS2211 $6.48 0.09 7,500
Espar Airtronic D2L $6.72 0.07 7,506
Propex HS2800 $10.08 0.14 9,200
Espar Airtronic D4L $11.52 0.12 13,650
Webasto Air Top Evo 40 $10.56 0.11 12,000
Webasto Air Top Evo 50 $15.36 0.16 17,000
Espar Airtronic D5 $18.24 0.19 18,800



When it comes to maintenance, propane wins again.. Webasto claims their heaters are “maintenance-free and do not have to be inspected” but it’s clear from user reports that diesel heater maintenance is way more common than propane:

“They will foul up pretty quickly if allowed to run at low power continuously. My experience is that Webasto copes better than Eberspacher on its low power setting, but both really need to be allowed to burn themselves clean quite frequently.”

One user reported:

“I have had my boat inc. Propex heater for 13 years and apart from checking the installation have not touched it and it has always been totally reliable.”

In response, another user reported:

“You are rapidly convincing me that the next time my Eberspacher dies (£1,000+ spent on repairs in 8 years) I will look into fitting a gas Propex.”

Female stick figure is angry to see male stick figure fixing diesel heater carbon build-up


Propex heaters are also easier and less expensive to install because they don’t require drilling into your vehicles fuel tank like diesel heaters (diesel heater installations can cost up to $1,200)… (the externally mounted Propex HS2211 requires drilling into your vehicles floor to accommodate the cold air inlet and hot air outlet)

Using Propane Gas to Heat Your Van

In conclusion, for short-term use, ventilated heaters (propane, diesel, or gas) are generally too expensive to justify, so portable propane heaters like the Mr Heater make the most sense.

For long-term use, Propex heaters are the best propane heating option because they are ventilated.. when comparing propane to gasoline or diesel, although propane can be difficult to keep track of, overall, it cost less to run, require less maintenance, and produces plenty of heat.


  1. Gasoline and diesel have a higher BTU output per gallon but propane is still cheaper:

    • Propane: about 91,500 BTUs per gallon
    • Gasoline: about 115,000 BTUs per gallon
    • Diesel: about 129,500 BTUs per gallon

  2. Based on $4 per gallon for diesel and $3 for propane

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