I would like to install a small heater, for heating one room, that runs on heating oil, i.e. "red diesel".

After a brief look on what is available for sale, I noticed some of them require also an electrical connection, and use from 10W to 50W of electricity, and some others don't require any electricity.

For example the Webasto AirTop2000 diesel heater uses 14 to 29 W: http://www.webasto-outdoors.com/service/faq-knowledge-database.html#c163

Also the wikipedia article on "Heating oil" says:

For efficient burning, the oil is drawn from the tank into a pump and pressurized (residential) to 1,034 kPa (150 psi) and forced through a filtered (specific to appliance) nozzle, into an atomized spray pattern. It is then ignited through the use of a step-up transformer, taking 120 or 240 V AC and stepping it up to 10,000 V AC.

which implies that generally oil-heaters use electricity, but then I see many oil heaters of this kind: oil heater

This does not have any electricity connection at all, so I am a bit confused. Can someone explain me what is the difference, and are there any significant benefits on using the types which use electricity?

In my application the only electricity that comes is also from a diesel generator, so I would like to avoid having the heater use any electricity, unless there is any significant benefit, like better efficiency which offsets the diesel used for generating the electricity it uses.

Also, what type of oil heaters can you recommend? I would like to be able to burn different types of oil in it too, like diesel fuel from the petrol station, rapeseed cooking oil, kerosene, used engine oil, just anything similar - are there heaters which will burn all of that?

  • Can you provide an examples of the heaters showing the discrepancy? I think you might be referring to "oil-filled electrical panel heaters" that use electricity to heat the oil.
    – Mike B
    Oct 24, 2010 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


The link you provided is a heater designed for motor homes. Looking at their product sheet, it seems that the power used is for the control circuitry (they have "automatic altitude adjustment" as well as a bunch of different control panel options for temperature), and for a fan - in the diagram they show hot air outlets connected through a duct system.

You didn't mention if this is for a permanent installation or not? Possibly a portable camp heater would work?

  • The installation is to heat the interior of a van. The portable camp heaters you link don't have a tank, I want something with a tank. Besides it must be something that can be bought cheap on eBay, my budget is very low.
    – ria
    Oct 25, 2010 at 8:47

The Webasto-type heater uses a high-pressure electric pump to atomize the fuel, and an electrically-powered glow-spark plug to preheat it.

The burner your link points to is a gravity-fed burner (i.e. there is no electric pump). It exists in two variants:

1- yellow-flame type = a less efficient, but less complicated system.

2- blue-flame type = a more efficient, but more complex system. The blue-flame system works like the multifuel expedition stove: after a period of preheating, the pipe bringing the fuel to the fuel jet becomes very hot, so the fuel it is transporting vaporizes; the pressure of the gasified fuel rises, and the resulting high-pressure gas exits the burner jet and combusts with an efficient blue flame.

The latter system thus requires no electricity, but needs a brief preheat period to begin working. During this time the flame is yellow, and may produce some smoke.

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