When deciding on how to equip our van, we were resigned to having a traditional gas cooker, pretty much like every other camper van. However, I was fed up with having a cupboard given over to a large gas bottle and having to cut a gas drop out in the floor, letting water in when we crossed rivers etc. In addition, when travelling you need to be able to get the gas bottles replaced, or perhaps have a large gas tank installed. We wanted to rationalise our fuel types and decided that if we could do everything from 12v and / or diesel, that would be epic! Enter the Webasto X100.
Before everyone starts commenting on smelly diesel cookers etc, this one is very modern and very different to the diesel cookers of old. It has a lovely smoked glass cooker top, much like an induction cooker. Below this is a sealed metal box, containing a diesel pump, a burner, a fan and all the electrical gubbins. There is also an exhaust port which faces vertically down. The cooker drops into a hole cut in the work top, sitting on a foam seal and clamped into place from below. Then another metal box fits over the burner assembly, leaving a hole through which the exhaust port sits centrally. This box also has a small fan and a removable panel to allow fixing of the exhaust and access to the inners if required.
The system uses a balanced flue to remove the exhaust gases beneath the van. The flexible black pipe shown on the right, is the outer skin of the flue and is cool to the touch, with the hot exhaust passing through the centre and out of the van. The flue gets the cooling air from the small fan on the front of the casing which draws air from within the van and blows across the burner housing etc, before being forced down out of the van, cooling the exhaust gases. The silver sleeve is further insulation as the flue passes behind the fridge and I didn’t want it to cause any cooling issues for the fridge. Where it exits the van, the exhaust pipe extends beyond the outer duct and is clamped to the underbody, facing away from the door. The outer duct is sealed to the floor with heat resistant silicon to ensure that water cannot enter the van through the hole when driving in rain, crossing rivers etc. In addition the pipe is near vertical and faces down, so any water splashed into the pipe will drain straight back out again.
The whole system is controlled by a simple panel that has an on/off switch, a rotary dial which allows the burner temperature to be set, two status lights and a mountain switch. Most of this is self explanatory, but I’ll take a moment to explain the status lights and the mountain switch. The lights tell you when power is on, when the burner is priming and firing up and when it is ready for cooking. The mountain switch automatically changes the settings to compensate for thinner air at higher altitudes. We haven’t used this switch yet. The controller comes with a long cable which allows you to fit it anywhere, ideally away from water and accidental knocks.
The last parts are a simple wiring loom with an inline fuse, that is very easy to fit and a capillary fuel line with an inline filter which connects the cooker fuel pump to the fuel supply. This is accomplished by simply joining to a van fuel pipe using a “T” piece and a few clamps. I joined into the fuel return line so there wasn’t any excessive pressure forced through into the cooker fuel system. Lastly, it is advisable to fit a simple secondary isolator switch which allows you to isolate the system from the power supply when you aren’t using it for extended periods, this prevents inadvertent operation. The cooker top needs some explanation though, as it is not like a traditional gas cooker, not having instant heat. Think AGA or Rayburn, but don’t be put off. It take a very little time to heat up and a bit longer to cool down, but this is not an issue once you are used to it. When we finish cooking, we switch off the hob and pop a kettle of water on using the residual heat to give us piping hot water for the washing up! There is a warning light on the hob lower edge that glows brightly whilst it is hot, warning you not to put anything on it.
The glass top is strong and scratch resistant, very similar to a ceramic induction hob, so it is worth noting that pans with a thicker flat bottoms work best. There is an interesting pattern on the hob, which indicates the hottest area on the left end, progressively cooling towards the right. This means you can get your rice or potatoes to the boil and push them to the right to simmer, whilst cooking your stew or curry.
Its easy to clean, no nasty gas smells or horrible moisture producing open flames and it looks great. Fuel use is negligible, although you do need good leisure batteries. We really like it and love the lack of a gas bottle, allowing us to only need diesel for the cooker, the heater and the engine. I installed it myself and found the instructions online on the Webasto website. They were clear and easy to follow, even for an amateur like me.
Note: it is essential to allow sufficient airflow to the front of the cooker as this cools the whole unit, leaving it and the flue pipe cool to the touch. You can see in the picture that I have a grill through the front fascia panel.
We also have a carbon monoxide detector in our van – if you don’t, then get one now!
If in doubt, get a professional to fit it
Of course there are pros and cons, but we really like it. It is eye wateringly expensive (around £1400) and the warm up / cooldown times take a bit of getting used to. But, if like us having a single fuel source is important, then it is a great solution.