First-Look Review: Hcalory HC-A01 Toolbox-Style Diesel Heater

Hcalory HC-A01

8.4

Overall Design

8.0/10

Heating Ability

9.0/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Compatability

8.5/10

Pros

  • Powerful heating performance.
  • Very fuel-efficient.
  • Convenient on-board and remote controls.
  • Easy to operate and service.
  • Very versatile toolbox design.

Cons

  • Requires an external 12-volt power source.
  • Runs a bit loud.

Living in an RV or a van used to be a decidedly alternative lifestyle. But remote work is changing that.

If your job requires nothing but a computer and an internet connection, why not live on the road? You can travel the country, see all the locations on your bucket list, and still earn a regular paycheck. That’s not a bad combination!

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But life on the road comes with its share of challenges. You need to have a source of fresh water – and somewhere to dispose of black water.

You’ll need a shore power connection or a generator for your electronics. And when it gets cold out, you’ll need a way to stay warm. That’s where a diesel heater comes in.

We’re about to review the Hcalory HC-A01 Diesel Heater. We were already familiar with Hcalory’s other temperature-control technology, like their F79 portable refrigerator/freezer, which really impressed us.

But past performance is no guarantee of future results. To find out if this diesel heater is worth your while, we’ll have to dig a lot deeper. Let’s get started!

Hcalory HC-A01

Overall Design

The Hcalory HC-A01 Diesel Heater is compact and surprisingly lightweight. At 13.8 inches tall, 19.2 inches wide, and 7.9 inches deep, it can fit pretty much anywhere. And an ergonomic folding handle on top of the housing makes it easy to carry around.

The housing itself is made from black plastic, but the material is heat-resistant and seems very durable. The heating element, tubing, and pump are located on the inside of the housing. The heating element is separated from the housing by a large metal grille which aids in heat dispersion. You can open the side panel to service the internal heating components.

Hcalory HC-A01

The fuel tank has a flat, vertical profile and attaches to the side of the heater. This keeps it separate from the hot parts of the machine, which is much appreciated. As an added bonus, you can easily remove it for easier transport or storage. The capacity of the tank is 5 liters, or about 1.32 gallons.

At one end of the housing is an LCD display. It’s colorful and vibrant, and shows you everything you need to know about your heater. There’s the current temperature, your temperature setting, and your fuel status. You’ll even see a visual image of the motor and the air flow. This makes it easy to tell at a glance what’s going on with your heater.

Hcalory offers a 30-day no-questions-asked return window. If you decide you don’t like the heater for any reason, you can return it for a full refund.

Everyday Setup

This is a diesel-powered heater, which means it produces exhaust. As a result, you’ll have to set it up somewhere where it can vent to the outside. There’s a metal exhaust tube included, which is flexible and sports a baffle near the end. You’ll have to cut a hole into the side of your vehicle and make sure it’s well-sealed.

Hcalory HC-A01

There’s also a flexible tube for the air intake. This tube is made of plastic, and should ideally be run to the outside as well, but far away from the exhaust. You can draw from the inside air if you like, but it’s not ideal. Some of the air will be expelled as exhaust. This creates negative pressure, sucking in cold air through gaps in your vehicle and reducing the heater’s effectiveness. You also need to remember to attach the air filter to the end of the intake. If you don’t, the heater could get clogged or damaged.

Hcalory HC-A01

A second plastic hose can be used to direct the air inside your vehicle. It’s completely optional, but can be handy in many circumstances. For example, you might want to conceal the HC-A01 behind a panel and connect it to a vent.

Hcalory HC-A01

Once you’ve run all your hoses, you’ll still need a source of power. The heater doesn’t draw much electricity, but it still needs to power a fan and a pump. In the package, you’ll find a 12-volt wiring harness that you can wire right into your car or RV. Alternatively, you can connect to a separate portable 12-volt battery. But no matter how you cut it, you’re going to need a power source.

The kit includes everything else you need to make things work. It has a full set of mounting brackets, screws, and hose clamps. All you need is your power supply and some diesel fuel.

If you like the idea of a diesel heater but prefer a different option, there are plenty. Check out our list of the best diesel and unleaded air heaters for some great selections.

Hcalory HC-A01

Heating performance

The Hcalory HC-A01 can output up to 5kW of heat. The manufacturer only uses international units, so we’re not sure what that works out to in BTUs. But the most powerful electric household space heaters draw 1,500 watts, or 1.5kW. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect comparison, since a diesel heater is different from an electric one. Even so, you’re looking at more than three times the power.

Hcalory HC-A01

You can heat a very large area, even a small house. Not only that, but you’ll do it affordably. Depending on your space and the outside temperature, you can spend 50 cents a day or less. And for all of that efficiency, it kicks in very quickly. You turn the heater on, and it starts to blow hot air within seconds.

To be fair, the fan is a bit loud. We wouldn’t recommend sleeping with the HC-A01 right next to your head. It also produces a little bit of plastic smell when you run it the first time. This seems to just be residual machine oil from the factory, since it cleared up in a few hours.

Hcalory HC-A01

Controls and Operation

There are three ways to control the HC-A01. First, you can use the LCD display itself. There’s a power button at the bottom right, and a settings button at the top right. In-between is a dial that you use to make your adjustments. You can change the temperature, set a timer, and make other changes in seconds.

For more basic adjustments, there’s the handheld remote. This is a simple keychain fob like the one you use for your car. It has a 100-foot range, which should be more than long enough for most people. The four buttons allow you to change the temperature up or down or return to a preset temperature. You can also turn the heater on and off.

Hcalory HC-A01

If you want even more remote controls, you can download the companion smartphone app. It’s free on Android and iOS, and it allows you to connect to the heater via Bluetooth. You’ll have an onscreen display that looks like the one on the side of the machine. And you can do everything you can do from the on-board controls. That said, you’ll have to order the special Bluetooth version of the HC-A01.

Diesel Heater Basics

A diesel heater is a great way to heat your vehicle when you want to stay warm at night. They first became popular with truckers, who are the undisputed masters of sleeping on the road. But they’ve since become commonplace for anyone who sleeps in their vehicle. Diesel heaters also have other applications. For example, many people use them to pre-warm their car before going on a trip. You can defrost your windshield and warm up your seats without even stepping outside.

Diesel heaters aren’t just useful for vehicles. You can use one for camping or to heat your hunting cabin. It’s safer than burning wood, and you don’t have to spend time gathering and chopping fuel. Then again, some heaters are built solely for vehicles, and have to be installed into your fuel lines.

What Fuel Can I Use?

One thing diesel heaters have in common is that they’re made to run on diesel fuel. This dates back to their origin as a trucker’s tool. Since truckers already have to stop and fill up on diesel, it’s convenient enough to fill their heater tank.

To this day, diesel remains a perfectly suitable heating fuel. That said, it’s less than ideal. When you exclusively burn diesel in a heater, the ignition element will eventually foul. This means you’ll have to regularly open your heater and clean off the element.

Most diesel heaters will also run on kerosine. Kerosine is a far better alternative, since it runs clean. With kerosine, you should only have to clean your element once a year. On the downside, kerosine isn’t available at all gas stations, so it can be hard to find. When that happens, you can buy pre-filled jugs at a home improvement store. But you can expect to pay far more for a gallon jug than you would for a gallon at the pump.

Some diesel heaters can run on cooking oil or motor oil. We wouldn’t recommend that with the HC-A01. This is a finely-tuned machine, and oil will quickly foul the element. It doesn’t matter if your friend uses oil in their heater. It’s not going to work for you here.

Whatever fuel you use, you’re burning a hydrocarbon. When that happens, you’re inevitably going to create carbon monoxide gas. Never run a diesel heater without ensuring that the exhaust is routed to the outdoors.

Hcalory HC-A01

Final Verdict

The Hcalory HC-A01 Diesel Heater is impressively powerful. With enough power to heat a small house, it’s more than enough for your RV, van, or camper. Operation is easy, with plenty of control options and an informative on-board display. The housing is lightweight and portable. And while setup isn’t exactly easy, it’s not needlessly complicated like some diesel heaters.

The handle makes the HC-A01 easy to carry. So while you’ll still need to bring a battery with you, it’s portable enough for camping. Our only major complaint was the noise level, which is a bit loud. But all things considered, that’s a minor concern.

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