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Old 02-12-2014, 11:00 AM   #1
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Hydronic heat: Propane vs Diesel in winter temps?

In choosing our first coach, I want input from experienced owners of coaches with hydronic heat on the importance of these capabilities to assist my choice of propane or diesel hydronic heating system equipped coach for use in very cold conditions (ie. 5 F to -30 F). We would not camp at -30 by choice, but could experience it while traveling to and from home in northern Canada while snowbirding.

To my knowledge propane gives less heat per equal volume, so it is consumed faster than diesel, usually is in a smaller tank, and is somewhat more difficult to locate for refills, and more challenging to carry spare fuel.

Propane hydronic heating equipment does not provide the ability to scavenge engine heat through an "engine loop" in the boiler while in motion, so it requires burning at least two fuel sources while traveling (engine for motion, propane for coach heat). In extreme cold in motion the propane heater may not have enough capacity at "full bore" to keep the coach above 50 degrees F. It may also require running the generator while in motion or while boondock parked to keep the propane tank warm enough to allow the propane to flow to the hydronic heater burner.

Can the propane storage support at least three days to a week of heavy cold weather use? We expect the supplied tank capacity to be between 32 and 50 gallons, (max fill capacity of 80% = net 25 gal. to 40 gal. working volume)

For those experienced with high desert camping, fall mountain camping, "real" winter travel conditions, how do you deal with staying warm when using propane hydronic heat?

One manufacturer offers hydronic heated tile floors (either propane or diesel fired boiler). How significant a "plus" is this an actual use, or is the air movement from the hydronic radiators in your coach enough in cold conditions to keep you comfortable while wearing stockings/slippers?

How have those of you with Newmar and Entegra (or other brand) coaches with hydronic heat that does not have an "engine loop" dealt with prewarming your Diesel engine when stopped in cold weather? With maximizing your comfort inside the coach while under way?

How significant is the insulation R value and sealing of the front cap to your comfort and how long your heating fuel source lasts?

Any input from those with actual personal experience with these concerns would be a tremendous help in narrowing our "one shot" decision to purchase. Thanks.
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Old 02-12-2014, 11:10 AM   #2
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I would'nt choose a propane unit, or a diesel unit that does'nt have engine heat / pre-heat !
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Old 02-12-2014, 01:36 PM   #3
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Hydronic heat: Propane vs Diesel in winter temps?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TinMan Trvlr View Post
In choosing our first coach, I want input from experienced owners of coaches with hydronic heat on the importance of these capabilities to assist my choice of propane or diesel hydronic heating system equipped coach for use in very cold conditions (ie. 5 F to -30 F). We would not camp at -30 by choice, but could experience it while traveling to and from home in northern Canada while snowbirding.

To my knowledge propane gives less heat per equal volume, so it is consumed faster than diesel, usually is in a smaller tank, and is somewhat more difficult to locate for refills, and more challenging to carry spare fuel.

Propane hydronic heating equipment does not provide the ability to scavenge engine heat through an "engine loop" in the boiler while in motion, so it requires burning at least two fuel sources while traveling (engine for motion, propane for coach heat). In extreme cold in motion the propane heater may not have enough capacity at "full bore" to keep the coach above 50 degrees F. It may also require running the generator while in motion or while boondock parked to keep the propane tank warm enough to allow the propane to flow to the hydronic heater burner.

Can the propane storage support at least three days to a week of heavy cold weather use? We expect the supplied tank capacity to be between 32 and 50 gallons, (max fill capacity of 80% = net 25 gal. to 40 gal. working volume)

For those experienced with high desert camping, fall mountain camping, "real" winter travel conditions, how do you deal with staying warm when using propane hydronic heat?

One manufacturer offers hydronic heated tile floors (either propane or diesel fired boiler). How significant a "plus" is this an actual use, or is the air movement from the hydronic radiators in your coach enough in cold conditions to keep you comfortable while wearing stockings/slippers?

How have those of you with Newmar and Entegra (or other brand) coaches with hydronic heat that does not have an "engine loop" dealt with prewarming your Diesel engine when stopped in cold weather? With maximizing your comfort inside the coach while under way?

How significant is the insulation R value and sealing of the front cap to your comfort and how long your heating fuel source lasts?

Any input from those with actual personal experience with these concerns would be a tremendous help in narrowing our "one shot" decision to purchase. Thanks.
Aqua Hot does not offer engine coolant heat scavenging or engine preheat on the 375LP or 400 LP (in Entegra Aspire coaches) or 400 D models, only on Diesel 450D and up. Oasis has an engine heat scavenging option on their basic unit, and offer engine preheating as an option on their Diesel only products, but Newmar will not supply a coach with the engine preheat option installed (per a Newmar factory rep at an RV show). As I understand it we would have to have that done aftermarket and possibly have warranty issues with Cummins in the event of any engine cooling related problems/damage.

How have you used your engine scavenging and preheat and what hydronic boiler makers product is in your coach?
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Old 02-14-2014, 08:23 AM   #4
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We have a Precision Temp propane hydronic heat in are Ds. It has worked great for the last 3 years after some growing pains. The coldest we have camped in is about -10c and it was as comfortable as needed. The biggest advantage I like with propane is they will come and fill your tank but they wont come and fill your diesel tank
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Old 02-14-2014, 08:32 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newmar10 View Post
We have a Precision Temp propane hydronic heat in are Ds. It has worked great for the last 3 years after some growing pains. The coldest we have camped in is about -10c and it was as comfortable as needed. The biggest advantage I like with propane is they will come and fill your tank but they wont come and fill your diesel tank
With 150 gal. of diesel I'm not sure if you need them to come and fill it?
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Old 03-31-2014, 09:17 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by newmar10 View Post
We have a Precision Temp propane hydronic heat in are Ds. It has worked great for the last 3 years after some growing pains. The coldest we have camped in is about -10c and it was as comfortable as needed. The biggest advantage I like with propane is they will come and fill your tank but they wont come and fill your diesel tank
Thanks for sharing your experience Newmar10. We did opt to purchase a coach with a diesel Oasis that we will have equipped with an engine preheat loop after delivery.

I have seen small diesel fuel tanker trucks delivering fuel to construction equipment on building sites in our area. Have any iRV2 members used this type of fuel service people to top up their tanks while parked?
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Old 03-31-2014, 09:31 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by TinMan Trvlr View Post
Thanks for sharing your experience Newmar10. We did opt to purchase a coach with a diesel Oasis that we will have equipped with an engine preheat loop after delivery.

I have seen small diesel fuel tanker trucks delivering fuel to construction equipment on building sites in our area. Have any iRV2 members used this type of fuel service people to top up their tanks while parked?
Construction equipment would typically used dyed fuel. No road tax so not legal in mh.
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Old 03-31-2014, 09:44 AM   #8
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I don't have the experience to offer with the Aqua-hot, but we do make our annual trek from PA to Key West every winter and I for one am sick & tired of trying to get propane and running out etc. My next coach (unless I get totally fed up & convert this one) will have a diesel-fired heating/hot water system.
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Old 03-31-2014, 10:15 AM   #9
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One thing I like about my diesel aqua hot is that I haven't yet run into a situation that caused me to have to make any special effort to have enough fuel for heat. If you know you intend to park for more than a short while -- just fill your diesel tank and you should be good for over a month even in cold weather. I usually don't stay in a cold place very long and when you're in a comfortable place that perhaps the nights are frosty in the morning fuel use is still very low and you'll have enough diesel (if starting mostly from full) to last months. So for me think I'd go diesel. I have a 50 gal propane tank and for cooking and the fridge have yet to fill it more often than every 3-4 months of full timing. About all I do is boon dock so the fridge is on it just about 100% and we don't go out a lot so we're always preparing our meals in our mh. I personally believe diesel aqua hot and propane cooking is the most economical and hassle free way to go if you boon dock any amount at all.
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Old 03-31-2014, 02:05 PM   #10
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We have had both propane and diesel heat and we now have heated floors in our new coach. IMHO diesel a heat if far quieter and more efficient. Running the AquaHot diesel hardly seems to use any diesel and we have been in temps in the teens. With the heated floors set at 90 or above, and the fireplace heater on, the diesel burner only kicks on occasionally.
I would not have a coach without heated floors, AquaHot or fireplace. And I love not carrying any propane.
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Old 03-31-2014, 02:32 PM   #11
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Espar or Webasto

Espar and Webasto both make diesel fired heaters for space heating and engine heating. We used Espar heaters in our semi trucks and the drivers loved them.

An Espar space heater is about the size of a loaf of bread, it has a 4 inch flexible duct for the air, so they can be mounted in lots of places. It will keep the cab and sleeper in a semi toasty warm in any kind of weather and will use .3 of a gallon of diesel in 10 hours. I have considered installing a couple in my American Eagle, just so I have a back up to the propane system, (two furnaces).

Espar also makes an engine coolant heater to warm up your engine in the morning. It comes with a programmable timer, so you program it to come on about 2 hours before departure. The unit has the burner and pump to circulate coolant through the heater. It will heat the engine to 170 degrees in any temperature we have found driving a semi tractor coast to coast.

Just Google Espar heaters and you should find all the information you need.
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