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Old 02-22-2019, 03:29 PM   #1
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Location: Whidbey Island, WA
Posts: 43
Heat & High Anxiety

The premise: winter camping along our PacNW coast is normally snow-free but quite cool. We've tried three methods in our 9.5' slide-in camper.

1) OEM propane furnace. Works great, BUT: very inefficient and a battery hog. Good for short, quick warmups. Not so good for overnight heat when off the hookups. Good 'dry' heat.

2) Catalytic or "Buddy" style propane heaters. 'Wet' heat; a pure disaster, causing torrential condensation throughout the interior. Promotes mold growth under the mattress and behind the seat cushions. Competely unacceptable. Requires opening roof vents and side windows for ventilation to such an extent it impairs the heat purpose.

3) Our solution: "High Anxiety!" (This is for benefit of the worry-warts, scolds, catastrophe claimants, and other 'Chicken Little' screech hens.) I did a LOT of research on compact diesel air heaters, especially as reviewed on u-toob. Note: in a former life I owned and flew a Ryan Navion airplane that contained a gasoline air heater. It was safe and worked effectively and reliably.
I bought a diesel air heater on eBay for $148; installed it near the door, low down on the side of the settee, with the combustion intake/exhaust tubes running into the adjacent storage compartment on the camper side, vented to the outside via small cutouts in the compartment door. Inside, the heater recirculates interior air, just like the OEM propane furnace. A wall-mount LED control panel and DC power connections were easily done.
Conclusion: we had a cold snap here on the island when temps reached 22 deg F; I opened interior cupboard doors to circulate warmed air through the plumbing; the heater ran for several nights/days. Nothing froze. (We don't 'winterize' in this coast climate; just use heat as needed).
The wife loves this heater. It is less than one-quarter the battery drain of the OEM furnace, and burns less than a gallon of diesel in a 24-hour run. This DRY heat helps remove cooking and respiration condensation in the camper.
Okay. HYSTERIA: the diesel air heater is Chinese-built. Let the worry-warts and flame-throwers commence!
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Old 02-22-2019, 04:50 PM   #2
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Dual batteries are the way to go for cold camping with the LPG furnace. You still need a method to recharge them for the next night. We have 480w of rated solar but get about half that in the NW - This is enough for our winter camping to get a daily recharge.

I think if I went to the work to install a diesel furnace, I would just replace the LPG model in its place. How easy is it to refuel? Is it plumbed to your truck?
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Old 02-22-2019, 05:46 PM   #3
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Good observation

Carry space is limited, of course, and so is weight. That, and the fact that roof-mount solar panels are so much less efficient, that I've set a firm limit of two 100-watt panels, portable on an extension, and the single 12v deep cycle battery. That's 32 lbs for the two Renogy hard panels, and 95 lbs for the battery. There is no room for a 2nd battery without a major project of building a new battery compartment (with very limited space available).

As for removing the propane furnace, it would gain little for us. It's not in a convenient location for the diesel air heater install (remember, I need a good run for the intake tube/exhaust tube and the fuel tank/feed pump setup). Also, I'm a belt & suspenders type; there are times when the quick & convenient OEM furnace thermostat feature makes great sense.

So, the two together are a great asset to our little camper. As for fuel, we drive an older diesel truck, but we do not tap into the fuel lines. I secure a 1.2 gallon fuel jug for the heater feed line, and a 2.5 gal reserve jug in the same compartment. The exhaust tube is air-cooled, vents outside, and is well clear anything including the fuel jugs. Diesel is very low flash-point, so even if there were a leak or puncture, it's relatively safe. I pump road-tax diesel into the truck's saddle tanks, and red-dyed non-tax diesel into the heater jugs.

The heater is extremely compact, and nestles inside the settee extension under the cushion end with appropriate vent openings, right next to the doorway. Other than devoting a side storage compartment for combustion plumbing and fuel storage, it's a non-intrusive system.
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Old 03-08-2019, 08:23 AM   #4
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My RV came with a Espar diesel forced air heater. Works almost too good. I even de-rated it for 3500ft. and above elevation use.
Iíve had the LPG forced air wall units in other RVís. They were better than nothing but not a candle compared to this Espar diesel unit. I imagine the Chinese unit is a knockoff copy.
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Old 03-10-2019, 12:23 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Bedlam View Post
Dual batteries are the way to go for cold camping with the LPG furnace.

Ditto. I have dual AGMs in my Arctic Fox. I spent the night in the camper last night in Puyallup. Furnace T-stat set to 65. I used about 50 amp hours overnight. It would have been less, but I forgot to turn off the inverter, which was on but not powering anything.

Clear sky and frosty this morning. Probably 25 degrees when I got up at 5am.

Batteries are charging right now with 300 watts of solar.

I know many campers can't accommodate dual batteries, so alternate heat sources are a plus.
Glad the diesel heater is working out for you.

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Old 03-10-2019, 01:41 PM   #6
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Sounds just about perfect to me, no criticism here.

I have always spent a week to a month bow hunting for elk near Coos Bay. Condensation was always a problem. Our first TC in '79 had a propane "pot burner" type heater so it didn't require electricity to operate, somewhat primitive, but actually an advantage as I would learn from our second TC in '94. It had AC and a gen with a single deep cycle battery. I had to run the gen every day to recharge the batt from the previous nights heater draw down. I installed a Wave propane heater which worked well, but lost some efficiency because it had to be vented by cracking a vent and window. Every heat source I used seemed to cause condensation, but then the humidity must have been near 100% much of the time, especially during the late hunt when it rained most of the time.

I'm glad the diesel heater is working well for you in that respect. It will be something for me to consider in the future. Thanks for posting.

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Old 03-16-2019, 12:45 PM   #7
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Diesel Auxiliary Heater

If anyone is watching this thread who has installed an aftermarket Espar or Webasto diesel heater in a Winnebago 24' Class C motor home, I am interested in anything you can tell me about the process. I am looking for the best/easiest place to install one in my 2016 View 24G. Hoping someone has done this because the local Espar dealer has not, and when we did the walk through of my coach they did not see an obvious place to put it.
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Old 01-25-2020, 02:27 AM   #8
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It's been nearly a year for our diesel air heater in our 9.5-ft slide-in S&S camper. It's been a great performer! We took a long summer trip through Idaho, top to bottom, and then to Colorado and up to 9,000 feet near Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park. The near 'instant-on' feature of the heater, plus very low battery and fuel load, was a blessing. Whenever I can find a low-cost supply of kerosene, I add it 50/50 to the red-dye diesel to reduce internal sooting, but that's optional precaution.

This fall and winter we've spent several 2- and 3-day outings to local state parks, with wind/rain and cold temps. The diesel heater makes no-hookup camping practical and feasible; we've saved more than the cost of the heater by avoiding utility charges. I'd not change a thing; it's been a nice success.
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