Any advice for heating options in a conversion? (Please help A.S.A.P!)

jjmcclure

2020 HR 144 4x4
Are you 100% against wood heating?

Your battery capacity is not very much, as others have said it will struggle to run anything electrical heating wise for a reasonable length of time.

My small wood burner is on low at the moment and it's a toasty 25 C in here while it's a cool 5 C outside in NW England. I'm not sweating yet. My batteries are running all my other equipment and I must confess I also have an espar D2 installed which sees most use when winter transitions to spring and the occasional daytime use here and there if I happen to be hanging around indoors.
Would live to see a picture of your wood burner…
 

Tripol

Active member
In all seriousness, as others have said, diesel heater. 2 day install under passenger seat. Can temporarily use cigarette plug/cable for power until you can run permanent.
The 50 amp lithium that is already in the van should be plenty for powering a diesel heater, I think. it should be a pretty low draw. For my install, The thermo king guy put the espar directly on the sprinter battery, so I switched it to an auxiliary battery. He said it wouldn’t kill the battery, but he might have been working more on bigger rigs.
 

mean_in_green

>2,000,000m in MB vans
Another good source in the UK is Mellor Auto Electrical, based Yorkshire somewhere I think. Supply only, or did offer supply and fit at his workshop once upon a time.

All the branded diesel heaters and then some, UK supplied with UK warranties.

I'd put in a simple diesel to air heater with a digital timer, either Webasto Airtop or Eberspacher (doesn't really matter). Don't cut a fuel line, fit a stand pipe into the tank. Search on here, it's been done so many times, absolutely all the info is there. It will be totally reliable as mine have been.
 
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firebat45

Active member
Chinese Diesel Heater, or an Espar/Webasto if you want to splurge. Easy to install, plenty of heat for a Sprinter. If you're at all handy you can have the entire thing installed in 3-4 hours if you go with the easy passenger pedestal mounting location.

I used one in my last van and comfortably lived in it through -49C last winter. Currently using another one in my current van.
 

lady3jane

New member
Propane can solve two problems if you combine refrigeration and heat.
That is the old school RV approach.
How are you handling refrigeration? How much solar do you have?

What is your budget.

L3
 

Raikou15

New member
Hi again.

Thank you all for your replies! So I've spent the last week looking at all the options very thoroughly, and come up with a few questions.

After looking at all of this stuff, I can say with pretty good certainty I'm not going down the route of a wood fire.
The only decent YouTube videos I could find regarding this were all of people using the cubic mini. After hearing one reviewer in particular's (can't remember the name) opinions I have decided against this option. It would simply be far too much of a hassle for me.

As regards diesel heating, I see it's benefits, but (at least for me/my van) I can also see some pretty glaring downsides as well.
These are:

1. The cost.
This can be brought way down thanks to the Chinese units, but will they have English instructions? As I can't/don't want to be bothered translating instructions via a website or something...

2. The noise.
I'm not all that fussy about the heater's noise, but I don't want other people hearing it when I'm parked up at night if I happen to be stealth camping. The only way around this is to heat the van up earlier in the evening, then turn it off to go to sleep. I have a well insulated van, so that helps.

3. Tapping my sprinter's fuel tank.
As I will not be doing any of the heater install myself, I have to worry about the cost of a mechanic (possibly) having to move my fuel tank to allow for the heater's fuel line/similar. What kind of cost will this be? Also, we are now heading into December, so I don't know how quickly I can find a mechanic for the job...

4. Another problem with this is fuel consumption.
I know the heater has a good fuel gauge, but sometimes I'm running my sprinter rather low on diesel (occasionally 1 bar), and I get 30 miles for £10 (or even slightly less now as the cost of diesel here has risen to basically £1.50 a litre). I would have to be very careful not to let the heater run for too long or I could empty my tank completely.

5. Portable diesel heaters.
I have had a look at some of the portable diesel heaters out there, and while this would seemingly fix the last 2 issues above, (and be much cheaper?) I would still have to cut the mandatory 2 holes in the floor of my van for venting. (the exact location of which is possibly a problem, as I will get to later on).
Also, where do I get the diesel to run it?
Do I just pull up at a filling station and ask to fill up my portable heater's tank?

6. Annual maintenance.
I definitely won't be stripping the heater down to perform the yearly clean/etc on a diesel heater myself, so there's also this issue.
Someone here (sorry, can't remember which one of you) suggested running a diesel heater, portable obviously, on kerosene to reduce the need for maintenance, but how would this work in practice?
Also, where would I get the kerosene required to run it? I've never seen any at a store or filling station that I can remember...

7. And this one is more trivial really, but at some point I will be performing an engine conversion to petrol/gasoline on my sprinter, so that would require a swap to a petrol heater. Not that I'm doing that immenently, if I feel like the diesel heater ends up being the best option for me, then I'll go ahead with that and simply swap it out when I have to later on.

I think that's about all my problems/questions I have regarding diesel, so I'm leaning more towards a portable unit if any ATM...

As for LPG, I think (correct me if I'm wrong) it would be a much better fit for my van/requirements.
Only problems with it I can see are:

1. Gas safety UK regulations.
I realize these units have to be installed by a professional gas fitter, which I'm fine with, only thing here is what I said in point 3 re: diesel; how much will the gas fitter charge for this? And will I get one easily this month now?
Other problem with the regs is will my van's layout be suitable, or will the installer turn up and tell me I have to change where something that doesn't comply with the regs sits in the van?
Does anyone know what the rules say they can't be next to, etc. etc.? That would be very much appreciated!

2. Do I have to cover up the propane cylinder/heater etc with cabinets or similar due to the rules?
I'm ok with this, I just need to know so I can plan out any last minute changes I have to make to my benches, cabinets, layout etc...

3. As I said earlier, if I get a diesel heater, once I have cut the holes in the floor for it, if I wanted LPG later on I would have to cut 2 more and have to worry about covering over the first 2.

4. And this is perhaps what may sway my final decision here.
Can anyone tell me how often or if any maintenance has to be done with these LPG heaters? From what I can see, no one makes mention of that the way they do with the diesels...

As regards points 1 & 2 above with the LPG, I can supply pictures of my van's cabinetry etc, if that would make it easier to figure out. Just let me know.

Also I will not be running an LPG or anything else boiler, cooker or oven, etc, so that should hopefully simplify my install with the gas fitter.

And 1 final question:

Anyone here who has/has had a Diesel/Wood/LPG heater, how warm does it keep you in the winter? Someone said it takes around 2kw of heat to keep their 144" cosy, so how much will I require for my 170" Extended? Was thinking about the Propex HS2800 over the HS2000 model. That's 2.8kw of heat.
Or do I need more?

Thanks.
 

marklg

Well-known member
I don't know the UK rules, but in the US, a Propane tank either has to be outside, or in a specially constructed, vented locker. In my opinion, an undermount tank is optimum and very common.

The diesel tank taps don't go below about 1/4 of the tank, so you can't run out of fuel using the heater.

Again in my opinion, any heater should have external venting, so people will be able to hear and smell it.

Switching engines in these vehicles is maybe 25% mechanical and 75% fooling the electronics so everything works. If you aren't an expert or know a really good vehicle hacker, you may wind up very unhappy, after a lot of work stuck in limp mode.

We have a Propane heater and are very happy with it, but it's noisy and there is an obvious outside vent. The diesel heater, which we also have, has a muffler and tailpipe in a wheelwell and is much less visible. It still makes noise.

I had to replace the burner on our propane heater after about 10 years of use. Corrosion grows on the orifices and the air / fuel ratio is no longer correct. It wasn't a hard job.

If you go the Propane route, consider adding a Propane stove and hot water heater. Both work great.

In either case, add a Carbon Monoxide detector, a Propane detector if you have Propane, a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher. Make sure you can exit rapidly.

Regards,

Mark
 
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Stev_H

Member
I have the same length van as you do, NW England so you know the climate is the same also. I know you've said you're not getting wood but here's a comparison: I use both wood and diesel heater. Yesterday morning I fired up the diesel heater before I got out of bed, it took 3/4 hour to reach 20C and showed no signs of backing off once it reached the set point, still wearing a thin fleece. Last night with wood burner fired up my temperature peaked at 35 Celsius in just over an hour, the damper was almost fully shut, I like it warm so no problem really and if it wasn't blowing as much of a hoolie outside I would've cracked open the door so I was sat in my shorts until it cooled a bit, the bed is never cold to get into when the fire's been on, got into to colder beds in the house with GCH. The wood burner is low maintenance - clean it out every morning, remove firebricks for a deep clean annually, reseal flue collar annually, all 5 min jobs. Not had to sweep the chimney yet.

Check ebay for the Chinese heaters, many of them come with 10l fuel tank so no need to tap into main tank if you don't want to, fill with regular diesel at any fuel station. Also check ebay/gumtree for van conversions, some show pics of how they are installed, it can be helpful just to look around to see what others have done. I gave up with youtube as there are 1001 ways to do anything, if you're any kind of overthinker you can easy go down the rabbit hole with that!

LPG, I fitted a Gas-it refillable underslung tank to mine, 30l, can be tricky to find a source, there is only one outlet in my large-ish (500k pop.) city - Morrisons fuel station, some but not all of their sites nationally carry LPG, their website will tell you where. Someone has also put together a pdf of their locations, found it on google though. In summer that runs my fridge/cooker for 4 weeks depending on weather, the fridge uses the bulk of that. In winter a fill will last right through from late October to well into spring as fridge isn't required to be on. I installed it all myself and was meticulous about checking for leaks prior to firing up the gas powered appliances. I met a caravan service bloke in a supply shop when building it, he said he would be happy to give it the once over but I didn't bother in the end, I'm still here 4 years on.

You can install all gas kit in self builds yourself if you feel up to it, although it voids the appliance warranty. I doubt that a fitter would have sealed off my 3 way fridge to prevent possible ingress of combustion gases into the living space, i.e. it took me a day to build a nice sealed cabinet on the back of it, time is money and all that... So, I lost my warranties for my efforts.

I have all the safety kit fitted as per marklg states above, except the propane detector. There are 4 total gas drop out vents which also serve as air inlets when the fire is going full tilt, in addition to the 2 roof vents and side window if doors are shut.

I hope you get something sorted soon, I feel for you in this weather and winter hasn't really got going yet.
 
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marklg

Well-known member
LPG, I fitted a Gas-it refillable underslung tank to mine, 30l, can be tricky to find a source, there is only one outlet in my large-ish (500k pop.) city - Morrisons fuel station, some but not all of their sites nationally carry LPG, their website will tell you where. Someone has also put together a pdf of their locations, found it on google though. In summer that runs my fridge/cooker for 4 weeks depending on weather, the fridge uses the bulk of that. In winter a fill will last right through from late October to well into spring as fridge isn't required to be on. I installed it all myself and was meticulous about checking for leaks prior to firing up the gas powered appliances. I met a caravan service bloke in a supply shop when building it, he said he would be happy to give it the once over but I didn't bother in the end, I'm still here 4 years on.

I have all the safety kit fitted as per marklg states above, except the propane detector. There are 4 total gas drop out vents which also serve as air inlets when the fire is going full tilt, in addition to the 2 roof vents and side window if doors are shut.

I hope you get something sorted soon, I feel for you in this weather and winter hasn't really got going yet.
Having someone check out a self installed Propane system is a reasonable option. I have done my own work on the heater and replaced the stove, checking for leaks with both soap bubbles and an electronic detector. Note that the electronic detector will sniff soap bubbles as a Propane leak. A certified Propane shop worked on my tank. They seem to be very helpful and know all the ins and outs. You could also ask what the applicable requirements are.

If a overflow device or regulator fails, Propane can leak out and fill a space almost instantly. You would not want that to happen while asleep. You should have a Propane detector. We would not like to lose any contributors to this fine forum.

Regards,

Mark
 

Stev_H

Member
Good point Mark, thanks. My regulator is fitted externally also, but I will look into a gas detector as the manifold and all other connections are internal.
 

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