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Heating Options for FWC Fleet High Elevation Winter

diesel propane fleet four wheel campers winter camping

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#1 powderhoundd

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Posted 21 October 2023 - 04:10 AM

Hello WTW Community!

 

I recently purchased a 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD OR and 2014 FWC Fleet from a family friend (we've got upgraded suspension and airbags so I'm all set there) and I am looking to do some upgrades before heading into the mountains in January for a couple of months.

 

I've got the basic Fleet model (no stove/sink/fridge,etc.) with side dinette but I am looking to put in some sort of heating system (along with solar, basic sink, external ski rack, and battery upgrade). I've read a lot about the Propex heaters and they seem to be a good option, but I'd like to avoid lugging a propane tank around if at all possible. The diesel heaters seem to be a reliable option but I'm having trouble finding any information on external mounting and efficiency of the machine in higher elevation.

 

Has anyone gone through with avoiding the Atwood furnaces and installing their own heaters? Should I avoid this all together and go for a Camco Wave 3 and put my money into the other projects?

 

Thanks in advance for any and all advice. I feel like I'm at the bottom of a very large mountain of information but I'm excited to learn while building my own space!


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#2 Vic Harder

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Posted 21 October 2023 - 06:03 PM

Don’t go the wave heater option, unless you like condensation? I have installed 2 proper heaters, and they work great. Not what I call quiet, but efficient and reliable.

I’ll likely go diesel next time, since I have diesel trucks.
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#3 ski3pin

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Posted 21 October 2023 - 06:16 PM

Don’t go the wave heater option, unless you like condensation? I have installed 2 proper heaters, and they work great. Not what I call quiet, but efficient and reliable.

I’ll likely go diesel next time, since I have diesel trucks.

We've used a Wave 3 in our small All Terrain camper for 10 years. It adds a considerable amount of condensation and I would not recommend. We have an Atwood. It is dependable but we'd prefer a more constant, steady heat and not the hot and cold as it goes on and off. We are looking for alternatives.


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#4 Jsoboti

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Posted 22 October 2023 - 05:17 AM

I would go with a diesel heater. There's endless information on them on forums, Facebook groups, and Youtube.
A lot of people have gone with the cheaper Chinese Diesel heaters, you can get them on Ebay, Amazon, Ali Express, and others. I just ordered one on Amazon to replace my stock propane furnace.

As for elevation, several of the more expensive diesel heaters are not designed for higher elevations although some companies are now selling specific models that have high altitude modes. Most of the Chinese Diesel heaters have adjustable fuel flow and air flow settings, allowing you to custom tune your heater to your specific altitude. There are A LOT of videos and forum posts about this exact subject.

The Chinese heaters are considered "cheap" by some, but that is really only referring to the kit they come with. The heater itself is solid, according to several thousands of reviews on interwebs. I ordered upgraded fuel pump, lines, connectors, exhaust, muffler, intake hose. All in I've spent about $300-350 on the diesel heater and expect to get better functionality out of it than the $1000+ German ones.

Edited by Jsoboti, 22 October 2023 - 05:24 AM.

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#5 Wandering Sagebrush

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Posted 22 October 2023 - 01:59 PM

Look at the Wallas Marine/RV diesel stove heaters.  Caveat, they’re expensive, and they’re counter mounted.  They will however allow air distribution via devices like the EcoFan that use a thermo electric technology, so no house current draw for the fan.

 

This would be best suited for a custom build like you will be doing.


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#6 Vic Harder

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Posted 23 October 2023 - 08:56 PM

these look really tempting, but the price $$$  wow.


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#7 Jsoboti

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Posted 25 October 2023 - 04:08 AM

Been recovering from 2 knee surgeries, I've had A LOT of time to research. Hopefully I can save anyone looking to install a diesel heater some time. Full disclosure, I haven't installed mine yet, but the parts arrived today. 

 

Right now my plan is to remove the propane heater and instal the diesel heater in that spot. It's already vented and has power. It's also close to the propane storage, which is where I plan to put the diesel tank, although I haven't found the right one yet. The ones that come with the kits will not fit in the propane storage cubby with 1 of the propane tanks still in there. 

 

On to the good stuff...

 

After 2 solid weeks of reading forums and watching YouTube, I purchased the follow items....

 

5kw Heater: This may be overkill, as there is a 2kw version available. I spoke with Hoopy on the phone and he likes his 5kw for his flatbed setup. Others think it may be overkill, who knows. I'll update as soon as I install and it gets cold enough. I specifically picked the heater below because of its LCD screen. The heaters with the LCD screens (some models have a rotor dial) will allow you to change the frequency of the fuel pump ie. adjusting the air/fuel ratio, which is important when camping at high altitudes. I'm usually between 8000'-9000' in the winter. If you run them on stock mixtures at high altitudes, they may run fine, but are all but guaranteed to soot up and eventually require full disassembly to clean the combustion chamber. Disclaimer: the advertised 8kw heaters are identical to the 5kw, just a gimmick.   https://www.amazon.c...ct_details&th=1

 

Fuel Pump: The stock pumps work just fine, but are loud. This replacement pump is supposed to deliver a stronger squirt of fuel, and are 3-5 dB quieter, which is significant. No adapters necessary, plug and play with the stock wiring harness supplied with the heater kit. 

https://www.amazon.c...product_details

 

Additional Exhaust Supplies: The kit comes with about a foot or two of exhaust pipe and one muffler. Several people have reduced the exhaust noise by half by putting two mufflers in line. These mufflers are the straight through version, so there's no added back pressure. When mounting the exhaust, it must slope downwards for water to drain. The mufflers must also be oriented with the small drain holes pointed down, for drainage.  

https://www.amazon.c...product_details

 

Fuel Lines and Connectors: The heater kit MAY come with a flexible green fuel line. This is trash, throw away immediately. I purchased the kit below because it has the rigid fuel line which is required for these heaters. These pumps required rigid line that will not flex in order to adequately "squirt" the fuel over the mesh screen that surrounds the glow plug. If the fuel just trickles on to it, the fuel will not atomize correctly and you will get an incomplete burn, leading to soot build up. This kit also comes with much better connectors that are designed to not create a flat spot like a typical jubilee clamp. 

https://www.amazon.c...product_details

 

On/Off Switch: Seems silly, but as long as the heater is connected to power, it will have a draw of at least 0.5ish Amps. I bought this little switch so I can quickly disconnect from power when not in use. CAUTION: Do NOT manually shut down a running unit this way. If you do not let the unit run a cool down cycle by selecting "OFF" on the LCD, it will overheat and melt plastic components. I plan on hiding this switch so the unit cannot be shut off accidentally.

https://www.amazon.c...product_details

 

Filter: The unit comes with a silencer for the intake that does not have a mesh screen. This should stop bugs or whatnot from crawling in. Saw someone put a straight through muffle on the intake side as well. Helped a lot with noise. 

https://www.amazon.c...product_details

 

Fuel Line Protection: Purchased this tubing to run the fuel lines through as extra chafing protection. The intake for the fuel on the heater unit is very close to the exhaust outlet. I may try and insulate with more robust material at this spot on the bottom of the heater. This tubing is not required, but also is cheap and gives piece of mind. I'll probably route through some electrical conduit where it has to pass through the camper walls. 

https://www.amazon.c...ct_details&th=1

 

Not yet purchased:

Additional hot air ducting: will probably run a splitter, with one nozzle aft in the camper, and one forward. the 5kw heater should have plenty of juice for it. 

 

Fan intake ducting: Worth noting that Grizzly n' Bear's video of their heater install states they only have significantly reduced condensation when they used outside air at the fan intake. Most installs in vans use cabin air to blow over the hot part and provide hot air, but since Grizzly made this statement, I'm going to try to pull outside air into the heater fan.  Still have to figure that one out, will probably require cutting a hole in the stock furnace cover on the outside of the camper. 

 

I'll take pictures and document the install

 

 

Cheers!


Edited by Jsoboti, 25 October 2023 - 04:15 AM.

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#8 Big Al

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Posted 01 November 2023 - 01:35 PM

We've used Wave propane heaters for years.  Never was condensation an issue because we provided proper ventilation.  Just crack two windows to allow air to enter and to exit.  


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#9 craig333

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Posted 01 November 2023 - 03:04 PM

My wave is basically for emergencies. I'm happy with my propane heater (suburban) but if I were starting without one I'd probably go diesel. It would be nice to have more even heating but that's difficult in such a small space.


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