Diesel Heater in Your Camper?

ski3pin

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There has been discussion here on WTW about these heaters. I am curious who has installed and is using one in your camper? Have you had it long enough to require maintenance or repair? Would you do it again? Are there any additional issues? Do you have recommendations?
 
I've seen a lot of discussion on these over the years and if you google it, there's a whole forum called something like "Chinese diesel heaters" and apparently the brand most people use are from China.
 
kmcintyre said:
I've seen a lot of discussion on these over the years and if you google it, there's a whole forum called something like "Chinese diesel heaters" and apparently the brand most people use are from China.
Yes, I've seen lots of discussion. That's why I'm interested if any of our folks here on WTW have taken the plunge and can give us personal insight.
 
I have a 10' Alaskan camper that was equipped with a propane catalytic heater that was non vented. I installed an 8kw chinese diesel heater and could not be happier with the results. It has run for over 100 hours at this point and has had no problems and is very economical to run.
 
Sorry Ski, no experience here. But you might want to check out GrizzlyNbear Overland on YouTube. They installed one on their FWC. I like that it’s located outside underneath the (I believe) passenger side wing of the camper.
 
Following. No interest as of yet, but possibly in the future.

I do have experience with a Wallas diesel two burner stove/heater. For us it worked well, but with others in the CDory community there was some umbrage. The lid contained a squirrel cage fan to distribute air through the cabin, but we usually relied on an EcoFan because there was no battery draw.

Wallas does make units for RVs, ScanMarine in Seattle is the only distributor.
 
capt.don said:
I have a 10' Alaskan camper that was equipped with a propane catalytic heater that was non vented. I installed an 8kw chinese diesel heater and could not be happier with the results. It has run for over 100 hours at this point and has had no problems and is very economical to run.
Could you share a photo or two? Do you have a diesel truck and did you tap into the fuel system? How's the noise from the clicking fuel pump? Thanks for responding!
 
my 2 cents:
one of the big benefits of pop-up campers, is space utilization, and general lack of gizmos.
and , in my opinion, the only place for a diesel heater, is with a diesel pickup. thus no additional fuel storage.
and, newer diesels include a LOT of gizmos/technology/etc., to meet emissions regs. a lot more 'things' to go wrong. the sprinter diesel was often touted as a very reliable engine - but their newer engines require more attention, and are not suited to low rpm driving - the engine needs to run hotter and longer to operate optimally.
go
 
A friend just installed one on his Ford Transit build. One issue is having to extend the dip tube in the fuel tank since the one that Ford has as OEM is goes only about 1/2 into the tank. Not a deal killer, but something to check if you do install
 
Installed one in my hawk shell. Took out my propane furnace and installed it in the same spot, the heater is a fraction of the size of the propane one so I gained some extra storage area below it. Managed to use the same exhaust/inlet fitting from the propane furnace so no extra drilling holes in the side of the camper. Used the old propane compartment to hold a five gallon diesel can.


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I recently switched it up to pull from the tank of my diesel truck now and placed a water tank where the propane used to be. No issues with the noise of the pump, you can buy silencers that you mount after to help dampen the noise. Mine now lives on the truck so it’s further away from the camper, it’s louder from outside the camper than it is inside the camper.

I really like how it stays on constantly as opposed to the propane heater, I felt that with propane the temperature would fluctuate a lot in between run times. The diesel heater provides constant heat and only kicks up if it needs too. Battery draw is small overnight and diesel consumption is also very little.

Overall I think it’s an awesome upgrade for my shell. I’d be a bit hesitant to upgrade if I had any other appliances that required propane, but I cook with my instant pot or a small Coleman stove using little 1 gal propane bottles so I had no hesitation getting rid of the propane bottles and propane furnace.
 
Dutch23 said:
Installed one in my hawk shell. Took out my propane furnace and installed it in the same spot, the heater is a fraction of the size of the propane one so I gained some extra storage area below it. Managed to use the same exhaust/inlet fitting from the propane furnace so no extra drilling holes in the side of the camper. Used the old propane compartment to hold a five gallon diesel can.








I recently switched it up to pull from the tank of my diesel truck now and placed a water tank where the propane used to be. No issues with the noise of the pump, you can buy silencers that you mount after to help dampen the noise. Mine now lives on the truck so it’s further away from the camper, it’s louder from outside the camper than it is inside the camper.

I really like how it stays on constantly as opposed to the propane heater, I felt that with propane the temperature would fluctuate a lot in between run times. The diesel heater provides constant heat and only kicks up if it needs too. Battery draw is small overnight and diesel consumption is also very little.

Overall I think it’s an awesome upgrade for my shell. I’d be a bit hesitant to upgrade if I had any other appliances that required propane, but I cook with my instant pot or a small Coleman stove using little 1 gal propane bottles so I had no hesitation getting rid of the propane bottles and propane furnace.
Nice review! Which furnace did you purchase?
 
Dutch23, thanks for sharing your experience. How does using the installed propane furnace exhaust/inlet work out? My question comes from the kit coming with a long exhaust pipe with muffler?

Your comment here -

"I really like how it stays on constantly as opposed to the propane heater, I felt that with propane the temperature would fluctuate a lot in between run times."

is why I'm interested in this heater.

It looks like a great job with your install!
 
Got it off Amazon under the name “SUPERFASTRACING 2KW 12V Diesel Air Heater Tank LCD Thermostat Quiet For Truck Boat Car Trailer” Didn’t want to drop big coin on the real deal for this experiment.

For the exhaust and inlet I used the supplied exhaust pipe and intake hose, but just slipped them into either side of the old propane vent to the outside. Kind of hard to explain in writing and I don’t have very good photos on hand. You can kind of see the black box I welded up that keeps the intake and exhaust contained and that clamps around the silver vent for the old propane furnace. I’ll try and snag some better photos later today. If I were to do it again I think I would just build a simple wooden box to keep it all contained as opposed to the overengineered steel box I welded up.
 
Just snagged some better pictures. Or as good as I could with it installed in the camper. The overall design is a two part box, the heater is bolted to the lid and then the lid is bolted to the bottom, with a gasket between the two. One side of the box is open to allow the old propane vent to also be clamped down by the lid. I used some fireplace gasket with high temp sealant to hopefully prevent any exhaust fumes from entering the camper. I also used the fireplace gasket cause I assumed it would be fine with the high temp, but I think it’s overkill cause the enclosure I made has always been cool to the touch.

It’s pretty ugly but I was just using whatever scraps I had laying around the shop. I’d like to do it again using wood to make it look a tad bit cleaner. You can also see the fuel line in the photos, it runs through the compartments under the bench where all the electrics are and out to a fuel line disconnect. The wiring is the same with the four prong trailer plug being used for the fuel pump and my running lights. For fuel I drilled into my tank and installed a standpipe that I cut a few inches short of the bottom so I don’t accidentally leave myself stranded.


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ski3pin said:
Could you share a photo or two? Do you have a diesel truck and did you tap into the fuel system? How's the noise from the clicking fuel pump? Thanks for responding!
Sorry, I don't have any photos right now. I have a diesel pickup but did not tap into the fuel tank. The heater came with a more than adequately sized fuel tank and I mounted it on the inside back wall of the camper where I removed the original recirculating toilet. I plumbed the inlet air and exhaust through the rear wall where the sewage dump valve was using stainless thru-hulls designed for mounting the heater in a boat. It came out clean and neat much like the previous post utilizing the propane heater fixture. Noise is minimal when pump is insulated with any number of gadgets available on the internet for such purposes. The 15ltr tank that came with the heater can be mounted on a wall or bulkhead, it is plastic and level is easily viewed. The heater will run for many days on a tank and has a large opening to refill from a can without spilling. I have had years of experience operating the Espar heaters in vessels and trucks and these Chinese versions appear to be reverse engineered and duplicated right down to the wire colors. I find it to be trouble-free and far more efficient than propane. And dyed or on-road diesel is a lot easier to find and store than extra 20lb propane tanks.
 
capt.don said:
Sorry, I don't have any photos right now. I have a diesel pickup but did not tap into the fuel tank. The heater came with a more than adequately sized fuel tank and I mounted it on the inside back wall of the camper where I removed the original recirculating toilet. I plumbed the inlet air and exhaust through the rear wall where the sewage dump valve was using stainless thru-hulls designed for mounting the heater in a boat. It came out clean and neat much like the previous post utilizing the propane heater fixture. Noise is minimal when pump is insulated with any number of gadgets available on the internet for such purposes. The 15ltr tank that came with the heater can be mounted on a wall or bulkhead, it is plastic and level is easily viewed. The heater will run for many days on a tank and has a large opening to refill from a can without spilling. I have had years of experience operating the Espar heaters in vessels and trucks and these Chinese versions appear to be reverse engineered and duplicated right down to the wire colors. I find it to be trouble-free and far more efficient than propane. And dyed or on-road diesel is a lot easier to find and store than extra 20lb propane tanks.
how long would the heater run on a 15ltr tank? it seems like a lot of fuel to heat a pop up camper. i thought the same for a 20lb propane bottle in a camper - seems like it would also last forever.
 
Something a little different...

We've been playing with a portable diesel heater in our Transit van. We used it on a five-week trip to Texas last winter and a four-week trip to Quebec in October. While I'm very glad to have it, there are tradeoffs (more on that below).

It's basically a Planar diesel parking heater mounted in a high-quality Kanuk hard case. I power it via my house battery, a 100 ah AGM in the rear corner of the van. It comes with a 21-ft power cable I attached to my battery via ring-eye connectors. I keep that cable coiled up by the battery. When I first tried it, I realized I could simply run the power cable out between the two rear doors. (At the very bottom where the doors meet, there's a small section of door seal which can be lifted away enough for the cable to pass). The cable length allows me to place the heater outside of (and just aft of) the van's driver-side door.

I made a plywood insert for my driver-door window for the air duct and the control cable to pass back into the van. I've found it best to install the insert, close the door and then run the duct and cable. (I first tried running the duct and cable before closing the window on the insert and quickly realized I don't have enough hands to keep everything in place and close the window and then the door). I use a 10-foot length of duct pipe and simply run it across the driver seat and then down to the floor, ending in the aisle just behind the seats. I can use the seat's arm rest to raise the duct pipe a foot or two off the floor if I prefer.

The heater is diesel and the van is gas but I don't consider that an issue. That may be important to a full-time van-lifer but I get about four camping days out of the little tank on the side of the heater and I only fill it about 3/4 full. (I had initially been concerned about diesel possibly spilling out of the cap-vent but then realized that a 3/4 fill is plenty for the way I use it... and lighter to carry.)

I went with the portable as I wasn't ready to commit to cutting into the van and didn't like the placement options I was seeing. Rather than wait to figure that out I could start with the portable to see if I even liked it. And if I liked it but wanted a permanent installation, I could either sell it to finance a cheaper kit version or simply take it out of the case and install it in the van.

I should also note that this is a relatively expensive heater (about $1375 plus tax and shipping). While you can get a Chinese diesel heater kit for under $200, the Planar heater kit alone is in the $850 range. I saw several YouTube guys were putting Chinese ones in cases for their roof-top-tent rigs and considered that. But I was also seeing some of those same guys then building version 2 or following up with a 'mistakes I made' video. I figured I could either save money but possibly waste time and have to mess around getting a portable right or I could spend the money and go camping now. Once I added up the cost of a Planar kit, the case, the heater and fuel pump mounts, thru-case fittings, exhaust mount, insulation and shield, etc, I decided I'd rather buy the already-assembled portable.

I was also drawn to the fact that the portable Planar is self-adjusting up to 8200-ft altitude. And the fuel pump is the quieter model. And I liked seeing that replacement parts specifically for the portable are available on the web site. And there are installation, operation, and repair manuals for my model. I've talked with the distributor several times and have gotten reasonably good answers to my questions.

This portable version of these heaters was designed and assembled by Planar Distribution, Ltd, the North American distributor for Planar products. They're in Surrey, British Columbia. I ordered mine online via the Main Line Overland web site. Support info is on the distributor's web site: planarheaters.com (Note that prices there are in Canadian dollars and on the Main Line site in US dollars)

There are two versions of these portables, the 2D (about 7000 btu/hr) and the 44D (about 13,600 btu/hr). I have the 2D. My heater was back-ordered but the distributor gave me an estimate of when my order could be filled and that turned out to be accurate. I had about a 30-day wait from order to shipping.

Main Line Overland listing

NorthShoreHenry video on the 2d and 44d

Ok, so on to using it....

1- I'm surprised how loud the exhaust is. It's similar to a generator. I wouldn't want to be parked next to me in a campground. Last winter I walked around outside my van with the heater running and assessed it like this: I was in a campground with typically-close state park campsites. As I listened from different directions I realized the sound probably wouldn't bother me if I were camped in the site on the passenger side of my van (with the van between me and the sound). But if I were in the site on my van's driver side, I'd be bothered, particularly if I were in a tent or pop-up or sitting around the campfire. Two campsites away was better but I felt I had to be at least 100 feet away before the sound was reasonable. This isn't typically a problem as I seek out campsites away from people but that's not always possible. I'll probably try putting a muffler on it but need to find something that works well with this portable form factor, i.e. doesn't get in the way for storage and is stable in use.

2- Oddly enough the exhaust noise isn't a problem inside the van. I can tell it's running there outside the van but the loudest sound inside is the slightly-metallic-sounding rush of air coming out of the duct pipe (running on high). I only hear the ticking of the pump if I listen very closely. We turn the heater off before going to bed so perhaps the outside sound would be more of a problem if we didn't do that.

3 - In a more-perfect world I'd have a good out-of-the-way space to store the portable. I'm currently shifting it about as needed through the day as we travel. It's too tall for my under-bed storage in back so I keep it in the walkway. When we stop for lunch, I set it outside or shift it around. When we stop for the night and we're not going to use it, I store it up front in the driver-side footwell (under the steering wheel).

4 - It's slow to start up and shut down. After getting everything assembled and checking that the dial is turned up to high, I push a button once to start it. It briefly spins up the fan but then nothing seems to happen for a long time (about a minute). I now know that the glow plug is being heated up in that interval. I go out beside the heater and eventually hear a clunk-- the first pulse of the fuel pump. Then another clunk and a bit of a whoosh sound as it tries ignition in the combustion chamber and seems to pulse the fan. Then I see a puff of white smoke and I notice a brief smell of diesel fuel from the exhaust pipe. Then I hear the flame flare in the combustion chamber and the fan slowly ramps up to full speed. Current draw during glow-plug heating and initial fire-up is between 9 and 10 amps and remains high for about two and a half minutes. Then it drops to around 1 amp. At bedtime I push the button again to shut it down. It takes a long time to wind down as the fan keeps running to clear the combustion chamber for a few minutes.

5. The next morning we don't bother with the diesel heater as we're typically moving on. We use our tried-and-true Buddy heater as it warms the space up faster and it doesn't blow ice-cold air at you during startup. We also use the Buddy to warm our clothes before putting them on (that's wonderful) and we use it to heat water for morning wash-up. Oh, yeah, I should also mention that we plug up the Planar's duct pipe before going to bed. If there's any wind at all outside, we get a surprisingly-strong flow of cold air coming out of the duct.

6. I chose the 2K heater and sometimes wonder if I should have gone with the 4K one. The first time I used it was a 25*F day dropping to 18*F that evening. I had my temp gun along and saw that I couldn't get the back door area of the van's interior above 60*F and about 65*F in the main area. I eventually thought to fire up the Buddy heater and that quickly fixed that. I still have some insulation work to do in the van and plan to add an insulated cover to the outside vent-pipe so that may not be necessary in the future.
 
Have one of the Planar kits on order, will be wanting to use it in both our Gazelle tent, when we are taking the jeep, and the main camper truck. Both are diesel, so is a plus, now i have to find the vent for the ATC camper to hook the hose to, and then get the nerve to cut a hole in the side.
Thanks to all for this great post!
 
goinoregon said:
how long would the heater run on a 15ltr tank? it seems like a lot of fuel to heat a pop up camper. i thought the same for a 20lb propane bottle in a camper - seems like it would also last forever.
Many days and nights I would guess. I have never used it all in any one trip and fill it before leaving again. In using it on my last trip it ran 8-10 hours evening and overnight with night temps below freezing for 5 days and used roughly 3-4 litres. I have burned through a 20# bottle of propane in 14 hours or less when temps were -15 to -20 Fahrenheit with an atwood in a pop up.
 
Old Crow, thank you for sharing your personal experience with a diesel heater. This was helpful for me. You touched on one of the issues that is a concern for me, operation at elevation. Julie and I are often camped between 8 and 11 thousand feet.


Old Crow said:
Something a little different...

We've been playing with a portable diesel heater in our Transit van. We used it on a five-week trip to Texas last winter and a four-week trip to Quebec in October. While I'm very glad to have it, there are tradeoffs (more on that below).

It's basically a Planar diesel parking heater mounted in a high-quality Kanuk hard case. I power it via my house battery, a 100 ah AGM in the rear corner of the van. It comes with a 21-ft power cable I attached to my battery via ring-eye connectors. I keep that cable coiled up by the battery. When I first tried it, I realized I could simply run the power cable out between the two rear doors. (At the very bottom where the doors meet, there's a small section of door seal which can be lifted away enough for the cable to pass). The cable length allows me to place the heater outside of (and just aft of) the van's driver-side door.

I made a plywood insert for my driver-door window for the air duct and the control cable to pass back into the van. I've found it best to install the insert, close the door and then run the duct and cable. (I first tried running the duct and cable before closing the window on the insert and quickly realized I don't have enough hands to keep everything in place and close the window and then the door). I use a 10-foot length of duct pipe and simply run it across the driver seat and then down to the floor, ending in the aisle just behind the seats. I can use the seat's arm rest to raise the duct pipe a foot or two off the floor if I prefer.

The heater is diesel and the van is gas but I don't consider that an issue. That may be important to a full-time van-lifer but I get about four camping days out of the little tank on the side of the heater and I only fill it about 3/4 full. (I had initially been concerned about diesel possibly spilling out of the cap-vent but then realized that a 3/4 fill is plenty for the way I use it... and lighter to carry.)

I went with the portable as I wasn't ready to commit to cutting into the van and didn't like the placement options I was seeing. Rather than wait to figure that out I could start with the portable to see if I even liked it. And if I liked it but wanted a permanent installation, I could either sell it to finance a cheaper kit version or simply take it out of the case and install it in the van.

I should also note that this is a relatively expensive heater (about $1375 plus tax and shipping). While you can get a Chinese diesel heater kit for under $200, the Planar heater kit alone is in the $850 range. I saw several YouTube guys were putting Chinese ones in cases for their roof-top-tent rigs and considered that. But I was also seeing some of those same guys then building version 2 or following up with a 'mistakes I made' video. I figured I could either save money but possibly waste time and have to mess around getting a portable right or I could spend the money and go camping now. Once I added up the cost of a Planar kit, the case, the heater and fuel pump mounts, thru-case fittings, exhaust mount, insulation and shield, etc, I decided I'd rather buy the already-assembled portable.

I was also drawn to the fact that the portable Planar is self-adjusting up to 8200-ft altitude. And the fuel pump is the quieter model. And I liked seeing that replacement parts specifically for the portable are available on the web site. And there are installation, operation, and repair manuals for my model. I've talked with the distributor several times and have gotten reasonably good answers to my questions.

This portable version of these heaters was designed and assembled by Planar Distribution, Ltd, the North American distributor for Planar products. They're in Surrey, British Columbia. I ordered mine online via the Main Line Overland web site. Support info is on the distributor's web site: planarheaters.com (Note that prices there are in Canadian dollars and on the Main Line site in US dollars)

There are two versions of these portables, the 2D (about 7000 btu/hr) and the 44D (about 13,600 btu/hr). I have the 2D. My heater was back-ordered but the distributor gave me an estimate of when my order could be filled and that turned out to be accurate. I had about a 30-day wait from order to shipping.

Main Line Overland listing

NorthShoreHenry video on the 2d and 44d

Ok, so on to using it....

1- I'm surprised how loud the exhaust is. It's similar to a generator. I wouldn't want to be parked next to me in a campground. Last winter I walked around outside my van with the heater running and assessed it like this: I was in a campground with typically-close state park campsites. As I listened from different directions I realized the sound probably wouldn't bother me if I were camped in the site on the passenger side of my van (with the van between me and the sound). But if I were in the site on my van's driver side, I'd be bothered, particularly if I were in a tent or pop-up or sitting around the campfire. Two campsites away was better but I felt I had to be at least 100 feet away before the sound was reasonable. This isn't typically a problem as I seek out campsites away from people but that's not always possible. I'll probably try putting a muffler on it but need to find something that works well with this portable form factor, i.e. doesn't get in the way for storage and is stable in use.

2- Oddly enough the exhaust noise isn't a problem inside the van. I can tell it's running there outside the van but the loudest sound inside is the slightly-metallic-sounding rush of air coming out of the duct pipe (running on high). I only hear the ticking of the pump if I listen very closely. We turn the heater off before going to bed so perhaps the outside sound would be more of a problem if we didn't do that.

3 - In a more-perfect world I'd have a good out-of-the-way space to store the portable. I'm currently shifting it about as needed through the day as we travel. It's too tall for my under-bed storage in back so I keep it in the walkway. When we stop for lunch, I set it outside or shift it around. When we stop for the night and we're not going to use it, I store it up front in the driver-side footwell (under the steering wheel).

4 - It's slow to start up and shut down. After getting everything assembled and checking that the dial is turned up to high, I push a button once to start it. It briefly spins up the fan but then nothing seems to happen for a long time (about a minute). I now know that the glow plug is being heated up in that interval. I go out beside the heater and eventually hear a clunk-- the first pulse of the fuel pump. Then another clunk and a bit of a whoosh sound as it tries ignition in the combustion chamber and seems to pulse the fan. Then I see a puff of white smoke and I notice a brief smell of diesel fuel from the exhaust pipe. Then I hear the flame flare in the combustion chamber and the fan slowly ramps up to full speed. Current draw during glow-plug heating and initial fire-up is between 9 and 10 amps and remains high for about two and a half minutes. Then it drops to around 1 amp. At bedtime I push the button again to shut it down. It takes a long time to wind down as the fan keeps running to clear the combustion chamber for a few minutes.

5. The next morning we don't bother with the diesel heater as we're typically moving on. We use our tried-and-true Buddy heater as it warms the space up faster and it doesn't blow ice-cold air at you during startup. We also use the Buddy to warm our clothes before putting them on (that's wonderful) and we use it to heat water for morning wash-up. Oh, yeah, I should also mention that we plug up the Planar's duct pipe before going to bed. If there's any wind at all outside, we get a surprisingly-strong flow of cold air coming out of the duct.

6. I chose the 2K heater and sometimes wonder if I should have gone with the 4K one. The first time I used it was a 25*F day dropping to 18*F that evening. I had my temp gun along and saw that I couldn't get the back door area of the van's interior above 60*F and about 65*F in the main area. I eventually thought to fire up the Buddy heater and that quickly fixed that. I still have some insulation work to do in the van and plan to add an insulated cover to the outside vent-pipe so that may not be necessary in the future.
 

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