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Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy
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shagginwagon83
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:48 pm    Post subject: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

I had a great time camping this summer. I'm wanting to extend my camping season by adding a gas heater to my van.

Keep in mind these is no 'right solution' for everyone!!

Gas vs diesel vanagons.
Westfalia vs tin top.
Weekend warrior vs full time van living.

Help me update this list! Comment below pros/cons that should be added to this list!

The list below list is in order from $ to $$$.

Heater Buddy - $70+
Pros:
Great for taking the edge off (before bed and in AM).
You can buy locally (Cabelas, Walmart, Craigslist)
Uses 1lb propane bottles, can use adapter to run off bigger tank
No electricity needed

Cons:
Not recommended to use while sleeping.
Pumps a lot of water into the air (RUST)

Options:
Little Buddy $70
4,000/9,000-BTU

Big Buddy $100+
4,000/9,000/18,000-BTU

Summary: I currently have the big buddy. It gets the job done - but moisture in the air is just accelerating rust. I try not to use it. Lot's of people love them!

"Like all propane heaters without external venting, the “Little Buddy” produces water vapor during operation; burning an entire 1-lb. propane fuel cylinder will produce about 26 ounces of water. Though invisible and harmless, this vapor will condense on cold interior surfaces such as walls and windows, so just be prepared to towel off your windows before driving in the morning." -campwestfalia.com.

If you're interested in the buddy heater, please read this great article from a great website ran by a samba member here - campwestfalia.com


Cheap Diesel heater - <$200
Pros:
Crazy cheap
Exhaust goes outside
Thermostat
4k/8k options
If you're running a diesel engine, then tap right into the gas tank
Can run all night.
Cons:
Aux battery setup needed.
Diesel fuel tank needed
Uses 12V power, like most gas heaters
I may have read somewhere that these get gunked up and require cleaning every now and then? Can someone confirm, if not i'll remove this statement.
If a part inside breaks, how easily can you find part?


Propex - $750+
Pros:
Great option for Westfalia campers with propane tanks
Good output
Exhaust goes outside
Thermostat option
Has option for 'external unit' (less noise inside van)
Can run all night.
Cons:
Aux battery setup needed.
Westfalia propane tank is not super easy to refill
Uses 12V power, like most gas heaters


Summary: Great and easy option for Westfalia owners. You'll need an aux battery setup also. Clean heat. If you have a new propane tank, this would be a great choice.

However a recent trend has been removing the propane tank and oem fridge then switching to an electric fridge. The stove is setup to run off 1lb canisters. There is also weight reduction on the driver side from removing the propane tank (less westy lean).



Gas/Petrol heaters (Webasto, Espar) - $700+
Pros:
Taps into gas tank, easy to refill tank
Thermostat option
Exhaust goes outside
Can run all night.
I believe there are cheap Chinese version if you're a gambling man
If you
option for altitude adjustment
Might be able to find parts at espar/webasto dealer (or online).
option to send text message to your heater (with gsm module) to turn on your heater. Think about that, similar to push to start, but with a text message and your heater Very Happy - Lookup Webasto Airtop GSM module.
Cons:
Aux battery setup needed.
Price - which is same as Propex compared to cheap Chinese heater

Summary:
Great choice for anyone running petrol/gasoline! Kinda on the high end compared to cheap Chinese.




Personally I plan on running a Webasto Airtop 2000. Yeah its more expensive than a cheap diesel heater. However I wont need a separate fuel tank. Taps right into the gas tank for fuel. It consumes little gas, but a decent size of electricity. I removed my Westfalia propane tank. I'm going to use that space to make a custom gray water tank/ shower water tank/ external box for my webasto airtop 2000. My 115ah aux battery system can handle it.

I'm going to buy a digital thermostat and install the GSM module so I can send text message to van that will turn on the heater and warm up before I get back.

I'm just waiting for the 15% ebay coupon code before I buy my gas heater from the russian federation.

What heater did you go with? Comment below with your experiences!
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Last edited by shagginwagon83 on Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
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dobryan
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

I am in with the gas heater. I will sell my propex and two saddle tanks. Do not see much downside to using a gas heater if it is maintained. If I had a 30
year old one I would be nervous.
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shagginwagon83
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 9:02 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

I was sold after our conversation about heaters. I'll have one soon!
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 9:17 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

My propane just ran out today while I was testing my Propex 2211 making me like the idea of a gas or diesel heater that taps into the engine’s fuel tank. The cheap diesel heaters sure are attractive due to cost and it sounds like they’re toasty. For now, I’ll stick with the Propex. I went with it because I like how it mounts outside the van and doesn’t consume valuable space inside.

No matter how you slice it, heat is nice...

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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erste
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 9:39 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

I like my (used) espar D2 heater and kit that I pieced together. Has thermostat and high altitude sensor and is on an aux. tank even though my tintop is a diesel. Makes it easier to run kerosene this way, but not so easy to fill because of the location of the tank (behind the RR tire). I put an outlet at the floor and one at bed height and that's been really nice.

However, it makes noise. This doesn't bother me AT ALL, but it might bother other nearby campers. So sometimes I think twice about using it, just like I think twice about opening and closing the sliding door after quiet hours in a crowded campground.

This is one of the reasons I have a 12v heated blanket. Plug it in half hour before getting into bed and it's usually plenty warm.

I'm glad Mr. Buddy made the list. I had a Mr. Buddy single tank heater and it's fine unless you're doing any serious winter camping or you forgot to pack the bedding. A couple of snowy nights in Denver was no problem. Never ran it through the night, just warmed up the interior and shut it off before bedtime, always with a window cracked open when running.

Main thing I'd suggest in all cases is to get a CO / LP gas monitor.
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syncrodoka
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Complete eberspacher b1l kit for $500 https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F254171757615
Comes with extra unneeded parts to install into a john deer gator. Gas version so it is plug and play, no extra gas tank needed to mess with.
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SyncroChrick
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 6:01 am    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

syncrodoka wrote:
Complete eberspacher b1l kit for $500 https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F254171757615
Comes with extra unneeded parts to install into a john deer gator. Gas version so it is plug and play, no extra gas tank needed to mess with.


I need to get one too for my Syncro, and this is very tempting.

One thing I have not (yet) been able to confirm is if the gas(petrol) version is as efficient as the diesel version. Especially at altitude since I am in Tahoe. Any input?
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74 Thing
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:45 am    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

syncrodoka wrote:
Complete eberspacher b1l kit for $500 https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F254171757615
Comes with extra unneeded parts to install into a john deer gator. Gas version so it is plug and play, no extra gas tank needed to mess with.


Does anyone know the heat output in BTUs for the petrol b1l as referenced in this link? Any experience with this one?
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Sodo
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:33 am    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Excellent thread!
A couple other interesting comparisons for each heater type:

- "amps draw" of the heaters
- inside noise
- outside exhaust noise

But "noise level" is extremely subjective....
Those who enjoyed their "project", often have a higher tolerance for the resultant noise.
Some people are light sleepers, bothered by "systems running" (that they did not install.... Wink Wink )
It's subjective.

I have a Propex 2211 (under the floor) which mounted outside the van, on rubber noise isolators.
I don't know if rubber mounting made it quieter, it just seemed like the thing to do.
And I've never done a listening test (compare it to a 'solid mount").
I like it, and my van has a Propane tank already.
Install thread: Propex 2211 heater install under floor (many pics!)
It's "not loud" but it would be even nicer if it had a low-power + low-noise mode.
My home forced-air ventilation system (new) has a quiet mode where the fan runs very low, for longer times, is whisper-quiet.

shagginwagon83 wrote:
"Like all propane heaters without external venting, the “Little Buddy” produces water vapor during operation; burning an entire 1-lb. propane fuel cylinder will produce about 26 ounces of water. Though invisible and harmless, this vapor will condense on cold interior surfaces such as walls and windows, so just be prepared to towel off your windows before driving in the morning."


....and understand too that you cannot towel off the inside surface of your van's (cold) sheetmetal.
That vapor will condense on your cold sheetmetal like water on a cold beer glass in a humid tavern.
It will run down the van insides and pool at the bottom of the van body cavities.
And rust your van behind the cabinets where you cannot do anything about it.

Note that 26 ounces of water in your van's air similar to boiling two+ 12oz beers dry, putting 24oz of water in your van’s interior air.
That's a lot of water, and it's condensing (collecting) on all the cold surfaces.
Look at the condensation on the windows and visualize the inside of your cold sheetmetal looking similar.
Condensation will be worse if the sheetmetal is colder than the windows.
.....and down low on the body, the sheetmetal IS colder that the windows that are up in the heat.

Buddy heater is low intital cost, easy, but remember that it could cost a HUGE depreciation in body rust.

---- Insulated beer can example -----
Insulating the van will reduce condensation, similar to a neoprene sleeve on a beer can doesn't get wet.
The surface of the neoprene is "warm" or equal to the temperature of the vapor.
Therefore the vapor does not condense on the surface of the neoprene.
And the neoprene is non-permeable (a vapor barrier) so the vapor cannot get to the cold metal of the beer can.
So there is no condensation collecting on the metal of the insulated beer can.
You want a similar situation on the interior sheetmetal of your van.

jimf909 wrote:
.......today
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


----------Nice.
jimf909 your selfless, frequent Vanagon accessories testing, and photo-documentation (in the wild) is appreciated by all. Wink Wink
That awning would be no fun to roll up if the snow stuck to it.

jimf909 wrote:
My propane just ran out today....while I was testing my Propex 2211


Did you actually run out of propane?
Lately I've noticed that when my Propex is running, in the morning, I can't get the stove to light.
Like I'm outta propane.
I shut off the Propex, and the stove still won't light.
A few minutes after the Propex has completely shutdown, the stove lights and operates as normal.
I'm still trying to figure this out, if it's icing up or what.
This puts a crimp in my morning ritual, cuz I'd prefer to have the Propex running while making my coffee.

I bought all the propane adaptor hoses etc so I can easily top off my propane tank at home, from a 20lb BBQ tank.
To be sure I have adequate propane before any trip.
But I haven't tried it yet, nor developed "the easily method".
Not trying to fill 100% (or 110%), but to have a way to ensure I've got propane the night before departure.
Can weigh the BBQ tank before & after to estimate how much propane transferred, but it's hard to quantify how much is in the van tank.
You could just fill it until liquid comes out the bleeder (=100% FULL)
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Steve M.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:06 am    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

74 Thing wrote:
syncrodoka wrote:
Complete eberspacher b1l kit for $500 https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F254171757615
Comes with extra unneeded parts to install into a john deer gator. Gas version so it is plug and play, no extra gas tank needed to mess with.


Does anyone know the heat output in BTUs for the petrol b1l as referenced in this link? Any experience with this one?


1800W it looks like. Check Butler Technik in the UK. they have a manual to download.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:12 am    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Do a You Tube search for RV condensation. There is a very good, but boring talk about it from somebody. Essentially just breathing can add a lot of condensation over a weekend.
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syncrodoka
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

74 Thing wrote:
Does anyone know the heat output in BTUs for the petrol b1l as referenced in this link? Any experience with this one?

1800 watts is 6141 btu/hr(6500 if you read their conversion). A d2 or b2 puts out the same amount of heat on high, their boost mode bumps it up to 7500 if you have any experience with one of those.

It looks like this is similar btu/hr output as the propex HS2000 as well.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:18 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Sodo wrote:

It's "not loud" but it would be even nicer if it had a low-power + low-noise mode.

Did you actually run out of propane?
Lately I've noticed that when my Propex is running, in the morning, I can't get the stove to light.
Like I'm outta propane.
I shut off the Propex, and the stove still won't light.
A few minutes after the Propex has completely shutdown, the stove lights and operates as normal.
I'm still trying to figure this out, if it's icing up or what.
This puts a crimp in my morning ritual, cuz I'd prefer to have the Propex running while making my coffee.



Lower noise? Add acoustic ducting = 40 decibels.

Propane supply: do you have one of the tiny regulators sold by GW? They won't support two devices well, and also the vents ice over with the slightest amount of moisture. Yet they insist on selling these inferior regulators. If it's not one of those, then run a supply pressure test with both running, could be defective or out of spec.
rverscorner.com/manometer.html
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

I have used a Mr. Buddy. My wife said it still made exhaust fumes and didn't like it in the van. I also did not like the moisture that it put off.

So we spent some bucks on the Propex HS2800. I went with the largest model because we winter camp a lot. High elevation camping in the Rockies usually get us in the below -0° range often. The Propex has been flawless running at altitudes up above 10,000 ft. The heat was sufficient until we got around 20°f. Then we would have to pop the top down for it to keep from running constant. I also purchased twin GoWesty over-sized saddle tanks to feed the heater. Never knowing how much propane you have left always was a concern. I also purchased the Fanchers tent insulation kit. It helped but sleeping on the upper berth in the winter was still cold, especially at the rear of the pop-top. The only complaints we had with the Propex was the constant cycling on and off, and the huge temperature swing between cycling. It would get really cold before it would kick on again. The thermostat was mounted at the top of the hanging locker.

I heard the buzz about the Chinese Diesel Heaters. So I spent $165 and got one. I ran it for days in my shop on high. Then pulled the Propex, saddle tanks, and mounted in the exact footprint of the Propex. It has been flawless for all of last winter and again this year. I have the 8kw model. All they did was turn the air-fuel up to make more heat. I have since adjusted the air-fuel to burn clean. I have only had it smoke a couple times. Driving with the heater on the wind blew the flame out. I have since adjusted the exhaust and have not had any further issues. It sips fuel and instead of cycling on and off. It runs full bore until the thermostat set temp is reached, then ramps down to it's low setting. It is very quiet on low. When the van gets cold again it will ramp up to high and repeat this cycle if it is really cold. Anything above 35°f ambient and it is too much heat for the van. We just open a window. Below 35 and it will just run on low unless it gets much colder. At around 15°f you can hear it cycle. This really depends on your insulation. But with the pop-top up and Fanchers insulation. It would easily keep the upper bunk warm. Complaints about the diesel heater are the pump ticks. I spent a lot of effort to mount it forward and under the van so not to hear it. Other than that I have had no issues with this heater, and it really does get hot.

I never did go the Webasto, or Espar route. To much money for what they are and a few people I know had trouble with them at altitude. I am sure it is just a setting.

My Diesel Heater fuel tank. I use a 50/50 blend of Kerosene and #1 Diesel. It has never sooted up, ever.

Diesel Fuel Tank:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Filler for Diesel Tank:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Exhaust:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Winter camping is GREAT!

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Most of the time!

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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Sodo
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Syncro jael, your reports are always awesome!
And then there's good pics too (in the wild!!).
And often; masterful photography.

westyventures wrote:
Sodo wrote:

It's "not loud" but it would be even nicer if it had a low-power + low-noise mode.

Did you actually run out of propane?
Lately I've noticed that when my Propex is running, in the morning, I can't get the stove to light.
Like I'm outta propane.
I shut off the Propex, and the stove still won't light.
A few minutes after the Propex has completely shutdown, the stove lights and operates as normal.
I'm still trying to figure this out, if it's icing up or what.
This puts a crimp in my morning ritual, cuz I'd prefer to have the Propex running while making my coffee.



Lower noise? Add acoustic ducting = 40 decibels.

Propane supply: do you have one of the tiny regulators sold by GW? They won't support two devices well, and also the vents ice over with the slightest amount of moisture. Yet they insist on selling these inferior regulators. If it's not one of those, then run a supply pressure test with both running, could be defective or out of spec.
rverscorner.com/manometer.html


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Its the fan whirr.
You could SEE the fan, if not for the 90° bend.
The ducting is about 11 inches long, I'd be surprised if any sound can be attenuated in that short distance.
But I've not tried that solution.

Thanks for the tip to check the "inches" pressure while the Propex is running.
That's seems obvious; I should have thought of it.
I'll have to think about how that can be done.
I have the original Westy regulator from 1990.
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westyventures
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Sodo wrote:


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Its the fan whirr.
You could SEE the fan, if not for the 90° bend.
The ducting is about 11 inches long, I'd be surprised if any sound can be attenuated in that short distance.
But I've not tried that solution.

Thanks for the tip to check the "inches" pressure while the Propex is running.
That's seems obvious; I should have thought of it.
I'll have to think about how that can be done.
I have the original Westy regulator from 1990.


You can use the acoustic ducting on the cold return, it will help quite a bit. 18" minimum for best effect according to Propex. Unless you can do something with the 180 turn, acoustic ducting won't work in that spot, the smallest bend radius is about 12".

You're definitely on borrowed time with the original tiny rectangular regulator, almost every one failed. For a short time Marshall was replacing failed ones with the same, which also failed. Time to think about a new one.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Cold air return is even shorter, (half the length of the hot air "U").
Of course quieter is better, but I'm SOL (I think) on quieting it with ducting.
I'm alright with the sound, because I installed it. Wink
That's how it works.
Plus it's the sound of comfort.

What regulator should I get?
Do you have them?
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Some Chinese diesel parking heaters have a remote start. I will be using this!

And per the Walmart ad. “ Two working modes: air condition mode & heater mode.”.

Maybe just pulling in outside air by running the fan? Put that on the pro list.


Walmart. https://www.walmart.com/ip/5KW-12V-Air-Diesel-Heat.../739624849

Cons. Not sure one can be installed to feed the oem ducts up front.
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ZsZ
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2019 3:00 am    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

Cheap chinese heaters can gunk up on low rpm. The air/fuel ratio is not perfect and a lot of soot produced.
You can tweak the settings to have cleaner flame, but the best to buy a small 2kW one and run it on full power most the time.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:09 am    Post subject: Re: Heater Showdown - Propex, Chinese diesel heater, Espar, Buddy Reply with quote

ZxZ thanks for that note regarding if you run a (too-large) diesel heater at low-power.
That's something to watch for.

rmcd wrote:
Some Chinese diesel parking heaters have a remote start. I will be using this!


If remote from a phone app, I have to say I enjoy my Victron solar controller that broadcasts the system stats.
I can check the watts coming in and current battery voltage, from anywhere within 30 feet of the van (maybe farther?).
If it's cloudy, sunny, I can satisfy my curiosity without going in the van.

If you're away at the (group) campfire (not too far) and you start the heater 20 minutes before you go to bed.
This would be used during fall camping (like now) when it's cold.
Not a summertime thing. But I'd want that. Probably seldom.
More likely, this would happen: I'd get back to the van and think, "Dang I forgot to remote start my heater".
And that was my one opportunity to make use of remote start, squandered by my foggy memory.

Or skiing. You want to start it 20 minutes before arriving back at the van.
But in that scenario you're way beyond bluetooth range, can't do it.

I like the idea, but realistically sounds like it might be a feature that shines once in 3 years.
I like the idea of making my van jump tp my command, 'cuz for so long it's been the "other way around".

If it required carrying a dongle, that's one more thing to carry.
If the system is always active, note it adds ANOTHER parasitic battery drain.

I'm currently skeptical on this feature.
Sometimes you can't know how you'd use a feature until you have it.
Any other uses for remote start?

hmmm maybe what I need is more fall camping....
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