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Old 05-08-2021, 08:42 PM   #1
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Portable Diesel Heaters- your thoughts

Planar makes a portable diesel heater. It's the one in the yellow box, and has a warm air hose that you put inside your living area while the unit stays outside. They seem a lot like the installed Webasto units, as the guts are just like the installed ones, just in a weather proof box. Planar (now Autoterm) actually posted a counterfeit warning as I believe the patent ran out, and someone is making cheap copies. At any rate, it seems very economical to run, and I wondered if anyone has any experience with these units. The comments about the Webasto units are very encouraging. Thanks to you all for sharing your experience.

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Old 05-08-2021, 09:00 PM   #2
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The "portable", or self contained units should function similarly to their drill-holes-and-install counterparts, with one key difference. Well, similarity, really. All diesel heaters installs pull to-burn air intake from, and vent exhaust to, the outside. A majority of these are installed in the cabin of the vehicle/trailer and thus also pull the air to heat from the inside, as well.

With one of these self contained units installed outside the cabin blowing in there is a key difference- you will be drawing air to heat from outside by default instead of from the inside, and thus during the warmup phase you'll be blowing colder air from outside directly into the cabin instead of recirculating warmer air already inside the cabin. This will create positive air pressure in the cabin, making it harder to push more air into the cabin without air already inside first escaping somehow.

Second, if you don't pull air from within the cabin- you have to be very careful about where you exhaust. You do not want the diesel exhaust being sucked into your air intake and blown into your living space- diesel exhaust should be far away from wherever you are drawing in air to heat up.

A workaround to the above problem would be a length of duct on the heated air intake that pulls air from within the cabin so that air recirculates through the heater.
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Old 05-08-2021, 09:10 PM   #3
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well i bought this one last year for my bluebird and well i love it the only thing is you need to run it on high every now and then to burn out the soot, but besides that it kept the bus nice and warm, i had to open a window even that how good this one is https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Old 05-08-2021, 09:12 PM   #4
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Great point! Very conscious of the fume and CO issue. The warm air ducted out of the heater is a long hose. No reason the intake couldn't also be another hose. Good food for thought. Thanks!
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Old 05-08-2021, 09:19 PM   #5
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More great info. AND significantly less expensive. Do you have a picture of the completed unit?

This is the Planar unit
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Old 05-09-2021, 07:43 AM   #6
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I just plunked down $2K for a 5KW Espar which is more than I spent on a 30,000 BTU York central heating unit a few years ago. I wonder if these cheap heaters have the safety and long term performance.
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Old 05-09-2021, 07:54 AM   #7
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I just plunked down $2K for a 5KW Espar which is more than I spent on a 30,000 BTU York central heating unit a few years ago. I wonder if these cheap heaters have the safety and long term performance.
It's going to be a bit suspicious if ten years from now all the success stories are still being written by people who have used the units for less than a year. I sure hope they're safe long-term since I've already bought mine.
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Old 05-09-2021, 08:01 AM   #8
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I would think there'd be a fundamental serious efficiency problem with having the diesel combustion unit outside your living space. When the unit is inside, all of the heat it generates (excepting what's lost with the exhaust) will ultimately dissipate into your living space, but if the unit is outside then much or most of that heat (whatever is not exchanged with the air being vented into the interior) will be lost. Also, each unit of heat it generates has to take cold external air and heat it before being vented inside; an internal heater gets to start with warm air and heat it further.
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Old 05-09-2021, 09:20 AM   #9
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I sure hope they're safe long-term since I've already bought mine.
Well, the worst case scenarios in my mind are fire... resulting from the exhaust pipe or other metal components in and around the heat exchanger coming into contact with flammable materials. Good, safe installation is key I think. Second in line would be reliability issues- things like soot build-up, the dinky fuel line being so close to the exhaust pipe, etc. Would advise upgrading the line, filter and ties/clamps for the line. Its easy enough to have replacement parts on hand just by having a spare unit.



Number one worry for me is any exhaust making it inside, I watch like a hawk for smells. On a couple occasions when it was priming (there is no separate priming process for ours, it just tries to start full blast for the first X-minutes) we had some smell- it hasn't seemed to have repeated itself since, maybe it was off-gassing or something, idk. Would be much more worried about our setup if it was gasoline.
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Old 05-09-2021, 09:29 AM   #10
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I have one of these:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

As said above, both combustion air and exhaust are sourced and vented outside (you need to drill a, say, 4" hole), and the air to be heated is drawn from inside.

The thing works well. It does NOT put out 5kW as advertised, and also you can smell that it runs rich if you crank it up to full throttle. But at half to 2/3rds of max power, it works very well, it burns clean and is efficient (diesel wise). Electric not so much.

I had two or three flameouts in a 10 day period, one or two for no apparent reason, and one or two when the tank was running low (not empty).

3kW of heat is a significant amount in many cases, though. We ran it in a Nissan NV2500 van at 20F at half power and it added about 50 degrees F.

I agree that you don't want to take in outside (fresh, cold) air, as that is incredibly inefficient. In our case above, the 2-or-so kW was enough to counter the heat loss of the van at 20F. If you take in 20 degree air and want to heat it to 70, you are going to need tens of kilowatts at any reasonable volume.

Worthy of note is the 12V power consumption. I ran it off a server power supply after draining a standard automotive lead-acid battery overnight. They take more power than advertised.

For our 30 footer, I am considering one large 16kW hydronic heater, or a battery of perhaps 3 (maybe 4) "5kW" heaters with Bobil-style heat exchangers, so I have some redundancy. We are building our bus for 0 degree F weather.
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Old 05-09-2021, 09:32 AM   #11
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Well, the worst case scenarios in my mind are fire... resulting from the exhaust pipe or other metal components in and around the heat exchanger coming into contact with flammable materials. Good, safe installation is key I think.
The exhaust routing is up to you, and indeed, it gets pretty hot, but not extremely so. But after having done it myself, I can testify it CAN be done safely if you have an ounce of common sense and a risk averse attitude. You can buy 6 foot extension pipes to route the exhaust it elsewhere. I had my carbon monoxide alarm right next to it and it never gave a blip.
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Old 05-09-2021, 09:39 AM   #12
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Are there any issues with diesel air heaters using below-freezing diesel? Like, is there an advantage to running them off a diesel tank inside so that the fuel goes in warm?
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Old 05-09-2021, 12:46 PM   #13
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In much of the developed world, diesel sold during the winter months contains anti-wax forming agents for climates that need it.

But if you buy diesel in summer and store it until a polar vortex rolls in, you may have issues. Your bus won’t be going anywhere either if that’s what you have in your tank.

You can a bottle of anti-waxing (or anti-gelling) agent, or, add 10% of regular gas to your diesel, that lowers the wax point by a good couple dozen degrees.

That being said, I would use the opportunity to warm up the fuel ever so slightly if I wanted to go to temperature extremes.
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Old 05-09-2021, 06:10 PM   #14
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I dont have a portable.. I have a coolant heater.. I bought what I thought was a mid grade (between the cheapest chinese and the expensive webasto).. it is a VVKB.. it has been the worst POS ever.. I have replaced damn near every part on it to keep it going this past winter.. it didnt want to fire in below zero C weather.. thats right at about 15-20f the thing would just become a mosquito fogger when there certtainly arent any mosquitos...



finally the company sent me a new one which I left in its box.. I ordered a chinese 16kw coolant heater from D&E enterprises and so far it has been much better. . however we havent yet had anything cold than 20f since i got it.. but our spring has been cold (it is supposed to be 73 today and its FORTY FIVE!!!! ugh!! ) I do use it still quite a bit..



my other bus has a real webasto coolant heater.. ive had it a couple years and it hasnt given me any trouble at all.. it just works.. ..


in the coolant heater world, the thing I notice is that the real espar / webasto units throttle.. they have a modulating amount of heat output.. the chinese units dont, the chinese units heat the coolant to the temperatire then cycle out. . then kick back in full blast when the temp drops 10-15 degrees C then shut off.. the water pumps stay running .. so you dont get the even-heating that the webasto does..



from what I understand the chinese warm-air heaters do modulate.. just not the coolant models..



I use coolant heater because the DEV bus has no glowplugs and if I park someplace overnight with no electric plug and its below about 10f she will start a bit rough.. so the coolant heater lets me preheat the engine..
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Old 05-09-2021, 06:41 PM   #15
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Great Info- the best cohorts!

This would have taken YEARS to research and catalog. Thank you all for the information. ALL of it is a great resource for me. Thanks!!
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Old 05-09-2021, 06:49 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Corno1 View Post
More great info. AND significantly less expensive. Do you have a picture of the completed unit?

This is the Planar unit
its a knock off of that but works just the same and a hella alot cheaper i have one that is 3k in my trailer and one that is 5k in my bus i love both of them , i put the link in my other post the exhaust and fresh air go to the out side of the bus the unit stays inside the bus, i have the 3k now for 4 year and never had any problems with it
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Old 05-09-2021, 08:53 PM   #17
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I do not have any portable units like you are discussing here. I don’t know if I want to take the risk of supplying someone else with my hard earned heater. I bought the Chinese air heaters for my bus one for the rear and one for the front. I never turn them off when running on low. I kick them up on high for a couple of minutes before shutdown. I also run half a tank of red Kerosene every season. 3 years now and no problems. I keep CO monitors in the coach front and rear and crack a window while sleeping to prevent dirt naps.
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Old 05-09-2021, 11:41 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by s2mikon View Post
I do not have any portable units like you are discussing here. I don’t know if I want to take the risk of supplying someone else with my hard earned heater. I bought the Chinese air heaters for my bus one for the rear and one for the front. I never turn them off when running on low. I kick them up on high for a couple of minutes before shutdown. I also run half a tank of red Kerosene every season. 3 years now and no problems. I keep CO monitors in the coach front and rear and crack a window while sleeping to prevent dirt naps.
Everything what he ^ said. Kerosene once a year to keep them clean and fresh air to keep you on the right side of the dirt. I have two of the original Espars in my boats and one of the Chinese knock offs in the bus and am happy with the performance of both.
Cheers
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Old 05-15-2021, 03:12 PM   #19
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I’m planning on the L-300 Toyotomi Laser Vented Heater for my Thomas er 35’ conversion with raised roof.
Not promoting the idea, just what I’m planning.
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Old 05-16-2021, 07:31 AM   #20
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Thank you John 321! In all the googling, I have never even seen this Toyotomi option in multiple searches. It looks like a fantastic answer. It solves a lot of those issues about heated air intake, efficiency, theft, etc. What a great product. Thank you!
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