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Question about diesel heaters - Printable Version

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Question about diesel heaters - XERTYX - 11-12-2019

I'm very unfamiliar with diesel heaters but I've recently became very curious about them.

They seem to be not overly expensive. I assume that they are fairly safe. I've read a bit about them here on the forum and have tried to sleuth a little bit online but I havent found a lot of practical real world experience about them.

As I understand them, the kits you'd find on amazon that is require a couple of vents to the outside as well as 12v DC power to run the fan and fuel pump.

The questions I have pertain mostly to the electric usage, noise, smell, and fuel consumption. 

From what I have read they usually draw about 9 amps on startup and the running amps are less than 1 amp. This seems completely doable to me if that's true.

The startup amp drain I read is for the glow plug. I'm not very familiar with engines but I do know that diesel engines use glow plugs. Are these heaters actually an engine? When I first read about them I assumed they used a wick of sorts and burned the fuel similarly to the kerosene heaters i grew up with.

Speaking of kerosene heaters i understand that these will also run on kerosene. Is there a smell of kerosene/diesel when these are running?

In the coldest climates you've ran one what is your fuel consumption for a day? The vehicle I'd like to build out happens to run on diesel so it seems logical to use a diesel heater so i can carry extra fuel for the heater and vehicle in one container. 

How many amp hours have you used on one of these for a days heating? If it really does use 
≥ 0.75 amps when running as I've read when I used the search function then as long as I can put 24 amp hours back into my battery in a days charging (an overestimation) there shouldnt be in issue at all running the heat continuously. 

The noise of the fan wouldnt be a deal breaker for me unless it sounds like a jet engine. If the heater is in fact and engine how loud is it? Like an idling vehicle or as I'd imagine a bit less noisy as it's not very large.

I know there are a few popular models. 2KW, 5KW, and 8KW. I dont know the conversion between KW and BTUs or the area it can heat. The vehicle I'd like to build out is a short handicap shuttle bus.  I know the windows would account for a lot of heat loss but would a 5kw model do the job? 8kw? I'd rather not go with the 2kw in case it just cant cut the mustard on a really cold night.

Well those are all of the questions I can call to mind at the moment. I'd love to hear some real world data.


RE: Question about diesel heaters - skyl4rk - 11-12-2019

The burner is like a blowtorch inside of an aluminum case, which heats up.

Kerosene does not have lubricants which diesel does, kerosene can damage the fuel metering pump.

Get the 5k version. The 8k version is just marketing and is no different than the 5k version. If you don't have enough room for a 5k, the 2k is slightly shorter.

A Youtuber by the name of John McK has done in depth testing and has a series of videos with good information.

As far as safety goes, it is critical to make sure two rubber or silicone plugs are replaced correctly. One is around the fuel line, the other covers the glow plug.

Another youtuber with fuel consumption and electric use information is ForestyForest, but he has a smaller vehicle.


RE: Question about diesel heaters - Firebuild - 11-12-2019

I have a video on my YouTube channel about my heater, which was pretty new to me at the time. I know a little more now but the basic mechanics of it are explained in super basic terms on the video. Check it out if you like. https://youtu.be/OrcO-q4GGJU

This is nothing like those kerosene heaters you mentioned. The heat those provide is from the actual burning of the oil. For the diesel AIR heaters, the heat comes from air that has been heated by diesel combustion being passed into your vehicle with a mechanical blower. One heats the air inside the vehicle, the other pulls air in, heats the air, and sends it back into the vehicle.  I get a little odor on startup coming from the small exhaust pipe on the outside, the same as you do when starting up a diesel vehicle. Once it's started the smell passes in a minute. I would not run it on kerosene, for the reason skyl4rk mentioned.

This link will take you to the simplest explanation I've found of how they work. It has a diagram that explains it all. https://www.vvkb.com/parking-heaters-buying-guide/

Your numbers are about  right for the actual power usage. One complication, though, I sometimes have issues the next day starting up after running the heater for 4+ hours, but that's not because of the heater exactly. If I don't have shore power, I can't plug in my block heater, which means my glow plugs are colder, which means I need to crank the battery to start more, and anything that's been drawing from it can cause that to be an issue. The solution is simple: don't run it off the starter battery if possible. This will change in my setup soon.  For now, I carry a small lithium jumpstarter for these situations. 

I can't be super specific on fuel consumption on this because I run my heater off of my vehicle's fuel tank. I have 2 tanks, and use the rear only as an emergency back-up in terms of driving fuel. So my heater is set up to draw its fuel from that tank. In the winter particularly I try to keep this tank for exclusive use of the heater. I know that last winter, when I was using the rear tank only for the heater, I might need to replace a couple of gallons in the rear tank whenever I filled the front tank. but because I can't give you a time interval that is, how much time I was standing stlll and opposed ot how much time I was driving, so it's hard to determine how much fuel the heater was consuming. I sure doesn't seem to use much, though. Sorry for the lack of specificity; I plan to keep much better track of all that this winter. 

I would be really really surprised if you ever ran this thing continuously for an entire day. On the coldest days, I ran the heater full steam for half an hour, then turned it down low for maybe another hour. When I started to feel hot, I'd turn it off, and leave it off until I felt chilly again. This thing creates a LOT of heat, and even though my bus is barely insulated, I maybe ran the heater for a max of 6 hours on the coldest day.  I prefer to use a 12v electric blanket at night and barely use the heat at all, though, so it really depends on how you choose to use it. I also have very little insulation; with more, you should be able to do more. I didn't use it much below 20 degrees F but I have no reason to believe it wouldn't be effective at the lower temp. 

You definitely won't need at 8k, go with the 5 or even the 2. I have a 5kw in my 20 foot bus (75 square feet of living space) and as I said it can get very hot in here. 

One thing I did not do that I strongly suggest you DO, is get one with a remote. 


RE: Question about diesel heaters - 1shemp - 11-12-2019

I think you would be better off with a kerosene lantern.Get light and heat at the same time.Nothing burns completely.Whatever you burn inside your dwelling you are going to get odor and particulates.Propane is the cleanest fuel..


RE: Question about diesel heaters - maki2 - 11-12-2019

A kerosene lantern does not exhaust fumes to the exterior. Plus most people want it to be dark when they are trying to sleep. A bright light in a room can actually interfere with the quality of the deep sleep state that is essential for human emotional health and energy. There are various studies about that.  A kerosene lantern will not supply enough heat to keep the average van warm enough for comfort during weather that is below freezing.

If a person has issues with VOC emissions or other breathing issues related to the use of chemical you should not be using a kerosene lantern for heat or light.


RE: Question about diesel heaters - tx2sturgis - 11-12-2019

In the trucking world we call these 'bunk heaters' so that is how I refer to them. 

Bunk heaters do not exhaust any smell of fuel or combustion into the heated area...only outside. 

They are loud when first fired up, but then they settle down into a slow roll and you can barely hear them. 

They are very efficient, and keep the interior at a very comfortable temperature even on the coldest nights.

Downsides are: complexity of installation, parts availability when they quit working at 3 am in a remote area when it's below freezing, sensitivity to fuel quality, and of course, the chinese unknown reliability factor....we always used the high dollar German (I think) Webasto or Espar units.


RE: Question about diesel heaters - RogerD - 11-13-2019

I recently ordered a 2kw heater, should have it a day or two. I see a lot of people saying the 5kw are too hot. I plan on selling my van and getting a 14 ft box truck and will have R-20 insulation. So I figured a 2kw would be more than enough.

I currently have a Camco Olympian Wave 3 heater and really to test and see which is more cost-effective.

Anyway, from my understanding, a 2kw is roughly 3K - 7K BTU.

A 5kw is around 5K - 17K BTU

Supposedly there is no real 8K. They are just 5kw heaters misrepresented as 8kw.

Also, many 5kw heaters are misrepresented as 2kw. You will also see some listed as 2K-5k, but it too is really a 5K.

You need to look at the dimension to know what it really is. A 5kw heater is about 400 mm (40 cm) long. While a 2kw heater is about 300 mm (30 cm) long.

There are a bunch of FB groups that you can learn more about them. Which you will also learn from that these aren't necessarily very reliable. But supposedly much of the problems come from improper installation.

I highly recommend watching this guy's videos.

https://www.youtube.com/user/johnmck1147/videos

This guy also has some interesting videos on them as well.

https://www.youtube.com/user/davidmcluckie/videos


RE: Question about diesel heaters - XERTYX - 11-13-2019

Thanks for the great info folks. I'm gonna look thru the links when I have a moment. I think the bulk of my curiosity is satisfied at this point. We had some seriously cold weather last night for the time of year here and it really set me to thinking. Right now I cant afford to get the heater. I have shore power and I'm using an electric heater on low, layers, and blankets. I have a sleeping bag too. I've been colder but I've been a damn site warmer before as well.

The only question that gnaws at me is fuel use. But the videos may be able to glean an answer to that. I'm hoping to buy the vehicle as well as some unrestricted land as a home base before too long. I just like to research every promising angle before I make a decision. I'll have to spend a little time on the videos and take notes as I always do.

Thanks all for the valuable input and of course I not only welcome but also encourage more experiences with these heaters. Depending on the amount of fuel usage I'm also considering a second diesel heater to use in a small cabin I'd like to build on the home base property as a secondary or tertiary heat source in the winter. I like redundancy, very redundantly. Tongue


RE: Question about diesel heaters - Firebuild - 11-13-2019

(11-12-2019, 07:28 PM)1shemp Wrote:  I think you would be better off with a kerosene lantern.Get light and heat at the same time.Nothing burns completely.Whatever you burn inside your dwelling you are going to get odor and particulates.Propane is the cleanest fuel..

The diesel is completely vented to the exterior, though. I use an antique kerosene Perfection heater as a backup, for when it is below zero or when I just want the lovely ambience. Propane has its own issues, can't pretend it doesn't. Every body gets to choose which type of problem they're more comfortable dealing with.


RE: Question about diesel heaters - Riverman - 11-14-2019

I have to have one of these heaters for my RV.... I will stay warm whatever it takes.

I note that a 5kw is actually 17,000 btu, that is a lot of heat.

Have any of you tried the ALL IN ONE units with the tank built in?

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=diesel+heater+all+in+one&_sacat=0&_sop=15