If you live in or visit a cold environment and have a need for extra heat in your vehicle, RV, bus or even outbuilding, a viable option is a diesel heater. These are devices that burn diesel fuel to generate heat and all you need with one of these kits is a battery (usually either 12 volt or 24 volt) and some diesel fuel. The burner, mounting kit, fuel tubes, fuel tank, clips, exhaust pipe etc. are (or can be) included.
One of the best deals on the market currently is the "Chinese Diesel Air Heater". I purchased mine on AliExpress.com. It was an 8kw unit with remote as per the picture above. At the time, I paid approximately $140 USD and free shipping for it.
If you have purchased one and have gone to install it, you will notice that there are NO instructions in the box. Installation is actually quite straight forward if you're familiar with this type of thing - until you go to use the remote or enter you settings using the LCD panel. Although there are some videos on Youtube to help, there isn't a quick list (which most of us prefer - especially when were installing it out on the driveway, remote location, when it's -20, etc.) of how to do it... See below for some for some of the basics. All below refers to the unit I bought - yours may be different...
First - the kit doesn't come with a battery for the remote. The required battery for the remote is an A27. It's a 12V battery. As it's uncommon, expect to pay about 5$ for it locally. If you're not in a hurry and smart, you can also order these from aliexpress.com for about 60 cents USD each.
Setting up remote/LCD - image below
Set the Time: Press “settings” (top left), it starts flashing- use arrow keys to adjust. Then “OK”
Timer 1-3: “1 of” appears after timer above – set the “On” and “Off” time as needed. This will allow your unit to e.g. come on at 6am in the morning to warm things up a bit before you get up.
Hz vs Temp: press top 2 buttons- (“settings” and “Up”) toggles between. Hz is kind of a bizarre setting - unless it refers to how fast the fan turns by chance. Most of us will want this in degrees - so you can change this here.
Prime pump – press bottom 2 buttons “OK” and “down arrow”. H Off is showing but press “Up Arrow” to turn “H on”. Apparently this primes for about 2 minutes and then shuts off.
Current temp – “OK” – shows “small degree symbol”. The temperature in your van, RV etc. as recognized by the LCD sensor.
Maintain temp (the temp the heater will work up to and keep) – “OK” again – shows “big degree symbol” (you'll see if the difference when you get there).
Battery Level – “OK” again (or 3x from starting i.e. pressing "OK" 3 times assuming you haven't done anything else)
E Settings – are Error Codes - sometimes a light blinking a number of times, or an error e.g. 04 is displayed:
1 - Under voltage of power supply
2 - Over voltage of power supply
3 - Ignition plug failure
4 - Diesel fuel Pump failure (magnetic pump in most kits). Check to make sure the connector clip is in all the way.
5 - Machine is overheating
6 - Motor fault
7 - Broken Line Fault
8 - Flame extinguishment
Heater “ON” – press “power button”
Heater “OFF” – press and hold “Power button”
Flashing arrows – air in and out indicator
A few other things explained:
1) Cold (diesel #1 or 1-D) vs warm (diesel #2 or 2-D) weather - many will be aware that in cold weather you need to use "cold diesel". Cold diesel will ignite more easily (flows more easily) but contains less energy.
2) Exhaust temperature - is hot. If you are putting the exhaust pipe through anything combustable e.g. plywood wall, or fabric in a vehicle, you must protect the combustibles from catching fire.
3) Collecting waste heat - you can route the exhaust through a heat exchanger to collect some of the waste heat (if you know what you're doing).
4) What is the right way "up"? Not sure. Most pictures show the exhaust and intake to the bottom. Some show it to the top. It would appear it doesn't matter. Normally you'd expect heat gases to be discharged at the top or side - but (perhaps) because they are forced out with a fan, it doesn't matter.
5) Muffler - will help to reduce the noise from the exhaust.
6) Noise - the pump makes a clacking noise - nothing terrible, but I wouldn't want it close by if I was going to try and fall asleep.
7) Fuel Filter - normally I'd expect to put the fuel filter BEFORE the pump - to help protect the pump. But that's just me...
I've installed and used mine a few times. It's impressive the amount of heat it throws off (about 25,000 btu at it's highest setting). It does take about 5 minutes to start generating heat, but once it's up and going, it heated my (small) uninsulated workshop to a usable temperature quite quickly. I would recommend this unit at the moment - but we'll see how it stands up over time.
Installation Pictures and thoughts
Typical diagram from AliExpress:
The fuel pump should be vertical to 45 degrees for best performance.
Mine came with 2 types of fuel line - a thicker rubber chunk and a long thin clear chunk. Seems you have to insert the thin tube into the thick tube to get it all to work. Ergo, I cut my rubber chunk into 5 equal pieces and used them:
1) on the connector to the heater itself
2) on both ends of the fuel filter
3) on both ends of the pump
You can then cut the thin clear stuff to bridge these connections.
Fuel tank - to test, I just stuck the fuel line into the jug of diesel fuel...
Priming - after assembling all the host pieces, I then sucked fuel through the line until just before it was filled up - and then stuck the end into the heater unit - save some time/hassle with priming the line.
I put an amp meter on the power line to see how much power the diesel heater draws. On startup, the max draw was 9.15 amps - so about 110 watts. Presumably this draw is to run the glow plug to get things going. This was probably higher draw than the meter showed as the meter only allows up to 10 amps - and the resistance became too high.
The power then seemed to reduce to about 90 (running) watts - but this figure was obtained from my charger and how much wattage it said it was having to put back into the battery bank. I'll put the amp meter on again when time to get a more accurate reading.
The heat pipe coming out of the heater (to heat the room) measured a max of 70C. The highest reading I got for temperature on the exhaust pipe was 213C. That said, it charred the board it was leaning against (before I protected it).
In terms of heat output, it is quite impressive. On paper, an 8 kw unit puts out about 25,000 btu. To put that into perspective, a 1500 watt heater puts out about 5,000 btu. The heat is nice and "dry" too.
Strangely, it appears you can't "set a temperature" that you want the unit to maintain. For me, it would be cool if I could tell it to keep the workshop at say 10C, but it doesn't do this. I thought about hooking in a simple thermostat, but then you get into the issue of the power suddenly getting cut while the thing is cranking - and potentially creating a firehazard/damage as the heater can't go through it's cool-down period as it should. So room for improvement there IMO.
Thanks to all who offered tidbits on the NET. Above are things I've figured out or thought about with the rest provided by others on Youtube and forums.
I'll try to post a few more helpful pics when I get a moment, but for now, hope this helps.