Alternative Furnace Option - Diesel Parking Heater

Sep 10, 2013
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I have been intrigued by the idea of using a diesel air (parking) heater as an alternative choice in furnace for my new 28' Charmac deck over trailer. This is my first enclosed trailer, so I have enjoyed reading through this forum for ideas in designing my own, and decided to document my build here in the event that anyone else is interested in giving it a try or is at least curious.

Before making the decision, I listed my requirements to make sure that this heater would meet my needs.

1) Budget - I was looking for a furnace option, that all in, would be around $500 or less (not trying to go on the cheap, I would just rather spend my money on sleds and gear).

2) I enjoy doing what I call "hobby engineer" projects, and I was interested in doing something different that would require me to think through things a little differently. Designing, inventing, and installing a solution was something I was excited about.

3) Most of my riding is a 15-20 minute trailer ride from my home, the longest I have trailered my sleds is about 2.5hrs. I wasn't looking for anything that could run all night, (I don't use my trailer as a sleeping chamber) but I was very interested in something I could fire up before leaving the house and leave running while I drove to the parking lot to warm up my gear and sleds. In other words, it didn't need to be quick heat, just steady heat.

4) I intend to dry out the trailer using shore power and a $20 box fan from Wal-mart, being able to run a heater to accelerate this was desirable.

5) I wanted something with the smallest footprint as possible, and something that would allow flexibility in terms of location within the trailer.

After reviewing my requirements, I felt comfortable proceeding, so I bought one of the Chinese 8kw units off ebay for $170. I bought a furnace exhaust tip for the exterior penetration for about $20 and used scrap wood around the shop for the cabinet as a working prototype. It looks a little redneck for now, but next fall I will spend $60 on a nice sheet of plywood and make it look better for the finished product. All in, I am well under my budget.

This little heater isn't a 40,000 BTU propane furnace, but it is rated for about 18,000 to 20,000 BTU and I'm hopeful that if I can leave it running for longer it will do the trick. I fired it up when it first arrived and it gets HOT! It's efficient too, both in fuel and battery draw, and since a typical riding day for me is around 4-6hrs, I intend to just leave it running while I am on the ride (interpret this as extra drying time).

The total dimensions on the cabinet are 2' wide by 18" tall and only 10" deep! I allowed the back board on the cabinet to extend a total of 4.5' so I could mount the fuel tank (included with the heater kit) and built a protective face plate to guard the fuel line. Other than wires from my battery supply, (this unit uses 12v for the internal fan and to heat the glow plug) this is a totally self contained unit and can be placed anywhere in the trailer!

I will not require access to the internal components in the cabinet to use it, and will put a hinged door as a cover to clean it up a little. The heater kit includes a little LCD panel (not shown) to prime the fuel pump (also included in the heater kit) and to turn it on and off from outside the cabinet. You can even pair the LCD controller to a phone using bluetooth and turn it on from a remote location. (haven't done this yet)

Total startup time isn't super fast...on to hot is about 6 minutes, and there is a shutdown procedure that is roughly the same, but since I intend to fire it up in the morning before I go and leave it running the length of my ride, this isn't a concern to me.

I've read enough comments that the heat from trailer furnaces rises and the floors are cold so I plan on doing something more for air circulation. My idea for this was to purchase a 3" inline fan (looking at a marine bilge fan that does about 130cu/ft/min and about $15 from Amazon) and installing a 3" PVC pipe at the nose of my trailer to pull warm air from above and push it to the floor.

I've attached a photo of my prototype cabinet and would love some feedback or ideas on how to improve.

Also curious from other snowesters...most furnaces are on the passenger side of the trailer, just behind the nose. I want the furnace placement on a flat wall, rather than on the nose, but are there reasons I'm not thinking as to why I should put it that far forward in the trailer? Being a self contained unit, and as slim a profile as it is, I can place this anywhere and was thinking that something more centrally located along the wall of the trailer would be more even heat distribution without having to duct the length of the trailer. The exhaust on this unit isn't smelly (once it is up to temperature) but I intend to keep it on the passenger side to keep exhaust away from the man door.

I will post more photos of my build as I go, time is limited to the occasional free evening to tinker :)
 

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Dec 30, 2007
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SD
I would guess thats plenty of heat, might take a bit to recover if say you opened it up to push in a cold sled that needed some fixing but definitely workable.

The usual front mounting is just to keep out of the way.

Let us know how it works out.
 
Sep 10, 2013
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I decided on a central placement, in between the first and back row of sleds. Not that it mattered, the slim design allowed free movement of handlebars for passing sleds. I like the placement for easy entrance from the man door to turn it on.

It definitely takes a little longer to heat up the space than what I might expect a larger propane furnace to do, but I was really impressed with the performance on my ride this weekend. I left the top vent open a crack and let it run during my ride. It burned about 1/2 liter judging from the fuel change in the 10L tank attached.

I will end up building in a battery storage bench at the nose and wire to the furnace install location, and definitely put in a duct fan to circulate the air.

Overall very pleased with the simplicity and effectiveness at achieving my goals in OP.
 

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Apr 11, 2018
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SE WI
Thanks for this write up! I've decided to go with two similar heaters in my new to me gooseneck. I never really knew about these heaters until I came across this.
 

Wgold

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Dec 31, 2011
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Very interested in your idea, can you post up some more photos of your installation? Thanks.
 

dw8

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Jul 19, 2012
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Pretty interested in this as well. Debating running 2 on opposite sides since they aren't too expensive and sip fuel. Can you share some more pictures? I'm curious how you ran the exhaust out of the trailer. It looks like you are using the air in the trailer for the cold air intake or have you not punched it out of the trailer yet?

I think these are an excellent alternative. I just want to get the exhaust correct since I've seen some very high exhaust temps in reviews and videos.
 

mt.sledder

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Nov 28, 2007
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Have you had any issues with the reliability of this made in China unit. A couple of my buddy’s have the Espar heaters like this and they are extremely reliable. They are about 3 years into them and never a glitch. Only drawback with them is they are very expensive $1500. If these made in China units are reliable it looks like they are the way to go.
 

Timbre

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Nov 1, 2008
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@ ManUtdWY
Do you have any updates on this install with additional pictures you would be willing to share?
Did this heater work out well for you in the short time you have had to use it?
Any issues with quality at all?
 

Timbre

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If anyone is thinking of this heater as an option, here is the link to the most "updated" version that (according to vendor) works good at high elevations.
www.amazon.com/dp/B07VT24CLK/?coliid=I3SA8DKHB9WD2G&colid=2BQ7S6YC0N7LU&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

Here is a VERY informative video series on these heaters!

A 10 litre tank (2.6 gal) of diesel will last about 68 hours of continuous running on low setting. Of course, make sure to winterize the diesel for winter use!

Something like this will work well.
www.amazon.com/dp/B004HQ9W3E/?coliid=I36KR5DKZD8TET&colid=2BQ7S6YC0N7LU&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

VIDEO SERIES
Part 1 – Overview

Part 2 – 5Kw Bench Test

Part 3 – Fuel Consumption

Part 4 – 8Kw Heater Test

Part 5 – Kerosene Use

Part 6 – Combustion Air Inlet

Part 7 – Metering / Dosing Pump

Part 8 – Exhaust and Mufflers

Part 9 – Glow Plug & Atomizing Screen

Part 10 – Special Tools
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGXOAqWaRNk

Part 11 – Fuel Delivery
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCZhjGyR3bo

Part 12 – Controllers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW2biaijaO8

Part 13 – All in One diesel air Heater
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApakOCUqNFU

Part 14 – Strip Down
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGdWy_jJrcs

Part 15 – Seals Gaskets & Safety
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g07yVuZbjsE

Part 16 – Boat Install
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_GDu-__0xI
 
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dw8

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Jul 19, 2012
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I figured for $150 i'd try one. Got it assembled and tested in my garage on a work bench. Left it running for about 3 hours and it brought my garage from 40 to 50 degrees. Another 2 hours and I was 58. My garage is 18'x30' and 15' tall. The door and roof are uninsulated. I think it will work pretty well in a trailer. Just need to plumb the air to the floor.
 
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