Adding a Heater

We'll be insulating the bejeezus out of the van, but we spend a lot of time in central Oregon where the temps can get pretty cold. We're adding a Espar D2 heater kit  to keep us toasty. It uses Diesel fuel pulled right out of the main fuel tank pretty efficiently. This was the first significant project undertaken so it's nice to have it behind me---cutting holes in a brand new van is not exactly the easiest thing to do, particularly for a non-car person. I have woodworking and home remodel experience, but this van is the first time I've mucked with a car. I'm happy to report that with the main structural work now complete, I haven't made a life-altering mistake. The project went about as smoothly as any I undertake, which is to say, a few small errors, some changing design minorly on the fly, and plenty of trips to the hardware store.

The heater will be installed under the passenger seat so the seat I just put on with the swivel now must come right back off. Oh well.

The passenger seat back off. The heater will live in here

The passenger seat back off. The heater will live in here

I'm going to decent sized hole through the deck with an angle grinder with a cutting disk. The hole needs to be big enough to for all the hardware to fit through, but the D2 kit comes with a sealing gasket so the hole doesn't need to be pretty.

a hole in the deck

a hole in the deck

I sprayed rust-oleum on the edges of the hole then covered it with metal tape. The tape was pointless as it won't stick to the rubber-ish coating applied to the bottom of the van. This picture also shows the four tapped screw holes where the mounting plate and gasket go down. I ended up needing to widen the hole a bit because I didn't give enough space for the hose clamps when they are attached to the heater.

heater install, in progress

heater install, in progress

Here's the heater unit with the air intake and exhaust hoses applied. The 'blow' side of the heater is the silver pyramid. A shroud goes over that to direct the air into that black vent tube behind.

ready for install

ready for install

The image above shows the air intake/exhaust and the fuel line attached. the fuel line is a specialized item that has a really small inner lumen. It's made out a hard, non expanding plastic the supposedly works really well with the little fuel pump. It requires these little bits of couplings to connect them, as you can see pictured here.

unit in place, seen from above

unit in place, seen from above

It makes me a little uneasy having so many couplings keeping the fuel line together. However, I tried pulling the clear plastic out of the black one after putting it in and couldn't--even before the clamp went on! 

D2 put in place, shown from below the vehicle

D2 put in place, shown from below the vehicle

Installing the Fuel Line

The fuel line install would be a total pain if not for the fact that newer model Sprinters have an auxiliary fuel tap, otherwise you would have to drop the fuel tank an put in a tap yourself. Below shows the factory tap:

IMG_0055.JPG

I ran the fuel line across to the other side of the van, securing it with some zip ties. Unfortunately, I later had to cut the ties and re-apply when I ran the power supply over to the pump as well. Below shows the fuel and electrical heading over to the pump 

The pump needs to be at least 15 degrees off horizontal as per the manufacturer, optimally between 15 and 30 degrees. Eyeballing my install looks about right.

closeup of fuel pump

closeup of fuel pump

you can see there's a lot of clamps and connections for the fuel line. I'll be keeping an eye on those over time. It's a low pressure system, but with the vibrations over time, I'm concerned that something might come loose. that shiny tan stuff is the wax spray applied by the factory to help prevent rust. It doesn't strike me as like really there for the long term, but what do I know of such things.

Final Vent Install

The snout to the blow side of the heater was a real pain to put on--it's a two person job (it's really tight fitting, someone needs to push one corner in with a screwdriver). I used a hole saw to make a hole to put the hot air grill into, then connected it with some tubing. It was a tight fit, but it worked:

some tubing to connect it all

some tubing to connect it all

The final result belies how much is happening under the covers:

The heater won't look like much when it's done.

The heater won't look like much when it's done.

This image was taken later in the install process, after I added the wiring harness. Those wires on the deck are what we want to get to next.

Adding the wiring harness

There are four parts to the wiring harness:

  1. Power from the battery. The D2 kit comes with a car battery connector. We will be connecting to the house battery at a junction box. None of the house power needs will be powered by the van battery.
  2. Power to the fuel pump
  3. A diagnostic port. This port doesn't need us to do anything. It just sits there and looks pretty.
  4. A heat controller assembly lead

We already saw the wire going over to the pump alongside the fuel line. The kit comes with quick disconnect parts that you can solder on and assemble after poking the wire through the hole. It was easy.

As the above picture shows, we are running the two remaining wires, the power to the heater, and the controller lead, in the subfloor. The plan is to insulate the valleys with a foam for insulation, then lay a 1/4 inch layer of that foam over the entire floor before a layer of plywood then vinyl. Thus, we have space in the valleys of the floor to run our two wires, as pictured. These two wires are at the moment just coiled up and stuck in a wall chamber until the electrical is installed, when we can then hook everything up and test the setup.

Heater Air intake, Exhaust

The last thing to do prior to electrical hookup is secure the intake/exhaust. 

The muffler and exhaust secured

The muffler and exhaust secured

The exhaust runs through a muffler from lubrication specialists that comes recommended from the interwebs. I accidentally ran the muffler mounting screws too far up, which blocked the side sliding door from opening. I didn't realize what I'd done until hour later when I tried to open the slider. It took a few minutes to figure out why the door would only open a few inches. Luckily, I didn't bend the screws when I opened the door. Pulling the screws back a quarter inch solved the problem. The muffler is plenty secure. I poked the tail pipe out just a little from the edge of the van to get the exhaust to come out from under the vehicle.

tail pipe sticking out a bit

tail pipe sticking out a bit

 

Unfortunately, this emerges in the back third of the slider opening, so some exhaust could come back into the van if the slider was open and the heater running. It's unlikely that will occur for any appreciable length of time, but I will be installing a carbon monoxide/smoke alarm just in case.

The air intake tube

The air intake tube

The black air intake tube ran aft parallel of the exhaust but about 18" distant from it. I secured it at a rather random location for no particular reason.

Espar D2 install: Conclusion

While the final wiring and testing of the system is not complete, the vast majority of the install of the Espar D2 is complete. It took about a weekend, but I wasn't working all that hard. Given my lack of vehicle work in the past, I'm very happy with the results so far. In about a week, the electrical will be in and I can finish the hookup. The kit from EsparParts was good. I had no issues with the parts. Going slow and reading the directions a few times really helped. I considered hiring this job about to an upfitter, figuring that it's a job that I'll ever do once, but I'm (so far) glad I did it myself.

What's Next

We scheduled the van for solar panel and full electrical install from AM Solar when we ordered our van. Luckily they could get us in quickly after we received our Sprinter. Tomorrow, we drop off the van for a week where all the electrical will be put in. That will be a huge time savings for me, though we are definitely paying for that privilege. Given that the vast majority of the work will be done by my family, I've chosen a few key areas to hire out:

  1. Most of the electrical, including the solar panels and most of the 'heavy' electrical, like the panel, the alternator connection. I'll be doing the actual wire runs myself.
  2. Window Installation. We are having Van Specialties put in a window in the slider, and one opposing it.
  3. Propane system. Van specialties will be adding the propane as well.

Additionally, the shower enclosure may be hired out as well. I'm still thinking about how that is going to work.