Installing an Espar Heater in a Sprinter Camper Van
Where to Buy ItFor a decent deal at $995, check out Bunk Heaters. I also considered Snugger, a less expensive version of the Espar. Either way, you’ll save a bundle versus buying from a dealership. If you’re doing the install yourself, definitely buy online. Deciding to do the install myself was a simple process after getting quotes of $1,000-$2,000 from the brain surgeons apparently needed to do the work. RIPOFF ALERT. The install may sound intimidating, but you can do it! And if you screw it up, hey, vans are cheap – buy another one. Your loving partner will understand, right? If not, you can sleep in your freezing-cold van… Frankly, you can do this install. Dozens of blog readers have used my writeup to successful install a (working) Espar heater in their van. Grab fortune by the britches and get after it! (Yep, I just used britches in a sentence.) But first, remember you’re doing this install so you can hang out in places like the below!
Why I Bought an Espar D2 Heater versus D4I went with an Espar heater because 1) it can run on diesel, which means I could tap into the main fuel tank for our van and avoid installing propane or other fuel sources and 2) everyone else did it and Sprinter Jedi Mind Control works on me. I bought an Espar D2 heater, which is smaller than the D4, after reading that you want the heaters to run on “boost” (high power) in order to avoid fouling the combustion mechanism inside the unit. Our van is insulated with anywhere from R-11 to R-14 on the walls and ceiling (none in the floor) and the heater has kept us warm down to about 22 degrees in the cold and damp redwood forests of the Northern California coast, the cold spring in Durango, the mountains of Colorado, plus dry and freezing desert nights in SoCal. We haven’t done much winter camping in it, but I’m confident it would perform well. Fuel economy on these things is amazing. Even at full boost mode, it burns just one gallon of gas in 20 hours (!), and it doesn’t run that high most of the time. (It’s apparently 50 hours per gallon at the lowest heat level.) For the heat output, it is quite an efficient unit and seems well worth the price. In case you are considering not getting a heater: If your van is insulated and lacks an internal heat source, it will turn into an ice box. Some people may think body heat will warm up your van. From personal experience and testing this on numerous shorter trips prior to this one, I can say this… They. Are. Wrong. Put in a heater or your less cold-resistant partner is going to stay home while you road trip alone crying quietly into your cold ramen at night. By the way, dig these kinds of posts? Sign up for the free Traipsing About newsletter for van talk and outdoor adventures.
Install Tips–Set aside a weekend for the job. I did it in a day, but that doesn’t include the initial trip to an auto parts store to get supplies. –Recruit people to help. An unsuspecting friend, or incredibly helpful father-in-law (thanks again Steve!), will make life 12x easier. Damage done to that relationship excluded… –Getting the Sprinter up on blocks or a hoist to get more space under the van will make your life 1.2 million times easier. It can be done without it – I survived – but take my word for it. Your elbows and back will thank you. Especially if it’s sleeting and the ice water pools under the van on the tarp…just sayin’. –Something to watch out for: while the wires for the thermostat and heater power are 12’ long, the pump wire is only 7’ long…which can (did) create some issues depending where you place your heater. I have no idea why they don’t make the wires the same length. -Strong recommendation: install a combination smoke/CO detector in your van. They’re small, cheap and can save your life. –If you have an ‘08 or newer Sprinter (the NCV3 or newer), you MAY not need the ~2′ fuel pickup pipe that comes with the unit. For most Sprinters from 2008-2014, the helpful folks at Mercedes put a fuel tap on the front left side of the fuel tank that makes it quite easy to install the tubing without dropping the fuel tank and drilling a hole in the top. YES. According to a blog reader (see comments below), from 2015 onward, the fuel tap is optional and not included on the Sprinter Worker package, so you may need the tap. -Buy the $36 muffler from BunkHeaters.com. Our heater sounded like a rocket headed to Mars before I installed the muffler two months into our trip. Your neighbors in camp will appreciate it, trust me. It’s a super easy install. –Consider installing the high altitude kit if you are going to be camping at elevation (such as the Rockies). This avoids fouling the Espar (the elevation messes up the fuel/air mixture and makes it run too rich). I didn’t do it, but it is worth considering. (Update Jan 2017: For what it’s worth, we’ve spent many nights above 6,000′ with the heater running and have not had issues in three years. Other readers who spend weeks at high altitude have had issues, so I’d err on the side of caution.) –I read about some guy cutting off the “extra” wiring harness on the unit after he installed the thermostat and fuel pump wiring. That’s the diagnostic port! Leave it there. –The fuel pump wiring will not go through the same routing hole as the intake/combustion beneath the unit. You have to run it through the floor of the van somewhere else.
Connections You’ll Need to Hook Up
Intake air for combustion from outside the vehicle – black flexible hose provided with the unit.
Exhaust air from combustion to the outside of the vehicle – silver, heat-resistant ribbed metal hose provided with the unit.
Fuel line from the main diesel tank under the van, routed through the fuel pump that comes with the heater (more below on that specific item).
Thermostat control wiring – this stays internal to the van. Just follow the color-coded instructions on the wiring, it’s straight-forward.
Power wiring – I ran this directly into a fuse in our 12v panel.
Intake/Heating air ducts – I installed our heater so that the heating air snout for the heating unit pokes into the main living space, with the intake end of the unit in the bike garage. This has worked well and air circulates through the van without running a large amount of duct work, which I wanted to avoid. The air temp of the hot air isn’t too high, but I’d recommend at least 6-12″ of open space so you don’t roast your floor or other surface in the van. Installing under the front passenger seat seems like a popular option, but that’s where our subwoofer goes (priorities, right?) so I can’t speak to that personally.
Figure out where your heater is going to go and measure all wires, duct work, and fuel lines to make sure you have enough material. Then add 10-20% slop so you avoid stretching wires tight or running out of fuel line halfway. I ended up having to relocate the fuel pump and the shorter wire presented a headache.
To attach the stock Mercedes Sprinter fuel tank to the Espar fuel line, read all the directions in the installation manual and then perhaps follow what I did:
Buy a short (<12”) piece of 5/16” black flexible fuel line, two clamps to fit it and a metal male-male connector that is ¼”.
The 5/16” fuel line slips over the fuel tap from the Mercedes tank. Then you insert the ¼” connector into that, which then inserts into the ~3/16” (5mm) fuel line that comes with the Espar D2. Make sure to clamp all connections.
Clamped down, the fuel lines are snug around the connector and you can run the 5/16” fuel line directly to the fuel pump for the Espar heater. The instructions clearly give you max distances and orientation for everything.
The fun (scary!) part: cut a 4×6” rectangle in your wood floor. Note: you can cut all the way through the metal, but I don’t recommend it. Instead, just cut through the floor (a hole saw worked great for me) to get the clearance from the exhaust pipe and then drill smaller holes that allow the intake/combustion pipes to exit. There is a template provided with the heater that makes this easy. File down sharp edges on the holes and install heat-resistant muffler putty on the wood. I also folded up some aluminum foil and lined the inside of the wood just to reflect some heat back. Probably overkill, but it was easy.
The seal that comes with the heater will mash down on top of the floor and seal out grime and dirt. I don’t think it is necessary to cut a huge gaping hole in the metal when it just takes a couple holes.
You’ve got your holes drilled. Before routing the intake/exhaust pipes, clamp them to the unit. Otherwise you’ll be doing it on your back and it will be impossible or make you hate life and any word starting with “Espa…” A little foresight here saved me some serious pain.
Fuel line and intake/exhaust ducting run? Route any internal ducting, or at least think about where it is going to go. Perhaps reference step #1 again.
Run your thermostat, power and fuel control wiring per the diagrams. (See how easy that was? Just one sentence that will take you a couple hours. Enjoy! )I think connecting to the house (not engine) battery is the best way to go since you don’t want to drain the battery that starts the engine.
FIRE UP THE BEAST. At first, all you’ll hear is a clicking of the fuel pump as it fills up the fuel line for the Espar. Do not despair if the unit “malfunctions” and says there isn’t enough fuel to start combustion. Reset it and do it again. It took three times through for ours to start. In the meantime, I cursed, kicked some stuff, and practiced other Zen methods of stress control. The manual doesn’t tell you to just let it run. I hopefully just saved you some frustration and early gray hairs.
Ha! Don’t be…that thing was a ton of hard work to get installed.
Your propane heater (even if you don’t use it) still gives you backstop capability when the mercury really starts rattling in the bulb!
This was a tough post for me to get through with my laymen knowledge of installing stuff, but I am sure that there will be some super-stoked Sprinterites out there who are thankful that you took the time to post your experience!
Ha, too funny. I had a disclaimer at the top so regular readers who are non-Sprinter owners would know not to read it. Thanks for caring enough to get through such a boring post! 🙂
I so appreciated this post as I have been researching putting a heater in my 2004/ 2500 sprinter.
I just ordered one from BunkHeaters.com but when I asked them about the $36 muffler you mentioned they said they had no such product??!!??
Wondering what’s up with this? I and they couldn’t see anything on the web page for muffler?
Again.. We so appreciate your taking the time to post about your experience with this.
Hood River, Oregon
Yo yo P! Glad it helped out. That’s what I like to hear.
Not sure what to say about the muffler. They had them when I bought mine about 9 months ago and I haven’t thought about it since. There must be other dealers out there that have them.
What kind of conversion are you doing for your van? Toy hauler, road tripping mobile or…?
hmmm…. weird. I’ll check with them again about the muffler?
My van has been converted (toys, joy and work … on site retreat catering) for a couple of years but I’m in it enough on the fringe months and am tired of being cold while I sleep and would like to be able to hang out with more comfort too. Been using a ‘mr. buddy’ unvented propane heater just to take the chill off but it is after all ‘unvented’…even though they say they are safe…
Again.. thanks for the info. Waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
Thanks for the guide. Going to tackle this project this weekend. “P” I bought the heater from bunk, but they said they didn’t stock the muffler but that it could order it. I ended up going with esparparts.com for the accessories (high alt fuel pump, muffler, and exhaust end cap)
Appreciate the input Dave. Good luck with the install! It’s not too bad I think you’ll find.
I am installing D2 on my 2004 sprinter 2500. Did you need a “Sprinter Fuel Tank Sender Unit ” or a t-connector for the fuel line connection?
did you need to take the tank down?
thanks for response…
any muffler will work fine if you even need it. i bought a 1″ pipe stainless steel muffler than does cut down a bit on exhaust noise.
I ended putting a tap in my tank “2002 sprinter 2500.”
I actually got a webasto one. You do need to lower the tank but not all the way. I just let it hang. You then insert the tap and you can tighten it from the outside.
So I have a 2007 and it is NCV3. Are you saying that the 07 NCV3 doesn’t have the special port on the fuel tank? Also, I have a 170″ wheel base sprinter would you still recommend the D2 vs D4? Thanks, Great write up.
Hey there Kent. So far as I know, the 2007 and newer vans do not have the port on the fuel tank. Definitely worth verifying online or just by crawling under the rig – it should be on the driver’s side near the front. It’s very easy to find (if it’s there).
I would still recommend the D2 heater. The D4 is a far more robust heater and is designed for a big floor area. I’m sure there are people who would disagree with me, but I bet you’ll be in good shape with the D2. Worth checking around on the forums though!
Glad the write-up helped and all the best with your rig. Where are you located and what kind of build are you doing?
I am located in Portland and we use the van for weekend trips and road trips across the U.S. so far it is insulated with a bed, couch, vents, electrical(inverter, 12v outlets, 6 LED lights) I am hoping to add the heater and some cabinets. Maybe redo the floor.
Sounds like a great rig! Perhaps we’ll run into you in Portland sometime when we’re back in town. Always fun seeing other builds that people have done and meeting up with fellow Sprinter owners. Cheers and Happy New Year to ya. Good luck with that Espar install!
Thanks. We always have some driveway space. 🙂 safe travels
Thanks for taking all the time to share your experience and lay out all this info!! How noisy is the heater with the muffler installed? Would someone who walks by the van obviously know that it is running? Also, how did the heater effect your stealth camping?
Glad it helped! Someone walking by can definitely tell the heater is going. If you’re concerned about noise, the Espar isn’t a good choice.
That said, we’ve never, not once, had anyone knock on our van and ask us to move, and we’ve run the heater in many cities. It was pretty cold outside when we ran it though, so there weren’t many people walking around!
OK, one question: how did you secure the fuel line to the underside of the Sprinter? After all the work we’ve done on our Sprinter, the rest of the install seems almost straightforward…
Super simple: zip ties! The solution for all things. Worked great.
Thanks for posting this. I have been on the fence about installing the Espar. After reading your post I have decided to go ahead and tackle this on my own.
Do it! I’ve had at least a dozen people follow the the install I did and end up on the winning side (which is to say, with working heat and no inadvertent holes in the van). Good luck…and here’s to riding that Stumpjumper.
I got my Espar up and running. It is amazing. Thanks for your posts.
Glad to hear it! My Espar is cranking away right now in Utah while it’s 32 degrees and snowing sideways. No heat in a van=bad.
Thank you for the the Espar tutorial. We have a 2013 170 Sprinter “VANdal” built by out Outsidevan. Although the we have a generator and AC with reverse heat I want to add the espar heater as we are transitioning from 2-3 months long adventures to full time travel. Question: I would like to install the Espar in the steel box support under the passenger seat with the heat producing end facing aft and air intake facing front. Will that work or the will the heat buildup be too much under the seat? I was thinking of cutting out an opening in the back of the seat slightly bigger then the Espar heat producing end and covering it with a painted to mach the interior grill. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. And if you get a chance check out our blog LivingVANdal.com.
Hey Martin, I think the Espar installation under the front seat is a great option. Other people have done it, including others that have emailed me, and I think it’s an excellent use of space. I put our subwoofer in there (priorities, ha!) so our heater had to go somewhere else, but otherwise I would have seriously considered that. So long as you have a few inches around the unit, I bet you’ll be fine. We love ours and I think it will be a great addition to your van.
Awesome tutorial! Thanks for sharing all of your hard work 🙂 I have one major question that’s been keeping me from making a final decision on what type of heater I’ll use: Does the Espar produce any water vapor from the combustion of the diesel? I mean, it has to, but I’m wondering if does enough for you to notice it? My Sprinter is my full-time home. The conversion materials are mostly wood, and I don’t want to have mold issues. Also, I’ll be taking it on ski trips this winter and don’t want a heater that’s only going to add to the wetness of my clothes, boots, etc. I’m leaning towards a wood/solid fuel stove for that reason. But diesel would be way easier and more convenient. Any insight? Thank you so much, again!!
Hey Sarah! I think you’ll be fine. I don’t know how much vapor could be in there, but I suspect it’s not much given that the heat comes directly out of a red-hot combustion chamber. Relative to the moisture coming off your body, wet ski boots, and food, any vapor in the exhaust outlet should be extremely minimal.
Also, I would go with the Espar for both convenience and for space. Wood stoves can take up a lot of room. Hope that helps!
Probably too late to to help Sarah, but just for discussion… Burning fuel in a heater – whether diesel, gasoline, propane, wood – produces water vapor as a product of combustion. The fuel type is irrelevant; if you’re burning it with oxygen you’re going to produce water as a byproduct. In the case of the Espar, nearly all the water produced goes out the exhaust. Water vapor ending up in the cabin should be minimal compared to that from snow-dampened clothes, moist atmosphere, breathing inside…. In fact the added heat ought to help drive off moisture.
Great tutorial! Thank you for the info. About how long did the install take for you?
Hi! It took maybe 8-10 hours (I think I mentioned that in the article?). Budget a couple days, I’d say. Good luck.
i just bought a lightly used D2 to replace the military multi fuel heater that i installed just a couple of weeks ago the MF heater draws something like 300 watts and is very noisy. so the Espar should be a big improvement.
the unit did not come with a controller and with just three wires to be connected to one. it was removed from a tractor so it was working as wired. i have read the manuals and the wiring diagrams bit it is not totally clear what wire does what and i would prefer to not burn up the electronics. two of the wires were cut in the previous intstallation but are still there if choose to use them for either a factory controller or just a switch etc. ideally i would like to duplicate the rheostat control but can not find specs on the rheostat resistance or what wires to connect to. the wires that are remaining are the brown/ white (sensor ground reference) the yellow (switch on signal) and the grey/red (set temperature value does the yellow get connected to +12 volts to turn the unit on and the other two leads get a variable resistance to set the temperature using the internal sensor on the cool air intake side? if so (or if it is something else all together) what value resistance is needed to cover the temperature range? most control circuits i have set up use a voltage for control with a potentiometer between + voltage and ground but this does not have enough wires to do that.
spencer recently posted…Our Crew
Sorry Spencer, I don’t know the answers to your questions. I installed the heater over 2 years ago and those questions are just too detailed for me to recall (not that I ever knew the resistance for the temp range). Try a forum perhaps?
Hey Spencer & Dakota
I stumbled into this Espar tech support document that has a wiring diagram on page 18, thought it may help. https://esparparts.com/techsupport/index.htm
Great stories Dakota, thanks for sharing the adventures
Chance recently posted…‘Upfitted’
For what it’s worth:
I have a D4 installed in an unusually tall 140″, and it’s kept me warm in -13 f weather in Banff.
Hey I am trying to install an Espar D2 heater in my 2016 MB 4×4, is the diesel nipple you speak of a black capped tube on the driver side of the tank? Thanks!
Steve in Durango
Yep, sure is! Congrats on your new rig – that’s a sweet setup. I’d totally have gotten the 4×4 if it had been out when we got ours. And hell yeah to Durango – I loved my visit there last April!
Thank you, found another pic on another site and verified that is the extra lead. Thanks! Doesn’t look like there is a place to show rig pics on this page?
Hey Steve, feel free to add a pic to a comment over at the Adventure Mobile page if you’d like (Just click “our van” at the top of the page). I don’t have a forum or reader pics page set up because I’m a Blog Dictator. Nah, just haven’t wanted to deal with it.
I checked out the circus that you created – super cool. See you in Durango sometime!
Thanks so much for this very helpful and detailed D2 install guide. You’re right—it’s a challenging install, but certainly doable for the DIYer. I used your info and installed my D2 in my ’06 2500 140. The 2006 and earlier Sprinters don’t have a fuel pickup to tap into. Instead of hassling with dropping the fuel tank, I used a brass “T” barb to tap into the existing fuel line for the heater booster. I ran the wiring loom for the Espar fuel metering pump through the existing wiring bundle boot under the driver seat. Another real helpful tip is to pinch the van’s fuel line just before the fuel filter in the engine compartment. This keeps the fuel in the fuel lines while doing the tap in work underneath the van. Thanks again for sharing your build info!!!
Great feedback! Thanks James. Good luck with the rest of your buildout.
I bought my van two weeks ago and am currently in the information overload phase. I’m in the to propane or not propane phase. I’ll be in the van full time and am afraid that a fridge will draw too much on the electrical system if I spend a few days not driving around. That being said propane seems like a good option. I’d run the furnace and fridge off propane, everything else off of the solar system. Any suggestions? Any reason you went with the Espar instead of a propane system?
Welcome to the Van Info Fire Hose! You’ll sort it out. 🙂
The Espar is an easy solution and I liked the way it plugged into a big fuel source (the main tank) instead of a propane tank. I didn’t want to deal with a big propane tank to keep our ground clearance solid and not have a big tank in the van. Still, many people have tanks mounted under their vans and do just fine. For full time, a 3-way fridge with a big propane tank and solar to supplement could be a great option!
Propane creates moisture, and I like you have a van but I am not keen on carrying a 20ld propane bomb around . the only pro pane I use is for the cooktop and I use the 1lb green camping bottles they last a long time . my battery source is 220 amps run my engle fridge and spar just fine for 3 days boon docking a lot depends on your needs The espar is the the way to go on the heat source Camped last year in southern Colorado at -5 degrees van was 65degrees all night it is so efficient I run only kerosene keep it in a backpacking fuel bottle
Good call, Paul! Thanks for the input.
have you thought of a way to maybe use this as a combined cabin heater and boot and glove warmer.
We use it to dry clothes and shoes all the time. It would be simple enough to have a piece of ductwork that would route into a box where you could really focus the heat!
Using this site as inspiration and looking for someone to tell me I could do this install, I took the plunge last weekend. I have a 2012 144 Sprinter in Seattle and chose to install an Espar D2 behind the 3 person bench seat (and I’ll box it in later, perhaps with a subwoofer). A CD rom came with the unit and the instructions were pretty straightforward. Cutting a hole in the floor is the scariest part, but just make sure to measure 8 or 9 times before taking the plunge…and it’ll work out…or at least it did for me. Running the fuel line, connecting the hoses, fashioning a nice plate of metal to mount the unit was all easy and fun. With the wiring I ran into two issues (one super simple). First, the fuel pump power in didn’t mate with the wiring harness (called a Loom in EU)…both had female adapters. I read the wiring diagram for quite some time to make sure I wasn’t missing something, and the wire colors matched…so I cut off one side and added the males. The other issue I had, which was more confusing, was with the 801 series thermostat. The optional outside temp sensor wiring confused me. I followed the directions and what was left was the brown neutral wire from the harness. Again, I consulted the wiring diagram trying to figure it out…and my conclusion was the brown wire isn’t needed. The grey wire from the thermostat is also not needed (b/c I didn’t install the optional outside temp sensor)…or at least this is what I’m going with! I fired up the unit and it took several cycles for the pump to pull diesel from the tank, but it worked and is a beautiful thing…heat without the van being on (I have a 100W PV system and 100ah battery). I find the unit to be quite quiet though it’s not boxed in yet and the jet engine sound from outside is not really audible inside the van (I’m fully insulated, but not on the floor). I can see how the muffler (they also make a cat converter) would be good if you’re planning to camp near other folks…the jet engine sound is real! Not too obnoxious if you don’t have one (I don’t yet)…Thanks for the great write up.
Thanks for the perspective and detailed info! Glad the Espar is treating you so well.
Silly question… I see your section about the barb and the fuel hose, but what exactly are you hooking into on the diesel tank? I have the cold weather package on mine and it has the coolant heater hooked up to the quick connect port of the tank? Is there a second port? Do you use a T or Y connector to that port? Do you have any images of that portion o the instal?
Ah, good question! I think a T or Y connector could work, but I haven’t done that so I can’t speak to it from experience. I bet someone on the forums have written about it though. Worst case, you drop the tank, drill a hole and install the fuel tap into the diesel tank. Good luck!
Dakota, I have a more detailed question about your connection to the auxiliary fuel port. I noticed yesterday after filling my tank that I had a leak at the port and the fits compression fitting. Did you use a male to male connection at the auxiliary junction?
Yo! Somewhere in that post, there’s a picture of the male-to-male adapter fitting that I used. Does that help?
I just found out that my 2015 4×4 144 WB does not have a tap on the diesel tank. My friend has the same van and his does. There is no option for ordering a tap and so I didn’t order one (per email from my sales rep). Just wondering if you have any intel on this? You indicate I believe that they come standard on later model vans??
Bummer! I thought it was stock on all the new ones, but maybe they made it an option in the 4×4 model? I’m sure there are plenty of people who will sell you the tap that comes with their Espar if they don’t use it. Good luck, and feel free to come back and let me/other readers know how you handle it. Maybe the tap is somehow hidden?
I just ran into this myself. Got the Espar 99% installed except my van does not have the fuel tap as well. 2015 the Aux Tap was optional (https://www.mercedes-benz-vans.ca/files/en/brochures/MB_Sprinter_Brochure_2015.pdf) so your van probably didnt have it from factory but your buddies did.
The tap comes standard on all vans above my model. I have a Sprinter WORKER and they don’t even have the option from the factory. The package is KL1 Aux. Heater Fuel Tap and Sending Unit. The part # that I got from the dealer is: R64703794 and Temecula Benz in CA quoted $418 for the part and $200 for install.
Hope this helps in some way
Ah, interesting! I didn’t realize MB had changed their specs to make those optional. I’ll update that in the main post as well! Thanks for helping folks out.
We ended up going with a Wallas stove/heater device for our Sprinter build. Nonetheless, we found your post on the Espar installation very helpful in figuring out how to run the exhaust, the fuel line, etc. The Wallas unit certainly warms a cold interior, plus you can cook inside when the weather is crap outside. Anyway, thanks for a thorough discussion of how to install a diesel-fueled heating unit.
Whats up Dakota!,
Thanks for the post. Currently installing the same heater on my 07 Sprinter and I have a few questions if you don’t mind.
1. Did your heater come with the foam gasket that you have pictured attached to the mounting plate or did you buy that separately?
2. My mounting plat is flat on one side and the other has a 4inch circle on it that prevents me from mounting it flush to the van floor (installing the heater under the passenger seat) so should I cut the circle off? Not exactly looking to cut a 4inch hole in the van floor and would rather just cut the small intake+exhaust holes and the fuel line. Any suggestions?
3. Has your fuel line ever given you any issues in the winter? The plastic aspect has me a bit concerned during ski season living in the parking lots.
4. How much exhaust, silver, pipe did your heater come with? Mine came with about ~2ft and Home Depot, McGukkins, AND Autozone didn’t have any to buy. Do you know where I could buy extra exhaust hose/pipe?
5. Did you insulate/heat shield the white, long, fuel line from the fuel pump to the heater at all? My plan is to route it under the gas tank.
Do you drink beer? Coffee? Tea? Your website has saved my A$$ a bunch and if you’re ever in Boulder feel free to contact me.
Thanks a bunch!,
Wassup Max! Whoa, maybe I can remember how I did the install enough to answer these questions… To answer your question, kombucha is always my go-to!
1. Yes, the gasket came with the kit.
2. I only drilled the intake/exhaust holes. That is detailed in the post.
3. No issues with the fuel line and it was below zero in Bend all last winter. Lots of time in the 10-25 degree temps while traveling with no issues.
4. My exhaust pipe was ohhhh 5-6′ long? Not sure, but enough to run out the side of the vehicle at a slight angle.
5. I didn’t insulate or heat shield at all. Just kept it away from anything hot and routed it high (i.e. not under fuel tank).
Hope that helps!
Thanks for a great writeup! Got any pictures of the finished install from inside the living space in the van? I am trying to visualize where it might go in my build.
Hi Mike, it’s installed at the back of the aisle between the counters pointing forward. If I hadn’t used the space under the passenger seat for a subwoofer, I’d have installed it there, as many have done. Good luck!
Hey Dakota thanks for all the helpful info. I am installing my Espar gasser in a promaster this weekend. I am curious on your opinion regarding mounting to the floor. I noticed in your photos that your heater is resting on what appears to be the factory flooring and you cut the 4×6 hole down to metal and then drilled the small holes for intake/exhaust/fuel line. How much heat do you feel this puts on your factory flooring? Is your homemade heat shield holding up? My floor consist of 3/4″ plywood resting on 1″ poly iso foam. I would much prefer your method over cutting a larger hole for my whole unit to rest on metal. Do you have an opinion after years of experience?
Yo! The intake/fuel line don’t put out any heat, so all you need to worry about is the exhaust. With the heat shield and cutting back the flooring per clearance reqs from the installation manual, I felt it was good enough. No issues at all with our heater, but it’s up to you whether you think the clearance is enough. Good luck!
We installed a Wallas diesel heater/cooker unit in our Sprinter last autumn. Very similar procedure to what Dakota described on the blog. We cut away about 2″ of the flooring (factory floor over 1/2″ foam insulation) around the site for the hole. Drilled the hole, routed the exhaust line through it, and installed the factory gasket plus some fiberglass mat for extra heat protection. The exhaust line is routed across the rig behind the fuel tank and terminates just ahead of the left rear wheel.
You have a diesel Promaster? When we researched them in 2016 we didn’t find a diesel option…
Hi Dakota, thanks for sharing your experience on building your van. I am facing a similar project and spend a lot of time planning at the moment. Luckily I have foung your blog which is quite enjoyable. Especially your solution to store 4 bikes with a bed on top of it, is super interesting for us. We are passionate cyclists too and want to have a similar setup. Our van will be a Fiat Ducato, I think it is sold as a Ram Promaster in the US. Only thing I am concerned is the length of the bed as I am 6’2, so I will be right on the edge in terms of width with these kind of vans.
Anyway, I keep reading that Diesel powered heaters keep using “a lot” of electricity and that a gas heater is therefore more efficient. Is that right or do your solar panels easily cover this so you didn’t mention it? Here in Germany you have to do an official gas system check each year, so I reckon it would be more convenient to go with the Diesel powered heater as the amount of work must be somewhat similar.
Thanks in advance!
Regards from Germany
Howdy Lenn! We’ve had no problems with the power draw on the diesel heaters except when it’s cold, overcast and dark and we are parked in one spot for a few days. I forget what the current draw is, but it’s no more than a few amps at full power and much less usually. It’s just a fan. Nothing but positive things to say about our Espar heater!
Hey! Just a quick question. I have a 170” sprinter with the same insulation setup as you but I live in mine full time in New York and it’s regularly in the single digits here. I also go snowboarding at least once a week and yesterday it was around -8 which made me pretty sure I should invest in a heater after two years of just roughing it in a good sleeping bag. Would you still recommend the d2? Or do you think the d4 is more suited for my needs. I also do photography almost full time so not having to shove my laptop in my jacket on the way to coffee shop in order to get it to warm up enough to turn on would be nice.
Hey man! Cold fingers on the laptop are the worst. You may have read this in my post, but the thing you want is the unit to cycle on and off at high temps so that soot doesn’t build up. For a larger van, the D4 maywork, but I know many people in Montana and Colorado with the D2 that do fine. Insulation affects it, and you can always get some fingerless gloves… I bet you’ll be fine with either one though!
Dakota – thank you for the information. Quick question – why did you choose to do “Install Step #2”. Does the complete D2 kit come with all the hose fittings? Guessing there is a reason that you did that rather than using the supplied connectors.
Howdy Brian! Our Espar kit didn’t have the parts to attach to our diesel tank, hence step #2. (I briefly mentioned this in the paragraph above all the steps.) Maybe it has changed these days? If so, please let future readers know with a comment! Cheers.
Hey there, I’ll be hooking up the Espar in a Land Cruiser Troopy soon. “A” concern that I have is about power draw. I have a 100amp lithium battery which will run an Engel fridge and led cabin lights. Also a 120w solar panel. I see that you commented on only a few amps draw and that the heater will run for 3 days or so without draining the battery. I guess I will go with that and see how it does. Any assurances will be appreciated.
I will check out the muffler and high altitude kit. This truck will be headed to Patagonia so may find some uphill campsites……
I think you’ll be in good shape with the LI battery and sunshine. The biggest draw is the fridge, not the Espar, which only runs maybe 40% of the time and usually at 50% power. No guarantees of course, but I bet you’ll be in good shape. Make sure to hook your alternator up to your battery system so you charge things while driving – that’s the best fail-safe. Have a fine adventure!
Thanks. My 2015 MB170 passenger van comes equipped with an aux heater, which run s when engine runs. Is there a way to get that aux heater to run continuously from aux battery source when engine is NOT running?.
Do I still need to, install an extra diesel heater?
Thanks for reply.
Man, not sure on that one! My guess is that you can reroute wiring to a different switch and draw power while the van is off, but I haven’t seen this done and didn’t do it on our van so I don’t want to mislead you. I’d check on the forums if I were you!
people have done it. it requires a few relays and cutting into wiring. the espar in my sprinter is a water heater so to get heat out you also need to run the heater fan motor and you have all the heat loss in the engine block etc. probably not worth it. not sure if you need an aux water pump besides. my stock heater does put out heat for a while with the engine off so maybe it has a built in aux water pump?
i installed a separate bunk heater that puts out hot air and only need to power the fuel pump and blower from the battery. the heaters are expensive unless you get them used from ebay etc but then not all of them work. there are also the Russian knock offs but i have not tried one.
Thanks for the info. I have a 2006 Itaska Navion 23J (Sprinter 3500). It’s a 23′ long Winnebago motorhome with about 975 cubic feet inside and numerous, single pane windows. I removed the furnace, because I don’t want propane and I can’t power the fan all night boondocking. I’m planning on being at altitude a good bit, so the altitude kit will be installed. Because all diesel heaters de-rate at altitude, I’m looking to install the D4 so I have some extra capacity. At about 10,000 feet, the D4’s 4,000 watts is down to no more than 3,000 watts.
Do you think a D4 in a small motorhome makes sense? My interior is materially larger than a van.
Hi John, I think your thought process makes sense re: the D4. Worst-case, it just soots up a bit faster from running at lower capacity and requires more maintenance. Best-case, your motorhome is WARM and you’re stoked! Good luck.
How difficult would it be to install this heater in a 2008 Dodge Sprinter 144 after living in the van a while? We’re not sure if we will need it with how we plan to use the van.
What’s up, Travis. Installation difficulty depends entirely on how your current build is set up. Underneath access to the gas tank will be the same, so it depends where you put the heater. I’d recommend under the front passenger seat; lots of people dig that and I’d absolutely do it next time and not have a subwoofer under there.
As for power, run everything to the house batteries, not to the starter battery. You don’t really want anything pulling off the starter battery. Hope that helps.
And, would you recommend running the electrical to the house battery and not the engine battery?
You have motivated me to try and install my Chinese take off heater.
I do have a diesel tap on my sprinter, but wanted more information on connection. Is there more to the fuel line installation? I would think that tsp is sealed.
What did you do about the shorter electric cables? I plan on installing in the rear of my van. Thx
Hi Karen, you’ve got this! I didn’t extend my electric cables at all, so my installation location was dictated to some extent by that constraint. For the diesel tap, yes, there’s a cap on it that is easy to remove. I have pictures on this post of how I attached the fuel line from the heater to the tank. It’s straight forward enough. Good luck!
Just to second Dakota’s comments, we installed a Wallas heater/cooker in our Sprinter. The tap is capped, and the cap is easily removed. The tap includes a tube to the bottom of the fuel tank. Our Wallas came with an adaptor tubing that fit over the tap, and connects to the stove’s fuel line. Reasonably straightforward. Routing the fuel line under the rig is tedious but not difficult, apart from lying on my back under the van in November (but no rain as in Dakota’s case). We passed the line through existing holes in frame members to shield it from snagging. We padded the frame holes with rubber grommets (Home Depot I think) to pad the fuel line. Drill a hole in the floor, prime and paint, run the line up into the cabin to the heater. One final tip: before we made the final connection to the stove, I mouth-syphoned fuel into the fuel line from the tank. This made startup, once everything was connected, much easier. Dakota’s pics should illustrate many of the steps. Good luck
Thank you both for the feedback. During this shutdown, I should open everything and test the distance and finalize the location. You might hear back from me🤓
HI! This is a super helpful post and our fam is just few years behind you 🙂 We have the S2/D2L and want to do the exact mount you have on our wood floor.I’m worried having the fuel and intake/outake connections INSIDE the van is not safe from a fumes standpoint?? Is that true and did you do anything extra to seal those up inside the van (rather than having the seals under the van like most folks do)? THANK YOU!!!
Howdy Jenn. Good thing to check! For ours, the way the exhaust/intake works is that the fumes are released quite a ways away from the heater location using an exhaust hose. (I routed mine behind the left rear wheel.) The intake is similar – I brought mine in from the right side of the van. Make sure to separate the exhaust/intake, of course! Given that, you should be fine. Hundreds of people have followed my same install and I’ve never heard of anyone having issues with it, fwiw. Good luck!
Thank you! Yes of course we will have the exhaust tubes outside just concerned about the fittings being inside, but all right. Back at it tmr then!
How terrible it is to say “It’s a super easy install” Espar heater when in reality it takes certain tools and skill to carry out the installation. We have people come into our shop asking for help after they have attempted to do the installation themself because they read online that “It’s a super easy install”. Moreover, we have to charge more because of the blonder that they have done. Please we profesional ask of you people to not steer people into thinking that installation of this component is “super easy”. Please!!
Fair enough, Juan! Maybe it’s “super easy” with the caveat that you need to know how to use power tools and handle basic wiring? I know many blog readers who have installed their own Espars with no problems, but of course people need to assess their personal skills.