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Old 11-24-2017, 06:57 PM   #1
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propane heat vs Espar

My wife and I are in line for a May '18 build of a Sprinter RB110S high-top Sportsmobile. After working on options for our build for several months, I believe I have everything figured out except whether to go with the propane or diesel (Espar D4) system for heat/hot water.

Without much direct evidence, I believe propane systems are less trouble-prone than the diesel. That feeling plus the fact that the propane system is approx. $1500 cheaper lead me to initially choose propane. However, on a visit to Sportsmobile West earlier this month I was told that the propane tank would have to be located in the space for the spare tire so the spare tire would have to be moved to the back of the van, necessitating the purchase of the $1500 spare tire carrier. That puts the propane system essentially on par with the diesel cost-wise. So now I am not sure what we should do.

I was wondering if any one has some useful input on the following questions to help me decide.

1. Is there no other place under the floor of an RB110S to put a propane tank other than where the spare tire goes? (Note we have a marine toilet with an above floor black-water tank.)

2. Are propane systems really less troublesome than diesel systems? (I've found a number of threads on the forum relating to various troublesome Espar issues but no really serious ones regarding propane systems.)

3. Is there a decent alternative to the Sportsmobile spare tire carrier for the back of the van that doesn't cost $1500? I've seen some really cheap ones on line but am afraid they are cheap in build as well as price.

I should note that it's not really a showstopper not have a built in stove if we go with the diesel system.

Sorry for the long winded post--it reflects how much space in my head this issue has been occupying as of late!
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Old 11-24-2017, 07:20 PM   #2
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I installed my Espar D4 over two years ago and all I have to do is either press the ON or Off button.
I will eventually give it a tune up but.not needed.
What maintenance?
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Old 11-24-2017, 07:57 PM   #3
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Thanks Rob, that's encouraging. Do you run your Espar monthly as suggested?
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Old 11-24-2017, 08:30 PM   #4
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Are propane systems really less troublesome than diesel systems?
There are advantages to using a single fuel. I thought it was troublesome to have to find propane in addition to gas or diesel.

If you like to cook on a gas stove then there is a reason for some propane. It does lasts a long time if all you are doing is cooking. Not true if you are heating with it.

Some use propane in the refrig but a compressor refrig will cool quicker, works when not level, etc.

I think propane is on its way out of the picture for class B's.
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Old 11-24-2017, 09:33 PM   #5
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I think propane is on its way out of the picture for class B's.
Interesting viewpoint!
But I've gotta understand you a bit better.


For class B's that have diesel engines, I can see how this is a pretty logical conclusion to draw. But there's tons of Class B's on the road with gasoline engines. (And tons more that continue to be manufactured.)

And a gasoline-powered camper van still needs a stove/furnace.

So unless you're also thinking that diesel engines themselves will be replacing gasoline engines for all Class B's, then I'm curious how you see the big picture.

(I don't happen to think that gasoline engines themselves are about to be replaced completely by diesel engines anytime soon for Class B's. (And I doubt you do either.)) Transits, ProMasters all still offering valid gas options (EcoBoost!) which aren't painting a picture of the diesel engine's triumph anytime soon over gasoline.

So I'm guessing that you are probably thinking....
.....that people will stop installing propane tanks in gasoline-powered Class B's, and in their place install auxiliary diesel fuel tanks instead (strictly for powering their stoves and furnaces)?

Granted, at first blush this idea does have merit!
Forum member Glider went this route and installed a diesel-powered combination cooktop/stove/furnace in her 5.4 gasoline powered van.

It would be nice to be able to easily get fuel for cooking/heat....that you could pump yourself.....at almost any gas station, even if you have to deal with putting gasoline in one of your van's tanks and diesel in the other. Gotta admit, I get pretty annoyed with the hassle of getting a knowledgeable attendant to reliably refill the van's propane tank.

Intriguing.
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Old 11-24-2017, 10:34 PM   #6
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I didn't know that was suggested lol.
No I don't run it monthly during the summer but it's basically in use once the temps get below 70. In N.E Florida that happens from late October til April.
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Old 11-24-2017, 10:35 PM   #7
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Correction: Perhaps it does not matter for the purposes of this discussion, but it is the Espar D5 heat and hot water system we are considering, not the D4 I mentioned in my original post.
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Old 11-24-2017, 11:13 PM   #8
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Do you run your Espar monthly as suggested?
Not me. I just went over 8 months w/o operating the Espar cab or water heater. I don't encourage that (YMMV) but it happened and everything fired up fine, even after a long spring/summer heat spell. I use a cetane/fuel modifier in the diesel. I do also have a propane system added to run a propane stove (SEMA-2 burner) but I rarely cook inside. A diesel stove top would be nice but it wasn't affordable at the time. While cooking inside I'm usually boiling water/coffee & that type stuff....just me. On the other hand the diesel furnace runs all night keeping me warm and uses practically no DC power. I'd rate the espar airtronic as the #1 best options on my list. Sitting in shorts in a balmy 70ish temp while it's 30 outside is a nice feeling...

Stoves? Mostly I cook outside. I do like a stove that can backup as a heater though... like (Glider?) installed. To date most of the issues with my Espar have been user issues Sorry I don't know about the other Espar systems out there.
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Old 11-25-2017, 12:08 AM   #9
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Interesting viewpoint!
But I've gotta understand you a bit better.
No I don't think diesel is going to take over. Seems to be going the other way. I like gas because I idle a lot.

If I am plugged in I use an electric space heater to keep warm and my water heater can also operate on electric.

If I am not plugged in I idle my gas engine. That uses about 1/2 gal per hour. It heats the van (dash, floor and rear) and the water. It also keeps the batteries topped off.

In my old Class A I had propane heat. I found that the heater fan would run most of the night and run the batteries down. That would auto start the generator and I would be running the generator while heating with propane.

With my class B I have no additional generator and no propane. It is a lot quieter, simpler, cheaper, and more reliable than my old RV was.
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Old 11-25-2017, 08:23 AM   #10
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Not me. I just went over 8 months w/o operating the Espar cab or water heater. issues with my Espar have been user issues
Good to know that running it regularly does not seem to be an issue. I'm more of a use it when you need it and forget about it between times kind of guy. The Sprinter manual says to run the auxiliary heater (also an espar I believe)
at least once a month to keep in good condition. Problem is it will only come on when the outside temperature is below 39 degrees. Even here in Montana it does not get that cold every month. MB service folks were clueless about how to deal with that particular quandary. I decided the best I could do would be to run it once in a while when it is cold enough--and when I happen to remember to do it.
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