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Old 01-16-2016, 09:48 PM   #1
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How to stay warm at altitude?

I am planning on buying our used Sportsmobile soon, just haven't found it quite yet. Part of that planning is figuring out what's on the "Must Have" list. One condition is that it's got to have a proven combination of features that keep the interior warm, especially at altitude. We live at 4000ft but play at 10,000ft often and love winter in the desert and mountains. I've explored the heater threads a bit but it's hard to cull out the important stuff. BTW, we plan on getting a E350 RB V10 with penthouse, and I envision propane for heat.

Can anyone offer some wisdom on what we should look for to get what we need? Or failures? I realize this could mean anything from furnaces to insulation... just not sure what is "standard" and what add-ons make the difference.

Thanks! This is still the best forum ever.
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Old 01-16-2016, 10:27 PM   #2
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If I had a gas engine and was unable to find a well tested petrol cab furnace, I'd install a small diesel tank to feed a D-4. I think my espar is the #1 upgrade when I winter camp. I'm biased to Espar considering how well it has worked for me at every altitude (to just shy of 12,000') so others might have a different solution.
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Old 01-16-2016, 10:38 PM   #3
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Our old van had an Espar D2 diesel fired furnace. The new build is not diesel, so we went with the smaller Propex propane furnace. On paper, the Propex isn't that much smaller than the D2, but the D2 noticeably outperformed the Propex without a doubt. If you upsized from the D2 to the D4, I would agree with Dave that you would be a warm and happy camper.
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Old 01-16-2016, 11:25 PM   #4
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I think espar makes a gasoline powered heater...
Im very satisfied with my Espar D4 diesel heater.
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Old 01-17-2016, 12:09 AM   #5
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So Espars run off diesel exclusively I take it, and I presume they are somehow hooked in directly to the fuel tank? Everyone seems to swear by them which is good if you've got a diesel van. But even if I had to install a small diesel tank and Espar D4 to camp in really cold temps, it might still be better than a propane furnace? Is that what I'm hearing?
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Old 01-17-2016, 12:15 AM   #6
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Espar makes petrol (gasoline) based heaters as well. Check with Greg at Lubrication Specialist. The gas units can be a bit hard to find but I am pretty sure he can make it happen. The gas based version of the D4 (Diesel) is a B4.

Espar Diesel Heaters & Espar Heater Parts by the Lubrication Specialist
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Old 01-17-2016, 01:02 AM   #7
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We use a 19000 BTU heater installed at SMB North...I'll have to look at the make...It's propane, and works very well. The coldest nights we've been in were in low twenties...kicked on quite few times that night (topdown,slept on GOucho) but kept us warm and toasty...Others have talked about a "little buddy" type heater, but they take up just as much room, if not more than the built in, and you have to carry extra cans instead of a built in tank...
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Old 01-17-2016, 03:32 AM   #8
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I've used a Mr buddy heater for over 5 years, it works fine but then two negatives about it possibly three.
1 obviously the safety factor.
2 there is no thermostat, so it's either on or off.
3 long-term costs.
And 4th it creates a lot of moisture inside.
A very huge positive about it is that it's silent. Excellent from boondocking and camping.

But it was time to step up and get a proper heater, I hated waking up in the middle of the night to change the tank while it was 20 degrees outside.
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Old 01-17-2016, 08:20 AM   #9
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Sorry - just re-read that you are buying a used SMB. I'd guess any furnace that was installed (typically the Suburban on a gas model SMB with propane tank I think) should be fine to conquer the temps you are looking at. I can't vouch for how anything works at 10k feet - hopefully others can chime in with that.

Any installed furnace should be fine in the colder temps, depending on how much space you are heating (ie, if it is really cold you may opt to leave the poptop down to reduce heat loss and volume to be heated).
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Old 01-17-2016, 09:21 AM   #10
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Can't comment on functionality at altitude yet but I've got a Propex HS2211 and it puts out 6500 BTU's per the specs, same as an Espar D2.

As mentioned, Espar makes a gasoline model as well....you'll have to drop the fuel tank to modify for the fuel pickup same as the diesel version. IIRC Sportsmobile will only install the diesel Espar for some reason.

As far as propex units go, the HS2211 is equivalent to the HS2000 (both 6500 BTU's on high), but the HS2211 is a newer model which is quieter and can be mounted inside or outside the van. The HS2000 is not designed for outside mounting. Propex also sells an HS2800 which puts out 9700 BTUs on high.

One advantage of a Propex or Espar over a suburban is that you don't need to poke any holes in the side of your van for intake/exhaust.

...One other tidbit.....A poptop is a heck of lot less insulated than a fixed top when deployed.....
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