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Old 11-10-2015, 02:07 PM   #1
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small electric heater for rb sprinter

We just took possesion of our Sprinter RB sportsmobile. We love it so far. We went very basic on the build. No heater or air-conditioner or hot water heater. We were looking for a step up from sleeping in the back of our truck! lol So basic is perfect. I was wondering , however, if we want to get a small heater just to take the chill off if there is a good one out there that won't use all of our battery in a few minutes!! We have used the heater while running the van and it works for what we have needed so far but wondered what other people used.
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Old 11-10-2015, 03:02 PM   #2
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Re: small electric heater for rb sprinter

W/O shore power? Basically no, they will suck down a battery in a very quick time. Consider that a 700 watt microwave pulls quite a bit of power. Typical small home AC ceramic heaters can pull in the neighborhood of 1500 watts. They do make small 12vDC 200 watt ceramic heaters that would pull about 18 amps but even that is a lot and I really don't know how well the things would heat compared to how much battery reserves that it would suck down. I like to keep my continuous nightly loads down to below 5 amps DC with the addition of the fridge running that adds a few more amps when it cycles on/off. You might consider a 12v electric blanket. These pull about 5 amps and many have a timer that will kick off w/i a specific time after the bed is warmed up.

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Old 11-10-2015, 03:05 PM   #3
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Re: small electric heater for rb sprinter

You would need a very large battery bank to run a electric heater off of it. We use a 800/1500 watt heater in our van on cold days (on shore power). At 12 volts 800 watts would draw at least 67 amps and if converting 12 volts to 110 volts AC would probably draw about 80 amps off of your battery bank. Assuming you have two 115 amp house batteries you could heat for a little over an hour before your batteries would need charging.

If you are plugged into shore power no problem with a 1500 watt heater.
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Old 11-10-2015, 06:01 PM   #4
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Re: small electric heater for rb sprinter

When plugged into shore power, we use a Hi/Lo ceramic heater that we have had for 30 years. I think it's 750/1500 watts. We have slept when the temps were about zero and been fairly comfortable. Won't run you out at zero, but makes it quite doable. As mentioned, even 750 watts at 12 volts is 60 amps. House batteries wouldn't last very long.

A friend of ours uses a tent heater in his tent that uses the green Coleman canisters, but I wonder about using one of those in a van. Maybe not enough air supply.
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Old 11-10-2015, 09:52 PM   #5
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Re: small electric heater for rb sprinter

Steve_382: We also use hi/lo ceramic heaters with internal fans when we are plugged into shore power. You cannot run an electric heater off a house battery for any length of time to be usable. For a while before we installed the furnace, we would start the engine in the van in the mornings, run the ceramic heaters off a big inverter/charger, and then supplement with the heater from the van's engine (which would take at least a half hour to heat the radiator fluid to a usable temp).

Before I bought the current van, I tried a Mr. Buddy portable propane cannister-type heater. It would always shut off during the night and be impossible to restart. At high altitudes, say at a ski resort, its low oxygen sensor would trigger even with the window cracked. Additionally, propane creates a lot of moisture, so in my experience, a window had to be cracked to use it.

Our current van has a diesel engine and so I went with a diesel furnace and am quite happy with it. I believe daveb has a diesel furnace alsol, so maybe he will chime in with his experience.

Bottom line is that the most efficient way to produce heat is to burn something, which for us will likely be burning liquid fuel. Either fuel from your van's engine to the heat radiator fluid to run the van's heater. Or fuel from a natural gas or other electric grid power plant if you are running electric heaters off shore power. Or propane or diesel fuel burning in an aftermarket furnace you install in your van. The latter approach is the most efficient way to make heat in your van.
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Old 11-10-2015, 10:56 PM   #6
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Re: small electric heater for rb sprinter

It seems fueled heat is the way to go over electric unless plugged into shore power or using a generator. Being the Sprinters are diesel, the best choice is a diesel fired unit similar to the Espar unit I run. They pull very low DC amperage, have low fuel consumption and are fairly quiet. I have been comfortable into the single digits with the top up and sleeping up top in a 20 degree bag. I have the D-4 model but many use the smaller D-2 with good results. The problem is they're kind of expensive and should be installed by someone familiar with those types of products.
A lot of people are happy with their propane heaters. Also kind of expensive to install. A few members have Olympian Wave 3/6 Catalytic Safety Heaters. Might also be a good choice considering the price but I don't know how well they work or if they cause moisture issues. wave 6
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Old 11-11-2015, 04:12 AM   #7
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Re: small electric heater for rb sprinter

We have no propane tank but have had good luck with the Mr. Heater Little Buddy propane heater. We only use it for 3-season camping. If bumped it has a instant off feature. It sits on the floor in a confined space and occasionally shuts off by itself because it has a low oxygen sensor. We also have a propane alarm on board. The built in spark starter doesn't always light it but always starts with a lighter. It's small enough to store easily. We don't run it while sleeping but rely on good down sleeping bags. We also carry a small portable 120v electric heater and of course on cold mornings use the engine to blast heat the van in no time. Since it uses the same 1lb. propane canisters as our camp stove it makes having fuel easy. If I had a propane tank on board I would love to have a built in heater.
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Old 11-12-2015, 06:54 PM   #8
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Re: small electric heater for rb sprinter

Thanks for the info!! We have a great -25 degree sleeping bag for night, however I was a little concerned about trying to change clothes or brush teeth when it is so cold in the van. We can start the van engine and warm it up that way for sure. We may get a small heater for when we plug in, sounds like if we are in the boonies, we will have to figure out what we would feel comfortable doing. Alot of good suggestions. Thanks
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Old 11-15-2015, 09:24 PM   #9
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Re: small electric heater for rb sprinter

We use the Mr. Heater Little Buddy heater as well. In the mornings we kick it on for 15 minutes or so which gets the van warmed up enough to change clothes & do whatever we need to do to get ready for the day.
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