Propane/Heating

My wife and I are beginning our Van conversion. We have a 2011 Ford E250.

Propane/Heating Questions

  • What safety concerns are the when storing propane in the van?
    *Best placement for the propane tank, outside, inside, back?
  • What precautions do you take?
  • What are the Canadian legal guidelines for carrying and operating propane within a camper van? (particularly for BC/Alberta and Saskatchewan)
  • Which is the best hose to use and run from propane in back of van to front kitchen area?
  • What do you do to prevent condensation from propane heating?
  • Which propane heater is most reliable? Most fuel efficient? And most useful for harsh Canadian winters?

Greetings!

While not necessarily answering your questions, one of the best things I’ve ever done was switch from propane to kerosene/diesel. For me, it has been both safer & cheaper, and doesn’t cause any condensation problems.

When I was using propane, the heater would wake me up all night long, every 10-15 minutes when it would click on or off, and the fan also used a noticeable amount of power. My kerosene heater is totally silent, and the fan is heat powered so it doesn’t require any external power source.

If you haven’t already purchased your equipment, I would at least explore the alternatives to propane before making your final decisions.

I’ve done winters down to -60°f with my kerosene heaters. Between my stoves & heaters I have about 60k BTU available, which really speeds up the raising of the temperature. Once comfortable, probably about 3k BTU to maintain the inside temperature. I wouldn’t want to try any of the frozen north winters with any less than a bare minimum of 20k BTU of heat available. None of the dinky camping/parking heaters are going to cut it.

12v heated blankets can really up your comfort level too.

Cheers!


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid



@ Van_Dweller

Thanks for the info! I think you may have mentioned this to me before, I looked into Kerosene as well as Diesel.

2 things I noticed about Kerosene?
-It leaves a film when using it unless it is properly ventilated
-Kerosene does not seem to be as widely available as Propane

Unless my information is mistaken?

For Diesel I noticed that,
Diesel heaters require
-12v power + fuel so it uses 2 resources instead of 1
-Diesel requires a diesel tank which is costly to buy and install under the van.

Again perhaps my information is mistaken?

As for heated blankets, brilliant. I’ve heard of others using them and it’s now on my shopping list.

If you’re going to have propane in the van anyway, such as for cooking, then get a propane heater such as a Propex. Good thing about them is that they use a heat exchanger, so the inside air doesn’t pick up moisture from combustion like kerosene or a standalone catalytic propane heater. Be sure to properly install the propane tank in a sealed locker with a vent to the outside, follow the heater instructions exactly, and run a propane detector in the van. You should also install a carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector.

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@Van_Dweller

Yeah I was a bit curious about the Kerosene as well. I think I’ve seen you mention before, but where do you pick that up at? Also, what type of storage do you use for that and where do you store it? Like is it better to be put outside, or would inside be alright as well? Is it cost efficient and do you use it for anything other than heating or solely for heating?

I’m interested in a diverse portfolio for energy capabilities, so wouldn’t mind adding Kerosene to the mix but I’m super unfamiliar. Only thing Kerosene I’ve ever even seen in my life is the old Kerosene Lamps, but really only in a “my mother was an antique dealer” kind of way, haha.

Greetings!

2 things I noticed about Kerosene?
-It leaves a film when using it unless it is properly ventilated
-Kerosene does not seem to be as widely available as Propane

You need proper ventilation regardless of the fuel type or appliance types you use. Ventilation is one of the things that helps prevent mold/moisture buildup. Never noticed a film on anything other than the glass of my kerosene lantern which I clean every year or so.

While I don’t know if this is true with all kerosene appliances, mine all use wicks, not pressurized kerosene. The wick type I use will work on a wide range of fuels, anything that works with a wick, including kerosene, diesel, alcohol, vegetable oil, lamp oil, etc. I like kerosene because it burns so clean, but if it isn’t readily available, diesel is always handy everywhere. The newer low sulfur diesel burns much cleaner than the older diesel did. Kerosene is usually available at most gas stations in farm country.

I carry two 7 gallon jugs of kerosene with me, which is enough for all my needs for over a year unless I’m wintering in the frozen north.

Many of the heaters & furnaces do require 12v for a fan, and also to make them work. There are portable, unvented propane heaters that don’t require anything but propane, but they also produce a ton of moisture into the air which is not a good thing. I don’t care for the ones which either require power, or produce a lot of moisture.

My kerosene heater requires no power, and produces a dry heat, which I like. They have heat powered wood stove fans which require no electricity or batteries. I place one of those on top of my kerosene heater to circulate the heat throughout the van without the need of an additional power source. It’s the best, cheapest, and most fuel efficient solution I’ve found so far.

Regardless of choice of fuel, smoke & carbon monoxide detectors are highly recommended, as well as a propane detector if using propane. As I was putting groceries away the other day, a diesel Sprinter pulled in beside me and set off my carbon monoxide detector with it’s exhaust. That really drove home the importance of detectors to me. That could have happened while I was sleeping through no fault of my own, my van, or my equipment.

Cheers!


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid



I can’t see how burning something inside the van doesn’t produce moisture. When hydrocarbons (fossil fuels) are burned, carbon dioxide and water are produced. (CnHn+O2n >> CO2+H2O). Burning kerosene, or anything else produces water. The only way to not produce water is to isolate the burning of these fuels from the interior air, with a furnace type heater such as a Propex or other heater with a heat exchanger that keeps inside air isolated from outside air. The only way to keep moisture down (and supply enough oxygen for breathing, and expel CO2) when burning something inside is to keep the van ventilated, which makes those appliances less efficient.

@Van_Dweller

Thank you again for more information. What kind of Kerosene heater do you own and where did you purchase it?

Greetings!

Kerosene is available at many gas stations in rural America. It’s used a lot on farms and farm equipment. It’s roughly the same price as diesel.

I use kerosene for heating, cooking, and one of my forms of lighting. There’s something about the soft warm glow of a kerosene lantern on a chilly evening that is very enjoyable. For friends, we have converted many 3-way fridges over to run on liquid candles instead of propane. A future project of mine is to create a liquid candle powered swamp cooler.

If I need large amounts of hot water, I use a fire coil which I can use on my stove, my heater, or even in a campfire.

I keep two 7 gallon jugs of kerosene inside my van, which can last up to a year or more. Since it isn’t pressurized or explosive, it is extremely safe to transport & store.

I try to keep my AC/DC power needs as low as possible, even though I am guilty of enjoying a few AC/DC amenities. I find it simpler and easier to just use less power, than it is to produce more power. Even with the minimal amount of local driving I do, I have plenty of power for my needs without the need, expense, or headaches of solar panels, or big expensive battery banks.

Cheers!


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid



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Greetings!

@Axel

I have ventilation going at almost all times. While not knowing or really caring about the science of things, I can report real world results.

When I first turn on my heat, the humidity in my van will go up by about 5% before it starts dropping. Once it starts dropping, it will drop to well below the original humidity level inside. With a propane Mr. Buddy heater, the indoor humidity would just go up, never down.

While propane heat would steam up my windows, my kerosene heat defrosts and dries them. Switching to kerosene totally eliminated any condensation problems.

Cheers!


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid



Greetings!

I generally buy my kerosene stuff used. Sometimes thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, or Craigslist.

For the last couple of years I’ve been wintering in Minneapolis & Duluth MN. so I picked up a big 23k BTU kerosene heater for the harsh winters. It’s a Sears brand, but I don’t know the model #. I paid $10 for it, and $5 each for my 2 kerosene heater/cookers at a yard sale. They are Bunsen Sports Heater/ Stoves. They’ll go from simmer (unknown BTU’s) to maybe 12k BTU’s on high. Many people use this stuff for camping.

I don’t know that brand makes much difference, but BTU’s and the ability to use them for both heating & cooking does make a difference. For most people the two heaters/cookers would fulfill all their needs.

sears_23k_btu_kero_heater

Cheers!


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid



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Hi guys. I’ve been looking at heating options recently, and diesel seems the simpler and cheaper option for heating air, however I haven’t found a diesel option that heats air AND water. Does anyone know if they exist? Alternatively, for those who use diesel for heating air, what do they use for cookers and water heating?
Thanks

You can definitely use diesel for cooking and heating everything. You can also buy combo heater/coolers that are diesel. Look in the marine space where diesel is a common fuel
and you may find what you are looking for.

We simply use Mr buddy. We typically don’t need much more and venting if it fine. We rarely use any heat until morning when we just get up. Other than that it is layers and blankets

Sleeping in your car without ventilation is enough to start causing moisture buildup enough to need to defog the windows. Anything burnt inside will do the same.

Just don’t leave any bare metal anywhere if you can help it. It is a quick point for moisture buildup and thermal bridging is a real thing.

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Thanks @Bretly! Will take a look in to the marine world too :slight_smile:

@Van_Dweller

This is brilliant thank you!

One other question, you said you can go a year on 2x 7 gallons (14 gallons) total, nnless you winter up North. How much Kerosene do you think you normally go through when wintering up North?

@Van_Dweller

I should have included this in my previous reply.

-How many Gallons do you go through when wintering up North?
-How do you safely transport 14 gallons of Kerosene?
-Is there any federal Canadian regulations or Provincial regulations to be aware of?

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Greetings!

@OllieJK

I’m currently using the Sports Heater’s above for cooking. They’re great and very adjustable. Since the fuel isn’t pressurized, there are no dangers if the flame goes out. More like if you blow out a candle.

For my sinks, I use trigger spray bottles for water delivery, and a weed sprayer for my shower. I sit them in a window in the sun for solar heated hot water. If I need hot water at other times, I just heat it on the stove, or if I need a lot of hot water, I use a fire coil to heat as much as I want. The fire coil will work on both my stove & heater, so it does heat both air & water.

One of pet peeves in the RV’s I’ve owned was the amount of propane they used to keep water hot when it wasn’t even needed. Those water heaters used more propane than everything else combined. I turned mine off and just heated water the old fashioned way.

I’ve heard of the units you’ve described, but have never seen one in use.


@TyTy

Re: Kerosene use in extremely cold weather.

There are many factors at play here. Since I have a window van, sunny days can provide quite a bit of free heat. Maintaining the temperature can use very little fuel, while raising the temperature can use considerably more. The winter before last, I was turning off my heat when I was out of my van, and at most I was using 2 gallons per week. Last winter I just left my heat on constantly, and averaged 1 gallon per week. Outside temperatures, wind, snow, etc. of course are all unpredictable variables. To be safe & prepared, as soon as one jug was empty, I’d refill it, so I always a full jug to use while waiting to refill the empty one.

Re: Transporting kerosene etc.

Unlike gasoline or propane, kerosene isn’t explosive. A lit match tossed into kerosene or diesel will put out the match, so it’s pretty safe. They have different jugs available for gas, diesel, & kerosene, so my jugs are specifically made for kerosene.

I’m in the USA, so I’m not familiar with Canadian laws/regulations etc.

Cheers!


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid



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Webasto and Eberspächer (espar in americas) make RV diesel heaters that heat both air and water. If I only remembered the model names just now :smiley: But they do exist.

Planar is diesel air heater (russian copy of webasto) and Binar is the water heating copy of webasto then, I believe…

Also, if you are searching marine parts, look for Wallas diesel cooktops. Some of the old models can be retrofitted with new top cover that includes a fan. It allows the cooktop to become a diesel air heater.