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Thread: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

  1. #1
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    Default Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Does anyone here have an Eberspacher or Dometic style cabin heater on their boat? I'm interested in installation details, in particular how your installation deals with the exhaust.

    These are are not the Dickinson gravity fed drip or wick style of heater. They are most used in caravans and campervans. Typically mounted out of sight in a locker space. Combustion air is ducted in. Exhaust is ducted out. Cabin air is blown over a heat exchanger and out one or more vents back into the cabin space.

    The exhaust is typically 1 inch or so flexible metal duct, limited to a couple of metres length, and runs quite hot.

    My reason for asking? Chinese knock offs are now very cheap, around $300 compared to a couple of thousand for the genuine article. They come without installation or operating instructions. In a van the exhaust just drops through the metal floor, and is a foot or two long. Easy. In a boat, not so simple.

    While I look forward to learning all of the reasons I should not buy a cheap Chinese knock off, I'd most like to read or see pictures of your installation.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    We had an Espar (Eberspacher) diesel cabin heater on our previous boat, installed by the PO. The heater was mounted in an aft cockpit lazarette and the exhaust was vented through a ~25mm dia thru-hull in the transom (with a plug to stop water ingress when not being used). The exhaust hose run was about 600mm and lagged with high temp insulation. Worked fine (tho' in our climate I ran it just once a year or so to check that it was all OK!). It was fed via a small dedicated fuel pump in a branch from the fuel line.
    I'd be wary of a cheap knock-off, ours was very much a set and forget device but a reasonably complex one nevertheless, so that the potential for unpleasant failures was there.....

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    My old and now dead Webasto furnace was in the engine compartment. It vented out through the side of the hull. Ducting ran into the aft cabin and forward into the head, main cabin, and fo'c'sle. When it was working, it worked well. You turned it on adjusted and thermostat and within a few minutes warm air came out of the vents.
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Thanks. From what I've found online the Chinese ones are clearly somewhat inferior as you'd expect, but seem to run well if properly installed. I'm looking at an engine compartment instal, with exhaust running up through a countertop and out the cabin top.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Please be very careful about exhaust and fire protection. I considered those type heaters. My fear with a cheaper build is exhaust or heat leaks.
    Do let us know how it works out.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    I'm very familiar with the Webasto variants, have installed a few they all work on the same principle.

    I would be mounting it in a remote sealed locker, a for safety, b for noise. Quite how the exhaust exits the boat is obviously important & likewise intake but just be a vented locker but they are simple things & brilliant when working right.

    The Chinese ones get a good review from fellow motorhomers who have them, there is also a Russian made one that is a more robust variant. In my experience they do not like being run for short periods, they coke up & need a clean out frequently if used like that. Whatever you do get a simple dial thermostat, the clockwork ones are the best, the digital ones are awful. Fit it with a bigger power supply than suggested to stop voltage drop that will trip out other things in my experience, the power demand is quite a lot on initial glowplug warmup & you are better off running it too hot & opening a window or vent rather than draining your battery if start stopping on the stat. Get the silencers exhaust & intake trust me & a couple of spare gasket kits & gauzes for ease of service in the future. Make sure its easy to remove for service without dropping stinky fuel everywhere, eg use a tap/valve on the fuel line near it.

    I have one in my Boxer van, which I take skiing, keeps the van warm down to -20c with ease & will use 10L of diesel in 3 days running 24/7 in those temps, you can half that fuel usage on a low heat demand.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Extremely popular heaters throughout Europe.One small warning-don't locate inflatable fenders near the exhaust outlet as they make a very loud bang when the plastic softens and the pressure causes them to pop.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Thanks Sideways and John. I've also been on a facebook page dedicated to the chineberspachers, and they support what you say about the digital controls, although most of the trouble seems to be with Chinese characters and absence of instructions, rather than actual faults. But as soon as Imstarted looking I was attracted to the simple dial type controller. I gather they can slow the flow of diesel to control heat output, rather than just cycle on and off, which seems good in terms of using less glow plug power. The Chinese mufflers seem to be junk, poorly made, spot welded, leaky and prone to fall apart. There's been some suggestion of problems with condensation in a vertical exhaust dropping back down into the unit. Not sure whether that's real,or just internet speculation. I figure if the exhaust exits at the base as designed, and then loops back up, any condensation will just settle in the bottom of the loop and evaporate on next startup.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Pardys took the wick burner out of a kerosine space heater and put it into a cast iron heating stove. Larry rigged up a day tank to keep it operating and their cabin on "Talisen" was always warm and snug.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    I worked on a troller for 2 1/2 seasons that had a wick burner in a shipmate style stove.

    Here is the stove...never mind the Coleman on top

    Elect a clown expect a circus

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    heater.jpg

    It was spotting the funny little muffler on the exhaust of the auxilliary / parked car heater in the diesel X5 that made me explore the concept more. It exits the car under the front passenger seat. Lovely little unit.
    "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome and charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime" Mark Twain... so... Carpe the living sh!t out of the Diem

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Quote Originally Posted by The Bigfella View Post
    heater.jpg

    It was spotting the funny little muffler on the exhaust of the auxilliary / parked car heater in the diesel X5 that made me explore the concept more. It exits the car under the front passenger seat. Lovely little unit.
    These are commonly used on Narrow Boats (River House Barges here in the UK) I have one in my Diesel Landcruiser retrofitted, they warm water to about 75degC so can be used with a calorifier etc. Standard fit on many Euro spec diesel cars to provide working heaters & faster engine warm up for emissions regs. Early ones will run off a 12v switch, later runs run on Canbus.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Quote Originally Posted by johngsandusky View Post
    Please be very careful about exhaust and fire protection. I considered those type heaters. My fear with a cheaper build is exhaust or heat leaks.
    Do let us know how it works out.

    Agreed John, I'd be very careful.
    '' You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know. ''
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobcat View Post
    I worked on a troller for 2 1/2 seasons that had a wick burner in a shipmate style stove.

    Here is the stove...never mind the Coleman on top

    Theres so much going on in that picture! It's absolutely gorgeous. But absolutely not what I want. Thanks anyway.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    when I worked on the boat, things were not so run down. I kept the stove blacked and shined up the brass rails that held the pots in place
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    That stove needs a good wire brushing and a bit of stove polish!
    Jay

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    No! Then it would look so out of place. Look at that tatty old blanket left hanging out of the bunk. The funky diesel pipe on the bulkhead. The roughed in rot repair at the bottom of the cabin side, the funky wood on the cabin sides, the roofing flashing or whatever it is holding the stove pipe together. The whole thing is a perfect study in dilapidation. I'd love to see the engine room and steering station.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    This boat was not always so run down. But when the fishing restrictions prevented her owner from making a living, things went bad

    The pilothouse is similar to this one:

    Elect a clown expect a circus

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Thanks Bobcat, but no, I'd love to see the actual pilot house. The beer and coffee stains on the chart table, the old coke can overflowing with fag ends, the greyed window frames, peeling varnish, the missing door handle, the crusty foul weather gear that's been hanging on a hook untouched these last few years, the mouldy ceiling, and the rats nest of wiring, some disused, some still in service, if only to run a fan and an old TV. Sad, even tragic. But there's a beauty to the decay.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    You may be very pleased with what she looked like once she was pulled up after sinking at the dock, likely following a hit and run collision...

    Elect a clown expect a circus

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Oh, no that's too sad. She looks like a lovely old boat. I hope you have good memories of her.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    A diesel heater is similar to a diesel stove and needs proper clearances for the exhaust. Probably double wall pipe and a proper thru the deck fitting to protect the fiberglass from too much heat. If the Chinese heater is less efficient then more BTUs are going out the exhaust making it hotter than a better brand.
    A safe install would probably be a exhaust made for a small diesel stove.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    I'll dig around in my shop. I may still have some Espar info. I helped design our first installation in Freightliner trucks to heat the sleeper and recall some cautions that were recommended. I do that the Espars had a flame sensor that turned off the fuel pump if the temp in the combustion chamber dropped too low as the result of the flame being blown out by too much wind backfeeding through the exhaust. As I recall they needed 25 amps on startup and shutdown (ignition then was via a glow plug, which also ran for a few minutes at shutdown to clean out the combustion chamber), but only drew a few amps running on low and under ten on high (fan speeds...new ones may be more efficient...I did this work 30 years ago).

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Thanks Hugh, sounds very similar to the chineberspachers.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    One thing I think they've improved on since I was playing with them is that most now have a piezo igniter instead of a glow plug. I have no idea what the copies have. That makes setting up the wiring a bit problematic but it'll be easy enough to check to see what's there. I'll still go through the boxes in my shop ( I still have one of the old test units I was going to install) and see what documentation is there.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    The Chinese ones still use a glow plug, with the high current draw on startup.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Oooooh I went aboard a friends camper trailer with a diesel,heater fitted today. Absolutely awesome. Definitely going to go ahead with this. Toasty warm cabin in the middle of winter. Bring it on!

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    A friend had one in a boat I sailed on a number of times. The end result was just like hot air heat in a home - kept the boat toasty in Maine November sailing. His is a 'glass boat & had the exhaust running out the transom. My concern would be running it through wood, as the exhaust is indeed very hot. I've looked into it for my boat, but I've never come up with a good place for the exhaust. Don't forget that it's emitting burned diesel - so it stinks/ain't good for you. On Carrol's boat, if the current turned the boat at the mooring so that the transom was upwind, the smell would be pretty bad.

    Are there exhaust fittings designed for running through wood? The dealer I talked to (a number of years ago) said that he didn't know of any that were approved for wood. We're too small a market I guess.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    My diesel furnace now defunct went through through a fitting on the port side. It never got too hot but there was some soot on occasion
    Last edited by Bobcat; 06-04-2018 at 10:29 AM.
    Elect a clown expect a circus

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    I climbed underneath my friends camper. It had about 2 metres of 1 inch flexible stainless steel exhaust hose, with a standard muffler. It was very hot close to the heater. Near the end it was hot to touch, but I was quite able to keep my hand on the exhaust without pain. This was with the heater running on low. No doubt it would be hotter on a higher setting. Insulating the timber from the exhaust will be an issue, but I think in the UK there are hundreds of yachts and canal boats running eberspacher and like heaters, so I'm pretty sure it's doable.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    It is also worth remembering that something too hot to touch can be a long way from an ignition temperature. We cant keep touching a metal kettle full of boiling water, but there's no way the outside of that kettle will ignite anything.
    There is nothing quite as permanent as a good temporary repair.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    There's a Facebook page dedicated to problems with Chineberspachers. Learning a lot from there. Mostly van installations. Some people have made portable units, installing the heater in a plastic or metal tool box and running a duct into their tent or van or chook house or whatever. No problems with plastic boxes melting from exhaust heat. So, it being my birthday in a couple of weeks, the good wife has hit the Buy It Now button on eBay.

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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Y View Post
    No! Then it would look so out of place. Look at that tatty old blanket left hanging out of the bunk. The funky diesel pipe on the bulkhead. The roughed in rot repair at the bottom of the cabin side, the funky wood on the cabin sides, the roofing flashing or whatever it is holding the stove pipe together. The whole thing is a perfect study in dilapidation. I'd love to see the engine room and steering station.
    Dilapidated, yet so full of character... I could look at that picture all day. Makes me want to be in that cabin with the fire going and that ratty tatty blanket ready to burrow into when I get sleepy.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    Exactly.

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Eberspacher/Dometic type cabin heaters

    We have an Eberspacher and live aboard in the UK. Sometimes at anchor, sometimes in the marina.


    We now hardly use the Eberspacher. It uses so much electric heater, and diesel, it's something we use on special occasions only, and only ever when the engine is running or we're plugged in to the mains - at least during startup. It draws something like 13 amps for a good couple of minutes at startup!


    On advice from the installer we use only white diesel. It still coked up after a few months use on the lower settings. We were advised to only run it on maximum.
    Last edited by Johnywallter; 06-01-2018 at 03:22 PM.

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