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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been thinking about adding an Espar air or hydronic heater to my van, but not really sure about it. Then I thought maybe if I had a remote starter, I could when camping and waking up in the middle of the night, start the engine for a bit and get some heat or even ac cool air to relieve the situation. The remote starter could be helpful for many other situations that I could think of. Price of the remote starter would be less than the heater installation.

If I went with a heater I would prefer an Espar hydronic heater as it could be installed in the engine compartment, but I'm not really sure about the installation difficulty. The Espar or Webasto air heater (under driver seat) seems simpler based on many conversations I read on these forums.

Any thoughts usage experiences for either or both?
 

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If you think a remote start would work I'd do that. Less involved.

The webasto works nice, but also takes space and produces noise. Installers have this dialed in.

Nobody seems to have installed the hydronic in the states. It's more involved even if you simply add an air exchanger and not attempt to use the stock heaters. I'd prefer hydronic and researched it. Gave up. I'm waiting for a plug in van with camp mode.

I have a 400w heater from Amazon I can use with a shore plug and a 110 outlet installed on the passenger side rear by the slider.
 

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FWIW, I'd personally prefer a heater to a remote starter. In many camping situations I want to be courteous to neighbors and not start the engine at 0430 when I am usually cold! I use my good old Coleman catalytic propane heater. I'd love a Webasto or Espar, but the fuel pump clicking of YouTube fame would drive me nuts. Hydronic would be awesome, but I am not willing to spend the money or do the mods necessary for it.

@pounce, would you post a pic of your AC outlet? I am seriously thinking of cutting one in on the driver's rear between the tail light and the wheel arch, possibly a NOCO which is cheap and would plug right in to my Mean Well faux shore power set up.

Also, how did you decide to go on the passenger side rather than driver's side? My AC wiring is all on the driver's side -- Thanks!

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My outside plug is under the van. Hidden. It simply runs to a Duplex outlet like you have in your house. The main reason is that it's easier on a passenger van. It was also a quick decision.
 

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My outside plug is under the van. Hidden. It simply runs to a Duplex outlet like you have in your house. The main reason is that it's easier on a passenger van. It was also a quick decision.
Sounds good to me. It may have been a quick decision, but I am a believer in the KISS principle, so I like it! I'd like to have a duplex direct connect to shore power (to run an electric heater), but I think I might need some sort of distribution panel or transfer switch, given my DC power supply for faux solar and inverter. Where did you stash the male end under the van? If you don't mind, I am also interested in where you mounted the outlet in pax van. Thanks!!
 

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I have been thinking about adding an Espar air or hydronic heater to my van, but not really sure about it. Then I thought maybe if I had a remote starter, I could when camping and waking up in the middle of the night, start the engine for a bit and get some heat or even ac cool air to relieve the situation. The remote starter could be helpful for many other situations that I could think of. Price of the remote starter would be less than the heater installation.

If I went with a heater I would prefer an Espar hydronic heater as it could be installed in the engine compartment, but I'm not really sure about the installation difficulty. The Espar or Webasto air heater (under driver seat) seems simpler based on many conversations I read on these forums.

Any thoughts usage experiences for either or both?
We live in Montana and had PeaceVans install the Webasto Airtop 2000 STC in our 2022 Weekender as an aftermarket add-on. It cost around $3700 and is a very elegant installation. We do quite a bit of cold weather camping and this has been a game changer for us. This weekend we are going down to West Yellowstone and the night-time temperatures are predicted to be in the high 20s. The Webasto is plumbed into the vehicles fuel tank. The thermostat/control panel is very discretely installed on the passenger side door post. At night we turn the unit on and set the temp to about 70 to warm up the van before bed, and then turn it down to 65 or so for the night. The hot air exits right at foot level under the passenger side door post and you are able to choose the fan speed. The heater kicks on automatically now and then throughout the night. You can hear it working, both inside and outside of the vehicle, but it is kind of comforting, as opposed to loud, to know that things are warming up. It is the same sound that the rest of the RVs/Campers make when their Dometic units go off. The combustion exhaust comes out of a small exhaust pipe located at the right rear of the vehicle. There is a slight gas smell but nothing too objectionable. Luckily up here, the wind seems to be a constant in our camping experiences so the exhaust has never been much of an issue. Although we do not keep the doors open at night, we do keep the popup screens open sometimes and smell has never been an issue up that high.

Before this, I would wake up in the middle of the night to turn the engine on and get a blast of hot air to take the chill off. I would not bash that method because it worked surprisingly well. The engine heated up in a hurry and heated up the whole car nicely. I might have considered continuing to use this if I would have been smart enough to think of the remote starter option - but we are very happy with the function and simplicity of what we ended up with.

Anyway - good luck with your project and I would be happy to answer any questions about our Webasto that you may have. The Peacevan installation requires the Aux battery (under the drivers seat) so that might be another cost-adder for you. Richard
 

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I've been very happy with my Webasto. Yes, it does make some noise, both inside the van as well to those near the van. It is certainly more discrete than running your engine. The good thing is that you do not need external power to have heat. But you will need a sufficiently large battery if you intend to run it for extended periods without external power.

I've never notice any exhaust odors when running mine and I usually have some windows open slight to mitigate condensation. I have my Webasto exhaust pipe routed well to the rear of the van.

I've had a diesel Espar heater in a boat and the gasoline fueled Webasto in my van. Espar did not make a gasoline fueled unit when I installed my Webasto, I don't know if that is still the case. In any case, both are excellent heaters with similar size and power requirements.

If you have shore power readily available were you're camping, an electric heater heater would be much simpler and less expensive. The Noco external receptacles are well made- I have one on a different vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you all for your thoughts and ideas. I figured it would be best to hear from people who have actually used one or both of these in a real life scenario. I haven't done enough of camping or car camping in my life, but hopefully soon I'll get to take the Metris out on some adventures.

I do remember once car camping on the North rim of the Grand Canyon in my old Isuzu Rodeo how everything was perfect right until about 4am at which point it got absolutely freezing. Even in a relatively warm sleeping bag. I started the car and let it run for about 15min and with that heat I was fine until the time the sun came up, at which point the outside started to warm up. That's kind of why I was thinking the remote started would be a nice thing. Just hit the clicker for a bit and go back to sleep.

@focus805 your point about being courteous to neighbors is true and wouldn't be right in many situations like official camp grounds etc. I'm not sure I'd be staying in too many well equipped camp grounds where the lots are close to each other, but you never know. Perhaps those type of camping spots would provide a place to hook up shore power, in which case a small electric heater would suffice. I got to think a little bit more about how to add the shore power connection, and like @pounce mentioned, having the connection point below the van, seems the most reasonable (and stealth) for my passenger van. How do you attach the-lug connection below the van? I think I saw somewhere how Peace Vans install it next to the towing hitch (or maybe it was a different professional upfitter...

@dickienel I really appreciated hearing about your real life Webasto experience and how that relates to your former "get up in the middle of the night start up to get warm" process. The Webasto sounds like a luxurious way to keep the van warm with not much stress. Happy to hear you are enjoying your van and making the most out of it. You being up in Montana probably also need the heater a lot more than I do here in SoCal, but one can't restrict the adventures always to warm places.

@RansomRidge I saw the post you started on your legendary build and the Webasto addition. It's good to hear as well, that it's safe as far as exhausts, but also to take into consideration the need for additional electric. I'm planning on using a Bluetti AS200P station, which could power an air heater, but then that wouldn't always be "runnable" as its more of a modular power. I do not have the extra battery pack under the driver's seat, but working on a smaller lithium type of battery for some power needs.
 

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I looked at the hydronic heaters when I was doing my build. The major downsides IMO were- larger electrical and fuel demands since you're heating the entire engine and its much more complicated to install. It was appealing that I'd be able to use the van's ducting to distribute the heat, except that I have a cargo van so that meant that the cab would be toasty warm while I'm while I'm in the back of the van wishing for more heat. But using the van's fan also meant draining the start battery which was very undesirable for me. All in all, the hydronic heater looks great to preheat your engine and vehicle if you have shore power or very large batteries- like on a diesel truck. I assume diesel vehicles are most likely their largest market.
 

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The hydronic systems can be configured with a bypass for the engine. They don't have to heat the engine. You actually don't have to use any of the vehicle plumbing. A member posted the install guide for an EU v class hydronic system. Very complicated, but it did use the vehicle heat and fans. Like I mentioned I think it's too complicated and not worth the effort. If I had a large sprinter I'd consider this kind of thing for heat, but also water heat exchanger.
 

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I have been thinking about adding an Espar air or hydronic heater to my van, but not really sure about it. Then I thought maybe if I had a remote starter, I could when camping and waking up in the middle of the night, start the engine for a bit and get some heat or even ac cool air to relieve the situation. The remote starter could be helpful for many other situations that I could think of. Price of the remote starter would be less than the heater installation.

If I went with a heater I would prefer an Espar hydronic heater as it could be installed in the engine compartment, but I'm not really sure about the installation difficulty. The Espar or Webasto air heater (under driver seat) seems simpler based on many conversations I read on these forums.

Any thoughts usage experiences for either or both?
One more odd thought occurred to me based on our last trip. We used our Webasto heater less in the cold weather than the warm (for up here) weather. For cold weather camping we each use a heavy sleeping bag with a big down comforter on top of both the lower bunk and upper bunk. We heat the van up before we go to bed but then turn it off and are fine no matter how cold it has gotten, and then the first person up turns it on so the others can wake up warm. In the summer we use very light bags and a couple of blankets and we ended up turning the heater on more frequently during the night. Everyone sleeps differently, but if it is just you, you could consider just investing in a heavy sleeping bag and using the vehicle heat, once at night and once in the morning..
 
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