Introduction: How to Install a Propex HS2000 Heater in a Camper Van Conversion
The Propex HS2000 and the Propex HS2211 are blown air space heaters fueled by propane or butane. Air for combustion is taken from outside and heat is transferred inside the van via a heat exchanger: it is therefore safe to use without having to vent the inside of the van and the blown heat is dry, nice! Let’s look at some specifications:
- 6500 BTU
- Propane Consumption: 1 lb every 3 hours (That’s close to 60 hours run time for a 20 lbs propane tank. The heater doesn’t run all the time, so we should get a few weeks out of a tank)
- Electrical Consumption: 1.6 amp
- The heater is controlled by a thermostat and cycle ON/OFF to maintain the desired temperature. There is only one speed, so the Propex cycle more than a Webasto/Espar (they have 3 speeds, so they run on “low” speed without cycling too much). However the start cycle of the Propex is more quiet and doesn’t draw as much electrical current as the Webasto/Espar.
HS2000 VS HS2211
Both units are almost identical (BTU, consumption, etc), the main difference being that the HS2000 must be installed inside the vehicle while the HS2211 is designed to be mounted outside (or inside). Here are the main differences:
- Must be installed inside.
- Must be installed horizontally.
- Requires to pass the combustion intake/exhaust pipes through the floor (in addition to the propane line, if your tank is mounted outside): that’s two ~1in diameter holes.
- Can be installed inside or outside.
- Can be installed on any of it’s wide or narrow faces, but not nose up or down.
- If installed outside, the hot air / cold air ducts have to pass through the floor (in addition to the electrical wires): that’s two ~ 2.75in diameter holes.
- The HS2211 is supposed to be slightly quieter than the HS2000 (but we read somewhere it’s marginal).
We listed all the steps in this Instructable, but head over here for all the material list (with links), tools and more:
We hope this helps, don't hesitate to ask questions if you feel like it!
Step 1: Material Needed for This Project
- Propex HS2000 Heater with installation kit
- Two stage propane regulator
- 1/4″ Propane Copper Tubing
- Hardware fittings to connect the 1/4″ tubing to your propane system
- Ring Terminals
Step 2: Drill Holes for Combustion Intake and Exhaust
In a perfect world, the heater unit would sit directly on the van floor, so the exhaust pipe connection is made outside the van. If the connection ever leaks, carbon monoxide will be evacuated outside. Nothing’s perfect, so our unit is installed on top of our 2in thick floor (we went crazy on our floor insulation). The heater is installed on 2in height spacers, to leave room for the intake/exhaust pipe connections.
- Before opening the holes full-size, drill very small pilot holes to confirm that it’s clear under the van floor. If you mess up, it’s easier to plug small holes…
- Drill the hole through the floor slightly larger than the pipe diameter and seal with High Temperature RTV (Red) Silicone along the pipe throughout the hole depth. That exhaust pipe gets REALLY HOT, it could melt the insulation around (if you have some)…
Step 3: Install Combustion Intake and Exhaust
The combustion intake and exhaust pipe are secured to the unit using worm gear hose clamps (included with the installation kit). Make sure it’s nice and tight.
Step 4: Route Combustion Intake and Exhaust
Routing requirements to follow:
- The combustion intake and exhaust pipes should not be trimmed to ensure that the combustion is balanced and that the unit function properly in the long run.
- The combustion exhaust pipe should have a constant downward slope: this is because condensation forms in the pipe and will block the air flow if it’s not evacuated.
- The combustion exhaust pipe should be dumped outside the vehicle edge: carbon monoxide is heavier than air and will pool under the vehicle; if so, carbon monoxide could enter inside the vehicle through the floor (it’s not perfectly hermetic) and through floor vent (if you have some). Safety first!
- The combustion intake and exhaust pipes should be 0.5 meter apart: this is to prevent exhaust air to recirculated into the intake pipe (the unit will malfunction in the long run).
Unfortunately we had to route the exhaust through a frame, because we didn’t plan to add a Propex and that was our only choice. You can probably avoid that.
Step 5: Route/Install the Propane Line
The HS2000 includes a compression fitting to connect the 1/4″ propane copper line to the heater, so you will have to provide all the remaining fittings (and the copper line) to hook it up to your existing propane system.
“The compression fitting supplied with the heater is BSPT thread; it is NOT the same as ¼” NPT fittings in the US, so please do not substitute US NPT fittings. If you need alternate BSPT fitting, these can be found at www.mcmaster.com.” Source: Propexusa.com
Some fittings require thread paste (or gas specific Teflon tape), some have to be installed dry, some require an olive and compression nut… propane is no joke, we highly recommend a visit to your local hardware store to get help from someone qualified.
DIY or not, any installation (each individual fittings and connections) must be tested for leaks with a solution of soap and water. Do it.
We had to split our existing line. In a perfect world, all these fittings would be located inside our propane tank locker.
Step 6: Route/Install the Hot and Cold Air Ducts
Hot Air Outlet Location
The maximum number of hot air outlet is 3, providing the total combined length of ducting is no longer than 5 metres and the maximum length to the first outlet should not exceed 1.5m.
Keep in mind that, as opposed to a house, heat is not as uniform in a van: there are cold spots, drafts, etc. So hot air outlet location is important and the “best” location is different from a layout to another. Under-the-passenger-seat is not an option as it’s already taken by the Webasto, so we chose to install it at the opposite location of the Webasto hot air outlet, near the garage.
We wrapped the hot air duct in Reflectix, so it’s colder to the touch.
We fabricated a “double-floor” to route the duct. This creates some additional storage room too!
Cold Air Outlet Location
Obviously, the cold air intake should be at a cold spot… cabin’s floor, sliding door, etc. In our case, the garage floor is a cold spot so there it goes.
If the Propex and the cold air intake is installed inside a cabinet or closed space, make sure to add a vent to the cabinet so the heater has air to ingest! Also, make sure the hot air is no re-circulated in the cold air intake.
Step 7: Install the Thermostat Controller
It should be installed between waist and shoulder level, at a location where there is no cold draft and not too close from the hot air outlet; this is to ensure a proper room temperature reading. The thermostat controller is connected to the heater with a 6 pins connector and the controller is attached to the wall with two screws.
Step 8: Connect the Heater to 12V Power
BEFORE CONNECTING THE 12V POWER, THE THERMOSTAT CONTROLLER MUST BE INSTALLED FIRST. If not, the heater blows an internal fuse and become unusable (the motherboard has to be replaced!)
Note: A 5 amp fuse is required at the fuse block.
Step 9: Fire!
Always turn on propane BEFORE starting the unit! If not, you could get a “Gas Lockout” fault and the gas lockout procedure has to be performed (refer to the manual).
Gas Lockout Procedure:
- First rotate the temperature knob to MAX.
- Then rotate the control knob from FLAME position to OFF position, then back to the FLAME position.
- The complete sequence of switch movements must be completed within 2.5 seconds for a lockout to be successfully cleared.
- If there is air in the gas line (e.g. after a gas bottle change), the space heater may require several attempts before it lights.
Step 10: And We’re DONE! Let’s Go SKIIIING!!
Step 11: There's More!
We're documenting thoroughly our van conversion. We tried to capture every details and share our experience, tips, lessons learned, etc.
This is our Build Journal: faroutride.com/build-journal
Or if you're very new to this, you might want to look here: http://faroutride.com/van-conversion-resources/
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Please be positive and constructive.