Chinese Diesel Heater - Workshop Install

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Introduction: Chinese Diesel Heater - Workshop Install

I needed heat in my single-garage workshop but did not want to use an electric heater. I wanted to use a cheap (under £100 on eBay) Chinese Diesel Heater (intended for heating large vehicles such as camper vans).

There are dozens of videos on YouTube showing various installations in workshops, but none were mounted outside the workshop, and many were quite Heath Robinson.

I wanted an external, boxed, mounting to:

  1. Reduce the high sound levels from the burner/fan/pump.
  2. Keep the diesel out of my workshop, due to its smell.
  3. Get a straightforward layout for the components.

The heater was mounted on the external wall of my garage, a half-brick was removed to allow the hot air duct to enter directly into the workshop. I chose to mount the diesel tank in an adjacent shed, alongside the heater.

This Instructable is not a step-by-step 'how-to' (as mentioned there are dozens of these), more an overview of what I did, in case it is of use to someone else.

I gleaned much information from a brilliant series of Australian videos.

I have also posted a video, based mainly on this Instructable.

Supplies

Having watched the series of videos linked to above, when I bought my heater, I looked carefully for one marketed as having

  • an output of 5kW
  • photos which showed a 'straight-through' exhaust silencer (as opposed to one with a kinked or bendy path)
  • a small-diameter hard-nylon fuel supply pipe (not a 6mm diameter, floppy, soft plastic pipe)
  • an LCD control panel
  • a four-way remote control (on, off, up and down)
  • a fuel filter

On receipt, the fuel pipe was soft and floppy! I purchased a length of suitable pipe from eBay. In all other respects, the heater was great (and worked brilliantly first-time) and was delivered quickly.

eBay purchases (March 2021)

The heater was listed as "12V 5000W Air Diesel Heater LCD Display Display 2KW-5KW for Car Truck Motor-Home" Sold by connectingrodeclub. Not sure of the location, but it came in a few days. £82

I ordered a power supply "DC12V Top Quality LED Transformer Driver Power Supply LED Strip Lights MR16/CCTV" (150W 12.5A). Sold by electricalsone located in Coventry UK. £14

The nylon pipe was listed as "NYLON TUBE METRIC PNEUMATIC Air Line Flexible Hose AIR FUEL - HIGH QUALITY" (4mmx2.5mm BNTM04/025). Sold by fletcher3691 located in Chelmsford UK. £1.60

Step 1: Details of the Heater and Its Enclosure

This step is just an opportunity to show numerous close-up photographs of the build and note down a few details (many gleaned from the videos referred to in the introduction).

  • The exhaust pipe can eject water vapour, so I have tried to avoid a water-trap by making it fall steadily.
  • I shortened the exhaust pipe, as it was too long and very inflexible. This caused a problem, because the original had smooth unions formed at each end - this was impossible to replicate on the end that I had cut. I had to insert a small piece of steel tube to join the pipe to the silencer.
  • The silencer has a drip-hole in the bottom, which can drip onto the ground in my installation.
  • The power supply must be able to provide at least 10A at 12V. The glow plug takes a large current (8A?) and the fan/etc takes 2.5A. I believe that many installations have low-voltage error problems due to poor batteries or lack of current capacity. I chose a 12.5A supply.
  • Keeping the red and black power supply cables as short as possible has got to be a good thing, due to the large current demand noted above.
  • One draw-back of using a mains-powered supply is what happens if there is a power-cut when the heater is operating. The suggestion is that the residual heat in the unit will mean that it will destroy itself by overheating/melting if there is no power to run the cooling fan. I think this suggestion is likely to be true! As I never have power-cuts, the likelihood of having one when the heater is running seems remote - I hope!
  • I mounted the pump at an angle of 30° - 40° with the output end uppermost.
  • All of the wiring looms were too long for my layout, so I cropped them and used connector blocks. The colour-codes on the two wires to the pump were identical, so I guess that it does not matter which is which, but I was careful to mark one wire to retain the existing polarity.
  • On the photos of the final installation, you can see a length of open aluminium channel (just below the power supply). The plastic fuel line is supported by this. It is intended to make sure that the plastic pipe is protected from any heat radiated by the exhaust silencer. In reality, nothing gets very hot inside the enclosure.
  • The heater I purchased came with a "Tee" for the 80mm diameter air pipe. I wanted to keep the enclosure as narrow as possible and used it as an elbow, by cutting off one arm and plugging the cut arm with a plywood circle. This can be seen on the left of the heater. It is hard to bend the 80mm diameter 'flexible' pipe into a tight bend.
  • I was not sure whether I wanted to re-circulate the air from the inside of the workshop, hence the large hole cut in the backboard to the right of the heater, which I will use if needed in the future. In fact, I 3D printed a grill and placed it on the side of the enclosure to provide fresh air for both the workshop supply and the burner supply.

Step 2: Fuel Tank and Supply

It was convenient for me, to mount the 10litre fuel tank in the wooden shed, next to the heater. Some images of the installation can be seen above. A few notes:

  • The heater came with a dip-tube, which could be mounted onto an existing diesel tank. I did not use this.
  • The supplied tank did not have a fuel-union fitted (one was supplied). I drilled a hole in the side of the tank (as near the bottom as possible - but above the bottom to stop debris entering the fuel line). I then poked a stiff wire in through the hole and out of the top of the tank, fitted the union onto the wire and tied a knot in the wire, then pulled the union through the tank and out of the drilled hole, then put the nut on and tightened it up. I pulled the wire back out through the tank.
  • I wanted to fit an on/off valve and purchased one locally.
  • To protect the fuel supply pipe from damage, I threaded it through some hose pipe to get it out of the shed and into the heater-box. I 3d printed some fittings, to support the pipe where it left the shed, entered the enclosure and touched the brickwork.
  • The black clips for the 6mm pipe were 3d printed.
  • The tank has a tiny vent-hole in the fuel cap.
  • Both the tank and the heater are mounted at about the same height above the ground. The pump can pull the diesel up-hill but it was convenient for me to have them at about the same height. To prime the system, I just opened the tap, disconnected the fuel supply pipe from filter and as the diesel flowed out, I connected it back onto the filter. I had already tested the heater, so did not have to repeat the initial pump-priming operation.

Step 3: Using the Heater

I have only run the heater a few times, so far. It powered up without any hassle and produces large quantities of very hot air. I will have to wait for next winter to fully test its effectiveness, but I am very confident. The last cosmetic tweaks inside the workshop, still need to be done.

Outside, it is very noisy indeed for the first 10 minutes of operation (and when ever it is running flat-out). This is a combination of fan-noise and combustion-noise. I am very pleased that I have mounted it outside (rather than inside my workshop). As it reaches the target temperature, the noise level reduces considerably. The noise level inside is fine - there is quite a rushing of air from the 80mm pipe which delivers the hot air into my workshop - but it is not much more intrusive than an electric fan-heater would be.

I can set a target temperature (the LCD controller has a built-in thermometer to measure the room temperature) and the heater slows down considerably, once the target temperature has been reached. Alternatively, I can control the rate at which the diesel is delivered to the burner - say 2 pulses of fuel every second (each pulse delivers 0.02ml of fuel).

At 2 pulses per second, the heater would use 0.14 litres of fuel per hour. A 10 litre tank would last about 70 hours. In the winter, I guess that I might use it for a couple of hours a day - so maybe 10 litres of diesel a month???

Condensation worries
My workshop includes a small lathe and I am worried about condensation forming on a cold-soaked lump of iron. I have no doubt that the heater could easily reach a comfortable temperature in a few minutes from 0°C, but this might risk condensation forming on the lathe. (Hot air holds much more water vapour - when it touches cold-soaked metal, the condensation will form). One reason for fitting the heater is the hope that the the long-term, consistent, ambient temperature in the workshop can be increased in winter from a few degrees C to something nearer 10°C - 15°C. Whether this can be done without consuming lots of diesel, remains to be seen. One strategy I will try, is to 'hide' a filament bulb somewhere on the body of the lathe and run it permanently during the winter. I wonder whether a 10W or 20W bulb would raise the temperature of the iron just enough to ward-off condensation when I enter the workshop and power-up the heater. A 20W bulb would transfer about ½kWh of electricity each day (costing around 8p per day in the UK - 2021). I will find out whether this would have any actual effect!

Step 4: Rain-proofing

I worried about rain entering the enclosure and getting into the mains power supply. The case is designed to avoid that, with a sloping 'roof' intended to guide the rain away from the wall (and hence the back panel of the box). I have also put a 'rail' screwed to the wall above the sloping roof as shown in the photograph.


I'm pretty happy with the arrangement. We have has a huge amount of heavy rain in the UK and the inside of the unit is bone-dry (so far).

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    51 Comments

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    4 months ago

    This comment and my reply has not automatically appeared (this happens quite often). As it is an important topic, I'm copying it here.
    ======================================================
    From: kimhumphries908
    Date: Feb 13, 2022. 2:01 PM

    Subject: Diesel night heater
    Hi
    Great Post and great set up, I want to put a heater in my static caravan.
    Would the below be OK to power the heater?
    SHNITPWR 12V Power Supply 20A 240W AC DC Adapter, 110V / 220V AC to DC 12 Volt 20 Amp Switching Power Converter Transformer LED Driver for LED Light Strip 3D Printer CCTV Security System LCD Monitor
    240v in 12v out. Says will power up to 20a.
    Sorry for all the question, not the best went it comes to electrical data lol.
    Thank you
    Kim

    =======================================================
    Reply
    Re: Diesel night heater

    From qthurtle to kimhumphries908 on 14/02/2022, 10:20:30
    That power supply would be perfect and looks very similar to the one I am using. The key thing is to have a 12 volt (12V) supply - nothing else will do. Then you need at least a minimum ability to supply 12 amps (12A) but the 20A one you refer to is fine as it is easily capable of supplying the minimum of 12A with some extra capability as well.

    However. Please be aware that there is a major potential problem with using a mains power supply. If the heater is running and you get a power cut, then the electric pump will stop supplying diesel (this is good!) but the cooling fan will also stop (this is bad). The residual heat left in the combustion chamber is not now being blown into the room and may overheat the unit. I believe that this could cause the heater to melt, essentially destroying itself.

    I 'get away' with using the mains power supply based on two assumptions: 1) I have never had a power cut in the years I have been living here. 2) I never have the heater running unattended - I put it on when I am working in the workshop. Hence, the prospect of having a power cut when the heater is functioning seems extremely unlikely to me, and even if there is one, I will be aware and be able to (at the very least) take some action to prevent a disaster (even if the heater might be fatally damaged!).

    If you wanted to use one of these heaters in your static caravan, I would power it from a 12V battery (must be capable of supplying at least 12A for 5 or 10 minutes as the unit is powering-down gracefully) and a permanent 'trickle charger'. A small car battery and simple charger would be ideal.

    There is a lot of discussion about this on the accompanying YouTube video.

    There are very many examples of a battery set-up on YouTube. Just be aware that the battery must be capable of supplying 12A - some users have a small motor-cycle battery and a mains charger - this is not ideal as the mains charge is essential to supply the 12A and the small battery cannot do this alone - hence in a power cut , there is not enough current available to power-down the unit.

    Best wishes - my heater is still performing brilliantly!

    0
    peb2713
    peb2713

    5 months ago

    now we're in Jan 2022, nearly 11 Months (or 10ish) after your Installation. Do you have any update on the installation, experiences after the first couple of cold weeks? What would you change (btw: nice setup and a really fine installation!)

    peb

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    Reply 5 months ago

    Hi Peb
    I'm really pleased with the setup which has been running well. On the coldest days (just below freezing here in the UK) it does a brilliant job. It takes about 5 minutes before large quantities of hot air pour into the workshop, then 5 or 10 minutes before its inbuilt thermostat turns down the fuel supply to a 'tick-over' which keeps the workshop at 19°C to 20°C (68°F). The workshop is a large single garage size, so not huge. The heater is very effective.

    I only use it for a few hours at a time, and the fuel barely moves in the tank. Running flat-out it would use around 0.4litres per hour (by calculation). At tick-over probably uses about 0.1 litres per hour. I think it is actually running at something just under 4kW when running flat-out.

    I have had no issues with rain getting into the box, or anything else.

    I have posted a YouTube video which has generated a lot of comment - much complimentary and some highly critical! Have a look at the comments and see what you think.. Thanks for your interest.

    0
    MickL
    MickL

    7 months ago

    hi all when the unit is completley incased and running will it generate much heat inside the unit, thanks regards

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    Reply 7 months ago

    There is not much heat generated around the unit - with the exception of the exhaust pipe which is fiercely hot. The casing of the unit remains pretty cool. It is designed for use in RVs, mobile homes, trucks, etc so it is typically installed in small compartments.

    In my unit there are absolutely no worries about heat build-up because the box is not perfectly sealed. I bet the installation instructions advise that there should be some ventilation to avoid heat build-up. If it were completely sealed in some way I guess that there might be the potential for a problem??? Bear in mind that you have to guide the exhaust to the outside air and this would surely need some space between the exhaust pipe and the enclosure.

    Search YouTube for "Chinese Heaters" and you will see dozens of videos showing people's different installations.

    Thanks for your interest.

    0
    MickL
    MickL

    Reply 7 months ago

    thank you for your reply i have built nearly the same unit as yours i was worried about heat build up so i have put an extra vent in its going on an external wall to heat a small sun room on the back of my bungalow, we are pensioners and like the heat lol, so when i looked at your unit i thought that would be perfect so built one and im not disappointed so thanks for your posting great, regards Mick, hi i did try sending pictures but didnt no how to, lol

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    Reply 7 months ago

    On my PC I can see a button just alongside the "Reply" button - it says "Add Images". When you click on it, a window pops up; you can 'drag' images from your PC onto the window and they get loaded up.

    Best wishes

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    Reply 7 months ago

    Great. Don't hesitate to send a photograph or two if you are able. I'm sure others will be interested (as am I)!

    0
    OffgridBoater
    OffgridBoater

    Question 9 months ago

    Fantastic job & thanks for the details. This kind of heater keeps me warm on my cabin cruiser all winter in the UK. I'm interested In how I'd power it from mains power though? Do I need some kind of inverter?
    TIA

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    Answer 9 months ago

    No you don't need an inverter - the heater runs exclusively from 12V so you need a simple 12V power supply. I had to install a mains to 12V power supply. The start of the Instructable quotes the one I bought - probably not still avaiable (?).....
    I ordered a power supply "DC12V Top Quality LED Transformer Driver Power Supply LED Strip Lights MR16/CCTV" (150W 12.5A). Sold by electricalsone located in Coventry UK. £14

    Your 12V mains power supply MUST have a 10A or more output ability (hence my 12.5A purchase).

    For those hoping to run the heater from a 12V battery, be aware that it takes a chunk of current - around 10A at 12V when starting up (the glowplug takes 8A or so). Some users have whinged about these heaters, saying that they don't start up properly, or run inconsistently, or shut down. The general consensus seems to be that many (all?) of these people are suffering from weak batteries where the battery voltage drops below 12V when starting/running due to the current being drawn from the battery. 12V batteries are probably not suitable for workshop use, unless like many users, they are permanently connected to a mains battery charger to help supply the starting current and keep the battery topped up when not in use.

    0
    Garthw1946
    Garthw1946

    11 months ago

    Thanks for all the information, I have one of the "portable" ones but am going to take it out of the metal case and install it just like you have done. You would not have any dimensions of your box by any chance. Not a big deal but will save little time.

    0
    christophmalzer
    christophmalzer

    1 year ago

    I would not be worried about the moisture. The air comes from the outside and most likely it is very dry in winter times. Eventhough the warmer air can hold more water, where should it come from? If you are not overwintering plants in your shelter or you spending many hours in there - not much moisture would be added.

    0
    thepercellgroup
    thepercellgroup

    1 year ago

    For your cold soaked lathe have you considered using a bulb that is used to heat a reptile habitat? They can be about 20 watts but their IR signature transfers heat better to metal and would be more efficient. The filament bulb heats what is above it, the IR bulb heats what it is pointed at (and they are usually in a flood light format with internal reflector to direct all the heat/light in one direction.

    0
    palot18
    palot18

    Reply 1 year ago

    IR light damaged slowly your eyes. If you want be blind this should help.

    0
    thepercellgroup
    thepercellgroup

    Reply 1 year ago

    palot18 I think you are confusing IR (infra-red spectrum) with UV (ultra violet spectrum). UV can be harmful to eyes and is what causes cataracts. IR is not harmful to eyes because it is almost pure heat from these lamps. In fact the solution to qthurtle's heat problem may just be an inexpensive IR heater available at every home store in the US. They heat objects vs air.

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for your interest. I'm first going to try a cheap £2.50 reprap 3d Printer heater 40W and see what happens!

    I hope to report back!

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    Reply 1 year ago

    I've actually just ordered a £2.50 reprap 3d printer heater ('cartridge type', 24V, 40W, 20mm long and 6mm diameter - ie tiny).

    I have an AC plug-in power block which will power it - I might run it at 12V to reduce its power output to 20W. I can easily attach this to my small lathe and run it in the winter 24 hours a day if necessary. I might drill a 6mm hole in a piece of aluminium, and bolt it to the lathe near the headstock and see what it does!

    As this aspect of the Instructable seems to interest people the most, I might add a section to report on whether it works as hoped. It is 2ºC outside at the moment, so that will be the temperature of my garage and lathe!

    0
    qthurtle
    qthurtle

    Reply 1 year ago

    No - I hadn't thought of these. I didn't know they existed - I will have a good look at them. Many thanks for your interest

    0
    linuxnewbie
    linuxnewbie

    1 year ago

    Saving this for my van build. Most vans are gas-powered, solar/electric is too costly if I'm in a cold climate for too long, and propane, while common in vans and RVs, is just too flammable for my liking. Diesel will burn, but it's not explosive like gas and propane, plus I should be able to get diesel on the road. Thanks so much for the ible.