Propex and China Heater installation

Sep 10, 2021
6
2
Funster No
84,092
MH
Don't own one yet
I'm new to Campervans and Motorhomes having sailed and worked on small yachts for the past 65 years (mainly out of Falmouth). Hoping for a 'simpler', less physically demanding (and less costly) hobby with a bit of adventure attached to it, we've reluctantly sold our sailboat and bought a relatively low mileage 1998 Renault Master MWB high top van conversion, equipped with a chunky 2.5 turbo (retrofit) Diesel. Sounds a bit like a bus at low speeds, but otherwise seems like a very substantial, albeit unsophisticated unit. Starts and pulls well, but I suspect it'll 'guzzle' fuel if pressed!
Prior to our ownership, the van had been in the same family ownership since 2001 with very light usage covering an average of less than 3k miles a year. However, as I work my way through it's bits and pieces, I'm beginning to see the similarity between campervanning and yachting ie you can go on forever spending money on 'vans' and there's no end of 'tinkering and fixing' to do!
The van, is pretty well equipped for 'off grid'. However, the Propex Malaga 3/3E water heater only works on mains (via an immersion element) - it doesn't work on gas as it's designed to do. Problem - I won't mess about with 'gas' and am finding it impossible to find an engineer with Propex experience to sort it out. I live near Okehampton, Devon, and will happily drive wherever necessary (within reason). Does any MHF member have any suitable contact please?

Second problem, is that we don't have any off grid heating. We had an Eberspacher diesel/warm air heater in our last boat. It wasn't particularly reliable, it was costly to service and experienced Eberspacher engineers difficult to find - every repair bill was £100 plus. My last full service cost me £280! So, 'China heaters' seem to be a logical step. I know there are mixed reviews, but the overall impression I get is that they are a viable alternative for many.
I'm reasonably competent at DIY, but physical limitations (can't kneel or once down, can't get up - particularly annoying if under the van to fit the diesel heater exhaust) means I need to find a competent engineering type to install it for me (for an appropriate fee of course). Any help will be much appreciated.

We won't always be crying out for help, and look forward to some nice social communications with you in the future.
 
OP
B
Sep 10, 2021
6
2
Funster No
84,092
MH
Don't own one yet
Thanks Egg. I am on Facebook but rarely get involved with it. However, great idea to use it on this occasion. Thanks very much for responding so quickly - a really nice introduction to MHF.

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Jan 17, 2014
560
897
Wellington, Telford, Shropshire
Funster No
29,731
MH
Van Conversion
Exp
Since 1977
I read the above Facebook page about the Chinese heaters and can't make my mind up as to their worth. They are ridiculously cheap and give me the impression that's what you get - 'cheap'!
I've been an Eberspacher fan for well over twenty years regardless of the price. I've fitted a number in my own campers and only had one problem which was fixed within a day under warranty. Modern ones don't need frequent servicing provided they are run on good quality diesel and regularly powered up to full working output regardless of the time of year.
I've recently used Bowers at Stoke-on-Trent as a supplier who were also the very quick repairers of the faulty one under warranty. One other major supplier is PF Jones , others no doubt exist.
 
OP
B
Sep 10, 2021
6
2
Funster No
84,092
MH
Don't own one yet
Thanks for your thoughts and info Rod. You've hit the nail on the head with your comments about the Eberspacher - mine was an old one and infrequently used. The van we've got has been bought as a 'project' with a low cost purchase and 'fitting out' budget as a challenge. I'm anticipating a lots issues, so am prepared. Without a budget, I'd certainly go for the 'best' of everything, including the Eberspacher. However, I'm reluctant to condemn the Chinese units, as with most things, bad news travels fast. I remember the days when anything with 'Made in Japan' marked on it was immediately condemned as being rubbish! I of course realise that you're not saying that and are taking a pragmatic view.
The Chinese are great marketeers and are aggressively targeting the diesel heater market. I'm certain that as time passes they are improving their offer, reliability and service to meet customer demands. In the meantime, we'll hear lots of negative comments, but minimal publicity from satisfied customers. I'm prepared to go through a 'low cost' learning curve with a Chinese heater. My only concern is that of safety. I've not heard any real issues with safety of the unit itself, except the odd comment about poor installations, low quality light weight exhaust piping, and the integrity of the seal between the unit and the fitting hole in the van floor. So, a proper, safe installation is paramount - my priority is to find the 'right installer', experienced in fitting these Chinese units. Thanks again for taking time to 'post'.

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Dec 2, 2019
1,612
3,429
Amersham
Funster No
67,145
MH
van conversion
Nothing wrong with Chinese diesel heaters, lots of users here. We run ours since autumn 2019. Some days chugs along without stop on 1,5-1,6hz all night.
It’s the installation and operator understanding more important than the brand. Spares are cheap, we carry a spare plug and mesh, that’s is. So far no cleaning or servicing done, still chugs nice. I will open it up in spring to see if any soot deposits. And, I will alternate with a bit of kerosene to keep it clean.
 

cmcardle75

LIFE MEMBER
Jun 8, 2012
2,309
2,849
Reading
Funster No
21,386
MH
Riot Van Conversion
Exp
Since 2012
The Chinese are great marketeers and are aggressively targeting the diesel heater market. I'm certain that as time passes they are improving their offer, reliability and service to meet customer demands. In the meantime, we'll hear lots of negative comments, but minimal publicity from satisfied customers. I'm prepared to go through a 'low cost' learning curve with a Chinese heater.

Whilst mine came already fitted with a Webasto, I only recall hearing good reports of the Chinese versions. Generally people being surprised how well they worked. However, as I said, I have no first hand experience of them.
 
Feb 25, 2018
2,722
5,415
Essex
Funster No
52,564
MH
Adria 670 SLT
Exp
enough to know i shouldnt touch things i know nothing about ....
Welcome to the house of fun. Try searching on YouTube fir Chinese diesel heaters, there's a Scottish bloke who has opened a few up and bench tested them.

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OP
B
Sep 10, 2021
6
2
Funster No
84,092
MH
Don't own one yet
Thanks to both Raul and CMCardle for taking time to respond. I'm a 'glass half full' chap, so appreciate your positive comments.
 
Jan 17, 2014
560
897
Wellington, Telford, Shropshire
Funster No
29,731
MH
Van Conversion
Exp
Since 1977
Thanks for your thoughts and info Rod. You've hit the nail on the head with your comments about the Eberspacher - mine was an old one and infrequently used. The van we've got has been bought as a 'project' with a low cost purchase and 'fitting out' budget as a challenge. I'm anticipating a lots issues, so am prepared. Without a budget, I'd certainly go for the 'best' of everything, including the Eberspacher. However, I'm reluctant to condemn the Chinese units, as with most things, bad news travels fast. I remember the days when anything with 'Made in Japan' marked on it was immediately condemned as being rubbish! I of course realise that you're not saying that and are taking a pragmatic view.
The Chinese are great marketeers and are aggressively targeting the diesel heater market. I'm certain that as time passes they are improving their offer, reliability and service to meet customer demands. In the meantime, we'll hear lots of negative comments, but minimal publicity from satisfied customers. I'm prepared to go through a 'low cost' learning curve with a Chinese heater. My only concern is that of safety. I've not heard any real issues with safety of the unit itself, except the odd comment about poor installations, low quality light weight exhaust piping, and the integrity of the seal between the unit and the fitting hole in the van floor. So, a proper, safe installation is paramount - my priority is to find the 'right installer', experienced in fitting these Chinese units. Thanks again for taking time to 'post'.
I agree that the social media only seems to post negative reports and as many have said there are far more good than bad Chinese heaters.

You don't say where you are located but I'm sure wherever it is there will be 'Fun' members willing and able to offer assistance with your van build. Please feel free to come on here and ask what ever the question someone will have been there before and have a solution. As you see from my signature I've been in the self build world for a while and I'm very much not alone!
 
Dec 12, 2010
4,080
13,345
Cumbria
Funster No
14,651
MH
C Class
Exp
since 2011
There's a guy on a welding forum I frequent who has just stripped his Chinese diesel heater down. It's been running for ten hours a day, five days a week for two years, he reckons it's done 5000 hours.
He runs it on kerosene and it didn't look at all bad inside. He did say he runs it fairly hard, which seems to suit them better than having them just "ticking over" which can lead to them sooting up a bit ?

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