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:
- 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)
Webasto AND Propex, are both really needed?!
We didn’t add the Propex heater because we needed more heat (more BTU); we added the Propex because we had some issues with our Webasto (see here) and we wanted a SOLID backup plan in case the Webasto fails again. The decision to add the Propex was taken 2 weeks before we decided to drive from Arizona to WinterWonderLand (Salt Lake City, Jackson, British-Columbia, etc) to start our snowboarding season; the heater situation was the only thing preventing us from being excited about snow. So we fixed that. And now, we can’t wait to chase the snow!
Propex Quick Installation Overview (keep reading for more!)
- Choose a Location to Install the Heater Unit
- Route/Install the combustion intake and exhaust
- Route/Install propane line
- Route/Install the hot and cold air ducts
- Install the thermostat controller
- Connect the heater to 12V power
TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: Approximately 8 hours
TOTAL COST : Approximately 850$ USD (750$ for the heater plus material)
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- Propex HS2000 Heater with installation kit (Buy from Ebay)
- If your system currently uses a single stage propane regulator, it should be replaced by a two stage propane regulator (Buy from Amazon)
- 1/4″ Propane Copper Tubing
- Hardware fittings to connect the 1/4″ tubing to your propane system
- Electrical wires (Buy from Amazon) note: the diameter varies with the length of the wires required for your installation: it is your responsibility to determine which gauge to use. Please check our Electrical System Design article for more)
- Butt Connectors (Buy from Amazon)
- Ring Terminals (Buy from Amazon)
You should have propane and electricity installed! Here are our installations:
HANG ON, WE’RE NOT READY YET… THERE ARE SOME REQUIREMENTS TO FOLLOW…
We’re not your mom; it is YOUR responsibility to follow the installation requirements 😛 Make sure to read the installation manual BEFORE starting your installation:
Here is where you could possibly mess up:
- ***BEFORE connecting the unit to the 12V, the controller (thermostat) MUST be connected to the unit. In other words: connect the controller THEN the 12V power. If this sequence is not followed, this will blow an internal fuse in the unit and the motherboard of the unit has to be replaced = $$$!! That’s crazy, but that’s how it is!***
- 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)
- 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.
- If your propane system currently uses a single stage propane regulator, you should replace it with a two stage propane regulator; if you read the Propex Manual, you probably noticed it’s asking for that. The two stage propane regulator delivers a more constant and accurate pressure to the heater despite change in elevation.
- “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
LET’S HEAT THINGS UP!
1- Choose a Location to Install the Heater Unit
Since we added the heater after our conversion was completed (we didn’t plan on adding a propex!), we didn’t have much choice but we found a perfect spot under our water tank near our propane tank locker. It looks like we planned for it!
2- Route / Install the 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 (similar to our Webasto Installation). 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)…
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:
Here are our combustion intake and exhaust pipe under the van floor:
3- 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.
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.
4- Route/Install the hot and cold air ducts
Hot air Outlet location
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. Let’s take our layout as an example:
The cabin, sliding door and the rear doors are the coldest spots in our van. Because of our raised bed configuration, it gets pleasantly warm up there (heat rise); no outlet needed here.
The garage gets really cold because it’s low, the rear doors are cold and there is no air circulation to bring heat from our living space to the garage. But we don’t really care: we don’t live there. We could add a small hot air outlet in there to prevent our water tank/pipes from freezing, time will tell if it’s required or not.
We eat, read, work (sometimes), relax in our swivel seats and we just mentioned it’s a cold spot: an hot air outlet is needed here! We installed our Webasto heater under the passenger seat. It’s a classic location for a good reason: it takes cold air from the cabin floor and blows hot air near and parallel to our living room floor so this way, our floor gets pleasantly warm (no sleepers needed when the Webasto runs!). The hot air coming out of the Webasto outlet is not really diffused: it’s more like a jet that travel quite a distance. That helps a lot to circulate air in our living space and make the heat more uniform. We like it.
OK, we now have to install our Propex hot air outlet and under-the-passenger-seat is not an option as it’s already taken by the Webasto. We chose to install it at the opposite location of the Webasto hot air outlet, near the garage.
We think it’s the (second) best location for our layout because it blows hot air near the floor along the kitchen alley. We found that the hot air coming our of the Propex outlet is more diffused than the Webasto; it looks like it’s because of the outlet design, not because the Propex is less powerful. We prefer the Webasto outlet because it blows air further and helps to make our floor warmer and make heat more uniform in the van (more air circulation). When we use only the Propex heater, it’s warm above the bed and in the kitchen, but the living room (cabin) is not really comfortable (this is due to the hot air outlet location, it’s not because the Propex is inferior).
Cold air Intake 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 that will do it:
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.
5- 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:
6- 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!)
Not sure how to wire it? Make sure to read our Electrical System Design article!
Note: A 5 amp fuse is required at the fuse block
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.
And we’re DONE! Let’s go SKIIIING!!
ON SECOND THOUGHT…
We started the thing and it fired up immediatly, so far so good! We just installed the heater (December 22th 2017), so it’s too soon for a review. This is what we noted so far:
- It seems to push the same amount of air as our Webasto
- Blow air is more diffused; air doesn’t travel as far as the Webasto. We liked the Webasto outlet a little more.
- Noise level inside the van: the fan noise is similar to our Webasto except the Propex don’t produce a “clicking” sound (which comes from the pulsations of the Webasto fuel pump). That’s a good improvement.
- Noise level outside the van: the Propex is much quieter than the Webasto (less exhaust noise, no clicking sound). If we sleep near tents, we would use the Propex as it’s more silent.
Since we will go through our propane tank much faster, we’re happy we stumbled upon this neat little device:
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Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine, a couple dreaming of being on the move and we’re seeking for the ride of our life. We bought a Ford Transit van, converted it to a campervan, sold our house, quit our jobs and hit the road full-time to make our dream a reality. We are sharing this in hope of inspiring and helping others to follow their dreams too!
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