Early on in my ownership of the Sprinter I took a few ski trips out to the Adirondacks and Vermont. With two people (and two dogs) staying in the van during these trips I established the need for some heating improvements. It was certainly doable, but if you’re staying in a van I figured we might as well be comfortable. I had been looking into getting an Espar D2 Diesel Air Heater, but the $1500 price tag (plus another $2000 for installation) dissuaded me from pursuing such a luxury item.
Over the 2018-2019 winter season I was living in my van full time (in NY!) and decided it was time to pull the trigger. During my research I found a large group on Facebook dedicated to these knockoff, Chinese-made copies of the Espar series. They were incredibly cheap, running less than $200 for the entire kit (heater, fuel tank, wires, controller, fuel pump, fuel lines, exhaust, intake). There were about 15,000 people in the group when I joined and I was quickly convinced to go this route.
Installation was pretty straightforward following directions online. The directions the unit came with weren’t particularly helpful, but that Facebook group had many writeups detailing every last consideration for a clean installation. I think I spent about 8hrs installing the entire kit, and by that night I had a working heater. I am running the battery off of my deep-cycle house battery, it draws about 6amps when the glowplug is heating up and around 2-3amps/hour when in use. Functionally I could run the van for an entire 12hr night before needing to recharge.
My first winter full-time in the van was an excellent proving ground for these little heaters. I ran it almost exclusively on Kerosene (burns cleaner), and had the heater running for approximately 600 hours. I found the heater burns about 1 gallon for every 20hrs of use. On the high setting the heater is capable of almost 7,000btu, which in real world terms mean that I could keep the inside of my van ~50-60 degrees higher than ambient. I tested it down to -5 (about -20 with the windchill) and I could still be perfectly cozy on the inside.
Overall I have been incredibly impressed with the capabilities of this little heater. I saved a HUGE amount of money going the “cheap knockoff” route, and after 600hrs of use I have absolutely no regrets. I have no idea why anyone would bother buying an Espar anymore.