Intelligent Control For That Cheap Diesel Heater

If you own a caravan or a boat, you’ll know that keeping it warm can present something of a struggle. Open-flame gas heaters carry a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, while solid fuel stoves are heavy and require safe flues. The prospect of a diesel heater then is enticing, bringing as they use a safer fuel and allow for easy external exhaust. Unfortunately they’ve been something of an expensive option, but the arrival of cheap imported heaters in recent years has made them an attractive choice. [Ray Jones] has improved upon their sometimes basic control electronics with the Afterburner, an intelligent controller that packs both ESP32 and HC-05 modules to both enhance the feature set and the connectivity of the devices.

The full list of capabilities is somewhat exhaustive but has a few stand-outs such as the ability to connect 1-wire temperature sensors to the system. It’s not compatible with all the heaters on the market, but there is a comprehensive guide to those models with which it can work. Meanwhile, all the code and other resources are available on GitLab should you wish to try it for yourself.

Diesel is something of a dirty word in 2019, but maybe biodiesel will save devices like this one.

Thanks [Bob] for the tip!

39 thoughts on “Intelligent Control For That Cheap Diesel Heater

  1. Really awesome project, professionally done with great documentation. The likes of Espar, and Toyo could also benefit from this. I’ve designed diesel heaters into off-grid telecom sites and can tell you that your controls are miles ahead of what these companies do natively.

      1. Yeah I just built one of these into a plastic box and built a window insert with a 4×6 piece of wood for the exhaust. It’s an amazing little heater. I have one of Ray’s afterburner units and it is amazing – have another that should be getting delivered tomorrow. Kind of funny that his controller costs about 1.5x as much as I paid for the heater, but if you want basically unlimited flexibility, his controller is as good as it gets.

    1. I am in the US and have a couple of these heaters as well as Ray’s afterburner controller. The afterburner is an amazingly well designed and functional product. I have oil heat for my home, so these heaters are perfect alternatives to expensive to use electric space heaters, and I can just pump the fuel out of my home’s main tank since home heating oil is just red dyed diesel. These heaters are also very popular for people with RVs and boats, since the Chinese models cost about $100 plus a couple bucks more for upgraded accessories (exhaust pipe, combustion air intake filter, mounting bracket), compared to 10-20x the cost for the brand name models. This would also be perfect for an off-grid cabin, since the heaters run off 12 volts and only consume about 30-40 watts while running.

      1. I’ve been looking for a diesel heater compatible with the afterburner. I have two vivor 5kw and neither are. Tried swapping mother board to be compatible with no success. Do you mind telling me the name and model of yours, they are already great as they are but with afterburner control they would be awesome. Can you change fansoeed on the fly?

        1. I got mine on AliExpress, I don’t think they had a brand name. I have one 2kw set up in a plastic box as a semi portable space heater and built a window insert for the exhaust. I have used that one basically every night this winter. Also have a 5kw unit in my shed. Both were from AliExpress, have the afterburner on both. The fan speed is directly correlated to the heat output so the only way to change the fan speed is to change the heat output which I think works the same as the original controller. In the afterburner manual it has photos of compatible controllers so you can compare the photos on AliExpress or eBay or wherever you buy it from, to the photos in the manual. Surprised that changing the ECU/main board does not make it work. I believe there is an add-on fan control circuit you can build on to (modify) your heater and the afterburner will allow you to control the fan separately for ventilation only. I haven’t done this but it’s somewhere in the afterburner manual. My favorite feature of the afterburner is the smarter “linear hz” thermostat mode.

  2. Diesel far cheaper than kerosene around here. This should work well with either. Have a few bullet heaters been aching for mod like this. Primitive stock controllers.
    American- not a city dwelling oblivious derogatory nominative.

  3. I am not sure why one would really want or need one of these controllers but this is the first time I have looked at the heaters and they seem pretty cool.

    They do use flames though, they are on he other side of a heat exchanger. I use vent free propane heaters in most of my shop buildings and my friends are always droning on and on about CO2. The thing they do not understand is when you use a vent free heater, the situation is as bad as it is going to get as far as depleting room oxygen and the vent free heaters have very near foolproof systems to turn them off if the room oxygen falls below a safe level. The same can not be said about heaters with heat exchangers, and heat exchangers do crack. In fact in hot air furnaces it is a pretty common failure, especially when morons try and save on the heating bills by restricting heating vents in some rooms.

    Anyway these heaters seem pretty neat. Thank for tipping me off about them.

    1. I’ll bite.
      Vent free? As in no outside air and no chimney?
      And you think that’s safer ?

      Your friends are droning on about CO not CO2

      And why you’d want one of these controllers are for some of the reasons you’re discounting heat exchangers which BTW are far superior to the rather backward HVAC forced air systems and instant water heaters ‘merica tend to use.
      Finally you guys are catching the rest of the world, but your super low priced utilities (natural gas for example) is why you dont feel a need to change. Generally you just waste energy because it’s cheap and screw the concequences.

  4. Article: “It’s not compatible with all the heaters on the market, but there is a comprehensive guide to those models with which it can work.”

    Nice… NOT
    Deleted my comment about how the alleged comprehensive compatibility list at
    doesn’t list any heater models or manufacturers, but “If your heater uses one of the following style controllers, this design will be compatible”.

    So you delete my comment instead of pointing out where there’s a list of heater models or manufacturers?
    That’s not helpful but is underhanded.

    Is such a list hidden away somewhere?

    1. I’m the designer of the Afterburner, but I certainly did not delete any comment?

      I do not have alist of manufacturers, because WHO ARE THEY? is the immediate question that does spring to my mind. They are “no name” heaters, but do you the photographed controllers.

      The wiki is correct and true showing what is and is not compatible, but no doubt there are many more that are not compatible.

  5. This is awesome.
    You’d blow-up if you offered compatibility for Espar / Webasto… I’m dreading buying a 7-day timer right now; perpetuating and rewarding Espar for living in the 80’s.

  6. TO those who denigrate the OBVIOUS genius of MR. Jones, get a life. He has designed a product to fill a need that is a must have for anyone who has a compatible heater. I have an 8kw unit in a 28 foot trailer and it burns us out. The primitive “slow the pump (and hence the fuel flow) to reduce the temperature plan” is BOLIX! The 8KW heater is a marvelous 27,300 BTU/hr heater which would heat a small house or turn our trailer into a Sauna (precombustion that is) even at the lowest setting. This is the most exactly targeted and desperately needed addition to the heater since diesel tank was filled
    Mr. Jones did not open a forum claiming to know everything about Chinese Diesel Heaters or who makes them. Just give it a shot if you think that tree is worth barking up! He created what to my eye is a masterpiece and I HOPE he will sell me one or get me the Gerbers so I can hack one out.
    A few issues raised in above comments:
    1) Of course they require venting, there is an EXTERNAL exhaust (HAS TO BE OUTSIDE THE AIRSPACE) and a combustion air intake (should be outside the airspace).
    2) You have a choice to entrain either room air for heating or outside air. The former recirculates and drastically improves efficiency while the latter will provide fresh, heated air, albeit a bit cooler, If you go the external air route it is IMPERATIVE that you draw heating air from well away from your intake or you will die.
    3)Get a CO detector, nuff said.
    4) At its core this is an extremely well engineered and multiply connected thermostat that starts and stops the heater as well as adjusts the pump speed. The latter is the only way for the OEM device to be regulated besides finger-to-off-button.
    5)When the likes of we normal humans address someone who lives where the air is as thin as it is where Mr.Jones lives it should be in a posture of humility and DEEP respect. He has shared a level of genius that is seldom opened outside the confines of a corporate EE lab and then locked away in a sealed box with no access. Give him the respect his genius deserves.
    Mr. Jones, YOU ROCK!!!

  7. hi, i have an old vw caravan. I would like to replace the original heater (eberspacher d3l) with heater with a “blue wire interface”

    the current heater is controlled by a custom control unit that manages all the caravan service devices

    i’m tring to create an interface with arduino that connects the original control unit to new heater, but it’s too hard for me!

    so.. did you try to study the protocol running in the blue wire?

    thank you so much for your answer

  8. Hi, i have a Webasto Smart controller left over from another project. AS you apear to be a master with this kind of thing, i wondered if the controller could be used with the chinese heater? If so would you have any wireing diagram to follow in terms of installation? Many thanks, Danny.

    1. It reads the altitude if you pay him for the pressure sensor, but just like the original Chinese heater, there is no actual adjustment done to the fuel parameters based on the altitude. Ray told me that this has something to do with the method in which the fuel parameters are written to the heater internal control unit, where there’s some limited number of times you can write to the internal controller befofe it wears out the flash (apologies if I got that wrong), so he doesn’t want to continually update the parameters. However, unlike the original controller, ray’s controller allows you to save multiple fuel pump profiles, so presumably you could create one or more profiles for higher altitudes and switch easily vs having to dial in the parameters every time you change altitude. The best way is to get a wide band O2 sensor and adjust the fuel rate manually until the proper exhaust gas ratio is achieved — guy on YouTube who has a ton of videos on these heaters (David mcluckie is the channel I think) shows how to do it. He also has a method of doing this with a CO sensor which is a lot cheaper. But the afterburner will just tell you the altitude, won’t automatically set the fuel parameters, unless this has changed very recently.

  9. i have an 8kw heater with built in controler , i cannot mount in awning due to space , i am installing this in shed with ducting coming through floor in my awning , due to the heater being in shed i am asking if anyone has fitted a wireless thermostat so the unit can be turned on and off via another room , thank you all in advance

  10. I use the android app. Works well. It also has a built in web-based monitoring/management feature. It is a great product and I’ve learned a lot about my heater by having the ability to make small incremental adjustments.

    I have found settings that seem to work great for my setup. I’m not having any issues but I’m also not sure if what I’m doing is technically correct. When adjusting the fuel mixture, what is the optimal operating temperature of the heater?

  11. “Diesel is something of a dirty word in 2019”, what a bunch of bullshit. You guys need to grow fucking up and stop believing everything stupid politicians are telling you. Fucking pussies.

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