I’m the proud new owner of a new Four Wheel Camper Eagle Shell Model and it sits nicely on my 2011 Toyota Tacoma. I picked the shell unit to maintain more useable space since I do not need to carry around a full kitchen and water system everywhere I go. This saves not only space but significant cost over the full featured unit and allows me to maintain flexibility for year round usage. One piece of very-nice-have-gear for any camper is a furnace. I do not trust the catalytic style heaters so in order to do it right, I have installed a Propex Heatsource HS2000 Forced Air Furnace. This is a very high quality unit made in the UK and distributed in Canada through Aurora Sales. The new Eagle Shell unit was purchased from Gary Morrissey at Morrissey Industries in Coquitlam,B.C. , the Canadian Importer of Four Wheel Campers. Gary was very helpful during my purchase. The shell model has no electrical system except for a pigtail connector to the truck main battery to connect the interior lights and single exterior floodlight. In order to do a proper installation and utilize a deep cycle battery to draw power from for the furnace fan, a separate battery and electrical system installation was required. 12 V eléctrical systems are quite basic and are usually easy to understand and work with for even the most basic skilled home mechanic. Below is an outline of the steps performed during the installation and i will provide more detailed descriptions and pictures further in the post.
- Install Continous duty solenoid in the Tacoma engine bay, utilize an add-a-circuit and circuit breaker on the truck to disconnect the camper battery when the truck engineer is not running and automatically connect when the engine starts to charge the battery.
- Fabricate the battery mount bracket, mount battery, install fuse block and make electrical connections.
- Fabricate furnace mount platform and bracket to mount in the rear of the camper.
- Drill holes in suitable locations for the flue, combustion air inlet and propane lines.
- Mount Thermostat and route the wires to the furnace
- Route propane line to feed the furnace
- Install stainless stell marine through-hull fitting for exhaust flue at the rear of the camper.
One interesting and important note is that Four Wheel Campers (factory) was not that helpful in answering my questions for locating the internal aluminum frame members so I could properly locate the exhaust flue and drill the hole without running into a stud or having to rip apart the wall the see where they were….Their solution was to open the wall and look where they are, this solution was presented when it was revealed the the campers are not made to any drawings! To an engineer, this was troubling to hear since how do they track and control the work flow and communicate details to the floor and do any troubleshooting and record keeping? Either way that was my path forward so I was forced to pry back the paneling after removing all of the screws on the rear drivers side wall, the roll over couch brackets and stacked wooded support and trip pieces..Oh well, this also meant having to re-seal the floor to wall with silicone as was done in the factory. Since the bottom of the wall panelling was secured with staples in the aluminum, attempting to remove them just resulted in the staples pulling through the panel and remaining in the wood. They taped like this and were not re-installed, the bottom panel was just pressed back into the staple…only a minor issue.
First things first was to get the power straightened out and install the new AGM Deep Cycle battery, the AGM batteries are sealed and provide a much more durable power source capable of deeper discharges and charge cycles compared to ordinary flooded cell batteries. Under the hood required a continuous duty solenoid that would be activated with a circuit made live whenever the ignition switch was in the “on” position. This was quite easy to accomplish with a small Add-A-Circuit and a multimeter to confirm the voltage in the on and off and engine running positions. A continuous duty solenoid from Cole Hearsee was required since regular solenoids cannot handle being activated the whole time that the engine is running. Any local auto parts store should have these in stock. In line after a 30 AMP breaker and the 10 Gauge wiring was set to deliver power as required to the Atwood connector in the bed of the truck connected to the camper. Inside the camper I moved the 10 GA wires into a location in the forward compartment under the roll over couch. Here i mounted a fuse block to feed various circuits including the lights, Auxillary 12 V plugs and of course, the furnace. I fabricated a base plate and glued/screwed down a 3/4″ piece of plywood and mounted two strips of 1/8″ x 3″ aluminum flat bar and a 3/16 piece of plastic between the flatcar and the bottom of the battery for a softer base and incase any of the mounting screws backed out to protect the battery from leaking. Next step was to fabricate a suitable bracket for mounting the furnace to the floor of the camper. Here is used a 3/4″ piece of plywood and glued/screwed that to the floor with deck screws and gorilla glue. On top of the plywood I mounted a piece of 3″ x 1/8″ Aluminum strip (same stock as the battery mount) and bent this at a 90 degree angle to mount the furnace on its side and allow the best arrangement of the flue, propane and air inlet locations. For the exhaust flue I decided to use a special marine Through-hull fitting. These are made of heavy stainless steel and are the perfect design for this furnace and wall thickness/construction. The outside wall is sealed with silicone and the inside has a soft gasket. The construction of these insulates the wall so there is not direct hot metal contact to the wall. I used a hole saw to cut the hole through the wall, and it worked with alarming efficiency, basically cut the wall like butter and left perfect hole. The combustion air inlet feed was located near the rear drivers side bed anchor ancess panel and fitted with a clip to secure it and the hole was sealed with silicone. Propane was routed near the combustion air inlet hose with 1/4″ Copper tubing and brass compression fittings. Only one connection was made inside the camper for safety and the connections were all sealed with teflon tape. The idea was to make the system as adaptable as possible and while in use, the propane tank sits outside the camper on the ground and is connected via a certified gas quick coupler similar to the ones used for compressed air tools. I like the versatility and options this gives me since i can leave the tank at home in the summer and did not want to hang it off of the back wall so I could maintain the clean lines. The camper male connector was tucked in the corner of the bed overhang and is relatively low profile. I seal it with a soft vinyl cap when not in use. The power connection for the furnace and the thermostat control had to be connected to the furnace which is a very simple task. I mounted the thermostat on the small side cabinets so it is away from the furnace and reachable from the bed. The unit is complete and the inlet heater air line I installed is only temporary until I can build a panel to cover the heater location and house the heated air vent. The return air will be fed from inside the panel and will draw from low in the camper where the cooler air sits. The furnace works amazingly well and is reasonably quiet. It heats the camper very quirky but the coldest I have tried it yet is around 0 Deg C (32 F). No issues at all, the propane connection works properly and since the line is low pressure (0.5 psi) it is quite reliable and safe. Always use a CO and Propane detector along with the regular smoke detector when using propane appliances. I have a battery powered unit that I picked up from HD.