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Rixen hydronic Espar installation

3912 Views 62 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  nealcallan
Finally getting around to posting about my installation of the Rixen/Espar hydronic system. Slideshow with some pics and commentary is below. Shout out to @nealcallan for providing valuable guidance. Points to note concerning the installation:
  • The Rixen system offers heat via 1) the Espar furnace (gasoline), 2) the ComfortHot expansion tank with heating element (electric), and 3) your Transit coolant line. You can install any combination of the three; I chose to do all three.
  • If you decide to tie into the engine coolant line, ordering the Auxiliary Heater Prep package makes it super easy. There is a stub out next to the drive shaft just behind the front wheel well.
  • The stub out is “U” shaped and the rear-most leg (with purple marking) is the hot side and the other is the cold side. The Ford coolant lines are 5/8” whereas the remainder of the Rixen system uses ¾” coolant lines and fittings. I purchased some 5/8” fittings from McMaster for the heat exchanger and two 5/8” Gates 90 degree hoses from Amazon for the engine loop connection.
  • I mounted the engine loop heat exchanger to the frame below the driver seat. I made an intermediate mounting bracket out of aluminum and covered it with Teflon tape to avoid galvanic corrosion with the stainless heat exchanger.
  • I purposely kept the engine loop heat exchanger close to the stub out, since the BEMM specifies that you should not significantly add to the volume of their coolant loop. I confirmed with Rixen that their pump could handle the distance from the pump in the rear to heat exchanger in the front.
  • I copied @nealcallan and installed the Espar furnace under the C pillar, passenger side. Once again, made an intermediate mounting bracket since mounting holes of the Rixen bracket extended beyond the bottom C pillar. Again covered bracket with Teflon tape.
  • Continuing to copy @nealcallan, I penetrated the rocker panel walls on the exterior of the van, and the floor of the inner wall cavity of the interior of the van. Thereby avoiding a hole in the main floor which would interfere with other stuff. Surprisingly easy to route Gates hose in the rocker panel area. Used grommets from McMaster.
  • Fabricated sort of a “C” bracket out of aluminum for mounting the muffler to the rocker panel.
  • I mounted the fuel pump to the frame just behind the fuel tank. For now I connected the pump to the Ford auxiliary fuel port which only involved lowering the fuel tank. Eventually I will fully drop the tank and install a smaller pipe as others have documented (I think @gregoryx).
  • I mounted the interior gear above the front of the passenger rear wheel well (below the foot of our bed). Had to make a small mounting bracket for the mixing valve (temporarily out of plywood; may eventually make one out of stainless or aluminum). Also made some spacer blocks behind the ComfortHot so it would line up nicely with the pump.
  • For now, no duct work attached to air handler; plan is to box out a duct along floor from side-to-side with thin linear register.
  • Was able to get it started up without too much difficulty. Initially was not getting enough fuel and it turned out I pinched the fuel line when raising the tank, so needed to reposition slightly. Other than that, worked like a charm.
  • Have not used extensively, but so far seems to work great. Camped in it a few nights in the Spring when heat was required. It worked flawlessly and cranked out the heat.
  • The ComfortHot tank and heat exchanger get blazing hot. No problem when heat is desired, but counterproductive when you need cooling. Have just recently connected water lines, so have not used for hot water during summer (other than testing). Definitely will act as a radiator but should not be insurmountable.
  • Rixen really does a nice job with their system, and it includes almost everything you need. For sure you have to purchase the Gates heater hose. I ended up needing to purchase a couple of extra ¾” hose fittings and some additional hose clamps, in addition to the 5/8” stuff I needed for the Ford tie-in.
  • It's a pricey system, but everything works very well and the support from Rixen is outstanding.
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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
@NealCarney, what did you do with the “U” shaped hose from the Heater Prep stub? Still have it? If so, what would it take to get it out to Northern California?
Sorry, but pretty sure I trashed it. Gates sells "L" hoses and you could join two of them with a coupling to make a "U". Might not be as tight but you might be able to get close.
 

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2021 Cargo T350 EL High roof AWD Ecoboost
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I'm planning on using https://www.owi.com/retail/brands/p...ifreeze-and-coolant/sierra-antifreeze-coolant in my system. Mostly because it makes draining for maintenance much less annoying since it is significantly less poisonous. Also good in case there is a crack in the heat exchanger and water gets mixed up with the coolant - not sure how likely that is.
Would love to hear what Rixen has to say about this!
 

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I'm planning on using https://www.owi.com/retail/brands/p...ifreeze-and-coolant/sierra-antifreeze-coolant in my system. Mostly because it makes draining for maintenance much less annoying since it is significantly less poisonous. Also good in case there is a crack in the heat exchanger and water gets mixed up with the coolant - not sure how likely that is.
Would love to hear what Rixen has to say about this!
I think Rixen provides a double wall heat exchanger for water and a single wall one for heat. If I understand the double wall one correctly, that means you'd have to have a crack in both walls to mix the water and coolant (still possible though).
 

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Sorry, but pretty sure I trashed it. Gates sells "L" hoses and you could join two of them with a coupling to make a "U". Might not be as tight but you might be able to get close.
Not sure, but seems like I read somewhere that U bend also has a restrictor in it.
 

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Just FYI, I had some inconsistent behavior from the “remote” control panel for my Rixen’s last week when I was by coincidence on vacation near Portland. My install was about 18 months ago and not done by me. I stopped by Rixen’s in Sandy, OR and the guys swapped it out, no questions asked, with no appointment. Super friendly!
 

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Has anyone put a drain line with valve onto the third port on the comfort hot tank? Seems like a necessity to me, in case you ever had a leak and needed to quickly drain the tank to avoid flooding the van with coolant. We’re installing one of these and are going to add a drain. Thoughts?
 

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Has anyone put a drain line with valve onto the third port on the comfort hot tank? Seems like a necessity to me, in case you ever had a leak and needed to quickly drain the tank to avoid flooding the van with coolant. We’re installing one of these and are going to add a drain. Thoughts?
I plan on putting one there. I think others have also.
 

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Has anyone put a drain line with valve onto the third port on the comfort hot tank? Seems like a necessity to me, in case you ever had a leak and needed to quickly drain the tank to avoid flooding the van with coolant. We’re installing one of these and are going to add a drain. Thoughts?
Wouldn't it be better to add a low-point valve down by the heater somewhere?
 

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Has anyone put a drain line with valve onto the third port on the comfort hot tank? Seems like a necessity to me, in case you ever had a leak and needed to quickly drain the tank to avoid flooding the van with coolant. We’re installing one of these and are going to add a drain. Thoughts?
I saw an install with a 3/4" boiler valve under the tank for draining when necessary. It is one more component to install and leak check... If you use constant tension clamps they are easy to remove with the tool, so one option is to quickly disconnect the hose input to the furnace under the van.
 

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Thinking harder about the Rixens system since the combination of Espar Air + Hot Water seems to approach the cost of Rixens - plus I haven't heard of anyone having altitude/starting problems with it.

Does anyone have recommendations/pics on where you've mounted your Air Handler and vent tubes? Did you end up adding a second air handler? Trying to sort that out on layout now while I'm still staring at a mostly empty van.
 

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I really like the Rixen system, but the price point does feel a bit high for the components. The only real unique selling point I see is the WIFI diagnostic interface and the electric heater tank.

What I would love from Rixen:
  1. Multi-zone (either via pumps or valves)
  2. Smart Thermostat (integrated with diagnostic interface and ability to tie into another automation system)
  3. Remote thermometers for remote placement of control panel and freeze protect of water system
  4. Integration of some form with an air conditioner. (electronically to thermostat and/or physically with a shared fan for heater/ac to save space)
  5. Pex-a instead of rubber for zones/loops (would require a thermostatic valve if tied into engine heat)
  6. DC electric heater options (12/24/48) (ideally variable power draw)
  7. Variable speed control of brushless fans and pumps (ideally with sense wire for fault detection)

Things I would love out of a transit-specific system:
  • Plug and play with aux engine heat
  • An coolant/electric heat tank and engine heat exchanger setup that either:
    • Fits in the engine bay and inserts itself into the oem aux heat tubing setup
    • Fits in a wall cavity
    • Fits under the passenger seat
 

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I really like the Rixen system, but the price point does feel a bit high for the components. The only real unique selling point I see is the WIFI diagnostic interface and the electric heater tank.

What I would love from Rixen:
  1. Multi-zone (either via pumps or valves)
  2. Smart Thermostat (integrated with diagnostic interface and ability to tie into another automation system)
  3. Remote thermometers for remote placement of control panel and freeze protect of water system
  4. Integration of some form with an air conditioner. (electronically to thermostat and/or physically with a shared fan for heater/ac to save space)
  5. Pex-a instead of rubber for zones/loops (would require a thermostatic valve if tied into engine heat)
  6. DC electric heater options (12/24/48) (ideally variable power draw)
  7. Variable speed control of brushless fans and pumps (ideally with sense wire for fault detection)

Things I would love out of a transit-specific system:
  • Plug and play with aux engine heat
  • An coolant/electric heat tank and engine heat exchanger setup that either:
    • Fits in the engine bay and inserts itself into the oem aux heat tubing setup
    • Fits in a wall cavity
    • Fits under the passenger seat
Your asking quite a bit and getting all that would really bump the price up. I'm sure you could use PEX if you wanted but the I.D. of pex is much smaller than the rubber lines and it may be a flow issue if you did that. I prefer to stay with the system as is and keep it simple. The more you add or mess with the more chance for problems. Very simple loop from tank to pump to heater to the heat exchangers and back to the tank.
 

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I really like the Rixen system, but the price point does feel a bit high for the components. The only real unique selling point I see is the WIFI diagnostic interface and the electric heater tank.

What I would love from Rixen:
  1. Multi-zone (either via pumps or valves)
  2. Smart Thermostat (integrated with diagnostic interface and ability to tie into another automation system)
  3. Remote thermometers for remote placement of control panel and freeze protect of water system
  4. Integration of some form with an air conditioner. (electronically to thermostat and/or physically with a shared fan for heater/ac to save space)
  5. Pex-a instead of rubber for zones/loops (would require a thermostatic valve if tied into engine heat)
  6. DC electric heater options (12/24/48) (ideally variable power draw)
  7. Variable speed control of brushless fans and pumps (ideally with sense wire for fault detection)

Things I would love out of a transit-specific system:
  • Plug and play with aux engine heat
  • An coolant/electric heat tank and engine heat exchanger setup that either:
    • Fits in the engine bay and inserts itself into the oem aux heat tubing setup
    • Fits in a wall cavity
    • Fits under the passenger seat
Actually, Rixen's already supports many of the items on your list:
-They support a second zone for in-floor heat, using a separate circ pump. Pex should work fine for this.
-Their MCS controller supports remote temperature sensors
--Their controller is CANbus controlled, so I am hoping to be able to reverse-engineer it for use with Home Assistant--we'll see...
--The controller has a 5-speed fan controller. Not brushless, though.
--I'm not sure that you would really want DC water heating. Would be kind of like having a DC microwave. Could be done, but very big wires, so nobody does it.
 

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Actually, Rixen's already supports many of the items on your list:
-They support a second zone for in-floor heat, using a separate circ pump. Pex should work fine for this.
-Their MCS controller supports remote temperature sensors
--Their controller is CANbus controlled, so I am hoping to be able to reverse-engineer it for use with Home Assistant--we'll see...
--The controller has a 5-speed fan controller. Not brushless, though.
--I'm not sure that you would really want DC water heating. Would be kind of like having a DC microwave. Could be done, but very big wires, so nobody does it.
I'm trying to pull on the Home Assistant MSC-6 can bus thread as well - would love to know if you're making any headway!
 

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Has anyone used a sort of hot water accumulator, like using a Bosch water heater to hold the hot water for a few hours so you do not have to run the system every time you want hot water?
 
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