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Old 13-02-2011, 18:20   #1
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Espar Airtronic - White Smoke on Startup

We installed an Espar Airtronic d4 in the fall which has been running great until recently. 3 weeks ago our wharfinger was power-washing the docks and inadvertently sprayed our exhaust port while the heater was running. At the time the exhaust started belching out a bunch of white smoke, but we shut it down, and it started up again fine.

Since then everything has been running fine, but today I shut it down for a few hours, and on startup, the same thing happened.

On starting up:
- the fan starts blowing
- the fuel pump starts ticking
- at this point the smokes starts pouring out the exhaust, white, smells like diesel exhaust.
- After 45 seconds or so, I can hear the 'roaring' sound as everything fires up.
- At this point the smoking stops and everything seems to be running smoothly.

Any ideas what the issue might be? Is it possible there's an issue with the glowplugs?

Advice greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 13-02-2011, 19:35   #2
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Sooted up glow plug
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Old 13-02-2011, 19:44   #3
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I have an eberspacher which is a similar unit. White smoke and a few minutes of diesel smell is normal during start up. After 1 minute or so the heater and flame are sustained and the glow plug switches off.

Maybe something that you had not noticed before??

If the smoke clears and it heats normally probably ok.
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Old 13-02-2011, 23:12   #4
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Originally Posted by andrewsc View Post
Maybe something that you had not noticed before??.
It's not just a little smoke, it's quite a bit, we definitely would have noticed it. In the past it's never put out any visible exhaust at all.

If it is a glow plug problem, is that something I could inspect myself to verify?
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Old 13-02-2011, 23:49   #5
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Originally Posted by Sonrisa View Post
It's not just a little smoke, it's quite a bit, we definitely would have noticed it. In the past it's never put out any visible exhaust at all.

If it is a glow plug problem, is that something I could inspect myself to verify?
Are you sure it's not just steam? Did this happen just the time water was sprayed in it, and you immediately shut down, and the first time you started it after that? Have you started it a second time after it had run awhile?

John
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Old 14-02-2011, 00:23   #6
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I installed one in November and it has been running since. Damn cold winter here on the East coast.

It puts out quite a bit of steam. Depends upon atmospheric conditions how much. My exhaust is warm but not burning hot when it comes out as I have a pretty long exhaust.

I get a bit of diesel smell, but not much. Do you get any residue around the exhaust? If you can hold your hand in it do you get a residue on your hand?
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Old 14-02-2011, 04:57   #7
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The Espar Troubleshooting Instructions donít mention white smoke:
http://www.espar.com/www/espar.com/t...0Airtronic.pdf

The Installation & Operating Instructions indicate that Odour on start-up is normal.
http://www.espar.com/www/espar.com/t...-2009%20EN.pdf

You might ask Technical Help:
akonyshev@espar.com
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Old 14-02-2011, 06:56   #8
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A good espar, will put out very little smoke on startup, just a puff or two. prolonged white smoke ( and it will not be mixed up with steam), is the result of slow or irregular starting. In fact if its bad , the flame failure device typically trips of the fuel supply and the heater will not complete the start cycle. In your case given what happened its probably a sooted up glow plug. Other systems that cause this are fuel starvation and air in the fuel, but both these problems tend to result in non-startup and flame failure trip.


Ive never seen an espar put out any amount of steam. Wheres the water coming from.!

Dave
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Old 14-02-2011, 07:39   #9
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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
Ive never seen an espar put out any amount of steam. Wheres the water coming from.!Dave
It's been down in the teens here for extended periods with dips into the single digits. I'm presuming that the water is in the exhaust products that is hitting the cold outside air and condensing.
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Old 14-02-2011, 08:07   #10
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I agree with goboatingnow. The glow plug is sooted. This is common with liveaboards (because the heater runs at low settings for long periods once the boat is warm) and in the Americas (where the diesel simply isn't as clean as in the EU). Liveaboards in the Americas can have a real problem after a couple of seasons.

You can try to fix the problem in place by running the Espar on kerosene until the smoking stops. A few gallons should do it. It also helps to shut the heater down and letting the boat cool for a while so the heater will run on high speed.

I run a gallon of kerosene through my Espar heater a couple of times each season to keep the plug cleaned.

The good news is burning kerosene in an Espar will clean the glow plug, which approach for some reason doesn't help with Webasto.
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Old 14-02-2011, 09:19   #11
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Where does your heater get its fuel? I have an Espar heater that is plumbed to my main diesel tank, and for a while it was starting with difficulty (or not at all), and occasionally pumping out white smoke. It turned out that I had water and slime in my tank. Since I drained and scrubbed the tank the heater's been fine.
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Old 14-02-2011, 09:41   #12
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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
A good espar, will put out very little smoke on startup, just a puff or two. prolonged white smoke ( and it will not be mixed up with steam), is the result of slow or irregular starting. In fact if its bad , the flame failure device typically trips of the fuel supply and the heater will not complete the start cycle. In your case given what happened its probably a sooted up glow plug. Other systems that cause this are fuel starvation and air in the fuel, but both these problems tend to result in non-startup and flame failure trip.


Ive never seen an espar put out any amount of steam. Wheres the water coming from.!

Dave
From OPs original post: "3 weeks ago our wharfinger was power-washing the docks and inadvertently sprayed our exhaust port while "

As I read his post white smoke came out immediately after water was forced up the exhaust. He immediately shut it down. He got white smoke on the first start up after water had been forced into it. He doesn't say if he has started it since then. I asked if this were an ongoing problem or if it has only happened the first time after water had been forced into the heater.

That's where the water is coming from.

If this is now an ongoing problem with more than one startup with a long run then I don't think it is water.

John
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Old 14-02-2011, 09:46   #13
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Hi Paul,

As built, my boat had a Webasto air heater plumbed directly to the main diesel tank. The Webasto turned into a nightmare and I replaced it with an Espar, which over two winters has been much better. Based on a lot of research, both academic and empirical I wanted to be able to burn kerosene sometimes. I spliced a really small Y-valve into the fuel line from the main diesel tank. The extra line I used to draw from a small portable tank. I'm currently building a small stainless tank to go in the bilge next to the main diesel tank to hold kerosene -- still working out the fill issues.

Definitely agree that water in the tank isn't good. You engine won't like it either. The heater is like a canary in a coal mine and provides early indication of problems like that.

Regardless, running some kerosene through an Espar periodically seems to be good maintenance. The Webasto - not so good. YMMV.
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Old 14-02-2011, 14:57   #14
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I have been running straight kerosene through my 1990ish Ardic with great results. The diesel fuel would make the heater smoke like crazy till it got hot.
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Old 14-02-2011, 22:46   #15
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Thanks for the replies. I'll give kerosene a shot. As someone mentioned, we live aboard and the heater runs on low for long periods. Since this first happened the heater has started up fine a few times, but most recently it produced a lot of white smoke. I'm confident it wasn't steam, the smell is pretty distinctive, and any excess condensation in the exhaust system goes out the drain.

I'll also give Espar a call and ask if they have any ideas. Thanks again.
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