Leaving a propane radiant heater on all night - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-01-2008, 11:51 PM   #15
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Catalytic (e.g. Olympic Wave 3) and ceramic (e.g. Portable Buddy) heaters have some very specific advantages and disadvantages. Their main advantage is they are very, very efficient at heating your trailer. The advantages they offer are 1) they use no battery or electric power (they are entirely propane powered), 2) less heat is lost because they burn their fuel and release all hot combustion gasses into the trailer (furnaces vent combustion gasses and heat outside the trailer), and 3) because the combustion process makes water vapor that raises the humidity in the trailer, the heat that is produced feels slightly warmer.

Their disadvantages are that 1) they do not circulate the air in the trailer, so trailer heating is very uneven, 2) you have to leave a pair of windows or vents slightly cracked to provide fresh air, 3) they make water vapor, which condenses on cold surfaces (like your windows) and run down the walls.

I do not consider safety to be a huge issue with these heaters. We have a lot of people using them here, and no one has come back to tell us they died because of a heater malfunction.

Back to being serious again, both catalytic and ceramic wall heaters and their portable cousins like the Portable Buddy are certified as safe as long as you adhere to the ventilation requirements, which are really quite modest and easy to follow. I've run our Portable Buddy as a sole heat source and thought it did a great job. (I've also run it and discovered some problems, which is part of a story I'm telling in this forum.)

Forced air furnaces have their advantages and disadvantages, too. On their advantage side, they have blowers that distribute the heat more evenly around the trailer, they have igniter circuits or pilot lights that allow them to be thermostatically controlled rather than set to burn steadily at "High/Medium/Low," so you get better temperature control, and they don't vent water vapor into the trailer, so there is less (not none: people vent wate into the air as they breathe, and that creates condensation, too) condensation on the windows.

On their disadvantage side, they are heavier, noisier, and less efficient. Catalytic heaters weigh about a third as much as a furnace, furnaces typically pull around 3 amps or more when they run, which can be problematic when you're dry-camping, and more than a third of the propane's heat is lost, vented to the outside of the trailer with the combustion gasses. (The "Everest 8200" is the most efficient of the forced air heaters, and draws about 1.8 amps, btw.)

What will work for you? That you have to decide, but it's definately a topic of discussion for us because we like to dry camp with our trailer, and we have run our battery down because the furnace draws so much power. We're just not sure whether the answer is installing a catalytic heater or trading our existing furnace out for an Atwood Everest 8200.
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Old 10-02-2008, 04:33 AM   #16
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Excellent summary, PeterH!

Also, the portable heaters can be taken to the camp ground facilities and can warm your backside whilst facing the campfire!
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Old 10-02-2008, 08:41 AM   #17
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I was looking into getting an Olympian wave 3 heater for our 13' Burro. I'm really looking forward to doing some winter camping. However, the temperature's can dip down to -20 and we won't have power because the sites will be closed for the season. That is what made the olympian attractive. Will this heater work? We'd have to have it on all night or we'd freeze.
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Old 10-02-2008, 10:02 AM   #18
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Adam, I had the exact trailer you have and a wave 3. It did very well in slightly sub freezing temps when set on the high setting and if you were right in front of it. The lowest temp I noted where it was still comfortable inside.. was 28 f outside.

Below that for outside temps, because of having to leave the windows open, it really did not make the grade. I spent one miserable nite in my 13, even with heavy bedding supplemented by 2 fat dogs, when it was 7500 feet, 15 f, both my wave 3 and my black cat going full blast. All was negated with the open windows for air coming into the rig so I did not wake up dead.

If you are going to camp in temps that low, I would lean towards a furnace, strong battery banks and an absolutely reliable recharging system.

Dare I say it, because I generally hate them, a generator may be a good investment for that kind of camping.

I am not sure a wave 6 or 8 would fair any better, btw.
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Old 10-03-2008, 05:10 AM   #19
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According to Coleman's instructions, the 3KBtu Black Cat requires ten square inches of window opening -- I believe the Wave 3 is the same size.

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Old 10-03-2008, 07:01 AM   #20
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I am looking into taking the furnace out and installing a Cat heater . I installed a Olympian Cat heater in my stick frame and it worked well. I rarely use the furnace and when I have power I use an elctric cube porcelean heater. I talked to Scamp some time back about a Cat heater as an option and they said they would not do it because of liabilty.
We are going to Eastern Oregon in the next few weeks boondocking and will use a portable Cat heater, we will see how it goes.
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Old 10-03-2008, 07:40 AM   #21
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I am looking into taking the furnace out and installing a Cat heater . I installed a Olympian Cat heater in my stick frame and it worked well. I rarely use the furnace and when I have power I use an elctric cube porcelean heater. I talked to Scamp some time back about a Cat heater as an option and they said they would not do it because of liabilty.
We are going to Eastern Oregon in the next few weeks boondocking and will use a portable Cat heater, we will see how it goes.
I may be interested if you wish to sell your old furnace
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Old 10-03-2008, 09:53 AM   #22
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FWIW, when I finally install my Wave 3, or 6 (I have the space to) I intend to leave the furnace in place. It will help with resale. Not everyone camps like me, so it will be an asset if the new owner is a full hook up kind of camper.

It really is a nicer more even heat, despite the danged noise, but I boondock more often than not and the cat heater is more practical for my style.
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Old 10-14-2008, 09:16 PM   #23
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I met a guy once whose wife got severely burned when their trailer interior caught fire from a little portable heater. There is NO WAY I will ever sleep with a heater on. That's what blankets and thick sleeping bags are for!
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Old 10-14-2008, 10:16 PM   #24
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I met a guy once whose wife got severely burned when their trailer interior caught fire from a little portable heater. There is NO WAY I will ever sleep with a heater on. That's what blankets and thick sleeping bags are for!
A point well taken. Whether the heat source is a little electric "cube" heater or a ceramic heater like my Portable Buddy or even my trailer's forced-air furnace, all heaters come with some risk of causing a fire.

One of the things I don't like about our Portable Buddy (ceramic) heater is that it burns its propane on the face of a ceramic plate with lots of little holes in it. Propane and air come bubbling up through the holes in the plate, catch fire, and burn. It's a very efficient way to make heat, but the downside is the heat comes from what's basically a big, open flame in the middle of my trailer. Yes, that flame is protected by a metal grill and the heater has a tip-switch that turns the heater off if it's bumped or knocked over, but if something -- say the corner of a blanket -- slips through the grill, it can catch fire.

This is one of the reasons why I want a catalytic heater. Catalytic heaters don't "burn" propane, they use a catalyst that holds the propane molecules tightly in place so oxygen can react with it in a more controlled way. Catalytic heaters release the same amount of heat per pound of propane without the very high temperatures of an open flame. So stuff won't catch fire if they find their way through the protective grill and come in contact with the reactor element.

Which isn't the same thing as being completely safe. It's still a heat source, and you have to treat it with respect. If that means turning the heater off at night and curling up in your sleeping bag, that's cool. For me that means putting the heater somewhere where it will be out of harm's way, somewhere where it'll keep my trailer toasty without getting toasted.
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Old 10-15-2008, 12:17 AM   #25
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Ok, the way I understand propane gas is that it's a heavy gas? So what good would a window or vent above your body do for keeping you from getting gassssssed?

I presume by getting gasssssssed you mean getting blown to smitherines. I think that's the issue with propane, not that it replaces oxygen. So, you could run a propane heater inside your camper, assuming it leaks like a sieve, allowing the propane, heavier than air, to escape and the window or vent would provide fresh air replacing the oxygen used by the heater. I have left my Coleman heater running all night on low in the tent trailer. It had lots of ways for leaking propane to escape, and lots of fresh air. Which is why I moved up to the Escape.

And, when we got the tent trailer some 25 years ago, my daughter really wanted to sleep in it when I brought it home. We didn't heat it. In the morning, I tried to light the propane stove to make coffee. Having been in storage for about 10 years, it took a while for the propane to ignite. Propane had gathered under the stove and when it ignited it lit up the trailer like a solar flare. A neighbor a block away saw the event and was quite impressed by the glowing canvas. Needless to say, we left the trailer and I had coffee in the house. Never experienced the event again. But, that didn't stop me from using the Coleman on a really cold night.

As I lay me down to sleep ...
I pray the Lord my soul to keep ...
If I should die before I wake ...
I pray the Lord my soul to take ...
And pick up the insurance on the trailer.

baglo
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Old 10-15-2008, 12:46 AM   #26
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Most people who die in fires do so long before the flames ever reach them. It is the gases that do them in. People who run burning devices inside a small closed space are just fulfilling the Darwin Principle.
They are risking taking that long sleep.

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Old 10-19-2008, 10:26 PM   #27
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Not me. I'd hate to go to bed and wake up hearing harps and being cooler than I was when I went to bed if you know what I mean.
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Old 10-20-2008, 02:28 AM   #28
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Not me. I'd hate to go to bed and wake up hearing harps and being cooler than I was when I went to bed if you know what I mean.

Or have a new job, shoveling coal! ha ha
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