Installing an alcohol-electric stove --- good idea? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-20-2008, 01:00 PM   #1
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We plan to replace the propane stovetop that came with our Casita 17' SD and are considering the Origo 4300E alcohol/electric stovetop made by Dometic for the marine market.

As we use our trailer as a ski cabin in the winter, the advantage of the electric option is that when we're hooked up to shore power and trying to minimize water vapour in the trailer, we can use the electric elements; in the summer, when we camp without any hookups, we can use the alcohol fuel.

In our last trailer, we placed a two-burner electric hotplate on top of the stove when we were skiing, but space constraints in the Casita make this an awkward solution.

Does anyone have any experience with an Origo alcohol stove? Or any alcohol stove? We are aware that there is a greater risk of fire if we spill fuel; conversely, flames can be put out immediately with water.

Elisabeth
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Old 06-20-2008, 03:57 PM   #2
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Hi Elisabeth,

I remember the alcohol stove from my boat being smelly and I always seemed to spill the fuel when filling it. Maybe the Dometic model is more
sophisticated.

BTW I purchased a 12 volt cooker that is marketed as a hot dog steamer but also can steam anything as well as cook eggs. It's come in handy a few times.

Nancy A.
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Old 06-20-2008, 05:47 PM   #3
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Nancy, did you have to pre-heat the alcohol before you could cook with it (like camping stoves that use alcohol fuel), or could you just light it and go?

And what kind of smell? If it smelled like vodka or scotch (ho ho), I could live with that --- but perhaps a bad smell is added so that there's no mistake about it being fuel, not a drink?

E.
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Old 06-20-2008, 06:07 PM   #4
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I had in 2 of my boats and found that it took forever to even boil water....
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Old 06-20-2008, 10:15 PM   #5
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I think my stove had a pump like a coleman stove - but it used the alcohol you buy at a marine store. It smelled medicinal - sort of like embalming fluid. Not like a drink for sure. Also spills can be very damaging to surfaces - like paint remover.

Have you seen those little stoves they use in fancy restuarants for tableside prep? They use a small gas cylinder not much bigger than a lighter fluid can. They are very hot - about the same size as the alcohol stove.

Here is a link for what I am trying to describe - Amazon has several brands starting at $16.
"MAX BURTON" PORTABLE BUTANE BURNER
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Old 06-20-2008, 11:58 PM   #6
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Your best bet might be just to put a hotplate on the top of the propane stove. Alcohol doesn't do a very good job of cooking. The heat output is quite low compared to any other stove fuel. I don't remember the exact times but it seems like it took alcohol close to 10 minutes to boil a quart of water.
If it were me I'd build a cover for the stove that a hot plate could sit on, or cook outside with a white gas stove. White gas or Coleman fuel wins the boil time contest.
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Old 06-21-2008, 12:05 AM   #7
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One big reason alcohol stoves exist is for use on boats where other fuels are too dangerous to use in the cabin.
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Old 06-21-2008, 12:19 AM   #8
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Quote:
Have you seen those little stoves they use in fancy restuarants for tableside prep? They use a small gas cylinder not much bigger than a lighter fluid can.
We have one and it works real good, that is until it gets cold out. Normal butane condenses to a liquid at 31 degrees F. That explains why butane lighters are not so good in the winter unless you warm them up with body heat.

Yes, they indicated they use the trailer for skiing and use shore power.
But if not available and they want to use a stove like that, they should look for one that will handle the mixed propane/butane cartridges.
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Old 06-21-2008, 07:12 AM   #9
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Got rid of mine. Couldn't use it when it got cold and they don't work well at elevation either. I carry a small 10 lb refillable tank for the camp stove and it has lasted two years so far. Am thinking if getting a "T" fitting so that I can also connect to the table top BBQ and do away with those little green throw-away tanks altogether.
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Old 06-21-2008, 09:09 AM   #10
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Sounds like the consensus is -- Not a good idea.

I have seen those in the boating used shops for pennies on the dollar. Any that I saw used the old Frigidare type electric burners that are indestructible, but slow heating, not like the modern electrical coil burners. What always went through my mind was the possibility of converting the alcohol burners to propane.

In fact, I'm surprised a propane/electric unit isn't available on the market for RVs and even for homes!
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Old 06-21-2008, 11:03 AM   #11
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As someone else said I use a butane 1 burner stove for inside and outside cooking...it gets makes a really hot cooking flame and elevation or outside temp dosn't have any effect...I have a 3 burner propane stove in my Fiber Stream...but I never use ...
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Old 06-21-2008, 05:18 PM   #12
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The newer "Butane" stoves cartridges are Isotane. Which butane with a bit of propane mixed in to lower the boiling temperature. Butane boils around 32 F. I'm not sure just much it gets lowered with propane added in, but it's enough that in most situations they will work.

Once Isotane was the norm for "butane" stoves things improved a lot. The cooking temperature went up and cold temperatures don't bother as much. There's still the problem with empty cartridge disposal and they always run empty in middle of cooking that great meal.

FYI since the stoves require the fuel to be in a gaseous state the temperature of the fuel has to be above the boiling point of that fuel. The exception to that is liquid fuels such as kerosene, alcohol, and gasoline type of fuels. Those require some sort of pressurization. Sometimes most cases heat is used to maintain pressure and a pump is used to create the pressurization. There are a couple exceptions where heat alone is used.
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Old 06-22-2008, 07:28 AM   #13
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The reason for alcohol stoves in boats has to do with the fact that alcohol fires can be extinguished with water... that's assuming you can tell if you have an alcohol fire in the first place. Alcohol spilled on a counter-top for example burns with an almost invisible flame. Often the first indication of such a fire is the counter-top turning black at a surprising rate or maybe the curtains going up in flames. They have gone out of fashion even on boats these days. Most boats manufactured in the US since the 80s are equipped with propane cooking appliances. For a while there, CNG was popular in boats because the gas cooks like propane but is lighter than air so leaking gas won't collect in the bilge, a major cause of boat explosions with heavier than air gases like propane or gasoline. However, it has almost disappeared from the scene because it is simply not available.

That said, a few boats do come with Origo stoves. Mainly because it's a weight saving device. I used an Origo stove on a carbon fiber racing trimaran on a trip once. I found it worked quite well. It's system is like a caterer's steam table that uses sterno cans except that the Origo cans are larger and they have wadding inside (like an old Zippo lighter) to hold the alcohol. You remove the can from the stove for filling. The cans on the stove I used would hold a quart or so of stove alcohol. It is not pressurized in any way.

As far as performance, yes it took 10 minutes or so to boil a quart of water that a propane stove would boil in 8 minutes ... big deal. The smell of the exhaust would make me heave breakfast though. It's really sickening. I would say that you'd better use it in a well ventilated area which may not be compatible with winter activities. It is also hard to see if they're lit. The old invisible flame trick. Some alcohol stove fuels have additives to make the flame more visible but I don't have any experience with them.

I can't say how well they would work in cold weather either as my experience is all in Florida.

All things considered, boaters have adopted propane as the cooking fuel of choice. It can be made safe enough, it cooks well, it's cheap, and it's readily available almost every where. I have two 6lb bottles on my boat and they will last 6 or 7 weeks (each) of daily use. The main issue with propane is the carbon monoxide exhaust ... do not use one to warm the camper.

On my camper however, we use a portable camp stove (a Brinkman stainless steel model from Walmart) and the small green camp gas bottles which we use outside. Of course, we don't live in our camper for more than a couple of weeks at a time. If I was full-timing, I might rethink that.

When we're plugged in, the wife uses the microwave and a George Forman grill if we don't use the gas grill or the portable stove. I would also think that a large electric frying pan or one of those convertible electric griddles might work well too. Our gas grill is a Thermos model that has a cook top like a George Forman grill. It's much easier to clean than a standard gas grill. We like it a lot.

Lots of options...
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Old 06-23-2008, 12:31 PM   #14
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Wow! Thank you ALL for your thoughtful and helpful responses. As Loren said, the consensus is that this is a bad idea. I could live with the lower BTUs but not with the seriously high risk of fire.

For ski season, we'll use a single-burner hot plate --- we already have a coffeemaker --- and an electric frying pan (I haven't actually seen one for a long time, but assume that places like Macy's still stock them).

However, I still need to do research on a replacement for the Suburban propane cooktop that came with our Casita. It's major weakness is that the controls, which are placed beside one of the burners, right on the cook top itself, are exposed to the flames and become very hot. A lesser problem is that it is installed ON, rather than IN, the fiberglass cooking area; a sudden movement, and cookpots could end up on the sofa/bed (yes, we could have bought the flimsy cover that, when raised, might prevent this, but we didn't; we knew we'd be replacing the stove). And finally, it's ugly and the white-enamelled frame is very hard to clean.

I would be very grateful for input on a propane-fueled replacement stove! I will start a new thread for that.

Again, many thanks
Elisabeth
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