New Heater: Condensation problems - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-20-2011, 07:44 PM   #1
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Question New Heater: Condensation problems

Can anybody explain to me how my old gravity feed (no fan) heater got rid of the condensation that's the main byproduct of propane combustion? The catalytic heater with which I replaced it puts out a lot more heat on a lot less fuel, but I'm having condensation problems, especially in colder weather.
I went with the catalytic heater mainly because I was determined to avoid the electricity drain (and noise) of the fans required on new conventional heaters. I'm rigorous about venting, and for circulation have mounted atop the heater an Eco-Fan (powered by the heat, and absolutely silent : Amazon.com: Caframo Ecofan Original, Black with Nickel Blade: Health & Personal Care )
The system works like a dream EXCEPT for the fact that I'm getting more condensation on the walls and windows than I did with the old heater. I'm wondering if the double-pipe design of the old stack had anything to do with vapor discharge.
Any illumination would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks!
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Old 02-20-2011, 08:22 PM   #2
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I don't understand how the catalytic process works, so I have no explaination for you on that one.

I have noticed a significant reduction in condensation with my Blue Flame heater that I replaced my Wave 6 with, however. It has been "Pacific Northwest" style wet weather here the past few days..temp drop, rain rain and more rain, and I didn't even get a drop on my windows using the blue flame. The Wave 6 would have made it like a sauna in here under those conditions.

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Old 02-20-2011, 10:21 PM   #3
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I think that a gravity heater burnerís intake and exhaust are external and warm air, generated by the heat exchanger, is circulated without a fan, just gravity (warm air goes up) inside the trailer. I would expect that with catalytic heater you will get a lot of water inside the trailer, all exhaust gases (H2O and CO2) stay inside the trailer.
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:21 PM   #4
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Does the original gravity flow heater have a heat exchanger? Can you tell me how that works?
Is there anything you can suggest about venting? Is there any way I can direct the exhaust outside?
I still have the old heater- might the stack and shroud be employed to "encapsulate" the gases emanating from the new heater?
p.s.
what's a "Wave Heater"?
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Old 02-21-2011, 12:45 AM   #5
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Catalytic heaters (Wave) and blue flame heaters are designed not to be vented. You have to allow for sufficient air exchange within the heated space to provide oxygen to the burner but this level of fresh air will not remove water vapors. Most of these no vent heaters have an oxygen sensor extinguishing the pilot flame in case of low oxygen level. To eliminate byproduct of combustion, water, I would suggest to go back to heat exchanger based heater.
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Old 02-21-2011, 10:36 AM   #6
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Boyoboy, is one picture EVER worth a thousand words! Your diagram succeeded in explaining to me what my poor engineer husband has been patiently trying to get across.
NOW I get it! Thanks!
Still...
I really like the quiet, lower operating cost, and electrical independence (fan generates its own power) of this system. What if I were to enclose it behind a metal plate, supplying outside air / exhaust, thereby isolating it from the interior? Would I be making it into a sort of heat exchanger? Wouldn't dryer air FEEL warmer, thus offsetting heat loss out the vents?
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Old 02-21-2011, 01:23 PM   #7
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a Wave heater is the brand name for the most popular cat heaater.. Wave 3, 6 and 8. I don't know what brand you have.

I "sort of" did what you are suggesting above with my Wave 3 install in my 13 foot Burro. I utilized the vent tubes from the old powered cat heater in it to supply fresh air inside 100 % of the time.

Didn't help with the condensation much.
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Old 02-21-2011, 01:43 PM   #8
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Was the face of the heater still open to the room?
I'm thinking of trying to block the vapor by putting the unit more or less inside a (vented outside ) box, the metal face of which would then act as a radiant heater.
What do you think?
While I have your very kind attention, might I ask what kind of trailer you're full-timing in?
I see by your tag you used to have a Burro, but it doesn't indicate what you have now.
I'm wondering if your unit might be better insulated than my Trillium, whose walls get mighty cold, aggravating the condensation problem.

Thanks!
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Old 02-21-2011, 08:53 PM   #9
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Sadly, I am no longer in a fiberglass rig. I did fulltime in a 17 foot Burro, and it was perfect for me.. but I have pets and it wasn't working for them.

I am in a Kit Companion stick built, with all the pitfalls of one. It probably is better insulated, yes.

I am not sure your idea would be safe. The radiant heaters do get hot on the face and would probably heat up your enclosure too much.
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Old 02-21-2011, 10:03 PM   #10
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Warning. I should have mentioned back the day after Christmas that I almost was overcome by low oxygen in my 6x10 utility trailer as I had my blue flame heater on and went to sleep before going to my sons in laws house. I was taking a nap and had the blue flame on and about and hour after falling asleep I awoke as I was getting a little chilly and woke up to find the heater off. I immediately thought I was out of propane and checked but the tank was still partially filled and came back in to check the settings and found that it was in the on position. I had a headache the rest of the day. The next day I had the new Atwood installed.

I do know that God has been watching over me.
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Old 02-21-2011, 11:03 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell A View Post
Warning. I should have mentioned back the day after Christmas that I almost was overcome by low oxygen in my 6x10 utility trailer as I had my blue flame heater on and went to sleep before going to my sons in laws house. I was taking a nap and had the blue flame on and about and hour after falling asleep I awoke as I was getting a little chilly and woke up to find the heater off. I immediately thought I was out of propane and checked but the tank was still partially filled and came back in to check the settings and found that it was in the on position. I had a headache the rest of the day. The next day I had the new Atwood installed.

I do know that God has been watching over me.
Many, many years ago I almost ended my life by CO (Carbon Monoxide) poisoning, different circumstances, bur CO is CO. Personally I would stay away from either blue flame or catalytic heater inside any living/bedroom quarters. In my garage I have blue flame heater but there is sufficient air flow for fresh air and exhaust and I donít sleep in the garage.
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Old 02-22-2011, 01:29 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russell A View Post
Warning. I should have mentioned back the day after Christmas that I almost was overcome by low oxygen in my 6x10 utility trailer as I had my blue flame heater on and went to sleep before going to my sons in laws house. I was taking a nap and had the blue flame on and about and hour after falling asleep I awoke as I was getting a little chilly and woke up to find the heater off. I immediately thought I was out of propane and checked but the tank was still partially filled and came back in to check the settings and found that it was in the on position. I had a headache the rest of the day. The next day I had the new Atwood installed.

I do know that God has been watching over me.
Ironically, I had a similar bad experience with my old gravity heater- in my case, CO ( incomplete combustion) backgassing into the trailer. That's what led me to replace it.
Sounds like your low oxygen sensor shut the flow off like it was supposed to, luckily!
I don't have a problem with low oxygen. The Ecofan depends on heat differential between the fins and the base to generate its electricity. The cooler the fins, the faster it turns, and it's supplied with cooler outside air which it moves at about 100 cfpm. In my case, that means that I'm replacing the interior air every five or six minutes. I also have plenty of venting, though (correct me if I'm wrong) a properly maintained catalytic heater produces little besides CO2 and.......
That pesky water!
The main problem is that it condenses on the walls and gets bedding, etc. wet. It seems to me that the only way to control it is to prevent its entry in the first place, which means isolating the flame from the room, which is apparently how "heat exchanger" type heaters work. (Thanks, George R.!)
Unless I could figure out a way to CAPTURE and use the water.....Hmmm.....distilled water.....I like it!
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Old 02-22-2011, 12:55 PM   #13
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I can't imagine how much water you would get burning fuel INSIDE the heated space. We get plenty from just breathing in our Trillium. We always leave one or two windows cracked and the roof vent open just for that problem. In the desert, there is no problem, but in the soggy NW, it is a constant fight against moisture, and we use an electric heater which generates no water whatsoever.

I found a good discussion about catalytic heaters:

http://www.rverscorner.com/catalytic.html

I just makes sense. Catalytic heaters, even if they generate NO carbon MONoxide, do generate carbon DIoxide and water. You need oxygen to survive, not carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide is deadly poison because it actually takes oxygen from your body. While carbon dioxide doesn't do this, your body cannot use the oxygen it contains, so, instead of being poisoned, you merely suffocate.

Catylitic heaters consume fuel and oxygen. Humans need oxygen to survive. Are you willing to trust your life to a low oxygen sensor?
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Old 02-22-2011, 02:24 PM   #14
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I certainly would never stake my life on a low oxygen sensor.
That's why my heater has a permanent, silent,electrically independent, fan-forced supply of 100 cubic feet per minute of fresh, outside air. Not to mention additional venting of the interior. (4500 interior space: 500 cf= total air replacement every five minutes).
The hyperefficiency of catalytic combustion makes the production of CO unlikely, but as an abundance of caution I maintain a CO detector. It hasn't indicated the smallest trace of CO since the removal of the gravity feed heater.
I should say that my wording of my question sounds as if this is a newly installed heater. It's not. I've been using it for three years as described, in all kinds of weather, from sea level to 6000 ft.
As many as four people have slept in the trailer, with heat. Not so much as a headache! I think it's been pretty thoroughly field tested.
Since I meet or exceed every safety standard-without exception- I'm perfectly confident that it's as safe as the manufacturers purport it to be.
My problem is the extra water.
All of your input has been most helpful, and I'm tending toward an encapsulating solution.
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