Portable catalytic heater - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV

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Old 10-12-2007, 09:57 PM   #15
Paula Bindrich's Avatar
Trailer: 1987 13 ft Casita
Posts: 86
Glad you got out. Very scary and close call.

I guess my next investment will be various detectors. I do know that when installing CO detectors at home they suggest to keep them low. Mine is about 2 feet off the floor. But I think that CO "blends" in more too.

A friend and her husband would have been dead if a neighbor hadn't been walking home late from a bar. He heard the alarms going off in the house and was banging on the windows above their bed and couldn't wake them. Evidently they had been so sound asleep when the CO had built up that they didn't hear the alarms go off. That's when I bought my alarm/monitor.


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Old 10-13-2007, 09:36 AM   #16
Trailer: 1977 Boler 17 ft
Posts: 33
Glad you were okay and hope the burns are feeling better.

Is there some sort of paint on the metal ceiling where the fire started? Paints even latex I believe can cause flashover. Fire can travel a great distance over paint on a soild cement wall once a certain temperature is reached.
Possibly the fan quit causing the heater to overheat and gave off some fumes which you couldn't smell. Doesn't make sense but I guess anything is possible.

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Old 10-13-2007, 09:50 AM   #17
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Name: Brian
Trailer: Boler (B1700RGH) 1979
Posts: 4,999
If Russell's heater is a Coleman ProCat like mine, use of the fan is optional. It is not required for operation, it just help distribute the heat. Without the fan, I believe that it should not overheat.
1979 Boler B1700RGH, pulled by 2004 Toyota Sienna LE 2WD
Information is good. Lack of information is not so good, but misinformation is much worse. Check facts, and apply common sense liberally.
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Old 10-13-2007, 11:57 AM   #18
Trailer: 1977 Boler 17 ft
Posts: 33
This is a very hard one to figure out. Up till now I would have worried much more about the heater taking all the oxygen in the trailer. Even if you are awake it would be very important to have proper ventilation as I'm sure you would just go to sleep without realizing you were short of oxygen till it was too late. Even your counter top propane stove can take all the oxygen if there is no ventalation.
As people have said proper detectors are very important.
Probably a good idea to try to not put heaters between people and the door in case of such an emergency.
A little extra caution can go a long way.
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Old 10-13-2007, 12:04 PM   #19
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Name: Per
Trailer: 2000 Burro 17 ft Widebody towed by Touareg TDI
Posts: 863
My take on the original question is this: Any unvented gas/fossil fuel burning device is inherently less safe than a vented one, and the margin for error is also less. Combustion is combustion, bottom line, and it emits unwanted and unsafe byproducts.

There are probably several reasons not to install a regular vented furnace in a trailer without one: available space, cost, hassle, current draw. This has to weighed against the potential hazard and how much care needs to go into assuring safety. Mistakes can be made, and the consequences can be significant.

I was lucky, in that the installed furnace was a regular vented one. It is also the smallest one Atwood produces at 9000 btu, but I can not foresee any wintertime camping when it would not be adequate. It is also reasonably quiet, and the current draw is significantly less than the average unit.

Even so, I like a small waft of icy air on my face when sleeping, so the overhead vent gets cracked just so, and the window above my head likewise. For extreme situations it would be safe to close everything up.

The detectors are installed according to the instructions for each: smoke alarm near the ceiling, the propane detector near the floor by the heater, and the carbon monoxide at head level when sleeping. I think that combined units may be a placement compromise which I find unnecessary.

I can understand the first two, possibly even the first three reason I mentioned as deterrents to installing a vented furnace, but I am not convinced that the current draw issue is as valid. It might be better to bulk up the electrical system instead to handle the draw. A solar panel to provide a continuous supply of power for boondocking is in my future, but as an example I just finished a 5-day camping trip drawing only on the original battery charge (nighttime temperatures at around 40 degrees, so this was not extreme). The final usage drew the charge down to 52%, but with one battery that would have been near 0% (and probably partially destroyed).

It is not without reason that these devices are vented: hot water heater, space heater, refrigerator. The one remaining unvented one in mine is the cooktop, but the overhead vent and a window is always open when it is used, and I'm counting on being awake and alert when using it (Dometic has a vented, flat gas cooktop likely available only in Europe at an exorbitant price and with significant installation difficulties, and I think it is partially in recognition of the unvented safety concerns).

Unvented fuel burning devices? NIMLBIICAI (not in my little Burro if I can avoid it). Don't want to sound like I'm risk averse, but I'll admit to being unnecessary-risk averse.
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:53 PM   #20
william russell's Avatar
Trailer: No Trailer Yet
Posts: 82
Neil: There is NO COATING on the metal of any kind...good thought though. Also, as mentioned in a later post from someone else, the fan was an enhancement from an earlier model and not REQUIRED for the heater to heat properly.

And thanks, I'm feeling significantly better now...two weeks away from the incident.

Thanks to all for the sympathetic comments....I think I'll do as someone else mentioned and that is to keep myself between the door and the heater....if I'm not carefeul with all this I'll sell all my camping stuff and just live in my basement away from EVERYTHING that might cause me harm..........NOT LIKELY....


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