Adding catalytic heater - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-23-2019, 03:09 PM   #1
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Name: Steve
Trailer: 17 Bigfoot CB
British Columbia
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Adding catalytic heater

I am looking into adding a catalytic heater, something like the Wave 6, to my Bigfoot 17. I am aware of the need to crack a window, ceiling vent, and the condensation issues. Here is what I am considering, and I wonder if anyone else has tried or solved this.
Mounting location on bathroom wall facing the entry door/stove, under the mirror.
As I see it, a cat heater would be more effective if it had a fan to circulate the heat. For winter camping, I want to conserve as much battery as possible. So I am looking at how one of those heat powered fireplace fans could be used.

An example https://www.amazon.ca/Fireplace-Powe...49234940&psc=1

Since the fan needs a minimum of 50 deg C (122DegF) to run, the fan needs to be mounted close enough to the surface heat of the cat to be enabled.
I was thinking that if i mounted a piece of 2x2 angle on the face of the heater at the top, creating a 2 inch shelf for the fan to sit on, it might work. No kids or pets to worry about accidental burn.
I would still cycle the stock propane heater when needed, especially if i had water in the tanks, but usually when it is below freezing i winterize the plumbing and leave it empty.
Advantages are zero battery consumption, heat circulated throughout, low rpm fan is quieter than the furnace fan.
Has anyone tried this? Hairbrained idea? Suggestions?
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Old 11-24-2019, 10:32 AM   #2
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Name: Mike
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heater

lI have a boler 17 i am pulling the furnace and puting in a diesel heater .plus side lots of heat 10 leters tank burn rate is around 0.2 to 0.5 per hour .power 9 amps on start up and 2 amps or run. my lp furnace ie 3 to 4 amps wile running. I put one in a 20foot motor home and -30 c to-35 c below it was toasty. less amps more heat .And i will put a larger tank in 23 L that will give about 9 days burn time .Plus my truck is diesel.
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Old 11-24-2019, 11:17 AM   #3
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The Wave heater produces radiant heat, which radiates heat directly to objects such as walls, furniture and people and that heat is then released into the air. It does not emit warm air so blowing the air around it is ineffective. A fan will help circulate the warm air coming off the things that are heated by the radiant heat but if it helps enough to make it worth the effort and electric use is hard to say. I found that the clearance requirements made it difficult at best to find a space for a Wave heater in my 16 Scamp but YMMV. Just pay attention to the required minimal distance to combustibles.
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Old 11-24-2019, 11:24 AM   #4
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lI have a boler 17 i am pulling the furnace and puting in a diesel heater .plus side lots of heat 10 leters tank burn rate is around 0.2 to 0.5 per hour .power 9 amps on start up and 2 amps or run. my lp furnace ie 3 to 4 amps wile running. I put one in a 20foot motor home and -30 c to-35 c below it was toasty. less amps more heat .And i will put a larger tank in 23 L that will give about 9 days burn time .Plus my truck is diesel.
Ive seen those Espar diesel heaters in a boat...its nice heat. And diesel does generate more btus per gallon than propane.

But still some power consumption. My truck and sxs are gas. My camp stove, bbq, and lantern are propane. Not sure i want to carry a 3rd fuel type. My goal is still heat circulation without power required.
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Old 11-24-2019, 12:10 PM   #5
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I am have the fule with me .i camp in the mountians of Alberta . lots of space between fule stations.and they will run on gas ,jet fules kerosene home heating oil bio diesel and a blend of cooking oil and the above fules. i like the flexiblity.
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Old 11-24-2019, 12:52 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
The Wave heater produces radiant heat, which radiates heat directly to objects such as walls, furniture and people and that heat is then released into the air. It does not emit warm air so blowing the air around it is ineffective. A fan will help circulate the warm air coming off the things that are heated by the radiant heat but if it helps enough to make it worth the effort and electric use is hard to say. I found that the clearance requirements made it difficult at best to find a space for a Wave heater in my 16 Scamp but YMMV. Just pay attention to the required minimal distance to combustibles.
Radiant heat...exactly. Thats why i was thinking if i mounted a 2x2 bracket on the top of the screen, and then mounted the fireplace/stovetop fan to the bracket, then the bracket would absorb the radiant heat, transfer it to the bottom of the fan base, and then the fan would circulate the air. Eventually the air would warm up, the circulation would keep it moving around the trailer, for a more even heat, and perhaps even reduce the condensation? Just thinking out loud before getting spendy 😀
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Old 11-24-2019, 01:00 PM   #7
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I used a thermal switch from a dryer hooked to a computer fan on my radiant lp furnace its works well at minus 5c no fan 13c or 55f same day fan on 23c or 75 f .
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Old 11-24-2019, 01:23 PM   #8
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We're from Minnesota and camp in the shoulder seasons down to 0-10 degrees. I'm guessing a Wave 6 will be too large for your 21' Bigfoot, both in physical size and heat output.

For emergency heat we use a Portable Buddy Heater that only goes down to 4,000 btu's and that's way too much for even a reasonably cold night. The Wave 6 only goes down to 3,200 btu's, still too hot. The Wave 3 goes down to 1,600 btu's and it's 3,000 btu's will be enough to keep your Bigfoot nice and toasty. Remember it runs continuously vs a furnace that goes on and off.

Since our Buddy is just too hot, we decided to gamble and purchase a Martin Catalytic Heater that is also 1,600-3,000 btu's. We'll use it a number of times this winter in our Escape 5.0 (21' fifth wheel) and will post this spring on it's success. The Wave 3 is a proven product, but needs a LP hose, not a refillable 1lb bottle.

The nice thing with a Buddy or Martin is you can take it with you in those damn cold campground showers and be nice and toasty when you get out of the shower.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 11-24-2019, 01:55 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by MAP 56 View Post
I used a thermal switch from a dryer hooked to a computer fan on my radiant lp furnace its works well at minus 5c no fan 13c or 55f same day fan on 23c or 75 f .
Great idea!
Based on your results, the air circulation adds 10deg C.
Some of those case fans are super quiet, less than 10db, and they only draw .2amps.
Just let the thermal switch cycle it.
If a Wave 6 or Buddy is too hot, as others have experienced, a Little Buddy with a case fan might do the job. The Little Buddy has an Oxygen shutoff, and tip-over shutoff. I have a portable Coleman than runs on 1lb bottles, and I have an old computer case with a couple of low draw case fans. I think an experiment is shaping up.
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Old 11-24-2019, 02:22 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by fishdeeper View Post
.......................................
If a Wave 6 or Buddy is too hot, as others have experienced, a Little Buddy with a case fan might do the job. The Little Buddy has an Oxygen shutoff, and tip-over shutoff. I have a portable Coleman than runs on 1lb bottles, and I have an old computer case with a couple of low draw case fans. I think an experiment is shaping up.
Considered the Little Buddy, but at 3,800+ btu's and lacking the ability to adjust lower it's just too hot. Besides it's a infrared heater NOT a catalytic heater and is not quite as efficient. Then I saw it in person. Too damn easy to tip! That's why we went with the Martin.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 11-24-2019, 11:45 PM   #11
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Trailer: 17 Bigfoot CB
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Quick experiment, long read

By no means is this a scientificly accurate test...just wanted to see the effect.
I dug out my portable Coleman Perfecttemp EventCat, and borrowed a Vantec Stealth fan from an unused desktop computer case. Fan is 12v rated at 0.08amp.
The Heater puts out 3000 btus, only has on/off, so no heat adjustment, using a 1lb propane bottle. Estimated duration is 7 hours.

I started at 12:41 pm today. Temp in the 17 Bigfoot was 6deg C (42F) and relative huminity was 81%. Outside was the same.
I cracked the ceiling vent open 1/2 inch but I did not open a window. I think there are lots of places where this RV leaks air.
I didnt turn the fan on til later to see if there was any noticeable benefit.

Surface temp on the cat heater was 375-400C. I set it on the stovetop.
I also borrowed a 110v carbon monoxide detector from my basement and plugged it in on the rv floor. Never once did the CO detector alarm go off.
Neither did the propane gas detector mounted below the fridge at the floor.
The smoke alarm on the ceiling was another matter. It went off constantly and quickly, but I think it needs to be replaced as it is original (2003) and even the stovetop burner also sets it off consistently. I pulled the battery for the remainder. I will re-test with a new smoke alarm.

Using my thermal laser heat detector, i took temp readings at various times and places.
After an hour, the ceiling area and mid to upper walls were ranging from 14-18C, and the floor was still 6C.
At the 2.5 hour mark I taped the fan over the rear under bench compartment furnace vent and turned it on. Drawing air from the vent into the rv. The actual draw was 0.17amps and consumption was 2.1 watts. There are newer fans with less draw available. I thought that I could also install a rheostat to vary the voltage/noise lower.
The fan noise was there, but way quieter that the stock furnace fan. I didnt measure decibel difference but might do that later.

The floor area had warmed to 9-10C. The mid/upper wall warmed to 17-20C. Lower walls were 12C.
Definitely getting more comfortable, but RH had climbed to 86%, but no visible signs of condensation anywhere but on the propane bottle.

By mounting the fan over the furnace vent I hoped to create airflow thru the vent system. I tested this with a small lighter flame in front of the other vents and there was a very slight draw into those vents.
At 3.5 hours (fan on 1 hour ) the upper temp was still 20C but the RH inside dropped to 81%.
At the 5 hour mark the temp was still 20C but the RH dropped to 76%.
Leaving the bathroom door closed, the walls in there stayed 11C. They warmed to 14C after leaving the door open a bit.

Noticeably colder areas using the thermal gun are:
-the front right under seat storage area
-the side storage area behind the front left seat backrest
-the water pump compartment under the fridge
-the furnace compartment and inside the vents
-the closed toilet lid
....these areas remained 6-11C, so there is significant heat loss occurring.

At the 6.5 hour mark the outside temp was 3C and RH was 89%.
Inside was still 20 C and RH 74%.
The floor just inside the door was 11C, and 13-14C elsewhere.
At 7.5hrs the propane started to run out, temp was 18C and RH was 71%.
At 7 hr 45 mins the heater went out, and the 1lb bottle was empty.

Rough observations:
A 3000 btu cat heater will keep it livable for 7+ hours on a 1lb bottle.
There is enough leakage in there such that no CO built up, at least not enough to set off a working detector.
No propane leaks.
The interior humidity was increasing vs outside before i turned on the fan, but dropped below after.
Despite being an all season Bigfoot model, with dual panes windows, etc, there are some areas that could use additional insulation.
I need a new smoke detector.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:03 AM   #12
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I need a new smoke detector.

Carbon monoxide does not sink to the floor ( unlike propane gas ). CO is distributed equally in all directions. Your CO detector should be located about three feet off the floor. That's where you breathe while sleeping.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:07 AM   #13
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Carbon monoxide does not sink to the floor ( unlike propane gas ). CO is distributed equally in all directions. Your CO detector should be located about three feet off the floor. That's where you breathe while sleeping.
Noted for the re-test. Thanks.

I am going to look for a new smoke detector and a CO detector for permanent installation.

I didnt detail it above, but at about 6 hour mark I did relocate the heater to the floor, and the CO detector was about 3 feet from it at the same level.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:37 AM   #14
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I know they now sell combo smoke / CO detectors, but smoke rises and CO doesn't, so I'm not sure how they overcome that issue. I also wonder if detectors are affected by smaller spaces and if so, how.
I have propane, smoke and CO detectors, all placed according the the instructions they came with.
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Old 11-25-2019, 08:10 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
I know they now sell combo smoke / CO detectors, but smoke rises and CO doesn't, so I'm not sure how they overcome that issue. I also wonder if detectors are affected by smaller spaces and if so, how.
I have propane, smoke and CO detectors, all placed according the the instructions they came with.
We purchased a CO detector to mount at slightly below our sleeping area. The Escape provided CO/Smoke detector is mounted about 18" higher. I also plan on checking the CO detector occasionally to make sure it's working.

Just because we get up in the morning doesn't mean the detector is working. I could also be paranoid and buy a third detector from another company.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 11-25-2019, 08:23 AM   #16
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Oops, I see you have a 17' Bigfoot. If we roast to death in our 21' Escape with 4,000 btu's at our Buddy's lowest setting, you'll certainly roast to death with a Wave 6.

We were going to buy the Wave 3 and configure a short hose to use a 1# bottle, but decided to purchase the Martin. The Martin is a newer product with little/no reviews. I still wonder if we should have bought the Wave 3 with legs, since it's been around for years with wonderful reviews. Oh well, we leave in the middle of January and by the time we get home the beginning of April will have had plenty of nights to see if we wasted our money or bought the perfect heater.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Previous Eggs - 2001 Scamp 16' Side Bath, 2007 Casita 17' Spirit basic, no bath, water or tanks, that we regret selling, 2003 Bigfoot 25B25RQ, that we also regret selling
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:13 PM   #17
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Oops, I see you have a 17' Bigfoot. If we roast to death in our 21' Escape with 4,000 btu's at our Buddy's lowest setting, you'll certainly roast to death with a Wave 6.

We were going to buy the Wave 3 and configure a short hose to use a 1# bottle, but decided to purchase the Martin. The Martin is a newer product with little/no reviews. I still wonder if we should have bought the Wave 3 with legs, since it's been around for years with wonderful reviews. Oh well, we leave in the middle of January and by the time we get home the beginning of April will have had plenty of nights to see if we wasted our money or bought the perfect heater.

Enjoy,

Perry
Your Escape may be better insulated than the pre 2005 bigfoots.
Yes, 3000 btus from the Coleman maintained a comfortable 20C (68F) while outside temps dropped from 6 to 3C. It might be nice to have some adjustability, setting it higher for faster warmup, then turning it down...might make the fuel last a bit longer as well.
When I retest, I will try the Coleman again on a colder day...at least 0C to -5C.
I am also going to look into adding some additional insulation to some of those storage areas....maybe bubble foil, or some Styro SM board...but I need to be careful not to seal it it up too tight.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:41 PM   #18
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Your Escape may be better insulated than the pre 2005 bigfoots.
I do NOT consider our Escape a four season trailer. Our 2003 25' Bigfoot was four season. We've had our Escape down to 15 F and it was fine, but the walls were getting cold. Also the double pane windows don't hold a candle to the double panes we had in our Bigfoot. We cover our windows with aluminum covered bubble wrap (don't remember its exact name) when the temps are forecast to be below 25 F.

We've also had our furnace sail switch fail twice at under 25 F, that's why we purchased the Martin, for backup heat and to heat the trailer quickly if we come back and realize we forgot to turn the furnace on.

Since we have room, we'll still carry the Buddy for showering and in case the Martin fails. We already own the Buddy, but at 4,000 btu's it's just way too hot to leave on overnight.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 11-25-2019, 03:42 PM   #19
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I do NOT consider our Escape a four season trailer. Our 2003 25' Bigfoot was four season. We've had our Escape down to 15 F and it was fine, but the walls were getting cold. Also the double pane windows don't hold a candle to the double panes we had in our Bigfoot. We cover our windows with aluminum covered bubble wrap (don't remember its exact name) when the temps are forecast to be below 25 F.

We've also had our furnace sail switch fail twice at under 25 F, that's why we purchased the Martin, for backup heat and to heat the trailer quickly if we come back and realize we forgot to turn the furnace on.

Since we have room, we'll still carry the Buddy for showering and in case the Martin fails. We already own the Buddy, but at 4,000 btu's it's just way too hot to leave on overnight.

Enjoy,

Perry

Living in Northern Wisconsin , I also don’t consider the Escape 21 to be a 4 season trailer , in fact it is basically a single season trailer ( Mid May to Early October) We have the insulated walls , insulated floor and thermal windows but they are of little valueh when the temps are in the teens or single digits.
Our furnace has also failed twice so we carry an electric space heater
If we want to extend our camping season we will have to upgrade to a Bigfoot trailer .
I wanted to use our Escape this year during hunting season but with below zero temps predicted , I couldn’t afford the propane plus I have little faith in the furnace .
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Old 11-25-2019, 08:50 PM   #20
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Get the heater. Mount the bracket you have in mind. Then measure the surface temperature of the bracket when the heater is running. That will tell you if it gets hot enough to spin the fan on one of the thermoelectric (stirling engine) fans.



Just realize that they do not move a lot of air, very low cubic feet per minute so while it does push some air around it is not even close to being able to move air the way an electric fan can. You can hold your hand in font of one of those fans and not feel all that much air movement.



I have one, it was a gift from a friend who had it on the gas fireplace at his coffee shop. He was closing his shop and I had asked for it planning to purchase it but he said he got it as a gift so he was just passing it on as a gift. I plan to try it out on my Nordic DT diesel fueled ceramic cooktop/heater just to see if it will spin. It should, others have reported it works.
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