Furnace decision!? Which route to go? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-30-2021, 10:51 PM   #1
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Name: Bear
Trailer: Boler
British Columbia
Posts: 9
Furnace decision!? Which route to go?

Hey guys,

Need some advice/feedback.

I'm trying to decide which route to go with the furnace in my newly owned 1976 Boler.

I've only lit it once and it appears to work. I haven't had it safety inspected so I'm very hesitant to run the thing and I worry about my 3 year old son around the hot unit. I'm considering removing the original furnace and simply using a portable propane heater to heat the trailer before bed and in the mornings. We tend to camp mostly in the warmer months but it sure would be nice to extend our camping in the Fall months.

Before I make a decision, I thought I would reach out to the pros on this forum.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-31-2021, 06:23 AM   #2
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Name: bill
Trailer: 2013 Escape 19; 1977 Trillium 1300
The Mountains of North Carolina
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Keep the original furnace and just do not use it until your child is older and you feel it is safe. Future owners will appreciate having it.

FWIW, on my 1977 Trillium (newer than your trailer), that had been rarely used and stored in a garage for over 20 years, I found the propane lines to be BROKEN. Its not just the heater, its the stove top and fridge if you have one. Inspect line and replace as needed before using ANYTHING propane powered.

My basic rule on my old trailer, I don't use anything until I have fully inspected and repaired/updated it. So electrical and plumbing also sat unused. Plumbing and wiring does not always age well either.

Portable propane heaters like the Mr Buddy are not great either, tend to put out a lot of moisture. If you are on the wet side of BC, you won't appreciate the added moisture. Google Mr Buddy moisture problems for endless discussions on that topic.

Myself, I would extend camping season by using sleeping bags.

Once inspected and repaired, you could use the existing propane heater while everyone is outside, then shut it off and let it cool down before everyone gets in the trailer.

Now if you want to properly replace your existing furnace with a modern propane furnace installation, great. In the case of my Trillium, the cabinets are too shallow to house a modern furnace, so I would have to install it elsewhere. Lots of cutting and work, versus a sleeping bag. Of course, when I have shore power, a simple electric box heater works just fine.
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Old 08-31-2021, 04:06 PM   #3
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Name: Jann
Trailer: Casita
Colorado
Posts: 1,101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bears View Post
Hey guys,

Need some advice/feedback.

I'm trying to decide which route to go with the furnace in my newly owned 1976 Boler.

I've only lit it once and it appears to work. I haven't had it safety inspected so I'm very hesitant to run the thing and I worry about my 3 year old son around the hot unit. I'm considering removing the original furnace and simply using a portable propane heater to heat the trailer before bed and in the mornings. We tend to camp mostly in the warmer months but it sure would be nice to extend our camping in the Fall months.

Before I make a decision, I thought I would reach out to the pros on this forum.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Keep the furnace you have. Make sure it is safe by having it inspected by the proper people. A portable heater gets hot and also causes carbon monoxide in many instances. If you are hooked to electric then take a small electric heater with a tip over shut off on it.
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Old 08-31-2021, 07:51 PM   #4
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Name: Jim
Trailer: 2020 Casita Freedom Deluxe
Texas
Posts: 24
I ordered my Casita without the heater. I have always used a little electric cube heater in my other camper (and tents). I have always stayed warm. I use an electric blanket for those just slightly chilly nights and the heater on the cold nights and days.
I also wanted the extra cabinet space where the heater would have been installed. Tough decision, but it is a personal call.
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Old 08-31-2021, 08:34 PM   #5
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Name: Jann
Trailer: Casita
Colorado
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Originally Posted by West Texan View Post
I ordered my Casita without the heater. I have always used a little electric cube heater in my other camper (and tents). I have always stayed warm. I use an electric blanket for those just slightly chilly nights and the heater on the cold nights and days.
I also wanted the extra cabinet space where the heater would have been installed. Tough decision, but it is a personal call.
That works great if you have electric all the time.
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Old 08-31-2021, 09:01 PM   #6
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Name: Bear
Trailer: Boler
British Columbia
Posts: 9
I’ll ride out the season and decide after spending some more time in the trailer I guess.

Would any one happen to know which model that furnace is in the picture from my original message?
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Old 08-31-2021, 09:22 PM   #7
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Name: bill
Trailer: 2013 Escape 19; 1977 Trillium 1300
The Mountains of North Carolina
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About 3/4 of my camping is with no shore power. My favorite National Parks, where I can get extremely affordable camping, do not have electric hookups. Just camped at a NP site last week, with the senior pass, it was $10 a night.

Yellowstone has one campground with hookups (Fishing Bridge). To me it looks like a parking lot. The other campgrounds there have no hookups, with spacious sites. And there are about 2,000 of those no hook up sites and a small number of hookup sites.
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Old 08-31-2021, 09:51 PM   #8
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Name: Bear
Trailer: Boler
British Columbia
Posts: 9
I agree! All of our camping spots are without shore power.

This actually leads me to my next decision. Which type of power supply to use. My power needs a very basic, a few LED lights throughout, USB ports to charge devices and a fan to run from time to time. Im considering a Jackery type unit which could power a small DC fuse box. My fuse box would handle the hardwired interior LED lights and maybe a couple extra USB ports.

I live in Vancouver and I like the idea of being able to remove the unit when I have it parked/stored.
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Old 09-01-2021, 06:17 AM   #9
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Name: bill
Trailer: 2013 Escape 19; 1977 Trillium 1300
The Mountains of North Carolina
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My main issue with a Jackery or the other similar products is that it has to be charged too. I love that they are called "solar generators", but they are NOT generators, and NOT solar either. They are batteries with a built in inverter.

In the end, I find suitcase portable solar to be the answer, lower cost than the Jackery, and it can actually charge your battery too!

Now the Jackery WITH a solar panel could be intriguing. Charge the Jackery at home, top it off with solar while camping, and it could do well. Then again, I think I would just simplify and get a nice 100AH to 200AH lithium battery instead. Battery prices have dropped, you don't have to pay Battleborn prices. Check Amazon for dozens of choices.

Part of the equation is the length of your camping trips. Back when I worked for a living, 99% of my camping was weekends only. In that case, a Jackery would probably be fine. But now I tend to take long trips. Solar for the WIN. Suitcase solar systems have really gotten affordable too.
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Old 09-01-2021, 08:42 AM   #10
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Name: Steve
Trailer: Escape 5.0 TA
Pennsylvania
Posts: 224
Safety inspection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bears View Post
Hey guys,

Need some advice/feedback.

I'm trying to decide which route to go with the furnace in my newly owned 1976 Boler.

I've only lit it once and it appears to work. I haven't had it safety inspected so I'm very hesitant to run the thing and I worry about my 3 year old son around the hot unit. I'm considering removing the original furnace and simply using a portable propane heater to heat the trailer before bed and in the mornings. We tend to camp mostly in the warmer months but it sure would be nice to extend our camping in the Fall months.

Before I make a decision, I thought I would reach out to the pros on this forum.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Bear! Getting a person in business these days to inspect a 45 year old furnace and say its safe to use is a long shot. Especially if it is not UL listed even if is perfectly safe. If the inspection person used instruments that sense propane leaks and measure Carbon Monoxide like a Bacharach Monoxor, I would be comfortable with the results. At least get the propane distribution piping system inspected. If you use a portable, use it sparingly.
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Old 09-01-2021, 08:42 AM   #11
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Name: Bear
Trailer: Boler
British Columbia
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I would definitely accompany the portable unit with solar panel. At this time, we're weekend warriors with 2-3 days being our average camp stay.
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Old 09-01-2021, 08:51 AM   #12
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Name: Bear
Trailer: Boler
British Columbia
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That was my worry for sure! I'll call around to a few shops and see what they say.

A portable heater would definitely only be used sparingly and never while we slept. Just to take the chill off on those extra cold mornings.
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Old 09-01-2021, 09:32 AM   #13
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Name: RogerDat
Trailer: 2010 Scamp 16
Michigan
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Sometimes the shop won't do the inspection but as a side job one of the technicians will. Liability is an issue for the shop, a cash transaction with a knowledgeable tech on the side doesn't involve the shop.

The cover is hot but shouldn't be so hot as to be a burn issue unless they remain in contact for longer than a person would. Also if it has a thermostat turning it all the way down after heating the place when going to bed will leave the pilot running so it can be turned on easily in the morning.

In a small camper I would be dubious of any small hot portable heater simply because it would be easy to knock over or accidentally position where the heat can cause damage.

I once kept the chill off with a candle burning in a holder sitting in the sink. That and a pot of coffee being reheated on the stove in the morning took the chill off nicely.
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Old 09-04-2021, 11:29 AM   #14
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Name: john
Trailer: bigfoot
British Columbia
Posts: 17
Yea... heaters are a problem. I have a 17 foot Bigfoot, and always planned to install a gravity fed vented heater so that we coulod boon dock and still use our heater.. Harder to find than Moses....,
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Old 09-04-2021, 11:51 AM   #15
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Trailer: Boler
Posts: 12
Replace?

I replaced the original heater with the Suburban unit that Scamp uses. It's a fair amount of work and I had to build a spacer as it is longer than the counter is wide. I mounted the thermostat on the upper shelving unit so I just have to reach up and set it and the furnace will run. At 0 degrees Celsius the trailer will be warm in 3-5 minutes. We only turn it on when we are getting up. My son and I did the work so labour costs were 0. For a shop to duplicate our work it would probably cost you $1500-$2000, furnace included. If you don't have a battery, you'll have to install one to fire the igniter and run the fan. The unit you have now was banned in the early 80s, but ice fishermen will give you top dollar for it. For the amount we use our furnace, a Buddy heater would have probably been a wiser choice.
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Old 09-04-2021, 12:48 PM   #16
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Name: Tom
Trailer: Amerigo
Wisconsin
Posts: 49
I went thru this with my rebuild of my 1973 Amerigo FG16. Originally it had a special stove/ oven the doubled as a furnace also. Mine was missing so nothing to worry about there there was a small Olympic heater and I didn't like the idea of the invent heater in such a weather tight camper. I looked at those fuel oil heaters that are sold on eBay.and I was real interested in them. I did however go with a conventional RV furnace. It has a completely separate combustion chamber not vented to the inside. There is a fan that circulates air around it. It heats very good, it was a quiet version of the furnace but it is still somewhat noisy. I guess those fuel oil ones are very quiet, but then your in another fuel to carry. So it's a toss up.
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Old 09-04-2021, 01:27 PM   #17
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Trailer: 1978 Earlton Ontario boler
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We also have a boler furnace replacement

We had to change out our furnace as well.

The Atwood hydro flame 79/80 series had the same vertical shape the original furnace but the exhaust was horizontal instead of vertical.

The replacement hot water tank and furnace are two things that have made our camping a lot more fun.

The new Atwood furnace sits on a small wood platform to raise it up to best height for inside vent and exhaust lineup. We had to get exhaust extension to reach the distance from inside to outside wall. New exhaust output was positioned so that it was a cutout of just one side of original hole. The cutout was used to patch in the old area to below. We also used the original thermostat. Works great!

We use a outdoor power box from Lee Valley that holds a quality house surge protector, power line goes into box connects to surge unit and then trailer power plug in inserted. This is because a campground power surge cost us a board in the furnace. Atwood gave us a replacement board for free but temporary solution meant we had to first purchase a board as we were winter camping and it was cold out. We now have a spare board.

Front grate is smaller so we had an area to fill in. We were repaneling the inside of all the cupboard at the time so removed one sheet and replaced it.

Hope this helps with your repairs

P.S. would have add this earlier but we were camping and just got home.
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Old 09-04-2021, 03:08 PM   #18
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Name: Pat
Trailer: Scamp 19
SE shore Lake Erie In Cattaraugus County
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I'd consider a Camco Olympian Wave 3 propane catalytic safety heater. It's adjustabel between 1600 and 3000 BTU. Warms 1300 square Feet of space and is portable or wall mountable. I would attach it to a cabinet at counter top height. Those little heaters would heat up our little fiberglass trailers in no time at all! But you have to keep a window open while operating them. But they heat up so fast that you can turn them off once they heat up your trailer!!


Next option would be a Espar Airtronic air heater! You would have to install a diesel tank, but these things heat at a rate of 0.16 gallons per hour. You could go 60 hours on 3 gallons of diesel. And it is Dry Heat!
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Old 09-04-2021, 03:38 PM   #19
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Name: Jim
Trailer: 2020 Casita Freedom Deluxe
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That works great if you have electric all the time.
Honda 2000 generator on the standby. 😉
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Old 09-04-2021, 06:27 PM   #20
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Name: john
Trailer: bigfoot
British Columbia
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SAorry about the miscommunication... but what I meant to say is that I already use the heater that came with our 17' Bigfoot but that tyhe fan uses up too much enegy and drains the battery. I was hoping to find a vented heater with no fans so that it could be used boondocking without draning the battery. I've heard they existed at one time??? ...
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