Mod #36: Catalytic Heater

Mod #36: Catalytic Heater

Submitted on: 07/13/08

     Category: featured, heating
Mod Rating: 12345

(110 ratings)

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Mod Description:

Tired of your noisy furnace waking you up when it kicks on in the middle of the night? How about the dead battery at 3am because the furnace fan sucked the life out of it? Do you like paying the expensive propane bill that your furnace so graciously contributes to? Then this mod’s for you!

Mod Difficulty:

There are many ways to heat your RV. The standard furnace does a great job but is quite inefficient, consuming both large amounts of propane and 12-volt power. Space heaters also work quite well, are somewhat more efficient, but require AC power to operate. Not a great choice if you’re dry camping with no electrical hookups. The best choice in this situation is to install a catalytic heater.

A catalytic heater works by converting propane and oxygen in to heat by way of a platinum catalyst. They use no flame or electricity and are 99% efficient versus a standard furnace that’s around 60% efficient. They do consume oxygen though and despite much controversy around their safety while using indoors, they are quite safe when use properly and as recommended by the manufacturer.

There are several types of catalytic heaters and they are generally classified according to their BTU or energy output. Anything from 1500 to 10000 BTU outputs are available, with a few brands having an automatic shutoff oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). Some are even vented to the outside using a small fan to ensure any excess CO buildup is kept to a minimum, although modern catalytic heaters produce nearly zero CO and only require that you provide proper oxygen replacement via an window or vent open about 1 inch.

Installation of the catalytic heater requires placing a tee fitting in to the low pressure side of your RVs propane distribution plumbing. Kits are available to make this job fairly easy for the basic handyman. There is even a recess kit available which recesses the heater a few inches in to a cabinet or wall and provides a very clean look. But you don’t necessarily have to permanent-mount the heater. There are legs available so the heater can be used in a standing position. This also makes it easy to transport if necessary.

Of note, the models with ODS can not be used above 5000 to 7000 feet (depending on brand). The Olympian models without ODS can be used up to 12,000 feet, according to Olympian. The Mr. Heater “Buddy” models may be used up to 7000 ft. So take that in to consideration since your favorite campground may be higher in altitude than what a catalytic heater is rated to operate at.

TipBuy the protective cover for your catalytic heater. It is very important to keep the catalyst pad covered and free from dust as this will reduce the life of the pad. Pads are replaceable but of course that costs money.

ModMyRV recommends these parts for this mod:
Camco 57341 Olympian RV Wave-6 6000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater

General Reference
How to Cold Weather Camp in Your RV
Alternative Heat Sources for an RV

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20 Comments For This Mod

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  1. cccale

    This looks like a great way to keep the RV warm while saving battery capacity. Can these be used with the main thermosat? How easy is it to tap into the existing propane lines?

  2. jmt

    We use two portable rotating electric heaters that have a auto temp setting. Love them and Costco.

  3. Bob Vaughn

    We use a ceramic tower heater and it does a fine job…..I would be afraid of the catalytic heater burning up all the oxygen in the air…..I don’t even hear the ceramic heater running….

  4. BobC

    The Catalytic Heater Wave 6 has worked very well for me.

  5. Captain Slappy

    I just ended up buying a Lasko ceramic 2′ tall electric heater.
    It will easily run you out, and this is my 3rd winter with it (full-time resident in a ‘78 Starcraft).

  6. ON-A-ROAD

    I did this mod in my cuddy cabin boat. (that’s still a RV). I have fresh water cooler with a heat exchanger, but that only works when the motor is running. I bought a small portable catalytic Heater at Lowes that uses the small green propane bottles. Works awesome! The bottles last about 6 hours running the heater on med.

  7. daveinwa

    Anytime we are plugged in, we always use a little electric heater. This sounds like a great idea for long-term dry camping.

  8. Diane Michel

    I am looking for the price of the catalic heater

  9. ModMyRV

    Diane, try here:

  10. Tom Goodrich

    The Olympian Wave 8 Catalytic Heater with optional leg stands works great. It is amazing how the infrared heat gently heats all the objects in my RV. It is so efficient, we operate it on the low setting most of the time. Just keep a side window open about an inch to prevent oxygen depletion. Sure beats using the original inefficient and noisy Suburban RV heater.

  11. Jay

    This is a great mod, i put one of these in my 33 foot, older motorhome and use it at night, its mounted on my cabinet by my entry door, on a swing out panel. Below it I mounted a small DC fan (radio shack) to move the air a bit. I have an O2 and a CO monitor in my bedroom. These units are very safe they do not put out CO, but like ANY heat source with a flame consume Oxygen. i crack a window in my bedroom about an 1/8 of an inch and a ceiling vent the same, that is all that is required. I have the 6000 btu unit, i crank it up to high, then back it to low at night - low setting doesnt keep you toasty warm just keeps it perfect for sleeping in 25 degree weather. I crank it up to HIGH in the am, hop back into bed with my gal—– things get warmed up quick. ::)))

  12. Ken

    Problem is, when you have a all weather RV staying in 15 degree weather I can’t get the heat to where my tanks and lines are at. Anyone have an idea on that?

  13. Owen

    Where do you find recess kits for the instal for a permanent installl? Can I just cut and install?

  14. regis101

    Glad I found this forum. Has anybody on here done the mod with the vented plat cat as shown in the above picture as installed into a door. I’d like to know how loud the fan is when running. I believe that it’s of the squirrel cage design? Generally quieter than a blade type.

    I’m really bent on finding a heater that is less than whisper quiet.

    Thanks and Happy Trails,

  15. regis101

    Here’s a link that gives an answer.

    Now to find Bob.

  16. fonzi

    Hi great people out there I will like to mount the heater on a panel door as I see in the picture but I need all the help I can get since my English is somewhat limited how to will be great.


  17. Gary

    Is there a no vent, wall mount, LP heater out there that is thermostatically controlled like my gas furnace. One that will auto ignite - and shut off as needed?

    I really like the idea of putting one of these in my bedroom/ bath area where I could shut the door and heat this area to around 72-75 degrees while letting my furnace keep the kitchen/living room area at about 55-60 degrees over night. But I don’t want to have to continually fiddle with turning one up and down, or off and on

  18. Air_Nomad

    I use a Mr. Heater Buddy catalytic heater in my 1970 Excel truck camper in frosty North Dakota. Does the job.

  19. Daniel

    AFAICT the Mr. Heater Buddy series isn’t catalytic, just a run-of-the-mill infrared ceramic plaque surface burner. IOW there is still a high temperature flame, and no precious metal catalyst coating. Considering how cheap they are, and how expensive platinum is, it makes sense.

  20. Bud

    Mr Buddy heaters are not catalytic heaters!!!
    Why do you guys keep saying it is??? just visit their
    website and see for yourself!

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