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Mod #36: Catalytic Heater

Posted By Mark Corgan On July 13, 2008 @ 6:57 am In featured, heating | 21 Comments

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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