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Topic: Catalytic heater in camper vs stove

Posted By: CampinHappy on 12/10/08 05:47am

I've seen these catalytic heaters advertised and was wondering what the difference is between running a cat heater vs just turning on a burner to take the chill off.

Yes I know there are safety issues such as ventilation and having an open flame vs a hot element and so forth.

I grew up traveling in an open roads camper where my dad would turn on a burner (and crack open a window) to take the chill off during the night when we boondocked (all the time).

I know I've seen this discussion before but couldn't seem to find it so I thought I'd open the "can" again.

We're about to head out for some cold weather camping where shore power isn't available, and batteries won't last more than a night or two running the furnace.

So is running the low flame that much more dangerous than buying a cat heater (and setting on the stove) and going through canisters?

Thanks for your opinion...


CampinHappy
Central Texas
2000 Suburban 4x4
2007 K-Z Spree 240 BH with triple bunks for my 3 amigos
Formerly a 99 Coleman Niagara PUP
wife version 1.0 (so far ) 3 boys (9,11,15),



Posted By: past-MIdirector on 12/10/08 06:00am

I grew up with the oven being turned on for about an hour or so on a cold morning. In the evening if it got cool a tea pot on the stove was on. Dad always had a vent cracked when they had the stove on. To me the only difference is the catalytic heaters use less gas to heat. They both use oxygen up to heat.






Posted By: Oldtymeflyr on 12/10/08 06:38am

The newer cats will give off much much less CO. They still do give off CO. According to my propane distributor the newer cats are not to be used above 7500 feet.


Posted By: taviking22 on 12/10/08 06:28am

Your oven/stove gives off carbon monoxide- a silent, odorless killer.

A catalytic heater does not.

Both use up oxygen, thus a need for fresh air ventilation. I'm sure others will wade in with more details.

I'd never use any carbon monoxide creating device for heating if it were up to me.


taviking22
Omaha, NE

'06 2500HD Silverado 4X4, Duramax LBZ, Firestone air bags
2008 Tracker Pro Guide V-16 Boat
2012 Jayco Pinnacle 31RLTS



Posted By: gheicher on 12/10/08 07:44am

Ditto! The reason for the name "catalytic" is the heater contains a catalyst to provide complete combustion, thus producing only carbon dioxide. A stove can also produce carbon monoxide in small amounts, which is why there is a warning to ventilate during cooking. I have a small Coleman catalytic propane heater I bought for about $25 at Walmart - Works great but for long periods of use you should also provide some ventilation to replace the oxygen both you and the heater are using.

taviking22 wrote:

Your oven/stove gives off carbon monoxide- a silent, odorless killer.

A catalytic heater does not.

Both use up oxygen, thus a need for fresh air ventilation. I'm sure others will wade in with more details.

I'd never use any carbon monoxide creating device for heating if it were up to me.



Posted By: Spade Cooley on 12/10/08 06:18am

I'm no expert on the subject but we had a deer hunder die in my area a few years back by running the burner. I have done it with vents cracked. I also have a carbon monoxide sensor in my trailer. I do believe some brands of Cat. heaters have a built in sensor on them that shuts the unit down if the C M gets to dangerous levels. I would prefer the Cat. heater over the burner on the stove but you need to be careful with either one.


Posted By: mowermech on 12/10/08 10:12am

I have said it many times, and I will say it again: READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!
ANY fuel burning appliance consumes oxygen and produces water vapor and carbon dioxide. Insufficient oxygen will result in carbon monoxide. BOTH CO2 and CO will kill. Lack of oxygen will kill. YES, a catalytic heater IS a fuel burning appliance!
Proper ventilation is an absolute MUST HAVE!
A properly installed, properly maintained, RV furnace, with an intact burner can, does NOT require any ventilation, because the combustion air is drawn from OUTSIDE the RV, and the burner is vented to the OUTSIDE of the RV. NO combustion by-products can enter the RV. However, you may wish to have some ventilation to help with the moisture from breathing and cooking.
Again, READ and FOLLOW the instructions for safety's sake.


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Posted By: canoe on top on 12/10/08 12:08pm

The fact that life is filled with risks such as high fat diets or auto accidents has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that producing CO in a closed environment will kill you anymore than saying eating BBQ meat is no different than playing Russian Roulette. Most risks have fairly predictable outcomes. The percentage of fatalities is much higher is some cases than others.

* This post was edited 12/10/08 11:04pm by canoe on top *


Posted By: BillyW on 12/10/08 10:37am

Bonefish wrote:

CamperTech wrote:


Catalytic heaters are using a chemical reaction to create heat. As others have said, Carbon DIOXIDE ...not poisonous ...is a byproduct.


You may want to read this link.
http://www.inspect-ny.com/hazmat/CO2gashaz.htm

Bonefish

BBQed meat could be considered unhealthy. Even drinking water can be toxic. Relax. CO2 is in the air you are breathing right now. As has been repeatedly pointed out, even by the OP, ventilation is the key. I personally will be adding a catalytic heater to my trailer next year. In the meantime I use the furnace and a Buddy heater.

* This post was edited 12/11/08 06:10pm by an administrator/moderator *



'97 F150 4X4
'04 Pioneer 18T6




Posted By: sweethome alabama on 12/10/08 02:29pm

Whats the difference in the Buddy heaters? I've got the small one but it is made like a vanguard that you would install in a home. It has auto -cut off if it is knocked over and will cut off if the pilot comes of the thermocouple. Why wouldn't you burn it over night? Mike


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Posted By: CamperTech on 12/10/08 01:42pm

BONEFISH

I stand corrected.....to a point.
I should have been more specific in that CO2 is not toxic in the concentrations that could be produced by a catalytic heater.
The difference is that at between 650 & 700 ppm of Carbon Monoxide you will probably die. It would take 30,000 ppm of Carbon Dioxide to make you a little uncomfortable, and over 45,000 ppm to be considered an immediate threat! In fact the very article you refered me to, and other sources, note that 50,000 ppm can be tolerated! So, yes I guess CO2 is toxic but, will your catalytic heater get co2 to that level....NOT LIKELY!

MOWERMECH hit it right on the head.
If you don't have to have aux. heat then use your rv furnace. If you must use aux. heat, don't use your stove or oven. I still maintain that a catalytic heater is safer than any other non-vented, fuel burning heater.

* This post was last edited 12/13/08 05:11pm by an administrator/moderator *


Happy Campin'



Posted By: CamperTech on 12/10/08 09:32am

Cat is the way to go...HANDS DOWN! No "Buddy" heaters, no stove burners, and no oven!
The key is Carbon MONOXIDE....poisonous, kills hundreds of people every year.
It is a byproduct of burning propane.
Catalytic heaters are using a chemical reaction to create heat. As others have said, Carbon DIOXIDE ...not poisonous ...is a byproduct. The other byproduct, which can be a bit annoying, is water vapor...somewhere in the area of 1 oz per hour for every 1000 btu's.
rv's are a bit more air tight than an average home, so cracking a window to replace oxygen is a wise thing to do.


Posted By: SkiingSixPack on 12/10/08 12:17pm

Big Buddy Heater plumbed into on-board propane line.

Lots of permanent ventilation, on side so it can not snow over.

Ventilation on top.

Do not sleep with it on. Wake up in morning and cook the coffee in a perculator to get it warmed up and then start the Big Buddy. Works for us.

Repeat, we do not sleep with it on.


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Posted By: Bonefish on 12/10/08 10:10am

CamperTech wrote:


Catalytic heaters are using a chemical reaction to create heat. As others have said, Carbon DIOXIDE ...not poisonous ...is a byproduct.


You may want to read this link.
http://www.inspect-ny.com/hazmat/CO2gashaz.htm

Bonefish

* This post was edited 12/11/08 06:08pm by an administrator/moderator *






Posted By: mowermech on 12/11/08 04:31pm

The fact remains, with ANY "fuel burning" appliance (Yes, a catalytic heater IS a "fuel burning" appliance!), READ and FOLLOW the instructions, especially the SAFETY warnings.
If you DON'T follow the instructions, it will be your own fault if (when) you don't wake up!


Posted By: Rubiranch on 12/13/08 08:09am


We bought this Coleman for a emergency backup. One time while camping in the San Rafael Swell in March I couldn't get our furnace to light and the nights were getting down to 25°. It kept the trailer from getting cold over night and thank heaven the furnace lit right up in the morning. I did leave one of the jalousie windows cracked open.


We also have these two LP gaslights that actually put out quite a bit of heat. I installed the green one in our bathroom just for that purpose, heat. I have no idea how much CO they produce but having them on for 4-5 hours at a time the CO detector never goes off. I also open small jalousie windows by the gaslights to provide them fresh air.

A couple friends have Buddy heaters and have used them well above 7500 ft and still live to talk about it. I believe the problem above 7500 ft is that sometimes they don't stay lit due to the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes.


Posted By: Rubiranch on 12/13/08 08:13am

CampinHappy wrote:

I've bought a buddy heater


I think you will be quite happy with your buddy heater.


Posted By: Rubiranch on 12/10/08 08:50pm

quabillion wrote:

I have 2 buddy heaters, plumbed into the rig lp system, sleep with them on (for 3 winters now)


And did you survive those three winters?

I wish they still offered radiant heat furnaces.


Posted By: Rubiranch on 12/10/08 09:28pm

quabillion wrote:

(reads your reply... looks left at the warm orange glow of the heater running right now.. begins typing)





Posted By: Mike Schriber on 12/10/08 05:57pm

If you have a CO alarm and will be awake while running the burner you're probably okay but for the cost of a catalytic or Buddy heater why take the chance?

I use a Portable Buddy in my trailer to cut down on the furnace running while we're awake (when dry camping). I have CO alarms and always have some vents open. I explore old mines so I have a small low oxygen sensor that I take off my helmet and place in the trailer as well. I've never had either go off.

I was going to get a Olympian catalytic installed or a Big Buddy but since we're out west the Portable Buddy keeps up pretty well and I already have it so I decided not to spend the money. When we lived in Michigan my dad had a big catalytic heater in our Airstream and we used it all the time.

Mike


2006 Damon Daybreak 3276 37' bunkhouse
2007 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited
SoCal Family Campers



Posted By: CampinHappy on 12/13/08 12:00am

Thanks for all the replies. I've bought a buddy heater and tested it out in my bathroom, making it very toasty for my DW's morning bath.

I always keep a roof vent open and I'll crack a window when we camp as well so hopefully we'll stay toasty warm when out this winter camping season (we do this here in the South).

Thanks for all the great advice and comments!


Posted By: CamperTech on 12/11/08 10:12am

I think the biggest misunderstanding is folks don't really understand the difference between catalytic heaters and radiant heaters.
Alot of people believe because you "light" a catalytic heater that you are burning the propane the same way a radiant heater does. That is FAR from the truth.
Catalytic heat is a chemecal reaction that takes place between the catalyst (in these heaters it is platinum) and the fuel...propane. When you "light" it, you are simply raising the temerature of the catalyst for the reaction to begin. From there it is a self sustaining reaction until the fuel is removed.
So, a catalytic heater uses oxygen just like a radiant (read BUDDY) heater, it uses propane, just like a radiant heater, and it produces emitions, just like a radiant heater. The BIG difference is the type of emissions.....CARBON DIOXIDE..still NOT poisonous (in the quantities that are emited) and water vapor. Someone mentioned un-burned propane...well, unless the heater is seriously flawed (possible in ANY type of heater) the amount if unburned (or raw) propane is almost not measurable.
Radiant heaters still emit CARBON MONOXIDE, no matter that lots of people use them in their rv's, and carbon monoxide is dangerous. Would I use one in an RV? Absolutely not!
Buddy heaters are great for some uses. I have 2 buddy heaters that I use regularly. One is in a fabric covered quonset hut and the other is in the storage shed for my 4-wheelers. Both are well ventilated so I feel safe about it.

After BONEFISH suggested I return to school, I thought I'd brush up on CO, and CO2. (my expertise is in gas appliances and rv's, not posionous gasses) I found it amazing that over 500 people a year die of CO poisoning in the USA every year. Even with all the warnings, and warning equipment we have available to us, people still take chances with CO emitting equipment.

In any case, my post here was to answer the OP's question about using his range for comfort heating vs a catalytic. How the rest of you use this information, of course, is up to you.!

* This post was edited 12/13/08 05:12pm by an administrator/moderator *


Posted By: SkiingSixPack on 12/10/08 09:15pm

sweethome alabama wrote:

Whats the difference in the Buddy heaters? I've got the small one but it is made like a vanguard that you would install in a home. It has auto -cut off if it is knocked over and will cut off if the pilot comes of the thermocouple. Why wouldn't you burn it over night? Mike


The main difference that sold me on the Big Buddy is that the biggest one can be hooked up to your low pressure existing propane gas line, via a quick connect port on the left-hand side. The smaller one is high pressure only. I thought it was best to plumb it in to the low side. Seems safer.

We have a 24 foot class C and it keeps it above 80 if we have it on high. That's with no fan on (the big buddy has a fan that will run a 4 d batteries or an adaptor). I have never used it.

Our 30 year old furnace quit working over the summer. I can't seem to figure out what is wrong with it. Less expensive to buy the Big Buddy and then if I do ever figure out what is wrong wit hthe furnace, I still have a new toy! :-)


Posted By: Tim from Alabama on 12/13/08 08:46am

Well, I wouldn't turn on a stove to take the chill off, but my grandparents have done it when I was growing up.

Instead of the cat. heater or using the stove, I installed a small infrared portable heater in mine and plumbed it into the main system. I have 2 valves just in case, and it's detachable or can be laid on my rear bunk beds without unhooking once it's cooled for travel. It burns very little gas, uses up very little O2, produces very little O3, and I use it instead of the furnace with my 2 #20 tanks for upwards of 2 weeks on them while boondocking.

I'd look into small infrared heaters. Many are safe for use in mobile homes, and will be just as safe in an rv. Plus, they are safer and cleaner than using a stove and cheaper than the cat heaters.


If I don't meet your expectations
Maybe you should lower your standards.


Posted By: Gdetrailer on 12/11/08 06:04pm

To think there are folks that think it is safe to inhale the furnace exhaust by using it to warm a Patty-O-Room. Just because on paper the combustion by products in a perfect world of Propane wouldn't contain Co.

Folks in the real world nothing is totally perfect, I would not subject myself or anyone else to heating using an open flame for any reason. The stove is not designed to be used as a space heater, many folks have died over the years doing this very same thing in their homes.

Doesn't matter on those portable non-vented space heaters, they don't detect Co, they detect the absense of OXYGEN. Thats right they are called oxygen depletion sensors. They use a thermocouple to detect a low flame condition, the idea is if the flame gets low then there must not be enough oxygen in the air. I for one would not bet my life on that as a good detection system, never go to sleep with it running, you might not wakeup in the morning.

You can check out the debate about the Patty-O-Room heating HERE

Use the RV furnace for its intended purpose (keep the inside of the trailer warm) and use the stove for it's intended purpose (to cook or warm your food) and you will continue to wakeup every sunrise!


Posted By: LarryJM on 12/11/08 04:16am

CampinHappy wrote:

I've seen these catalytic heaters advertised and was wondering what the difference is between running a cat heater vs just turning on a burner to take the chill off.

Yes I know there are safety issues such as ventilation and having an open flame vs a hot element and so forth.

I grew up traveling in an open roads camper where my dad would turn on a burner (and crack open a window) to take the chill off during the night when we boondocked (all the time).

I know I've seen this discussion before but couldn't seem to find it so I thought I'd open the "can" again.

We're about to head out for some cold weather camping where shore power isn't available, and batteries won't last more than a night or two running the furnace.

So is running the low flame that much more dangerous than buying a cat heater (and setting on the stove) and going through canisters?

Thanks for your opinion...


I would never sleep with anything but the built in furnace running when boondocking. When sleeping proper bedding and blankets are what you need and even boondocking we turn the heat down at night some so it's in the low 60's at night. However, I have turned on a couple of burners on the stove to give the trailer a short shot of heat first thing in the morning, but never for more than 30 min and I crack open a window or two for some ventillation. Of course we do have a CO detector.

Larry


2001 standard box 7.3L E-350 PSD Van with 4.10 rear and 2007 Holiday Rambler Aluma-Lite 8306S Been RV'ing since 1974.
RAINKAP INSTALL////ETERNABOND INSTALL



Posted By: quabillion on 12/10/08 09:08pm

Rubiranch wrote:


And did you survive those three winters?



(reads your reply... looks left at the warm orange glow of the heater running right now.. begins typing)

I think so, but maybe I dunno, nobody will talk to me anymore
I do all the things that all the busybodies say will kill me, but I dont remember dying.

Sometimes I think that our dreams are the true reality and life is just the simulacrum.


I spend every day of my life trying to understand that other people in this world do things differently than I do.



Posted By: quabillion on 12/10/08 02:50pm

sweethome alabama wrote:

Whats the difference in the Buddy heaters? I've got the small one but it is made like a vanguard that you would install in a home. It has auto -cut off if it is knocked over and will cut off if the pilot comes of the thermocouple. Why wouldn't you burn it over night? Mike



I just learned the difference the other day.
The buddy and big buddy are radiant ceramic heaters, not catalytic.
I have 2 buddy heaters, plumbed into the rig lp system, sleep with them on (for 3 winters now), and all the time I thought I had catalytic.


Posted By: Wes Tausend on 12/10/08 04:36pm

...

I would have to question whether catalytic heaters would be any more safe than the same size unvented open flame burner regarding CO or CO2 with the exception of auto CO shut-off on one or the other.

I admit I could be wrong here, but it seems like if the same certain amount of gas is being admitted to the open flame burner in one case, or the cataylist fiber in another, then this gas must burn any way it can with available oxygen levels.

If O2 is low then both the open flame and/or the catalytic must burn with a lesser efficiency, combining with only one Oxygen atom per carbon atom (CO). So both should produce similar amounts of CO (at probably reduced thermal output) if they were originally set to the same gas volume. I believe CO itself will burn if supplied additional oxygen but if its not available that's it. And if both heaters work correctly they will produce the same exact clean maximum btu output.

If one were to argue that the catalytic "holds back" and only ever combines one carbon with two oxygen, then it must be admitting raw unburned propane to its surrounding atmosphere. The same volume of gas spews relentlessly whether it is burned or not, according to valve setting.

Raw propane may not be any better to breathe than CO ...but maybe it is. The propane odor might be an "awakening" tip-off and may be less deadly as it does not silently pose as fake Oxygen to human lungs.

Does this make sense to anyone else? How could a catalytic burn with less Carbon Monoxide, in terms of chemistry?

Wes

Edited for clarity(??).

...

* This post was edited 12/10/08 09:27pm by Wes Tausend *


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Posted By: Wes Tausend on 12/12/08 11:47pm

...

There is one other aspect that may not have been adequately covered here. Someone mentioned that the RV is sealed better than a house and so humidity builds up. That may be true but I think the main problem is the lack of cubic interior space to dissipate vapor. In full size homes, similar amounts of water land on the walls as do on the windows, depending on respective surface temperature. That which lands on walls tends to migrate into the wall cavity. Northern climes normally employ a vapor barrier right under the gypsum board. If the barrier leaks, humidity enters as a vapor until it hits a middle temperature (dew point) in the midwall cavity. Then it condenses where it can even become ice and ruin insulation value or at least cause mold and/or dryrot.

The mold and/or dryrot can be a problem in our outer RV walls because they are not engineered to have a vapor barrier that I know of. Just occupancy (respiration) can be a problem without showers, cooking etc.

When propane burns, it produces more than a gallon of water for every gallon of propane burned. This is also true for gasoline and diesel.

So unvented heat also has this drawback.

I was, at one time, a drywall contractor for quite a few years. We did have entire drywall ceilings collapse because of inadequate attic ventilation and no ceiling barrier. It still cost me money even though it wasn't my fault. Education.

Wes


...


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