After spending two seasons with our Outfitter Apex 8, we could not be happier with how it has met and exceeded our expectations. But being the kind of guy that likes to make improvements, it was decided that it was time to figure out how to heat the camper in those in between times when it’s not really cold enough to run the furnace, but too cold not to have some heat. Although our Outfitter has a great furnace that is ducted to all corners of the camper (including the utility basement - qualifying it to be a four season camper), because of battery draw down and furnace noise we really don’t like to run the furnace unless it is REALLY COLD – to prevent the water (and us) from freezing up. Up to now, for those chilly, but not COLD times, lighting the stove and heating hot water for drinks has done a pretty good job of taking the chill off, but after turning off the stove it eventually gets chilly again. So after a lot of evaluation we decided to install an Olympian Wave catalytic heater. A number of Outfitter owners have Wave 3 catalytic heaters (1600 – 3000 BTUs output) installed, with good experience – Dave Rodgers (Whazoo) likens his to a toasty fireplace. Corresponding with Mike Wolf (dadwolf2) about his Wave 3 experience, I got the impression that as good as the Wave 3 is, perhaps the higher output of the Wave 6 (3000 – 6000 BTUs) might be a good thing. So I decided to install the Wave 6 in our Outfitter, which we bought from Amazon for $270, free shipping.
My thoughts on vented catalytic heaters: I was really excited about getting a vented catalytic heater because (I assumed) that it would not require a window be left open to replenish fresh air into the camper. I investigated the Platinum Cat vented catalytic heater, really liking the fact that combustion gases are vented to the outside of the camper and I assumed a window would not have to be kept open for fresh air while running the heater, because outside air would be ducted in for combustion. However, when I contacted the manufacturer, I learned that you still have to provide a means for fresh make-up air into the camper to replenish interior oxygen used for combustion, meaning, unless your camper is drafty, a window or vent would still have to be cracked open. Since my main interest was not having to open a window or vent and the fact that there is much safety data indicating catalytic combustion does not produce harmful amounts of carbon monoxide, or other combustion by-products, the higher cost of the Platinum Cat ($475 + shipping, quoted in 2011) didn’t make sense to me.
To make the Wave 6 fit the limited space in our Outfitter, I had to remove the “step-up” at the front of the camper and build a replacement mounting box the width of the old “step-up”, with an interior opening (depth) of only 2.25 inches and a height of 20 inches. The “skinny” dimensions were required to allow opening clearance for both an adjacent drawer and cupboard door with the heater surface mounted to the face of the box. I used 18mm birch plywood to build the mounting box, with oak mounting plates. The new box has a 5 inch wide step on top and can be used to climb on to get up into the cabover. However, we use a bunk ladder (we’re old folks…) to get up into the bed. Also the step is removable to access a small storage bin inside the mounting box. The cool thing about this install was that it was built entirely out of left over scraps in my wood shop. The only new purchases were the heater, rubber propane hoses, and brass fittings.
For detailed installation instructions for the Wave 6 go to this Link: LINK
THE FOLLOWING PICTURES DETAIL MY APEX 8 INSTALLATION:
The unmodified camper. Note furnace vent on the left side of the picture. This vent will have to be relocated.
Taking out the old “step-up”
The mounting box – front, back, and top views. Note that the back of the box is designed to sit on and mount to the wood window sill of the pass through window in the front of the camper, while the front mounts to the floor.
Using a 90 tee (new), I connected a 9 ft long rubber propane hose (new) to the heater and ran it back to the camper’s propane supply, connecting the hose to a tee fitting (new) inside of the propane tank compartment. The tee ties together the heater supply hose, the rubber hose from the low pressure side of the pressure regulator (existing), and a short 18 inch hose (new), which runs over to the main camper propane supply fitting (existing) on the back wall of the compartment. 3/8” flare fittings were used for all propane connections. This design eliminates the need for a shut off valve to the heater supply hose, because the low pressure regulator supply hose can simply be disconnected from the tee and be reconnected to the main camper propane supply fitting, taking the heater circuit off line. After making the actual installation, I saw that I probably could have gotten away with using shorter 8 ft and 12 inch hoses. A new 1 1/16 inch hole was cut through the front wall of the sheet metal propane compartment and the heater supply hose was passed through a cobbled together grommet made from ¾ inch pvc pipe and fittings. I made the pvc grommet because I could not find a rubber grommet that would fit both the hole and the supply hose. The heater supply hose was routed through the kitchen cabinets and down into the new heater mounting box.
The new rubber propane hoses with pvc grommet and tee.
Hook up inside of propane compartment using a tee fitting to connect the three propane hoses together. Note pvc pass through grommet mounted through the wall of the compartment.
Tee fitting and hoses attached to top of compartment. Note the 5 ft long supply hose from the propane regulator (laying on the floor of the compartment), which allows the use of a back up propane tank, which can be left sitting on the ground, if the main tank ever goes dry out in the field.
Heater supply hose routed out of propane compartment (note pvc pass through grommet) and into kitchen cabinet.
Heater supply hose routed into mounting box location. Note wood sill in front of pass through window where the back of the mounting box attaches.
Mounting box installed, with propane supply hose routed into place and 120 volt and 12 volt outlets rewired and mounted in their new locations. Note mounting plate attaching box to floor. I used 1 inch grabbers so as to not penetrate through the floor.
Back of mounting box attached to pass through window wooden sill. The black rail at the bottom of the picture is the lower part of the aluminum frame of the pass through window.
Before installing the Wave 6 onto the new mounting box the heater is attached to the propane supply hose. All new propane connections were leak tested at this point using a soap solution.
The original plan and mounting box design called for mounting the Wave 6 in the horizontal position. Camco specifies that Wave 6 and Wave 8 heaters can be mounted either vertically or horizontally, while the Wave 3 can only be mounted in the vertical position. So I went ahead and mounted my Wave 6 horizontally. This installation met all minimum specified clearances - sides, back, bottom and top.
After finishing the horizontal installation I fired up the Wave 6 to verify that it operated correctly. IT TURNS OUT, HOWEVER, THAT EVEN THOUGH CAMCO SAYS THE HEATER CAN BE MOUNTED HORIZONTALLY, IT WILL ACTUALLY ONLY STAY LIGHTED AND RUNNING ON THE HIGH SETTING. SELECTING EITHER THE MEDIUM OR LOW SETTINGS (ONLY AFTER THE HEATER HAS BEEN RUNNING ON HIGH FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES) CAUSES THE HEATER TO GO OFF, BECAUSE IN THE HORIZONTAL POSITION THE UNIT CANNOT GENERATE ENOUGH HEAT IN THOSE SETTINGS TO KEEP THE THERMOCOUPLE HOT ENOUGH TO KEEP THE GAS VALVE OPEN. I contacted Camco Technical Services and discussed this with them. They (through Amazon) replaced my heater with a new one. The new heater, mounted horizontally, also could not stay lit on medium or low settings. Camco had no ready explanation or solution, but were going to test some Wave 6 heaters “on the bench” to see if they could duplicate the problem.
Knowing that a horizontal mount would not work, I decided to test run the heater in the vertical position to see if medium and low worked in that orientation. IT TURNS OUT THAT THE HEATER OPERATES PERFECTLY ON ALL THREE TEMPERATURE SETTINGS WHEN MOUNTED VERTICALLY! So, since Camco could not help me with a horizontal mount, I was forced to figure out how to remount the heater in the vertical position on my mounting box, which I was able to do by the skin of my teeth. The Heater just barely fit into the 20 inches of vertical height on my mounting box, while meeting all minimum clearances.
The heater remounted vertically. I had to reroute the propane supply hose, as well as relocate the mounting screws. Note the pass through window that is open to provide fresh air supply when running the heater. Camco recommends a minimum of 24 sq inches (a 2 inch wide opening on this window). I also open the fantastic fan vent cover about a ½ inch. Also note the furnace vent relocated into the front of the flip down door, just above the floor. Outfitter uses the entire area behind the flip down doors as a supply plenum to duct heat to the front of the camper. Since my new mounting box covered up the original mounting location for this furnace vent, I moved it to the door.
The built in storage compartment in the top of the mounting box. Note the screen I made and mounted to the outside of the pass through window to keep out bugs, if needed, when running the Wave 6.
The screen seen from the outside.
The Wave 6 with the bunk ladder in position. We will have to see if the ladder gets too warm when running the heater with the ladder in place.
The Wave 6 with its dust cover in place. Camco emphasizes keeping the heater covered when not in use to avoid dust contamination, which can shorten the life of the catalytic pad, so my wife Connie sewed up this cover.
To date I have only operated the heater with the camper off of the truck, testing it out. The outside temps have been in the low 40s. The camper warms fairly quickly on the high setting and seems to maintain a comfortable temperature on medium and low. I was concerned about overheating adjacent surfaces, since this is a radiant heater. On the high setting, out to about 6 to 12 inches in front of the heater, surfaces on either side and the floor do get fairly warm, but not uncomfortable to the touch. On medium and low these same surfaces are quite a bit cooler.
Well, that’s my installation. I am quite pleased with this upgrade and how well it all fit together, despite the horizontal / vertical mounting issue. We have high expectations of cozy, toasty evenings and mornings inside the camper (without running the furnace) when it’s frosty and nippy outside. Experience will tell…
PS. I screwed up rewiring the ground fault interrupter outlet and had to call Bob Ward at Outfitter to learn what I had done wrong (a “line” wire was hooked up to the “load” side of the outlet). As always, I had a nice chat with Bob. He told me they are doing well and are staying quite busy, backlogged to early summer. To me, this is always great news, since I wish Bob, Brian, and Outfitter only the best all of the time.
Photos edited to width=640
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edited 03/30/13 03:12pm by an administrator/moderator *
Nice job. Let us know how you like it. I would have thought a Wave 3 would be sufficient for your rig and had even considered it for mine but am planning on a Wave 6. I plan to keep it portable, though.
Nice write-up. I have had a Wave3, in my 11.5 foot Bigfoot, for about seven years. No complaints at all. I think the lowest setting of the Wave6 would be too high for my TC. I seldom camp below 20-degrees.
Nice Install! I know wasnt planned but think it fits the space better mounted verticaly. Odd though not working horizontaly-
Do have a question-on the pvc grommet into propane box, is it sealed? That & what are the 2 lil blocks at top of new box?
Nice install and nice write up, except that if you have pictures wider than 600, it makes the computer screen display so wide we can not see it properly.
I have a Olympic 6000 Btu heater (1994 before it was a Wave 6), and don't think the ladder in front of the heater is a good idea either. My dog would sleep in front of the heater too, her nose would get hot to the touch.
It is always great to see how Truck Camper owners personalize their own campers in the pursuit to make them more comfortable in more than just the warm months of the years. I enjoyed your process and documentation. I love my Wave 6 heater and spent a lot of time researching the different heaters and where best to install mine. Even shopping around you can find a wide swing of prices. Like buying Swimsuits in the winter time, the best pricing for them are in the spring and early summer.
Following the advice of Reddog1 and BigfootFord, I bought a, well, the Wave 6. Even though they had recommended all I would need would be the Wave 3. With my frequent TC use in periods below 10°F, a slide truck camper and with a larger hardside, I felt the larger Wave would work better at maintaining my camper’s core temperature. I was right; in fact, it hardly keeps up with keeping my camper warm (68°F-76°F), when outside temperatures begin to drop below freezing. But like those two guys advised, the best way to regulate the Wave is by opening a window a bit or a lot. For me, that is the procedure I use when outside temps are above 40°F, even with my Wave set on the low setting. For 7+ weeks, my Wave 6 was never turned off, or below the Medium setting, when the outside temperatures were never above freezing. Many of those nights were below 0°F. Love my Wave Heater!
With the placement of your Wave 6, I am very concerned for your safety and your camper with the proximity of your surrounding cabinets, where your Wave 6 is installed. With my Wave 6, I am not able to sit in front of it, (on a stool putting on shoes) and I must keep combustible materials a couple of feet away, due to their being overly heated. When you do leave for a trip, maybe you could take some heat reflective items with you, just in case your cabinets get too hot. That way you can be prepared! For my use, I always have an Airbake Cookie Sheet wedged in between the wall and the top of my Wave 6. I have done this to protect the cabinet door which is 12” above it. The door was beginning to show some heat distress and the Cookie Sheet solved the problem. I too, started a thread asking this proximity question and was presented many variable answers, prior to my own Wave 6 Heater installation. When I used my own Wave 6, I concluded a safety margin was needed, as well as protecting my investment, my life and my Lance Camper.
When I run my Wave 6, with the slide in, I lean an old aluminum road sign in front of the slide, to keep the Wave 6 from overheating the dinette. I am sure a space blanket could serve the same purpose for you. Being prepared might save some heat damage to your camper, or worse, while you are doing some testing while you are using your new Wave Heater.
I don’t particularly like being cold anymore; my Wave 6 heater sure helps me staying warm. The benefits include saving lots of propane and my battery reserves. Have fun!!