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Installing a Catalytic Heater

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June 28, 2008: (Note: see my comments below about this heater) I'm preparing for the purchase of an Olympian Wave 6, a catalytic heater. A catalytic heater is 99+% efficient compared to our furnace which is only 60% efficient. The furnace also drains our battery quickly so when we are boon docked in Arizona winters, the Olympian Wave will be a life saver. I haven't purchased one yet so must show a generic photo to the right for now. We were introduced to the Wave 6 by our friend Dick who is currently the president of Escapee Chapter 37. He had one installed by a local dealer. Olympian Wave 6

Wave 6 enjoyed by Annie and Morgan
July 27, 2008: The Wave 6 has arrived. I've installed it to make sure it will be ready for our trips without electricity or when we must PAY for electricity. It works perfectly and both Annie and Morgan approve of the extra heat..
where to get propane for the heater

We have also learned that it is cheaper to heat with propane than electricity when we must pay for the electricity as we did in the RV parks in Arizona and California last winter.

These are the propane sources behind the refrigerator. I will connect to the middle "T" as a source for the catalytic heater.

I install another "T" and route the tubing into a drawer space under the refrigerator. I must make a hole large enough for the fitting. I had the tubing pre-flared since I don't own a flaring tool. I will seal the hole with caulk once the installation is complete. Propane behind the refrigerator is tapped
The copper tubing leads into a drawer space under the refrigerator The tubing enters the drawer space behind the drawer. I route the tubing to the side of the drawer into a dead space area then bring it forward to the front of the cabinet.
I'm installing a quick connect as was done in Dick's fifth wheel. I've search for a wall mount connect without success so will mount the standard connect with a zip tie as was done in Dick's fifth wheel. I have prepared a frame to hold the zip tie. All fittings are tested with soapy water to be sure I have no leaks. The copper tubing ends under the refrigerator
The quick connect fitting is attached to a panel With the frame mounted and zip tie snug, I fill the extra space in the mounting hole with almond colored caulk. It will disappear once it has dried. I will attach a four foot flex hose to the male connector and to the Olympian Wave 6 for quick connect and disconnect. The high setting on the Wave 6 is 5,800 BTU with 3,200 BTU on the low setting.
Saturday, December 26, 2009: OK, let me be blunt, I see NO USEFUL PURPOSE for the Olympian Catalytic Safety Heater shown above (scroll up). I say this first because it simply does not produce enough heat. At maximum setting you should get 6,000 Btu be we have found that our Mr Heater gives off more heat at the LOW setting (4000 Btu) than does the Wave 6. The Mr. Heater can be found for around $100 while the Olympian cost $350. Secondly, the Olympian needed to be handled very carefully and always covered during non-use to be sure no injury or dust fell on the catalytic pad. There was always a danger of "poisoning" if the pad was damaged. I was fortunate to be able to sell the catalytic heater for about 2/3 what I paid for it. I replaced it with the Empire SR-18T pictured to the right. Empire Radiant Heater, 3 brick

It operates on a thermostat, is manufactured in the USA, puts out 18,000 Btu which easily heats the entire trailer. Granted, we haven't tested it in cold Montana weather yet but I expect it to work VERY well. I was able to use the same propane connection for this heater as I installed for the Wave 6. Surprisingly, this heater is still cheaper than the Wave 6 at $278. You can get one slightly cheaper with a manual control where you can select heat using 1 , 2 or 3 bricks. You can also get feet for this heater if you wish to keep it portable as we did the Wave 6. We chose to mount the heater to a cabinet wall.

So here is my recommendation, do NOT buy a catalytic heater under ANY circumstance. If you have a small area to heat, buy a Mr. Heater and connect to a larger propane source than the little green propane bottles. This works very well. We still have ours and will likely use it in the bathroom - bedroom area when we are in colder areas. To heat the whole RV, get the Empire heater in the size you need (they come in several different sizes). The 18,000 Btu heater works well for our 36 foot three slide fifth wheel. There are cheaper Chinese made brands of these heaters available ... and when you need parts for that Chinese heater ... where will you get them? I showed how to install one of these previously when my friend Terry installed one in his RV.

A note about RV manufacturers ... don't you find it strange that we must search for a decent RV heater when all these RV's come equipped with forced air furnaces with ducts leading to every area of the RV? For those of us who don't plug into city power (thousands of us in the desert right now), those furnaces use a lot of our stored solar power to run the blowers. They are also only about 65% efficient (and that percentage is generous), while both the Mr. Heater and the Empire are about 99.5% efficient. I suppose the furnace is wonderful if you have unlimited power resources and don't care that 35% of the heat they create is blown outside. Just stand next to the outside furnace vent when it's in operation and check it out. Of course, when it drops below 20° outside, we have no choice but to use the furnace to heat the basement so the water pipes don't freeze.

Finally, if you use a Mr. Heater or Empire Radiant heater, be sure to follow all ventalation instructions. These things burn oxygen so if you are in an enclosed vehicle which is airtight (like a weather sealed RV), guess what happens if you burn up all the oxygen? A good heater, like the Empire, has a safety feature which turns the unit off if the oxygen level falls too low.


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