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Old 01-23-2014, 10:29 AM   #1
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Heat -- using propane stove top burners or oven

Is it safe to use the stove top burners for heat?

How about the oven with the door open?

Our AS has a 'catalytic heater' mounted on the panel by the stove and door...

In an older cabover camper years ago I remember that the heat rises --from the stove level up was hot, from the stove level down was cold.

When I was a kid my Mom would light the stove and open the oven door to warm up the kitchen.

When we picked our AS up in PA in 2007, we got caught in a major snow storm in VA--- used the stove for heat. We were parked in a school parking lot on top of Cheat Mountain.

When we used the furnace it seemed like ti drew down the batteries too quick.

Jim
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Old 01-23-2014, 10:36 AM   #2
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No, these are all CO emitters. It can kill. Please only use approved space heating devices.
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Old 01-23-2014, 10:51 AM   #3
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Quote:
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Is it safe to use the stove top burners for heat?

How about the oven with the door open?
NOT safe!

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When I was a kid my Mom would light the stove and open the oven door to warm up the kitchen.
When we were kids, we did lots of things that weren't safe because we didn't know any better. That's no reason to do them today. And heating a drafty home kitchen is not the same as heating an entire trailer; apples & oranges.

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When we picked our AS up in PA in 2007, we got caught in a major snow storm in VA--- used the stove for heat. We were parked in a school parking lot on top of Cheat Mountain.

When we used the furnace it seemed like ti drew down the batteries too quick.
If you'll pardon my saying, that was foolish at best, and dangerous at worst. Just because you didn't asphyxiate yourself then doesn't mean your luck will hold out next time. If you must use the stove due to a lack of electricity for the furnace fan, let me offer this suggestion… you can use the stove like a catalytic heater, by placing a clay fire brick, pizza stone, or other thermal mass in the stove, heating it for the same amount of time that you would cook a meal— and no longer!— and then allowing the brick provide the heat after you turn off the stove. It's not the best option, but it's marginally safer than running the stove all night.
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Old 01-23-2014, 10:55 AM   #4
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I'll admit that we've used the stove and oven for heat, but only under a very restricted circumstance, namely, when we needed a quick warm-up of the cabin while the furnace takes its sweet time. This involved turning on these appliances for no longer than it would take to cook something anyway. Otherwise, you're asking for major trouble with your organs, for they tend to die upon exposure to too much carbon monoxide.
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:03 AM   #5
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Hi Jim

Whether in a (stick) house or RV, stovetop burners are exempt from nearly all of the safety regulations applied to other gas utilization equipment. They don't have the safety equipment a furnace would have. It works out OK only because stovetop burners are intended to be used in a typical cooking environment where they are being watched, and where a range hood or other mechanical ventilation is present.

The two main risks with using stovetop burners for space heating are:

1) The hazard posed by a burner blowing out, with the result that unburned gas is released, possibly leading to an explosion.

2) The various hazards posed by combustion gasses:
2a) oxygen depletion
2b) accumulation of mildly toxic products of combustion (unburned hydrocarbons, CO, contaminants in the gas supply, partially combusted hydrocarbons)
2c) death due to CO poisoning if the burner is running rich. This typically happens because of partial blockage of the burner tube by rust or insects, or blockage of the burner head by accumulated grease from cooking, or misalignment of burner parts due to physical damage or corrosion. High altitude contributes to the problem.

Although the oven will have a thermocouple safety addressing item 1) it will still pose the risks in 2).

Catalytic heaters pose the risks in 2) and exist in a regulatory grey area; they do not comply with the major gas codes and therefore can't be installed as factory equipment. The CPSC reports deaths every few years with these although I believe that the number is underreported. Here's one article on catalytic heater safety:

http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/103972/CO03.pdf

If you can't use your furnace because your battery capacity is insufficient, the best thing to do is improve your battery capacity. The stock battery configuration, if working properly, should easily support the furnace overnight. There are many alternatives for adding batteries and for charging from solar, from the tow vehicle, or from a generator.
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:19 AM   #6
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This seems like a good time to mention that every trailer should have a functioning CO detector in it, as well as a smoke alarm. We have added both plus an LP detector to catch any leaks in that system. LP Detector goes down low, CO detector and smoke detector goes up high. Change batteries as part of your spring duties as you get ready to head out for another fun season of camping. Stay safe!
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:40 AM   #7
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~~
If you must use the stove due to a lack of electricity for the furnace fan, let me offer this suggestion… you can use the stove like a catalytic heater, by placing a clay fire brick, pizza stone, or other thermal mass in the stove, heating it for the same amount of time that you would cook a meal— and no longer!— and then allowing the brick provide the heat after you turn off the stove. It's not the best option, but it's marginally safer than running the stove all night.
Several years ago, before we got the Argosy (and the generator I bought using the Argosy as an excuse...) we had an "ice storm" in the DFW area and learned that lots of our neighbors don't maintain their trees along the alleys. Our 4-block by 2-block segment of the power grid was down for about 2 days.

The oven in our house is electronically controlled, but the stovetop is just electronically ignited and lights fine with a match or lighter. I put all the heavy cast iron on the stove top and heated it up, then turned off the burners to let the hot cast iron radiate some heat. I managed to keep the kitchen/dining area above 50F while we were awake.

I brought the CO detector from the bedroom (which has a 9V battery backup) and put it on the table just to be extra careful. I agree that it's not a great choice for heat but can be used with care in a pinch.

Of course, since I bought the generator the power at home hasn't been out for much more than half an hour at a time...
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:53 AM   #8
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not a big deal - use common sense

We all just worry too much some times. If I can recall some basic chemistry, burning propane produces CO2 (like we and our pets exhale) and H2O (like we drink).

C3H8 + 5(O2) --> 4(H2O) + 3(CO2)

Crack a window for a bit of O2 and things are fine.
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:59 AM   #9
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Using unvented propane to heat can be done safely. After all, older Airstreams have inside propane heaters and propane lights.

Using unvented propane for cooking is somewhat risky too. Lots of things are risky, that is why we have common sense to apply to these things.

The risk to be mitigated in an RV is that they are pretty air tight without much makeup air for what the stove burns.

Whether running our propane stove for cooking or for emergency heat, we crack open a cabin window (for O2) and the roof vent (to let H2O moisture escape).

Most catalytic heaters and other propane heaters output CO2, the same stuff we exhale and have oxygen sensors. They have oxygen depletion sensors not CO sensors because the risk is using up O2 not producing CO!. Crack open a window.

It does not take much outside air to make up for the minor amount of CO2 and moisture the Airstreams stove burner puts out. We will continue to use with it prudence for cooking and for a bit of heat when the battery goes dead.
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Old 01-23-2014, 12:14 PM   #10
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It will work but will put moisture into the air along with CO2 and carbon monoxide. Carbon dioxide is not poisonous but carbon monoxide is. Both will use up the oxygen in the air. If you want to warm up your trailer quickly go ahead. But do not leave unattended, and have a vent open for fresh air. And, do not leave them burning too long or when sleeping.

Not sure about the catalytic heater, if they release carbon monoxide. I would not use one while sleeping, and would crack a vent while it was on.

A small fan will circulate the heat. Put it on a high shelf and aim for the floor, or put it on the floor and aim upward.
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Old 01-23-2014, 12:26 PM   #11
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It will work but will put moisture into the air along with CO2 and carbon monoxide.
Complete combustion of propane produces just CO2 and water vapor.

Only the incomplete combustion of propane will produce CO in addition to CO2. Incomplete combusiton comes from insufficent oxygen.

If the Airstream is airtight, simply crack open a window to be safe.
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Old 01-23-2014, 12:40 PM   #12
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The gases emitted in burning propane in an unvented space. Don't use up oxygen, they displace it. The burner is what consumes the oxygen.
We have a window cracked as well as a roof vent cracked. Even when running the furnace. We don't use the stove top to heat the space. It doesn't take that long to heat up the cabin. We have camped numerous times with temps as low as +7f.
You never know when the furnace may develop a leak in the burner chamber. So I think it is best to keep a window and vent cracked.
We also have never had a condensation problem using this method.
Be Safe!
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Old 01-23-2014, 01:11 PM   #13
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Only if you want to give up RVing earlier tehn you planned.
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Old 01-23-2014, 02:51 PM   #14
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Why take a chance? My girlfriend at the time (we were to be married when she graduated from collage in the spring), went home to be with her mother for the holidays - they went to sleep with a vented propane stove and window cracked, it snowed that nite - the snow covered the vent and they were both found dead in the morning. Thirty five years and I still am sad at the thought. All those that reassure how safe it is - when something unforeseen goes wrong - they won't be there at your funeral. Don't take a chance!
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