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Old 09-28-2010, 04:09 PM   #1
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Forced-air furnace or catalytic heater?

Hello. I recently purchased a 20' Globetrotter that had its original furnace removed at some point. It has the space, electrical and venting area still available for a forced-air furnace. I have been doing some research and like the idea of the catalytic heater. Here are some questions/concerns - does it have the potential to melt any plastics or char wood cabinets (I don't think so, but have to ask), does it take a significantly longer period to heat the cabin and will the heat make it to the front of the cabin and into the bathroom?
It will be mounted street-side in between the bathroom and goucho couch and my concern is it will be much cooler in the front and in the bathroom. Taking a shower in the cold is no bueno!

So which one you guys think is the better choice for this trailer. I am aware of the oxygen depletion of the catalytic and will take the necessary safety precautions. It will also be the primary heating source and I will be boondocking quite a bit.

I am considering the Olympia Wave 6 which is capable of handling 230 sq ft. Is that a good size? Or, should I spend more money and get the forced-air?

Thank you.
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Old 09-28-2010, 04:19 PM   #2
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Star,

I will follow this thread, as I am contemplating buying an additional catalytic heater. I plan on mounting it on the cabinet next to the door, next to the oven.

I don't think there are issues related to burning the adjacent areas, as the heater is designed to be wall mounted. There is also an oxygen sensor.

Another advantage would be for boondocking -- no drain on your unit's batttery. However, I am not sure on how even the heater would heat up the trailer.

Here is a link to Camping World:

Olympian Wave Catalytic Safety Heaters - Product - Camping World

$210 - $300
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Old 09-28-2010, 04:34 PM   #3
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I have a '67 Globetrotter with the forced air furnace removed and a catalytic heater mounted to the wood panel that conceals the bathroom pocket door. Thus far, the coldest night I've spent in the trailer was at Yosemite when it was 27degF outside. I ran my little catalytic at full power (not sure of the specs on my unit, but I can look tonight) and it kept the front area of the trailer (measured at dinette table level - there will be a temperature gradient depending on where vertically you take your reading) at 58degF. What was REALLY cold was the bathroom floor, which has linoleum tiles, during the middle of the night.... the rest of my trailer is carpeted.

I'm always looking for additional storage, so I welcome not having a large cumbersome forced air furnace. Just my $0.02
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Old 09-28-2010, 04:42 PM   #4
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Toddster - are you saying just your bathroom floor was cold? Or was the air temperature in the bathroom significantly colder too?

Do you find it takes a lot of time to heat the cabin? Also, what unit do you have?

Thanks.
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Old 09-28-2010, 05:08 PM   #5
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I was barefoot and yes, the bathroom floor was VERY cold. I don't recall if the bathroom air temp was much different. I'll check tonight to see the specs on my heater. BTW, which year GlobeTrotter do you have?
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Old 09-28-2010, 06:47 PM   #6
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If you're going to be "boondocking quite a bit", you need the cat. Forced hot air furnaces consume a large amount of electricity. You might get 1 full night out of a battery if you run a furnace. If your idea of boondocking includes carrying a generator, and running it for quite a few hours every day to recharge your battery, then a furnace might be doable. I doubt there is enough roof area on a GT to support enough solar panels to replenish the juice that furnace will use.

Yeah, there will be cool spots with a cat heater. its not as even or "thorough" as a furnace. But the older GTs had very "open" floor plans, so air should circulate enough. There is a trade off, but it should be warm enough. The old catalytic in my trailer, which is 23', throws a ton of heat. I've never run it above its lowest setting; it'll roast you out of the thing.
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Old 09-28-2010, 08:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by star kitty View Post
Toddster - are you saying just your bathroom floor was cold? Or was the air temperature in the bathroom significantly colder too?

Do you find it takes a lot of time to heat the cabin? Also, what unit do you have?

Thanks.
Same as yours 1967! I love it!
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Old 09-28-2010, 09:06 PM   #8
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We have both (original) in our '71 -- but haven't had to use them yet. Do the catalytics get hot enough to the touch to worry about dogs bumping up against them and burning themselves?
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Old 09-28-2010, 09:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by star kitty View Post
Hello. I recently purchased a 20' Globetrotter that had its original furnace removed at some point. It has the space, electrical and venting area still available for a forced-air furnace. I have been doing some research and like the idea of the catalytic heater. Here are some questions/concerns - does it have the potential to melt any plastics or char wood cabinets (I don't think so, but have to ask), does it take a significantly longer period to heat the cabin and will the heat make it to the front of the cabin and into the bathroom?
The largest RV catalytic heaters produce less heat than the smallest RV furnaces. As such, they will take longer to heat a cold trailer, and will not be able to provide sufficient heat in particularly demanding conditions.

Olympian Wave catalytic heaters (the most popular brand) come in 3000, 6000, and 8000 BTU versions. As a point of comparison, I have a 4600 BTU electric heater in my trailer, and it runs continuously all night to keep the trailer at 70 degrees when the outside temperature is 50 degrees. It does not usefully heat a cold trailer, for that I use the furnace, which is 34,000 BTU.

Quote:
It will be mounted street-side in between the bathroom and goucho couch and my concern is it will be much cooler in the front and in the bathroom. Taking a shower in the cold is no bueno!
It is my experience that heat distribution is a) less of a problem than one might think, and b) not really solved by the ductwork.

Quote:

So which one you guys think is the better choice for this trailer. I am aware of the oxygen depletion of the catalytic and will take the necessary safety precautions. It will also be the primary heating source and I will be boondocking quite a bit.

I am considering the Olympia Wave 6 which is capable of handling 230 sq ft. Is that a good size? Or, should I spend more money and get the forced-air?
The forced air furnaces are a solid technology and are well worth having. They have a good safety record, are easy to use, and produce a lot of heat.

Most people who have the Wave 6 also have a furnace.

Catalytic heaters don't meet my personal standards for safety, for RV use. There is the oxygen depletion problem. There is the deterioration of the catalyst over time. There are the combustion products introduced into the indoor air. There is, IMO, a greater risk of fire and burns. A fact to consider is that over a period of years you or whoever is in your RV may take ill, require pain medication, or otherwise be temporarily unable to, through sheer operational excellence, maintain a high level of safety with an inherently more hazardous product. With, say, a chainsaw, you don't have to run it when you're like that but if the RV is where you live you don't always have a choice.

There is little question that the electrical draw of a furnace poses a problem when boondocking that a catalytic does not. However, most people new to RVing don't boondock as much as they expect, and there are plenty of options for recharging batteries.

My advice would be to start with the furnace and add the catalytic later if you decide you need it.
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Old 09-28-2010, 10:20 PM   #10
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Here's another option. Vented, draws combustion air from outside, and the only electrical draw is a very small 12 volt fan. 9000 btu.

cheers,
steve
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Old 09-28-2010, 10:29 PM   #11
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Well I wouldn't be without BOTH...but I use my '64 22" Safari a lot in differing situations (Alaska to Sierra Nevada, -40F to 32F).

My new Suburban forced air cuts the chill FAST if you arrive back at trailer after dark. However, it's too loud to have coming on and off all night and drains battery power when boondocking.

The original catalytic (I had to buy 3 to make one good one) works GREAT after main chill is cut to keep toasty all night. It does work by radiation, meaning the surface directly across from it gets warmest, though not ignition hot.

We use both regularly. Furnace to get cabin to 50F then catalytic to keep it warm while we sleep (with roof ventilation vent open a bit for CO escape).
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Old 09-28-2010, 10:57 PM   #12
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I have both but prefer the furnace. The catalytic heater is used when boondocking. My furnace has a register that is just below the toilet seat in the rear bath. There is no better feeling in the middle of a cold night that having a warn toilet seat to sit on.
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Old 09-28-2010, 11:31 PM   #13
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We have both (original) in our '71 -- but haven't had to use them yet. Do the catalytics get hot enough to the touch to worry about dogs bumping up against them and burning themselves?
We have both as well, but my furnace needs a motor (waiting for cooler weather to work on it) so we use the CAT heater more. The front gets pretty hot and we have smoked a few tails in my trailer, but no burns from bumping.
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Old 09-29-2010, 12:00 AM   #14
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<deleted text>

We use both regularly. Furnace to get cabin to 50F then catalytic to keep it warm while we sleep (with roof ventilation vent open a bit for CO escape).
I'm not saying that having the roof vent open a bit isn't helping you, but if there's much CO escaping through the roof vent you'll already be dead. CO is heavier than air and pools low in the space first, so a CO detector should be lower than your bed to detect before you start inhaling an excess of it in your sleep. Having the roof vent open when you're heating inside the trailer is probably pulling in air from openings lower in the trailer as the warm air escapes out the vent, but the isn't escaping that way unless you have quite a draft.
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