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Old 02-21-2013, 02:32 AM   #1
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2011 23' FB International
1975 Argosy 30
Santa Barbara , California
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Quest for a heater

We hate the furnace in our 23FB with a passion, well, except when it's really freezing inside and we need a quick warm-up. But otherwise it's just noisy and cycles on off too much. Sleeping with it on is out of the question for us. So the search began...

I first installed a 1500W mica panel:


That actually worked extremely well in campgrounds where we had electricity. The heater kept us nice and warm down to the mid-thirties. It emits a faint buzz while it runs, but totally OK. I didn't do any real electric work, so plugging it into an outlet was always rigged-up. One problem with this panel is the dimension: around 27" horizontally, which means that it can only fit into one place in our trailer.

I then installed a different 400W radiant panel heater close to the bed:

Well, this one turned out to be a disaster. To try the heater out I turned it on for about an hour and then stepped back into the trailer and quickly out again! Fumes, fumes, oh my! Turns out that while the mica panel only radiates from the front, the ceramic panel radiates front and back, and the back faces the lovely glue impregnated plywood or particleboard! You can guess the rest... I've experimented with putting some aluminum foil loosely between the heater panel and the closet wall and that does the trick. I now need to create a more permanent solution. The 400W are enough to keep the bed area 10-15F above the exterior temp, it seems, probably a lot more if we close the partition. Anyway, I'm not happy yet, but getting there...

But none of this electric stuff helps when boondocking or in most NP/SP campgrounds. So I finally bit the bullet and installed a Dickinson Newport P-9000 instead of the mica panel. First the real fun part, which is to cut a 3" hole into the ceiling:

and then installed the heater:


I then routed the propane through the floor into the recess for the step and then around the gray water tank into a tee in the main line (photos forthcoming). Procuring a 5/8x5/8x3/8 flare Tee was the most difficult part of the job!

We took our first trip with the P-9000 this last week-end and in many ways the heater is great. It's very quiet emitting a sort of white noise that is easy to ignore. I suspended the fan so it is inaudible over the propane flame noise. The heater looks great. The only issue we're having is that it outputs less heat than expected. It's certainly less than the 1500W mica panel. Perhaps equivalent to about 1000W electric. It keeps the trailer about 20F-25F above outside temps while the mica panel kept at least 30F difference up. If I were to do it again, I would try to fit the larger model. Regardless, the P-9000 will work out for us: we can use the furnace to quickly heat a cold trailer and then the P-9000 to keep up the temp. We're not going to be willingly camping in sub-freezing temps and even then it would be sufficient to keep the inside tolerable with a good comforter (plus at that point freezing tanks probably require some use of the furnace anyway). The P-9000 is a quality unit, BTW, so if you're looking at the price tag, it's worth it.
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Old 02-21-2013, 05:59 AM   #2
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1993 21' Sovereign
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Why reinvent the wheel?

What's wrong with simply installing a catalytic heater in place of that contraption, and be done with it?
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:09 AM   #3
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Catalytic needs an open window and this unit doesn't. But if I remember correctly the Dickenson needs to be lit manually.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:09 PM   #4
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Just a comment: I like the Dickinson marine heater. However, it's quite an extra expense compared to just using the furnace.

If and when our furnace gives out, I'll take another look at the Dickinson as a replacement.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:26 PM   #5
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Why not just install a new furnace instead of all the screwing around? Then the trailer will be heated evenly through the duct work and the tanks will not freeze. And you will not have all the extra make shift stuff around.
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Old 02-21-2013, 03:38 PM   #6
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I dunno, a 5,500-7,500 BTU furnace that costs somewhere around $800 to $1,000, and needs a new gas feed run to it?

I would have been tempted to try and find ways to improve the noise level and cycle time of the original furnace. There is more than one thread on here about owners doing that with varying amounts of success.

I wasn't sure from reading your installation notes on the piping, but hopefully you remembered that LP gas pipe has to be externally hung, outside of the shell, since it is heavier than air and will pool if it leaks.
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Old 02-21-2013, 04:42 PM   #7
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tvoneicken don't pay any attention to the naysayers.

I have written extensively on the hazards Catalytic heaters pose. The Dickenson is an excellent alternative, and requires no electricity making it ideal for boondocking. Nice job on the install. Nice photos.

Yes there are steps that can be taken to quiet down the furnace:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...ace-70036.html

... though these won't apply directly to your situation because you have an Everest, I believe, and they're notoriously noisy.

... even with Steps taken to Reduce the noise it will still make more noise than a Dickenson.

Here was my approach to electric heat:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...ble-64289.html
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Old 02-21-2013, 07:54 PM   #8
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How about a wood stove

Toasty warm! and an alternative to LP and electric, great for dry camping.

Traditional Cast Iron Marine Stoves by Navigator Stove Works,Inc.
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Old 02-21-2013, 08:18 PM   #9
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We used a Force10 version of the Dickenson on our last sailboat and loved it.

There is a bit of a theme in Airforums now on the subject of noisy climate control. Maybe I am becoming deaf but I have no problem with the noise my furnace makes or the a/c. The sounds just tell me they are working.....
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Old 02-25-2013, 10:25 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone for the comments!

Re: catalytic, I'm just not going to put a non-vented heater into a sleeping area. Personal choice, if you like it for yourself then more power to you :-).

Re: noise, we live in a very quiet house in a quiet area without any traffic around and we have no TV running, etc. We value silence. The furnace makes us jump out of bed when it turns on at night.

Re: cost, having dropped $60k+ on the trailer the extra $1k don't move the needle anymore, that's the advantage of buying an Airstream ;-).

Re: wood stove, we would have loved that! I just don't know where to fit it...

Re: quieting the furnace, it's so far off from where it needs to be in term of noise that I just don't see it. Most of the noise comes straight out of the front grills and there just isn't anything I can put there to quiet it. I would gladly replace the whole unit for a quiet one, but I couldn't find anything that is really quiet as opposed to just quieter.
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Old 02-25-2013, 04:52 PM   #11
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I like what you have done.

If you did decide to try to quiet down the furnace there are a couple of key points to understand. The ductless furnaces are the loudest because by design they have openings from the blower right into the living space.

So your first step is to switch to a fully ducted furnace.

Then there are three areas for attention.

1) make sure that the return air passes through sound-deadening material. This is most important because the return air inlet emits the most noise

2) make sure the furnace itself is isolated from the trailer frame and cabinetry using cork or rubber damper material

3) finally make sure that the outlets are not straight. Even a few feet of the flexible vent hose makes a big difference as it is inherently sound deadening.

But I like what you've done
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Old 02-28-2013, 01:51 AM   #12
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Jammer, do you have any furnaces you can recommend that are quiet, relatively speaking?
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Old 02-28-2013, 01:57 AM   #13
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2011 23' FB International
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I thought I'd complete my photo series showing the underside of the install. The copper pipe comes down into the recess for the entrance steps, curves around the grey water tank, and tees into the main 5/8 gas line.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:17 AM   #14
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You should have a grommet or some rubber tubing around the gas line where it passes through the metal frame. If not, vibration will wear a hole in the copper line in short order. If it's there and not visible in the picture ignore this post.
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