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Old 10-06-2018, 12:13 PM   #1
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1976 31' Sovereign
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Radiant heat?

I'm going to be gutting and remodeling my '76 Sovereign next spring and am looking for cleaner heat options than my current propane furnace. This has been, and will be, my full time home in Northern Mn, so heat costs will be high no matter what I install.

Does anyone have experience with electric radiant heat in their Airstream? Pros, cons?
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Old 10-06-2018, 12:51 PM   #2
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There are many ways to go that can improve your heating bill and give you greater comfort

1) Platimun Cats: These are a vented propane catalytic heater that uses very little propane and very little electricity to give you infared heating surface. No condensation or carbon monoxide to worry about.

2) Precision Temp has a water heater/ muffin fan radiator heation system that seems to work very well. It pipes hot water to small radiators placed in different areas of your trailer and the muffin fans force air through the radiators to move the heat.

3) In-floor heating grids. These work well, and as the saying goes; if your feet are warm, so are you.

There are many others, including marine wood stoves and heat pumps, but the three that I have mentioned do work.

You will find that combinations of different heating methods work best. I fact if you had all three of the above OR just numbers 2 and 3, you'd have a very toasty stream.

Cheers
Sidekick Tony
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Old 10-06-2018, 03:30 PM   #3
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Not sure how to put this, but I think you are delusional to plan on living in an Airstream in northern Minnesota in the winter. Too many single pane windows and not nearly insulated well enough. Remember it is made of aluminum, a good conductor of heat and electricity.
Next, using electrical baseboard heaters is nuts also. Even if you had 50 amp service, this probably wonít be enough to provide adequate heat to keep you warm. I canít even think about the cost.
Sorry to be the first to burst your bubble.

Dan
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Old 10-06-2018, 04:02 PM   #4
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As posted above....
Youre going to be cold, very, very cold!
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Old 10-06-2018, 04:54 PM   #5
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Welcome!

I suggest running your space through the BTU calculator. Use "poor" for the insulation level, which is a pretty good representation of what you get in an Airstream.

http://www.calculator.net/btu-calculator.html

I think you'll find you need more BTUs than most radiant electrical heaters are going to provide. We have a wood stove and love it, but chopping a 10" diameter hole in your roof is not for everyone. Whatever you choose, you're going to need powerful dry heat.

You'll also need a means to keep your tanks liquid unless you're planning on winterizing the trailer and overwintering "dry." The propane furnace should have some ducting into the tanks, but if you're not using that as your primary heat source, it won't be heating your tanks. Electric heating pads can help, but those also have their limits.

While most of us would not want to live in an Airstream through a Northern Minnesota Winter, it can be done. It's just not going to be easy for a lot of reasons. You'll find most of us full-timers prefer to use the wheels for climate control as much as possible.
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Old 10-06-2018, 06:07 PM   #6
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Dickinson makes propane as well as a wood burning heater. Its much smaller and the hole is 3 inches. Ive seen threads on this and am considering this as well..heres a few...
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...er-165601.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...ed-115194.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...ew-126474.html
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Old 10-06-2018, 06:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiLNomad View Post
Dickinson makes propane as well as a wood burning heater. Its much smaller and the hole is 3 inches. Ive seen threads on this and am considering this as well..heres a few...
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...er-165601.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...ed-115194.html
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f427...ew-126474.html
LilNomad
The larger of the two Dickinson Newport propane burners, the p14000, tops out at 5500 BTUs.

http://dickinsonmarine.com/product/n...p12000-heater/

Definitely nice for some supplemental heat and ambiance, but not going to cut it as primary heat in a cold climate.
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Old 10-10-2018, 02:17 PM   #8
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1976 31' Sovereign
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Thanks for the input everyone! I realize now that I didn't specify that I'm looking at in-floor electrical radiant.

The Platinum Cat heater looks great! I'll probably look into that as a supplemental heat source and do in-floor as the main heat.

The Dickinson heaters would work better for a smaller space, unfortunately, the larger model might be a good backup plan if I can't get a catalytic heater though.

As to the naysayers, I'm not new to Mn winters and fully know what I'm getting into. Due to the housing market and high property taxes, this is my only choice if I want to stay. There is a large community of winter RVers up here, thanks to their support and advice I am confident in this venture.
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Old 10-10-2018, 02:35 PM   #9
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There are in floor radiant heat pads designed to be used under floating floors. I don't see any reason why those couldn't work, but again, it's not going to be enough to supply your primary heat. In floor heat is fantastic, but it would work best as supplemental heat for your purposes.
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Old 10-11-2018, 07:09 AM   #10
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I wouldnít consider not using the original propane furnace just because it isnít ďcleanĒ. As I said in my original post I donít believe there will be enough electrical capacity in your Airstream to feed your infloor radiant heaters. I would plan on using both plus possibly a cat heater.

I would also suggest using an electric blanket on your bed. I used one years ago when I lived days at a time in my Airstream when I went skiing in West Virginia. I used the electric blanket plus an oil filled electric heater plus the propane furnace to stay comfortable. I had a campground bathroom to use so I didnít use the plumbing in the Airstream.

Let us know how it all goes after spending a winter in your Airstream.

Good luck, Dan
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Old 10-11-2018, 07:41 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by TouringDan View Post
As I said in my original post I donít believe there will be enough electrical capacity in your Airstream to feed your infloor radiant heaters.
I think there is plenty if electricity available, which is partially why I don't think this will make a good solution for primary heat.

Take this product:

https://www.thermosoft.com/en-US/rad...ngineered-wood

The largest 120v pad is 3' x 12' and only consumes 2.7 amps. Since you would only heat the portions of the floor you stand on (not heating under cabinets/bed/etc), you might end up using around twice that in a 31' Airstream, so maybe 5.4 amps tops?

My small tabletop electric heater draws 12 amps and won't keep my 27' overlander comfortable lower than 40 degrees F or so. 5.4 amps isnt going to produce nearly as much heat as my small space heater. That goes to TouringDan's point, that there's probably not enough electrical capacity in a 30A trailer to keep up with your heating needs in the middle of Winter using any type of electric heater.

The radiant heat pads simply don't draw enough power to produce the kind of heat you'd need for Winter in a cold climate. Subtract the heat lost through the subfloor, and you're probably not adding much heat to the air at all.

Now, I had radiant electric heat under tile in my house, and it was glorious. There's nothing that will warm you to the core quite like standing barefoot on hot stone. So, there certainly is some value to keeping the floor warm in the Airstream. But it's not going to radiate a significant amount of heat into the living space. You're going to need a furnace or a wood stove or a vented catalytic heater or some other major source of heat, or upgrade to 50A service if you want to use all electric heat.
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Old 10-11-2018, 09:35 AM   #12
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I have said there isnít enough electrical power coming into your Airstream to heat with electric radiant heat without providing any numbers. Let me now try to provide some numbers to support my statement.

Your 76 Sovereign probably has a 30,000 btu/hr furnace. The efficiency is probably about 75%, so the output, into your trailer, is about 22,500 btu/hr. This wonít keep you warm in a northern Minnesota winter. I estimate that it will take about 40,000 btu/hr to heat your Airstream adequately. Based on 30 amp service, this will provide 3,600 watts or 12,000 btu/hr of heat, about half the output of your original furnace. Even if you upgrade the electrical service to 50 amps, this will only provide 20,000 btu/hr of heat. This is still less than the output of your original furnace and only about half of the 40,000 btu/hr of heat that I believe will be needed to keep you warm.

The only way to adequately heat your Airstream is to upgrade the insulation and heat using a new propane furnace, with a higher capacity than the original, plus radiant heat in the floor plus some 1,500 watt oil filled electric heaters plus a cat heater plus an electric blanket.

Dan
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Old 10-11-2018, 09:42 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by TouringDan View Post
I have said there isnít enough electrical power coming into your Airstream to heat with electric radiant heat without providing any numbers. Let me now try to provide some numbers to support my statement.

Your 76 Sovereign probably has a 30,000 btu/hr furnace. The efficiency is probably about 75%, so the output, into your trailer, is about 22,500 btu/hr. This wonít keep you warm in a northern Minnesota winter. I estimate that it will take about 40,000 btu/hr to heat your Airstream adequately. Based on 30 amp service, this will provide 3,600 watts or 12,000 btu/hr of heat, about half the output of your original furnace. Even if you upgrade the electrical service to 50 amps, this will only provide 20,000 btu/hr of heat. This is still less than the output of your original furnace and only about half of the 40,000 btu/hr of heat that I believe will be needed to keep you warm.

The only way to adequately heat your Airstream is to upgrade the insulation and heat using a new propane furnace, with a higher capacity than the original, plus radiant heat in the floor plus some 1,500 watt oil filled electric heaters plus a cat heater plus an electric blanket.

Dan
I mostly agree with your premise, but it's worth noting that 50A RV service has two legs of 50A for a total of 100A. Not saying that solves the problem entirely, especially since you need some electric available for other things, but it gets you much closer than a single 50A leg would.
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Old 10-11-2018, 10:13 AM   #14
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We have electric elements under the floor in our Sprinter van. They won't heat the van but they are nice to reduce chill effect from cold floor. These are 120V elements that we do run on our inverter.

https://sprinter-source.com/forum/sh...&postcount=132

Consider installing multiple smaller units in areas where you are standing or otherwise occupying the space. Then turn on/off individual ones to manage power consumption.

All the best,
Hein
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