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Old 04-20-2010, 02:38 PM   #1
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1972 27' Overlander
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Wall heater: Standard? Safe?

Hello, I have a new-to-me 1972 Overlander. There is a heater attached to the wall just inside the door. Was this installed in the factory? Are these safe to use? Does anyone else have one?

Thanks,
Nick
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:24 PM   #2
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They are quite common but can't say who installed it. I installed mine.

The one thing to consider is the element tends to get dirty if it is not covered when not in use and may result in a reduction in output. I had to send mine back to the factory for a new element at about 1/2 the cost of a new heater.

I keep both roof vents cracked at about an inch and never leave the unit on after we retire.
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Old 04-20-2010, 04:08 PM   #3
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We have a newer version the PO installed in our 31 footer and use it routinely to knock the winter chill off. We keep the roof vents cracked open when its in use and like HowieE we don't sleep with it on.

Since you don't know the unit history you might want to have it checked out before attempting to put it into service.

Kevin

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Old 04-20-2010, 06:26 PM   #4
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That's called a catalytic heater, and they are very common. If you have any doubts about it, and even if you don't, you should probably have it checked over before using it. Personally, I'd pull the flip-up shelf off the wall above it to minimize any chance of fire. We have a 6000 btu version of that, and it does help keep the chill off.
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Old 04-21-2010, 02:16 PM   #5
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I think that unvented gas heaters, no matter how used, no matter what technology, are a safety hazard.
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Old 04-21-2010, 03:05 PM   #6
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There is a danger of any unvented gas appliance burning up the oxygen. Catalytic heaters are not supposed to make carbon monoxide but they do use oxygen.

It is recommended that you not use them at night unless you leave a window open and ceiling vent open to bring in fresh air.
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Old 04-21-2010, 10:02 PM   #7
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The performance of the catalyst deteriorates with age, use, and exposure to contaminants, leading to a higher CO output over time. Also, things like a clogged air tube can lead to an oxygen-starved mixture that will generate CO even with a good catalyst.

The combustion process, due in part to contaminants in the LP gas, also produces toxic compounds other than the CO. While these are present to some degree with things like a stove or oven, the longer burn time and larger BTU input rate of space heaters makes this more of a problem.
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Old 04-21-2010, 10:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
The performance of the catalyst deteriorates with age, use, and exposure to contaminants, leading to a higher CO output over time. Also, things like a clogged air tube can lead to an oxygen-starved mixture that will generate CO even with a good catalyst.

The combustion process, due in part to contaminants in the LP gas, also produces toxic compounds other than the CO. While these are present to some degree with things like a stove or oven, the longer burn time and larger BTU input rate of space heaters makes this more of a problem.
I get the impresion you don't like Catalytic heaters. If they were 1/10 as bad as you make them out to be they would be covered from top to bottom with more Nader warnings than an ungraded lawn mower.
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Old 04-22-2010, 10:50 AM   #9
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No, I don't like them. I believe they're unsafe. There have been various efforts over the last century to make unvented heaters. I once saw a cast-iron kerosene heater made in the early 1920s for sale at an antique store, with a prominent note warning buyers that it was sold as a curio only, that there had been many illnesses and some deaths from CO from that product.

Over time combustion efficiencies improved and so a properly operating heater wouldn't produce much CO. The "blue flame" gas heaters became popular in the 1950s and disappeared again around 1980 over safety concerns, led this time by the use of portable space heaters during the 1970s energy crisis. People would try to heat bedrooms and leave the rest of the house cold. Guess what happened.

We get a couple people who die every year here in Minnesota from CO poisoning in their fish house from using a catalytic heater.

I believe they are made by companies that are structured to be judgment proof, hence the relative absence of warnings. Nonetheless, they usually are placarded with warnings that most people ignore (outdoor use only, inspect every year, etc).
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Old 04-22-2010, 11:01 AM   #10
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I used mine quite a bit over the winter at night while we slept. I cracked two vents and have a propane leak detectpr and a CO2 detector for safety sake.

If catalytic heaters were as bad as some folks make them out to be, they wouldn't be on the market.
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Old 04-22-2010, 11:17 AM   #11
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I am not a fan of them either, just because they are unvented. You are trusting leaving the ceiling vent and window open a bit to do the venting. Why take the risk? Right below it is the register for the real furnace, which is located somewhere in the trailer. If that doesn't work, it can be easily replaced with a new furnace, properly vented to the outside, which is what I did in my trailer. When we are not using the main furnace, I prefer an electric space heater.

Obviously people do use the catalytic heaters without ill effect, but it is a risk I am unwilling to accept when out camping.
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Old 04-23-2010, 03:28 PM   #12
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If you are plugged in to AC, then a cat heater certainly has no real use. However when bookdocking, it is hard to keep warm for more than a couple of days using your batteries.

There are cat heaters and cat heaters. The ones approved for RV use (not mr buddy or similar) will be safe if used properly.

2air has piloted a cat heater that uses outside air for combustion - that is the one I plan to install.

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Old 04-23-2010, 04:43 PM   #13
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I would be interested to hear if anyone can point me to a single verifiable case where someone died or became seriously injured as a result of using a propane catalytic heater in an RV or travel trailer.

Please, no "I've heard ..." or "people have died" or other unsubstantiated statements. Note that I am talking about true catalytic heaters, not space heaters, kerosene heaters, non-catalytic radiant heaters, etc.
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Old 04-24-2010, 08:15 AM   #14
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I found the following report with a quick Google search. In their tests of propane catalytic heaters they did not put out a whole lot of carbon monoxide but they did exhaust the air in the room, reducing oxygen content of the air from 20.9% to8.8%.

At this point the heater was still working but they terminated the test. Such low oxygen concentrations can cause serious illness or death in humans.

Here is the complete report. If you are not technically minded you can skip down the conclusions and get the gist of it.

CO Emissions from a Portable Propane Catalytic Heater

Sleeping in a small closed room with no ventilation can use up the oxygen and result in waking up groggy with a headache. Without the heater. So, it is only common sense to have some source of fresh air when sleeping.
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