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Old 01-27-2014, 09:19 AM   #1
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Heat for Boondocking

The only thing that keeps us from boondocking at this time of year in the desert is a heat source other than the electricity eating stock furnace. Has anyone installed a catalytic heater in a 25 or 27 FB. If so where did you put it? I don't see any wall space sufficient to place one.
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Old 01-27-2014, 11:55 AM   #2
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We had an '04 28' Classic with a catalytic heater and it was mounted on the side of the kitchen cabinets close to the door entrance above the magazine rack, as I remember.
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Old 01-27-2014, 01:50 PM   #3
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Have you considered small portable catalytic. I have a Coleman/propane that is my third string (after heat pump and electric vornado). So in case of power outage which did happen in ice storm this year, it moves up to starter. Power outage made me think of installing one permanent in the LP system(since I junked my suburban(?) furnace) that may move it up to 2nd string and even 1st in event of freezing temps. But the portable/small cans would definitely work for your 17'. I did noticed that some big boy units also offer the mount/portable option.
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Old 01-27-2014, 04:26 PM   #4
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Mr. Heater - Big Buddy or buddy models. They run on disposable canisters but you can also run off of bulk cylinder with a hose and filter attachment. Fantastic heater, I have used it for years. It has an auto shut off if it is knocked over and also has a low oxygen auto shut off.
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Old 01-27-2014, 06:21 PM   #5
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Mr. Heater - Big Buddy ...
And it's rated for RV use.
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Old 01-27-2014, 06:58 PM   #6
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Mr. Heater - Big Buddy or buddy models. They run on disposable canisters but you can also run off of bulk cylinder with a hose and filter attachment. Fantastic heater, I have used it for years. It has an auto shut off if it is knocked over and also has a low oxygen auto shut off.
Mr Heater is our choice for boon docking in the desert. Takes the chill off in the morning before sun up..the then sun takes over!
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Old 01-27-2014, 07:06 PM   #7
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You might consider an Olympian heater. I use one in my 20 ft. Airstream. Olympians are not as sensitive to higher altitude changes as some others. I had a quick connect propane fitting installed inside my front lower storage cabinet (under the bed). It is easy to store the heater there. I would highly recommend an extra CO detector, leaving a vent space open and not using any catalytic heater at night when sleeping.
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Old 01-28-2014, 08:33 AM   #8
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You might consider an Olympian heater. I use one in my 20 ft. Airstream. Olympians are not as sensitive to higher altitude changes as some others. I had a quick connect propane fitting installed inside my front lower storage cabinet (under the bed). It is easy to store the heater there. I would highly recommend an extra CO detector, leaving a vent space open and not using any catalytic heater at night when sleeping.
X2, I wouldn't sleep with a catalytic heater going.
We routinely boondock in Colorado in the fall where temps go down into the teens.
The stock two group 24 battery setup on our AS gets us through the night with thermostat set about 50. We sleep in sleeping bags.
During the day, our 200 watt solar charger almost completely recharges the battery and the Honda EU 2000 finishes the job.
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Old 01-28-2014, 11:44 AM   #9
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Cat heaters were standard in AS for years. My 73 AS and my 64 Avion each had a cat heater. Jim
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Old 01-28-2014, 01:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Antique Pedaler View Post
The only thing that keeps us from boondocking at this time of year in the desert is a heat source other than the electricity eating stock furnace. Has anyone installed a catalytic heater in a 25 or 27 FB. If so where did you put it? I don't see any wall space sufficient to place one.
I don't consider them safe so have made other choices

My Cayo C-11 has a non-electric furnace in it, similar to the Newport fireplace that many Airstreamers have used. Mine doesn't have a window though:

DickinsonMarine.com - Propane Fireplaces

I have modified the wiring in my tow vehicle so that it has a second battery that connects to the charge line, and an isolator relay, and with that mod find I can run the furnace overnight without exhausting battery capacity. There are other electrical mods that are cheaper and more practical than a separate source of heat. More batteries, solar, modified converters so that batteries are charged more precisely
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Old 01-28-2014, 02:32 PM   #11
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I've been following this thread and wondering what the problem is. My 24' Argosy has a single group-24 flooded battery, nothing special, though I do have LED lighting. Just recently I was boondocking in weather that was in the low 30s at night (but nice in the daytime.) Based on the state-of-charge tables for 12v lead-acid batteries I was around 75% in the mornings, maintaining about 60F in the trailer while sleeping and heating to a bit over 70F when I was ready to get out of bed.

That's with a bog-standard old NT-22a furnace, the new ones are reputed to be slightly better on battery use. I charged the battery up in the afternoons with a generator, I haven't invested in any solar for this trailer.

Granted I have no 12v propane detector, and pilot-light refrigerator and water heater, but modern trailers have 2x the battery so at the very worst that should be a wash.
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Old 02-25-2014, 10:10 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKB_SATX View Post
I've been following this thread and wondering what the problem is. My 24' Argosy has a single group-24 flooded battery, nothing special, though I do have LED lighting. Just recently I was boondocking in weather that was in the low 30s at night (but nice in the daytime.) Based on the state-of-charge tables for 12v lead-acid batteries I was around 75% in the mornings, maintaining about 60F in the trailer while sleeping and heating to a bit over 70F when I was ready to get out of bed.

That's with a bog-standard old NT-22a furnace, the new ones are reputed to be slightly better on battery use. I charged the battery up in the afternoons with a generator, I haven't invested in any solar for this trailer.

Granted I have no 12v propane detector, and pilot-light refrigerator and water heater, but modern trailers have 2x the battery so at the very worst that should be a wash.
Based on the current draw testing that I have done on my newer Dometic RM2652, the control board uses consumes about 0.8A in propane mode. If left on all day, it will use about 20 AH per day. That alone is equal to your total consumption. After I tested it, I regret even more that my original pilot light model puked ammonia on our maiden voyage.

I would imagine an auto-ignition water heater would be pretty similar. However, that is only a guess since my water heater is a pilot light model. It doesn't seem that there would need to be such a high draw to run temperature monitoring functions, but there is probably little incentive to increase the efficiency of these units since the RV trend seems to be heading toward bigger units with more amenities. Plugging in is assumed. Besides, Dometic is selling generators now too.
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Old 02-25-2014, 10:29 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Kyle401 View Post
Based on the current draw testing that I have done on my newer Dometic RM2652, the control board uses consumes about 0.8A in propane mode. If left on all day, it will use about 20 AH per day.
I would imagine an auto-ignition water heater would be pretty similar. However, that is only a guess since my water heater is a pilot light model.
Just some more information, not disputing your numbers.

The refrigerator in my 2014 FC 20' uses (actual measurement) 0.32 amps and that only when the flame is on, virtually nothing when it is off. The water heater uses 0.74 amps when the flame is running, nothing at all when off.

The original refrigerator fan on the (stupid) side vented refrigerator however used 0.55 amps and was very noisy. I immediately replaced it with a larger, and much quieter one and have the fan current down to about 0.25 amps when it is running.

I believe the newest refrigerator 12 volt current is substantially lower than the older ones, but I can only report on what mine are, I don't have any older refrigerators to measure.
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Old 02-25-2014, 11:03 PM   #14
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How much heat do you need?

Like Handn, we've boondocked in "shoulder season" weather comfortably by keeping the furnace on at a low setting, and piling on extra bedding. We keep some spare sleeping bags in the bins above the bed, for use whenever the temperature dips down, and layer them on top of our regular bedding.

Electricity-eating uses are more of an issue than staying warm, but we've replaced a lot of our unit's halogen lamps with leds, we turn off the fridge and/or fridge fan a lot (as its insulation plus our frozen gel pacs keep the contents cold) and turn off the main switch when we're out for the day and don't need electricity. We also moved to a two battery system, and bring a generator.

Last February we were in Death Valley, followed by March in southern Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, and never found the cold indoors at night to be a problem.

Cold weather during the day isn't an issue. Either we're out and about, or else we wear sufficient clothing to stay warm.

The one piece of advice for cold weather camping is to conscientiously keep the humidity down inside: dry any wet items like towels, jackets and boots in the vehicle or outside, as you can otherwise get a lot of interior condensation on the walls and windows.
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Old 02-26-2014, 08:34 PM   #15
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Just some more information, not disputing your numbers.

The refrigerator in my 2014 FC 20' uses (actual measurement) 0.32 amps and that only when the flame is on, virtually nothing when it is off. The water heater uses 0.74 amps when the flame is running, nothing at all when off.

The original refrigerator fan on the (stupid) side vented refrigerator however used 0.55 amps and was very noisy. I immediately replaced it with a larger, and much quieter one and have the fan current down to about 0.25 amps when it is running.

I believe the newest refrigerator 12 volt current is substantially lower than the older ones, but I can only report on what mine are, I don't have any older refrigerators to measure.
Thanks for posting. I was floored when I measured my fridge at 0.8A. The draw actually spikes up over 1A at ignition. My refrigerator's data label does not list 12V current. The model is listed as a DM2652LBX.

Your post lead me to re-read my manual to see what I could find out about the 12V draw. After doing a little digging, it appears that this model is equipped with the "Climate Control" heating strip that is supposed to evaporate condensation under the freezer door.

My manual mentions turning off this feature if a charging source is not available, but not for my model. I thought that meant my refrigerator wasn't equipped with this feature. Unfortunately, what it really means is that it isn't equipped with a shut-off switch and the heating strip is always on when the refrigerator is on.

I'll trace the circuit and install a switch. I bet that eliminating the heating strip current draw will solve my fridge consumption woes.

Thanks again for posting some comparison data.
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Old 02-26-2014, 08:38 PM   #16
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Thanks for posting. I was floored when I measured my fridge at 0.8A. ... Unfortunately, what it really means is that it isn't equipped with a shut-off switch and the heating strip is always on when the refrigerator is on.

I'll trace the circuit and install a switch. I bet that eliminating the heating strip current draw will solve my fridge consumption woes.

Thanks again for posting some comparison data.
It took me awhile but I finally found the switch on my fridge, it's inside the freezer door.
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Old 02-26-2014, 08:56 PM   #17
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It took me awhile but I finally found the switch on my fridge, it's inside the freezer door.
My manual has a depiction of where the switch should be under the model NDR1062 heading. I found some pictures online showing a small rocker switch under the upper control panel. Unfortunately, that switch is not installed on my unit.

I mistakenly believed that the implication was that I don't have the climate control heater. That assumption appears to be incorrect, but I won't be able to test it for a few days. Apparently Dometic just decided not to install the switch on some units. There is some discussion on RV.net about it.
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Old 02-26-2014, 10:27 PM   #18
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I hope you can trace out that heater and find a way to switch it off. It is hard to believe that anyone at Dometic ever dry camps with their own equipment. If they did, they would not build such things as 12 volt heaters you cannot shut off.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:40 AM   #19
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Turning that feature OFF does make a huge difference in boondocking battery life. I was using a small solar panel simply to offset the fridge. Prior to that we would leave for the day only to return to a battery that had noticably dropped in available AH's. In fact, the fridge used as much daily AH as ALL of our other usage.
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:46 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKB_SATX View Post
I've been following this thread and wondering what the problem is. My 24' Argosy has a single group-24 flooded battery, nothing special, though I do have LED lighting. Just recently I was boondocking in weather that was in the low 30s at night (but nice in the daytime.) Based on the state-of-charge tables for 12v lead-acid batteries I was around 75% in the mornings, maintaining about 60F in the trailer while sleeping and heating to a bit over 70F when I was ready to get out of bed.
When the temp only drops to the low 30s I'm still good to go. A couple of weeks ago we boondocks for a couple of nights. Used the LED lights all we wanted, watched movies on the 12 volt TV and turned on the stock furnace to warm the place in the morning. Still had 75% on the batteries and the 85 watt solar panel brought them back by noon.

When I started this discussion the temps were in the teens and I would have needed the furnace going all night. That's when I would have liked a different heating system for boondocking.
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