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Old 02-08-2015, 10:16 AM   #1
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Catalytic propane heater?

How about adding a small catalytic propane heater to my A128S to use instead of the inefficient, battery draining, and noisy stock heater? Camco makes a small unit which is adjustable from low (1500 BTU) to high (3000 BTU). Very easy to install with access to grill quick connect hose from inside the trailer.

Pros: Quiet and almost 100% efficient on burning propane.
Cons: no thermostat and need to "crack open" some ventilation to replace oxygen used in confined space.
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Old 02-09-2015, 11:56 AM   #2
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I've wondered if the small Wave 3 would be sufficient for an AFrame. It seems it should be but I haven't read any specifics from users. It's too late in the year for me to even worry about it, except that I have a dry camping trip to the mountains scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.
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Old 02-09-2015, 01:51 PM   #3
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I think the Wave 3 is about the right size for temps above freezing (30's -50's F). One watt is equal to 3.412 BTUs, so my small electric heater (1500w) outputs about
5000 BTU on high. On low, it put out about 750w (2500 BTU) and has been more than enough under those conditions given the relatively good insulation in my trailer. The electric heater has a thermostat and fan which is convenient, whereas the propane heater would be constant on and radiant heat only.
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Old 02-09-2015, 02:04 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Pooneil View Post
I've wondered if the small Wave 3 would be sufficient for an AFrame. It seems it should be but I haven't read any specifics from users. It's too late in the year for me to even worry about it, except that I have a dry camping trip to the mountains scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.
I thought this would be a good option, but further research makes me question it.

IMHO, you need to have a working CO detector in the A-frame to use a catalytic heater since it is venting inside (unlike your heater). The combined propane/CO detectors Forest River installs will probably not work after 5 years (for CO). I don't know if they will give a warning when the CO detector element is not working. The latest and greatest battery-powered models for home use at Home Depot and Walmart have 10 year batteries - and are throw-aways after that.

You will probably want to keep the vent cracked open, and a window or door to provide oxygen in and CO out.

The heat output of the catalytic units are significantly less than the camper heater. And it needs floor space where it won't get hit by feet in the night.

Given all the above, and the cost, I found adding a second battery and using the camper heater a significantly cheaper alternative for a long weekend in our A122. So far, the second battery has worked out, but there has only been one long weekend where we needed the heater and were dry camping.

Our solution is not for everyone. The heater fan is not quiet (nor is the air conditioner) but it does the job.

just our thoughts and experiences
Fred W
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Old 02-09-2015, 02:18 PM   #5
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Given all the above, and the cost, I found adding a second battery and using the camper heater a significantly cheaper alternative for a long weekend in our A122. So far, the second battery has worked out, but there has only been one long weekend where we needed the heater and were dry camping.
I have a Rockwood Premier 2516G popup trailer, and this is what I did. Adding a second battery got me enough battery capacity to run the furnace to my heart's content four nights in a row. If I go beyond four nights, I have to be a little more conservative, or need to have a means of recharging.

My furnace consumes 2.7A. Let's call that 3A. If it runs 1/3rd of the time, that's 1A per hour of use. So over the course of a ten hour night it will consume 10A. If I had only a single Group 24 battery, and no other loads, it would last four nights. But furnace consumption is probably only about half of my total electrical use (lights, water pump, cell chargers, all add up). So with a single battery, two nights was a reasonable expectation. With dual batteries, four nights is pretty easy to accomplish.
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Old 02-09-2015, 02:28 PM   #6
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We use a Big Buddy heater. On low, it runs for ~10 hours, it is quiet even with the built in fan, and it keeps our camper warm, even with 2 windows cracked. The box on our camper is about 24' x 8'. The Big Buddy should keep an A-frame camper toasty even on really cold nites.

As others indicated, you need to crack some windows, and have a working CO detector. We crack a window at the unit, and another in our bedroom area.
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Old 02-09-2015, 08:07 PM   #7
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I think the Wave 3 is about the right size for temps above freezing (30's -50's F). One watt is equal to 3.412 BTUs, so my small electric heater (1500w) outputs about
5000 BTU on high. On low, it put out about 750w (2500 BTU) and has been more than enough under those conditions given the relatively good insulation in my trailer. The electric heater has a thermostat and fan which is convenient, whereas the propane heater would be constant on and radiant heat only.
Thanks for getting the equivalent heating values. That makes a great deal of sense. And still looks like the best way for me to go.

I suppose I can rely on warm sleeping bags and burning the furnace in the mornings and evenings for my spring trip too. My primary concern with adding another battery is that my tongue weight is already 420# with one group 24. Putting two group 27's on there will really weigh down my truck. Particularly at times there are two kayaks on the bed cover and the back full of other gear.
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Old 02-09-2015, 11:51 PM   #8
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All good points...my main reason for considering a catalytic is because I dislike the loud fan in the built in heater, which is not a problem when awake but is like an alarm clock when asleep, as it cycles on and off. I already have two 6 volt deep cycle batteries, so energy use is not as crucial for short trips. I guess it is always good to have a backup if one or the other stops working!

I tried the Big Buddy, but even on the lowest setting it overheats the small Aframe trailer since there is no thermostat.
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Old 02-10-2015, 08:27 AM   #9
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I tried the Big Buddy, but even on the lowest setting it overheats the small Aframe trailer since there is no thermostat.
Open the windows further.
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Old 02-11-2015, 01:46 PM   #10
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Open the windows further.
They also sell the buddy, it only has one ceramic and no fan. I bought mine for the camper, but used it ice fishing in the meantime, and was quite impressed. I agree with the OP, it's the noise of the furnace that bothers me. I have three deep cycle batteries on mine. Honda should come out with a propane fuel cell.
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