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Propane heat - ventless. Experience?


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I have been researching heating options. Long story short, I am trying to go away from electric - at least moving to 100% off-grid.

With that having been said, electric heating (all sources - water, cooking, clothes dryer, and climate) is where the bulk of energy is used. So by getting another source of energy for the heating sources - propane in this case - the electrical usage will significantly be reduced.

Enter propane heaters.

There seem to be a lot of negative thoughts surrounding ventless designs due to low-levels (and even difficult to measure low levels) of CO or CO2 (both being byproducts of the combustion process). One of the advantages of a ventless design is the burning efficiency. My understanding is inefficiency in the burning process is what leads to CO and CO2 production. Note that CO and CO2 production is not the same as oxygen consumption (another issue, but a totally different subject).

I've read and watched youtube videos. The ventless designs have been implemented in countless RV's and homes. It appears those markets are the target markets for such heaters.

What are peoples' thoughts on them here?

If you are using propane for your main heat (as opposed to supplemental heat) - what does your system look like? What type of source, how many? What climate are you staying in that requires the heat? How much propane do you go through in a week or month?

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We have used ventless for decades. We do not like the noise or inefficiency of RV furnaces. With that said we used Olympian for many years until we could no longer change the pad ourselves(govt I think). This was actually good, we found the Mr Heater MH18 with fan, inexpensive, 3 heat settings and fan can be on or off. We have always had our rigs piped for propane to a central location so we just hooked it up to that location. We have now used it for 5 years with no problems at all.

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I use a Procom brick heater and plumb it with a fuel hose that we connect to the quick connect under the stove top.  That way we know when it is in service or not.  Oxygen depletion sensor, piezo ignitor, 5 brick(really too big for most trailers) and nicely priced.  We usually leave a window open.

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We used a brick propane heater for 16 years of full-timing up to 8,000' elevation.  However, we never slept with it running. Besides, we like it cool/cold for sleeping.  Turn it on the morning and it heats the RV up fast.  He gives awesome, very efficient heat.  We had it installed by a propane dealer for confidence.

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Fly, I have a Buddy ventless LP gas heater and it works fine and is more efficient (Gee I wonder why lol) then my forced air furnace

HOWEVER

1) I NEVER let it run overnight or when sleeping...

2) I ALWAYS have a nearby window cracked and a top vent slightly open. 

3) The heater has a low oxygen safety shut off

4) I have a good working CO Detector operating

5) I have a good working LP gas detector nearby.

Basically when we get up just long enough to take the chill off we fire it up and later kick on the furnace if needed. Did I mention we NEVER let it run overnight or when sleeping?? I don't want to wake up dead.

 How you use one is YOUR risk and YOUR choice

John T

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1 hour ago, FlyFishn said:

My understanding is inefficiency in the burning process is what leads to CO and CO2 production.

I don't know what you think is produced when you burn a hydrocarbon fuel, but even the most efficient burning process possible must produce both H2O and CO2.  Yes, inefficient combustion can lead to the production of CO, but CO2 is unavoidable.  

You make the comment that CO2 and CO production is not the same as oxygen depletion, but that makes me wonder if you understand where the oxygen goes when it is depleted?  Two reasons some people don't like unvented heaters are that they add water vapor to the air and they consume the oxygen. They're perfectly safe when used in accordance with instructions, but depleting the available oxygen by producing CO2 and H2O is unavoidable; that's what combustion is.

Joel (AKA docj)

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We have used the ventless heaters in our RV's for the last 14 years and love them.  They are quiet, extremely efficient and don't require a fan consuming 5-8 amps of battery power to blow the air and heat around in the RV.  

As DocJ wrote above, they produce CO2 and a fair amount of water vapor.  

It is very, very important to provide ventilation when using these heaters.  

As a precaution I also have installed two Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors in our RV.  One in the bedroom area and the other in the living area.  The CO detectors should be placed up high since CO tends to rise to the ceiling.  

We have a fairly large RV, 36' long with 2 slides so we use a 15,000BTU that can be set for 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000BTU.

This is the one we have:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ITV9NU/?tag=kitchenmover-20

We also have a leg kit for the heater so it can be free standing.  I also installed a quick disconnect and have an 8' rubber gas hose so the heater can be moved around and pointed in any direction we want. 

 

 

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We have been using the same unit as AL F referred too. No fan or electric needed. It also has a thermostat that when the temperature reaches where you have the knob set it shuts down to the pilot, then when the temperature goes down, it comes back on. We leave some outside ventilation open. I have about the same set-up as rpsinc has. His Procom looks just about the same as our Kozy World. Sure is nice boondocking with it. They are quite popular with the RV snowbird crowd in Yuma, AZ.  

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Yep...my point was this OP is planning....normally in the heat of summer everyone is dealing with A/C and in the dead of winter everyone is wondering about how to get the heater working.

It's nice to see someone bucking that trend.

And for info, yes, ventless propane, (catalytic and infrared) work well in most cases, assuming proper precautions are taken. Note that most vent-free heaters have a maximum recommended altitude, which might be relevant if someone RV's up in the mountains.

 

Edited by podwerkz
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5 hours ago, oldjohnt said:

Fly, I have a Buddy ventless LP gas heater and it works fine and is more efficient (Gee I wonder why lol) then my forced air furnace

HOWEVER

1) I NEVER let it run overnight or when sleeping...

2) I ALWAYS have a nearby window cracked and a top vent slightly open. 

3) The heater has a low oxygen safety shut off

4) I have a good working CO Detector operating

5) I have a good working LP gas detector nearby.

Basically when we get up just long enough to take the chill off we fire it up and later kick on the furnace if needed. Did I mention we NEVER let it run overnight or when sleeping?? I don't want to wake up dead.

 How you use one is YOUR risk and YOUR choice

John T

What John said...except I have TWO working CO detectors with digital readout.  

CO in a RV in no joke.  Get TWO detectors with digital readout....AND follow John’s suggestions.

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We have used both catalytic and brick heaters.  Currently we have a brick heater but it tends to go out when we get above7,000 feet.  I have decided to add some more solar and try a minisplit heat pump for both heat and AC.  Some of these units are so efficient I believe we can run it enough for our needs and these are quiet.  

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I was just reading the Mr. Heater website. Apparently all their units have the fan removed due to import tariff changes. Now they are approved for tents, no mention of RV's.  Some years ago, only the smallest unit was advertised safe for use in enclosed spaces, now all have a ADS=oxygen depletion sensor.

Edited by Ray,IN
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I am familiar with the Mr Buddy heaters and have used one. They have a small pilot flame that reduces even smaller in low oxygen to shut down the heater. I had a catalytic heater in my class b. It was by Coleman and had a fan. Got nice and warm. Started it in am and huddled over it before coffee. But the windows had to be open. The condensation was unbelievable. 2018 I installed a Suburban RV vented furnace. Set the thermostat, stay warm all night. AM kick the thermostat up and relax with my coffee. The last two winters were much happier.

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The best catalytic heater I've seen is the Platinum Cat.  It has a shroud over the top of the heating pad and a low velocity exhaust fan draws the combustion products and moisture out of the RV.  It's controlled with a wall mounted thermostat just like a regular furnace.  A friend who was chemically sensitive had one in her trailer back in 2000 and it provided plenty of fireplace-like heat without any combustion products inside the RV.   Of course, the outside vent tube means it has to be fixed mounted with a 1.5 inch exhaust hole to the exterior of the RV.  Some people have mounted them on a hinge like a cabinet door so they can swing out for use or swing flat against the wall for storage.

The Olympia, WA factory shut down several years ago because the powered exhaust meant they weren't price competitive with unvented catalytic heaters, but former employee Arnie Lind still makes them to order.

http://www.ventedcatheater.com

Edited by Lou Schneider
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Thanks for the info. The Platinum Cat heaters look interesting. Lots of good info and ideas in the rest of the thread.

As to discussing heating in June - yep. Planning. That's all. We don't need AC much at all, have it if we need it, but haven't used it in a few years. The idea of getting heat is to stretch seasons.  So, on the subject of alternative energy (mentioned in the first post) - planning must include how to deal with all energy and heating, all of it at the moment being electric, is something that can be moved over to gas - if all things considered say it is a logical idea.

As soon as a heat source is deemed to run on electricity then the challenges of providing that go up significantly. My idea is to combine solar and wind power. Hot water is the biggest challenge (hot water heater). The other sources (clothes dryer and room heating) aren't as big of a concern, but still will need to be thought through. Cooking is going to all propane regardless (range/oven upgrade, grills and burners have always been propane).

 

So again - if the logistics of propane heat (the subject of the thread) make it make sense (and the emissions are part of that - looks like the way to go is a vented design - both for the emissions aspect as well as the humidity aspect) then that would be the direction to go.

Everything right now is in the planning phase - looking at options, researching, gaining ideas, thoughts, input, and hearing others' experiences are all part of that. So thanks for the info thus far!

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1 hour ago, FlyFishn said:

My idea is to combine solar and wind power. Hot water is the biggest challenge (hot water heater).

Hot water heater can be run on propane.

Wind power?  That's a very noisy way to go and you also have to be in very windy areas.... not pleasant.  Solar is the best way!

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Standard RV water heaters use propane as the primary energy source and electric (120V) is an option but does come as part of the standard package with some RV manufacturers. Part of the efficiency issue when using propane is a reliable source of supply and if you stay in much really cold weather with temperatures below freezing you will us a lot of propane. Most RVs are not great in the area of insulation and have a lot of air leaks. 

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