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Old 02-14-2016, 03:32 PM   #1
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RV water heater heater

My wife retires after this school year and we plan on doing a good bit of travel with our large teardrop trailer (I know kind of an oxymoron). Some/much/who knows how much of that will be in state/national parks with no power. The tear has a 185W high voltage panel and among other things unusual for a tear, a 6 gallon water heater. I am thinking why not build a water heater heater so went down to the local auto supply and picked up a heater coil, to the local computer store picked up a 100MM case fan. Two double shutoff quick disconnect from US plastics, Tygon tubing and from Ebay a 12V solar water pump and 12V thermostat which controls the pump and case fan. I posted the idea on the Teardrop & Tiny Travel Trailer forum and a number of other folks have picked up on the idea and used it, including one with a cargo trailer conversion.
Heating using a forced air heater that sucks a lot of current seems to be a major concern, this works.
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Old 02-14-2016, 03:47 PM   #2
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Tygon tubing and hot water don't work well together. Be careful and don't get burned.
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Old 02-15-2016, 07:23 PM   #3
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The one observation I'd make is that water hearers are notoriously inefficient, when you then introduce a water to air heat exchanger you double up on the inefficiency.

If you really want a bit of heat I'd look at a surplus/ used propane heater like they use in truck campers.
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Old 02-16-2016, 07:20 AM   #4
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I am aware of the inefficiency and have an Espar diesel heater. Truckers use these or an Eberspacher and yes they are efficient but to my knowledge they do not make one that runs on propane, though Propex does (about $750). The Espar heater requires that I take along a fuel tank (I use Kerosene) where the water heater heater requires only the water to air exchanger. This is a teardrop trailer with 400 cubic feet of internal space (big for a teardrop). Current is also a concern as we use solar for our boondocking needs.
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Old 02-16-2016, 10:39 AM   #5
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I think that the OP was looking for a way to heat his camper with the fuel and accessories that were already installed in the camper, expanding the use of the water heater to provide cabin heat.

It's not a bad idea, and as was mentioned, the OP may have used the wrong plastic, and the OP knows it's not a highly efficient way to heat the cabin, it could be the beginning of figuring out how to do it well, or not to do it at all because of the fuel cost and efficiency.

As long as the OP is happy and the pipes don't leak, I was interested to hear what had been done. Thanks.
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Old 02-16-2016, 01:02 PM   #6
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Out of total ignorance about teardrop campers I have to ask, do they have a propane system installed? All we've had are TCs and now the MH, but they all had propane water heaters that worked well. We have done a lot of boondocking with them and with only the knowledge from that, it would seem difficult to boondock depending primarily on electricity.

Our first camper had a sort of "pot burner" propane heater that didn't require electricity. Our second camper had a heater with a blower motor and after a short period of time learning that it could drain the battery, I installed a propane catalytic heater that worked well with no electricity.

The OPs system seems complicated to me, but only because I've gone in a different direction with the same problem (I think).

Anyway, I'm with 1bigmess, thanks for posting it was an interesting read.

Steve
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Old 02-17-2016, 08:09 AM   #7
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Very few teardrops have a water heater, most do have propane. We have a conventional Atwood three burner cook top, gas point for the grill and six gallon gas/electric water heater. One of my goals was to make meal prep and clean up as easy as it is at home, or as much as possible. This actually grew out of an idea I came up with for using heat from a wood fired boiler or even a coil in a fire to heat the trailer. Some one in Russia was planning on doing this full time.
That would require different materials to deal with higher temperatures and to prevent reaching explosive pressures, but all of that is well developed.
The advantage of a water heater is that the temperature is regulated and all of the materials I used are with in a comfortable safety margin i.e. Tygon and Pex tubing etc. Commercially made external wood fired house heating boilers use Pex. As it is setup now It does not take up much room
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Old 02-17-2016, 11:52 PM   #8
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Thanks for posting the additional information.

It still seems pretty complicated to me, but you've figured it all out. I would use the propane to heat water, but that's just me.

I remember visiting a friend a few months ago who had his TT in storage. His answer to a trickle charger was a series of small solar panels with a regulator of some sort all tied to his RV batteries. He explained to me how it worked, but I'm not sure I ever really understood. I just plug mine in to house current occasionally.

Best of luck.

Steve
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Old 02-18-2016, 02:25 PM   #9
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When I used to pla with boats I recall there was a wood burning closed stove that about 6-8" in diameter and had a vent of about 3-4". It was sealed combustion and did not use much wood- might be worth considering.
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Old 02-19-2016, 08:03 AM   #10
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One of my "things" is that I like discrete appliances... and even with a "large" teardrop there is only so much room. As an example we have an AC which is a Frigidaire 5,000 BTU window shaker that I picked up end of season for $50. It has an adapter that brings the the cool air and return air into 4" hoses through deck plates in the side of the trailer. A typical RV AC would short cycle and not dehumidify and this total was about $250. I can leave it home and when we travel it is in the back of our Subaru.
I know of some one who installed a wood burning marine heater and another that used a VERY small pot belly stove in a removable module that clamped over one of his doors, but the thought of any open flame even while stoking gives me the heebies.
I like to be able to leave stuff I know I will not need at home, gas grill, AC, heater, coffee maker, electric, fry pan when we will be off grid etc.
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Old 02-19-2016, 09:39 AM   #11
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Hi Shadowcatche, sounds like you have come up with a good DIY system - congrats!

If you ever decide to experiment again, you might consider solar water heating (directly). I've experimented with it for a hot tub and was quite surprised how well it works. Obviously you would need to be exposed to the sun and the roof of your teardrop being able to support a water collector (small). Just thinking out loud...
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Old 02-19-2016, 11:19 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JFNM View Post
If you ever decide to experiment again, you might consider solar water heating (directly). I've experimented with it for a hot tub and was quite surprised how well it works.
How does it work at night?
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Old 02-19-2016, 05:48 PM   #13
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Sounds like a good idea. I follow some of the "school bus" conversions and a few folks have done hot water heat in the floor using a small propane water heater. All results vary but think its worth trying. I know i can shut my water heater off before bed and still take a shower in the morning so i think your idea will work with very little propane use. As you stated this is a small area. Im sure that computer fan will use much less power than any furnace for a camper.
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