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Old 02-28-2012, 12:10 PM   #1
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Use of Olympic Wave Catalytic Heaters in RVs

I recently posted a question on this Forum on the Camco Wave heaters here (and on other RV Forums to which I belong).

I received many thoughtful replies, many focusing on the dangers of using such heaters in our RVs.

I decided to write the manufacturer for clarification of certain points, which I asked as questions. A representative was kind enough to respond showing my questions, immediately followed by his response, so I thought this made for easy reading.

I understand Camco has a vested interest in these products, but I would think given liability concerns, their answers would be somewhat conservative in nature. I suspect if they had had significant liability losses from health dangers or incidents from CO poisoning, they would not continue to sell their products, but that's just my personal impression.

One Forum member pointed out that copper lines in our RVs work-harden, and become brittle with time, and in fact are usually made in Taiwan, and are possibly unsafe to begin with (so the main gas supply should be turned off when not actually USING any appliance, and should in no case be left on while sleeping in the coach). Add to that, the possible improper installation of "T"s and valves, and you could have an unsafe situation even without using any appliance. He works in the "industry," so perhaps his advice should not be ignored, but the following is JUST about the Camco Olympic Wave 6 Catalytic Heater. Most of it applies to the entire Wave series, of course, but I suspect actual square inches of ventilation stated refer to the max output of about 6000BTU for the Wave 6. The formula for other outputs is provided, so anyone can calculate the proper opening required.

I thank Camco and Mr. Teague for providing guidance, and allow that it is a personal decision on whether to use this gas appliance, or ANY gas appliance in our RVs.

Bob

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Robert,

After consulting with two of our senior engineers concerning your questions, here are the responses they have given for me to forward on to you. Hope this answers all your concerns. Should you have further questions or concerns, please call me at the below number.

Regards,

Dan Teague
International Sales Manager

Camco Manufacturing Inc.
121 Landmark Dr. Greensboro, NC 27409
Tel: 800.334.2004 Ext. 151
eMail | www | facebook | YouTube

(1) Are the Wave heaters comparable to other unvented heaters with regard to producing CO?
A.Yes. As long as adequate ventilation is provided, their CO production will be notably less than traditional, open-flame heaters.

(2) Is it suitable for use at night in the RV while humans are sleeping anywhere in the coach?
A.Yes. We use the term "sleep area" to encompass couches, convert-a-beds, and other such areas that a person may sleep outside of a traditional bedroom.
We do not recommend sleeping adjacent to the heater or with it in a bedroom. Within the direct vicinity of the heater, there is a localized increase in CO and a decrease in oxygen content. It is necessary to allow this to dissipate into the volume of air within the room and exchange it through ventilation. Typically, a [closed] bedroom does not provide sufficient volume of air for safe heater operation.


(3) Must/should the ventilation be 50% from the very bottom of the coach, with the other 50% at the very top (skylight vent) as many have advised, or can oppose windows be opened equally?
A.Our recommendation for ventilation is in the Air Supply section of the owner's manual. It states:
This heater consumes air oxygen from the room in which it is installed. To assure complete combustion, an adequate fresh-air supply to the room is necessary. It is good practice to have at least two openings, one high and one low. The room must have a total of at least 24 square inches free-air opening (i.e. an opening of 4" x 6"=24 square inches).
Provide additional ventilation of at least 2 square inches for every 1,000 BTUs per hour of input for any additional fuel burning appliances used at the same time.

It is the best practice to provide a low and a high opening. But in cases where this is not possible, cross-draft ventilation may be used as long as the heater is in the vicinity of the cross-draft. The most common form of this would be to open a window on opposing walls and place the heater in line with the windows.


(4) Where is the best place to locate the two Kidde CO monitors I have for my RV as far as height in the RV, and area of the coach to place them?
A.Place one in the sleeping area and the other one near the heater, but not so close that it reads the false concentrations. The ideal height is the sleeping height. To avoid damage or tampering by pets and children, it is acceptable to place it chest high.
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Old 02-28-2012, 01:17 PM   #2
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Bob,
If you observe the manufacturer's recommendations and use common sense propane heaters are perfectly safe.

I have a large Mr. Heater with heat ranges of 4,000, 9,000 and 18,000 Btu output and have used it for 5 years with no trouble. The heater is in the front of the living area of the MH and at night I set it on low with an electric heater in the bedroom for supplemental heat if needed.

Propane heat puts out a moist heat which is good and bad. If you are in a dry climate it's the best heat you can use because it put moisture into the air and as you know humidity make it seem warmer for any given temperature. However, in humid climates it's a curse because the air cannot absorb the additional moisture put out by the heater and causes condensation to form which may lead to mold.

I'm presently in Albuquerque, NM with an outside temp of 41 deg. F. with a 30 mph wind gusting to 50 mph. Mr. Heater is set at the 4,000 Btu setting and the indoor temp is 77 deg. F. and there is no sign of condensation because of the arid climate here.

The naysayers will point to deaths that occur as a result of these heater but they won't tell you that these folks didn't follow the manufacturer's recommendations or more importantly, use common sense. You have done your homework and have all the information you need to use these heaters safely.

Lastly, be sure you leak test all your connection, even at the heater.
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Old 02-28-2012, 01:32 PM   #3
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Every single spot I've posed a question about installing mine, I was met with dire forecasts of death for me and my family members.

That's why I wrote Camco.

I tend to strongly agree w/ you, and the two independent CO monitors/alarms will hopefully "save" us should a unit malfunction.

There IS the point about LP gas leakage inside RVs due to faulty copper tubing and brass flare fittings, but since I only plan to use the propane heater when I do not have shore power to run my electric heaters, hopefully all will be well.

I do understand that the warnings are for our safety, and that should the worst happen, it will seem trivial that we were only trying to stay warm (as opposed to some grand purpose worth giving our lives for), but all of life is a calculated risk.

I was once poisoned by CO (terrible headache and painful eyes) when a heat exchanger failed allowing combustion air to mix with the fresh air (so much for "fool-proof" fresh-air type heaters), and it was miserable. Even well-vented furnaces can get you.

We can minimize it by being careful and prudent, and following safe guidelines, hopefully bringing the risk down to acceptable bounds.


BTW, We, too, have a "Big" Buddy, and when our heat pump failed in our home in below freezing temps for 3 days it really saved our bacon. No CO showed on our monitor. The "Buddy" heater could be detected by smell (very, very faint), but the Olympic Wave in testing inside the same house appears to be virtually undetectable. My guess is that the flame of the Buddy tends to accentuate odors released when normal airborne contaminants inside the dwelling are consumed by the heater. Perhaps the catalytic combustion in the Wave consumes those airborne odors more completely.
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Old 02-28-2012, 02:22 PM   #4
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re: "usually made in Taiwan, and are possibly unsafe to begin with" -- as a rule of thumb, anytime anyone starts railing on foreign goods being inherently unsafe, they are really telling you that they are ruled by things other than reality. Anything they assert on such a basis needs a very great deal of skepticism IMHO.

Your guide on this should be the 'code' - it is where the copper tubing (of the proper spec) and flair fittings idea comes from. I believe it also indicates that gas tubing is run outside the RV with a shutoff on every line going up into the RV for an appliance. Many catalytics are improperly plumbed because they are just branched off a convenient inside fitting or they use flex line or some other non-code feed.

re: "moist heat" -- interesting term. All combustion produces water as one of the combustion products - this is why tailpipes are so rusty, for instance. (do I need to qualify this is petrochemical atmospheric combustion as typically used in RV's? I may have to considering the knee jerk reaction some folks seem plagued with).

re: "I was met with dire forecasts of death" -- there are too many deaths from CO poisoning to ignore. In nearly every case, however, it is due to not following recommended procedure and taking reasonable precautions. There is a NASA study on this that mentions that the testing environment was 100 cubic feet. That's a small tent! that relates to the bedroom comments in the manufacturer's response.

The thing is that a catalytic heater should burn very clean - i.e. complete combustion. That means CO2 and water with very very little CO. If you are at altitude or otherwise restrict the fresh air (O2) for the heater, it will burn 'dirtier' and produce more CO. The lower levels of O2 for this would be another issue to deal with as far as health goes. (this can also be a problem for many small engines used at altitude).

Keep in mind, too, that many CO deaths are due to improper genset placement (too close to a window) during major power outages. That issue can be an important one for RV's running gensets as well.

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations and make sure you have a CO alarm in your RV that is less than 5 years old and is functioning properly.
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Old 02-28-2012, 04:22 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BryanL View Post
re: "usually made in Taiwan, and are possibly unsafe to begin with" -- as a rule of thumb, anytime anyone starts railing on foreign goods being inherently unsafe, they are really telling you that they are ruled by things other than reality. Anything they assert on such a basis needs a very great deal of skepticism IMHO.

Your guide on this should be the 'code' - it is where the copper tubing (of the proper spec) and flair fittings idea comes from. I believe it also indicates that gas tubing is run outside the RV with a shutoff on every line going up into the RV for an appliance. Many catalytics are improperly plumbed because they are just branched off a convenient inside fitting or they use flex line or some other non-code feed.
I believe the gentleman was saying the foreign-made copper tubing is more prone to cracking than softer American tubing, though I hope all tubing has to meet certain specs to be sold here?

I bought some 3/8" tubing at my local Ace yesterday, and while I KNOW copper is expensive (about $4 a pound), I was shocked to pay $4 a FOOT, or $10 for about 4 ounces of tubing. I don't know where MINE was made, but it must be a pretty pricey place. Brass flare nuts were over $4 each, and flare fittings were $4-8 each, with the Quick-Disconnect (where one attached the flex-hose to the trailer's rigid tubing) a rather stiff $38.50. The Wave heater was $248, while just the tubing, valve, fittings, and QD added up to well over $100.

As far as every gas run to OUTSIDE the trailer, each controlled by its own shut-off, I am afraid all of my lines are enclosed in the "belly", totally invisible and inaccessible, and NONE have shut-offs. The ONLY valves I have access to is the main "Switchover" regulator, and each individual 30# cylinder shut-off.

I WILL have the shut-off valve I am installing that goes to the Quick Disconnect fitting for the catalytic heater, of course, however.

I don't know "Code" for LP gas, but I take it that what I describe is NOT up to code? My 5th is a 2008 model, BTW.

Is this typical for RVs I wonder?

Anyone?
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:36 PM   #6
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Olympic Catalytic Heaters

Following up from this thread: http://www.irv2.com/forums/f54/use-o...vs-116553.html

For some reason this stupid site won't let you post on an old thread. I say for research purposes why not? Now we just have to start another thread.

Perhaps anyone that has one of these things can comment how they like it, whether they mounted it permanent or used it portable, how they plumbed it, and how big of unit they got.


********************* Posting my comment following the old thread...


Good conversation on catalytic heaters. I'm wondering what size I need for 40's and 50's in a 32' RV.

I grew up with catalytic heaters on the boats my folks had all my years as a kid. They worked great and there was never a problem. Crack a window for extra condensation and fire up the heater. We loved it.

Anyway, I was thinking one of these would save a lot on running the furnace that uses a lot of power - like 8ah when it's running. Looking at solar array or a new converter to boost our power reserve. Cutting back on power all helps too.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:44 PM   #7
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:58 PM   #8
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Thanks Cliff. I must be missing something. I've tried to post on a few threads over the last while, and all were too old.
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Old 02-28-2014, 11:17 AM   #9
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All of this is interesting, and useful, to people that have a worry I suppose. But for me, anything that ten's of thousands of people successfully use in their RV's, without incident, is good enough for me.

Ed
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Old 02-28-2014, 12:00 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ed-Sommers View Post
All of this is interesting, and useful, to people that have a worry I suppose. But for me, anything that ten's of thousands of people successfully use in their RV's, without incident, is good enough for me.

Ed
Not worried. Wondering about performance, how they are used, mounted or mobile, and what size to get.
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Old 02-28-2014, 05:34 PM   #11
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I put a wave 6 in our 38' Moho last winter and love it. It uses very little propane and keeps the living area about 25 degrees warmer than outside running all night on low. Feels like a fireplace when within a few feet of it. The wave 8 was too big and heavy for me.
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Old 03-01-2014, 12:16 AM   #12
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Perhaps anyone that has one of these things can comment how they like it, whether they mounted it permanent or used it portable, how they plumbed it, and how big of unit they got.

I always used a blue flame heater until 2 years ago. Upon purchasing another, new to me, MH I decided to try a Wave 8. I plumbed it from the back of my refrigerator into the coach with a quick disconnect. Yes I have a shut off valve, tested for leaks, etc. The main reason I decided on the Camco catalytic was its ability to use at higher altitudes. I used it portable with attached legs. What I found follows.

The Wave 8 (8K btu) is a bit more cumbersome to start, holding the knob in for awhile to get part of the pad glowing. Then you should operate on High for 10 minutes to get the whole pad burning. The heat is more directional than the blue flame. Things in close proximity to the heater get very warm.... cabinets, floor, etc. It has 3 heat settings but is not thermostatically regulated. Also, it is important to cover the heater after each use to keep dirt off the catalytic pad.

It is extremely rare that I ever drycamp at an altitude above 5K feet in the winter. Sooooo I went back to the blue flame (10K btu with legs) portable heater. It lights easier/quicker, is controlled by a thermostat, tolerant of dust/dirt, objects around heater stay cool, pleasant visual flame, warm air from the heater rises and a fan does help to circulate room air (optional).

Both heaters operate without electricity, need adequate ventilation, produce moisture, are approx the same physical size and shape. Catalytic is approx twice the cost of the blue flame. Either one is a big compliment to your boondocking attire.
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Old 03-01-2014, 05:15 AM   #13
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Previous owners of the Airstream fitted a free standing Olympic supplied from a quick-connect fitting and despite some reservations about operating unflued propane heaters in confined spaces, we have used it to avoid the noise and current draw of the furnace..

We do have three smoke detectors and three CO detectors installed - one of each in each room - and the closest the heater gets to the bedroom is the bathroom, so I guess the risk is minimal.

Obviously if the temperatures are below freezing the furnace will be required to stop water tanks and lines in the basement from freezing
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Old 01-03-2016, 07:30 PM   #14
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So as I say when a power pole is not an option and the wife will not let you put in a wood stove then what is a guy to do, great ambiance love to stand in front of it now for the but
We were out the weekend and it was in the low 30s and the condensation was a battle the front window were completely covered and when we pull out of the site at the end of the two day outing the wife got a splash from the overhead cabinets
So that large area at the front cap most likely was just beading with water and it ran down when we pulled out. lesson one wipe be for you go
so we do not open any vents or windows as required if you read instructions but safety aside would the result be manageable reduced condensation
or should I look at using the overhead fans to move the air more?
we did run the furnace to get it up to temperature quickly and supplement with electric heater to keep the rig warmer.
the reason I need to find a fix is we will soon be fulltime in our 36 foot coach and dry camping 50% of the time. so when I get up and look out at the AZ desert next year I want to have a solution to the condensation other than install a wood stove . and a heat source that warms my bone while I stand in front of it as my Olympic heat does now.
So dehumidifier ? will that keep up or perhaps opening a window really works
We only run it when we are up and about if we left it on all knight it would be a rainforest in the morning.. As well as plain safety with gas heat. We have friends that have been full times and dry campers for over 30 years however they just carry extra towels.
So what have you done to improve your condensation and gas heat woes
Thanks vern
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