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Friday, February 3, 2012

Cozy Nights By The Fire. . . In An RV?

I've been reading a lot of forum postings and articles about stand-a-lone electric heating for your RV. I've seen plain old electric heaters that work similar to toasters with a red hot element. I've seen ceramic heaters that use a ceramic brick to heat. I've seen infrared heaters. All very useful, though not necessarily nice to look at. But now available are some small electric fireplaces that heat well AND add some ambiance.

Dimplex Mini-Cube
Some of these have multiple settings for heat, but they can use a lot of power, so not good for running on the inverter!! The one shown here draws 1,370 watts of power and puts out around 5000 BTUs, but not for very long if you are running with an inverter. The heat off/flame only setting can be run easily on an inverter and looks pretty cool -- just right for a bit of romantic ambiance. I am expecting one of these for testing in the next couple of weeks and will review it here.

The only issue that I see is that it only comes in bright red, not exactly a decor matching shade. I suggested to the marketing folks that they'd likely sell more to RVers if they'd offer a more neutral shade. White? Black? So far they have no plans to produce any other color. We'll see. I'll wager if the demand is there they will fill it. The price point is around $100, a bit steep for a basic heater, but not bad for something more decorative than you run-of-the-mill space heater.

        Comfort Zone Mini CZFP1

A similar unit is marketed by various vendors, and is about the same size, a bit taller and narrower. It maxes out at 1,200 watts but has a lower setting and a fireplace display only setting as well. It retails for around $60 and appears to be cheaply built. Oddly enough, it's also only available in red. Why? I had hoped to have both of them in hand by now to do a side by side comparison, but the manufacturers are slow to respond.

DuraFlame DFSS550BK
A more "Traditional" style.
I like the idea of being on shore power (or the generator) and having a cozy fireplace that gives off the same amount of heat as an inexpensive super center heater -- something that looks like a fireplace in a size even I can live with. When stored on the tiny lower shelf of my main closet it takes up no more room than a regular 1,200 to 1,500 watt heater. Since they both put out about 5,000 BTUs, they do not product a lot of heat. Still, they should keep a 120 square foot space warm. As soon as I can, I will test these. It's in the 30s here in New York right now, so a good time.

And remember, make sure that your 120-volt outlets and electrical wiring are up to the task. Heaters are notorious for blowing circuit breakers and fuses. Don't try to run more than one heater on a circuit at a time. That is bad!

I have the perfect spot for this type of fireplace heater in front of the dash on the engine cover. We'll see how it all works out. A little champagne and strawberries, a bit of romantic music. . .

Be seeing you. . . down the road.

Rich "The Wanderman"
http://www.thewanderman.com

20 comments:

  1. The only problem with electric heating in general is it is unfortunately the least efficient of heating options for an RV.

    The most ideal unit is a vented Platinum Cat heater (better than a regular catalytic and safer), followed by a low amperage blower forced air heating system (similar to what I use in my camper).

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    Replies
    1. Big Matt,
      Yup, catalytic heaters used safely are the most efficient option. I have one that works quite well and saves a lot of power. However, this one is more designed for times when you have 120v available...shore power, generator, etc. and want to be a bit "cozier."

      Rich "The Wanderman"

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    2. Electric is NOT the Least efficient, its actually 100% eff. where gas is only 60% eff. because with gas 40% of the heat produced goes out the flue and electric has no flue.

      Delete
    3. Anon,
      Catalytic propane heaters aren't furnaces. There is no flue. Electric is quite efficient IF you have the spare power!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  2. I live in Quartzsite in my older 1989 Apollo Motor home. I recently aquired a "Fire Place Heater" It resembles an old wood stove with a glass front. It has three settings and is energy efficent. Beleive it or not it gets cold here in the desert at night. Check out the possibilities of owning one I bought mine at a liquidator for ^ 60.00 and have enjoyed the "warmth" it provides. several friends are trying to find one like it. Bob: Editor Quartzsite Crier News

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Robert,
      While my style leans toward the more modern, I did see a small "wood stove" version with about the same specs.

      As long as you have abundant cheap power, they are a win!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

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  3. First and fore most, I don't use propane in my M/h for anything. Too dangerous and costly. I have been R.ving over 40 years and I know first hand that a good 1500 watt electric heater will keep a 32 ft. motorhome warm in a 20 degree outside temperture.If it is cold, I make sure we are hooked up to shore power. I set the temp. on heater so it will cycle on and off. I have never had a problem with a so called cheap heater.If you like to spend a lot of money and don't mind not saving money, then by all means go for the costly heaters. Even if they are red.most people can't spend $100.00 for a heater. That is my story and I'm sticking to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      Ummm...OK. I don;t recall saying anything bad about cheap heaters...more along the line of style PLUS functionality.

      If you have the power to spare, electric is great. Though RV propane is quite safe as well, if used properly and the system checked for safety periodically.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

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    2. Anon, Electric heaters are nice in that they do a good job warming a camper quietly, however, the consume a decent amount of KwHs to do so, which is why I stated that its not the most efficient in terms of power consumed to output.

      I have a little 1500 watt heater, does a great job warming my camper, but I use propane because at $0.14/kwh, that little heater cycling on and off regularly will spin that meter up quick.

      But, yeah, to quote Wanderman, they're great, so long as you have Abundant Cheap (I.e. yer not paying the electric bill) electricity.

      A number of the fancier full-timers 5th wheels are coming with a much larger permanently installed false fireplace in them that works on the same concept.

      Delete
    3. Big Matt,

      Well Said!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  4. Most people use propane catalytic heaters that are not vented. Bad idea, not just because of the water vapor that you can vent out. Burning propane exudes nasty petrochemical byproducts that you would not want to breathe if you realized it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unknown,
      Actually, Catalytic heaters do not produce nasty byproducts, Mostly CO2 and water vapor. The main thing to remember is that it USES Oxygen! (So do we!) and proper ventilation is important. Leave a window slightly open or a roof vent.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

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    2. Correct, non-vented catalytics primary output is Water Vapor and Carbon Dioxide, however, if the O2 levels in the space it is running begin to get low, a non-vented catalytic unit will begin to produce Carbon Monoxide.

      The most ideal situation if one wants to use a catalytic as a primary heat source is to invest in a PlatCat Vented Catalytic Heater, which has a very low power blower assembly that vents the natural by products of propane consumption from the unit and provides exterior fresh air to the unit so that it is not consuming the oxygen within the vehicle.

      Delete
    3. Big Matt,
      You know me....I like stuff that uses NO power!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    4. The power consumption on a platinum Cat is so small that even poor sunlight levels will counteract the tenth's of an amp the little blower motor consumes.

      Delete
    5. Matt,
      During the day...sure. At night, not so much. Maybe a flashlight taped to the small solar panel :)

      Yes, I AM that miserly....

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  5. Used one of the Duraflame units last winter, with some low temps in Ohio and Michigan in the week after Christmas. The "wood stove" look was nice and the heat was acceptable for heating the front of the coach during the day and the bedroom-bath area at night. Would not recommend for whole coach heat. We have a 38'Damon. It did a nice job and after trying a larger unit when back home, think that we maxed out on the wattage. Larger unit blew breakers. 1200-1500 watts was about our max. Set up nicely between the seats at the front although we did need a stained 1X3 under the front legs due to the slope of the doghouse. We were well pleased with this alternative to running the furnace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      Excellent. You've got the right idea. I wouldn't put more than about 10 amps or so on any single outlet (or outlet wired into the same breaker.) These do use a lot of power on high.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

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    2. 1500 watts is about the max a 15 amp breaker can maintain (Maximum non-continuous load derated capacity of a 15 amp circuit is 1800 watts), though ideally you do not want to put a continuous 1500 watt load on 14 gauge Romex wire and a 15 amp circuit, as that's more of a load for a 20 amp rated circuit.

      Included with most 1500 watt heaters instructions are warnings not to run the unit on the high setting regularly rather it is meant to do the initial heat up of the space and then the unit is supposed to be switched to the lower 750 watt (For 2 setting heaters) for extended cycling use.

      Delete
    3. Big Matt,
      An usual, you're comment is spot on.
      Too many people simply "plug and pray!"

      Be informed. It's a good way to avoid disaster.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete

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