Auxiliary (non-factory) heat and heaters


Camper

New member
Hey there,

very interested in finding out how you make out. My understanding is that there are now 2 gas-pressure version available? 30 and 50 mBar. In the past the problem was always that europe gas pressure was a lot higher then north america, how are you getting around this?

cheers,

Peter
 

windchill

New member
Yes, they're available in the lower pressure version - 30mBar is about .44 psig is about 12.2 inches of water.

I got a 30 mBar one and am now wondering if the regulator on the Westy keeps pressure at 30 or 50 mBar. Could VW import it if it didn't match US standards? Any ideas about what pressure is standard on a Westy?

Thanks,
Jeff
 

A. Cooper

New member
Members should be aware that the oft-mentioned Coleman LP heaters are NOT intended to be used while sleeping, according to the warning label on the product and the included instruction sheet. With any propane heater there is always the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from inadequate ventilation.

If, as Capt. Mike does, one briefly uses such a heater for the morning warm-up and for changing clothes, etc., the risk is greatly diminished. And if CO levels become too high while you're up and around, you're likely to notice and turn the unit off or increase ventilation. But if one is asleep, results could be more dire: I attended an event late last fall at which a family used an LP heater inside their tent. In the morning the 2-year-old girl awoke to find both her parents dead from CO poisoning.

Some small space heaters now have an "ODS", or Oxygen Depletion System, which shuts off the heater before dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can be produced. There is a good article by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission regarding such heaters at: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml03/03021.html

I have found only one such "ODS"-equipped model in a compact size suitable for Westy camping, the Mr. Heater "Portable Buddy Heater", Model No. MH9B. Unfortunately, even at its lowest output setting of 4000 BTUs, it consumes a standard 16-ounce LP cylinder in about six hours.

I'd be interested to know if any members have found other, more frugal compact "ODS" heaters, as I am looking for one myself.

Let's sleep safe out there!
 

Mike Robinson

New member
I have an after market propane heater (vented outside) in my '82 Diesel. It works off a standard domestic thermostat.

I basically run the thermostat at +10C - it happily kicks in and out all night.

I use a portable 12V carbon monoxide detector - from Home Depot. It seems to work.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Transferred to consolidate same topic.

78 Emily Junior Member posted January 13, 2003 06:04 PM

As all of us have done is to drive down the road with a blanket over our legs..right you know what I mean.well I bought my wife one of those Obusforme seat cusions,for one thing they greatly improve the comfort of the old seat and most of all they'er HEATED not alot but enough to take the edge off..and around 50 bucks at CND Tire,so save those CND Tire bucks and give it a try and far as camping we use a colman propane heater and a warm dog.Happy VWing
 

Ludwig van

New member
Just one question about catalytic heaters. We had a catalytic tent heater when I was much younger. It probably used naphtha gas back then and , while its heat output was good, it did smell a bit, kind of like a drycleaning plant as I recall. Are the new propane models pretty much odourless?

We're hoping to get in at least one more trip this fall, and most campgrounds that are still open in Manitoba have shut off their electrical services by now. Besides, Canadian Tire has the Coleman Black Cat on sale for $60 CDN. I'm just hoping we can get the heat without the smell. We only heat the van when we're awake, and we're well aware of the dangers of CO and the need for ventilation.

Thanks in advance for any information, and happy camping!
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
I've found the odor level with our Coleman well within limits. There is sometimes a minor odor -- the over-richness of LP at lighting and occassionally a dusty smell as the element heats up but it's minor and only lasts a minute. The is occassionally a minor smell at shut-down, too, but again, very quickly gone and not objectionable.

While burning, I've found no odors, presuming reasonable ventilation. We have the sliding windows cracked to the 1st notch (Vanagon) and a few square inches of the canvas top window or the skylight open. Go forit; try to get a built-in starter model.
 
Does anyone know if the Colemans can be hooked up to a refillable tank? I don't like the idea of disposing canisters regularly, as I sleep in my Vanagon 2x per week. Thanks for any ideas.
 

icarus

Moderator
I believe that the colemans that run on disposable cylanders run on much higher pressure than the on board tank. I have an olypian wave catalytic heater plumbed in though the on board tank. Expensive to buy, but works great.

See my posts in the propane threads about this heater and the plumbing sytem I use. The heater attaches to the propane system via a flexable hose with click on gas tite type fittings.

Icarus
 
I've ordered a Northstar Sunlight 3000 Catalytic heater. Will let people know how it works out. It specs out just like the Olympian Wave, but I like the way it looks better. I plan to mount it on the back of the passenger seat, probably buffered by a 1/4" piece of plywood.

FOLLOW UP: The heater is installed, and the manufacturer strongly concurs with Icarus (below) that it is necessary to keep the heater clean. I will get a cover for it. The heater looks like it is working fine, but I am not that happy with it. It doesn't heat the van that much. Maybe a couple of degrees difference between inside and outside. Warm right by the heater but not with any distance. I don't get it. 3000 BTU's is like 840 watts, which should probably be enough. I'll try a 1000 watt electrical heater and see how it does for comparison. Need to troubleshoot. Suggestions welcome. Thanks.
 

icarus

Moderator
Peter,

I strongly suggest you think about maybe not mounting the heater on the back of the passenger seat. 1:A permanant installation limits spinning the seat around, 2: Catalytic heater mats should be kept clean. All day, everyday out in the dust and stuff will foul up the catalyst mat. (I keep mine stored in a plastic zip bag under the seat. 3: In the off season the heater will always be in the way for other things.

My personal opinion is that a portable instalation is best. Good luck,

Icarus

P.S.

Another day, another thought. I just recieved via e-bay a catalytic heater. (For another purpose) The catalyst mat was so crusted up with burned on dirt and dust it burned with the foulest of smells. (I made the mistake of lighting it for the first time in the house! The place still reeks!) I attribute this to partialy burned (uncatalysted) fuel in the mat. I know you are not supposed to clean the mats but I had no choice. Removing the grill, and scraping off the crust with a stiff scrub brush removed 80%. I don't want to scrub any harder for fear of damaging the mat. It now burns cleanly with just a hint of odor.

Living proof of keeping catalytic mats clean!

Icarus
 

Adriane

New member
Safety Question;
We've got some back and forth here on driving with the Coleman catalytic mounted. Seems like a no-brainer, it must be a bad call.I'm apprehensive at best. Captain Mike, I trust your opinion. What's the real deal before anyone has an emergency?
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
I'm not sure I understand the question. Are you talking about driving around with an aftermarket propane heater on inside the vehicle? If so, I say no -- for all the same reasons I say no to driving around with the fridge on LP. The amount of propane in a 14 oz. LP cartridge can engulf the interior in a microsecond like the car explosion in a Teminator movie. Even if you can prevent it from sliding around and suffering a broken fitting, that's not 100% sure in an accident.

The OE heater, with the factory rear seat heater going too, should keep the vehicle warm enough while underway. I use the VW block heater anytime it's below freezing, as much for quicker heat as the reduced wear on cold-engine startup. And it's NOT uncool to wear a jacket & driving golves when driving. Use the portable LP when the vehicle is stopped, like a nap at a rest stop. I do this on my winter trips.

If your OE heaters have become marginal, it's time to overhaul them. When my Westy was new, they'd drive us out of the car in below freezing weather; now . . .? Well, I'm about due for that overhaul myself. The teens °F we just had (see CHAT) couldn't overcome the cold. Flush the core, overhaul & adjust the flaps, things like that. I may even try to figure out a way to do a recirculate mode or blanket off the air-intake like I do on my diesel truck in cold weather. Not an enviable job, but one we all face sooner or later.
 
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icarus

Moderator
Given the number of people (including myself) who use catalytic heaters I have a couple of points. Get and install a CO detector, available at better hardware stores for about $15. It will go off like a smoke detector if CO builds up to dangerous levels. (A smoke detector is a good idea as well)

I don't sleep with mine going but often would like to. While CO can be monitered easily, I have never found a "Low O2" detector.(Except for exoitic units for use in mines) While it seems logical that you can easily provide enough air by leaving the front fresh air vents open as well as a window and skylight cracked, I really never have a clue when (and what the signs of)O2 depletion is.

If anyone has any idea, I'm sure we could all benefit.

Icarus
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
CBD-207. Hazards from Products of Combustion and Oxygen Depletion in Occupied Spaces is a publication of the National Research Council Canada. The article is based upon: Kent, A.D. Hazards from products of combustion and oxygen depletion in occupied spaces, Occupational Health Review, Vol. 21, No. 1-2, 1970, p. 1-18.

Carbon Monoxide: "Symptoms of CO poisoning include impaired vision, headache and nausea. A concentration above 400 ppm produces coma and death."

Carbon Dioxide: "Early symptoms of CO2 poisoning are headache, nausea, sweating and tremor. Increase in CO2 concentration affects the respiratory process, particularly if accompanied by oxygen depletion."

Oxygen Depletion: "Oxygen deficiency in itself is not as serious a problem in poorly ventilated quarters as high CO2 concentration, which can cause unconsciousness or death before a corresponding oxygen deficiency would have serious physiological effects. Oxygen concentration may drop from the normal 21 per cent to as low as 15 per cent before it causes even a sense of fatigue."
 

icarus

Moderator
Capt. Mike

If I'm reading this correctly, if you have a working CO detector it will trigger long before O2 depletion will be a problem. As I said before CO detectors are very inexpensive.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Well, it actually compares O² epletion to CO²increase. CO²monitors are expensive -- $300 and way up.

I gather that the CO is more important and indicative as -- and we are talking about using a heater inside -- it is likely to trigger CO long before CO²increased to dangerous levels or O²depletes. And CO monitors are cheap -- $25 -$60 everywhere. The top rated Kidde is in the mid-$40's. I think if we keep CO below danger levels, the others will follow because the CO byproduct of the heater is the easiest to measure with high sensativity.
 
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icarus

Moderator
There are a few mentions above about Propex heaters. I have seen very little info about them and I know that they are hard to get. I finally bit the bullet and bought one. It replaces the catalytic heater mentioned in some of the above posts. It also replaces the webasto coolant heater that was installed in Canadian syncros. The Webasto was a great idea, but it was just too complicated and since it was an integral part of the cooling system, it added one more thing that could go wrong with the cooling system. It also drew a ton of amperage to run the coolant pump, the fan blowers etc.

The Propex is very elegant in it's design. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to install it. I had been told that most people install it under the rear seat, but I looked seriously at mounting it at the bottom of the closet, ducting through the food cabinets, and out by the edge of the seat. I also looked at installing it in the cabinet to the right of the fridge. I finaly settled on under the back seat as suggested.

I bought it from Van-cafe (Nee volkscafe) It was advertised as having simple install instructions. Be advised that the instructions are very generic, not westy specific.

The basic install is very simple. There are two 1" diameter pipes, one for intake air, one for exaust, a gas line hookup and t-stat wires.
Once I decided to use the under the seat space, I spend a bunch of time calculating where to place it so that the vent pipes would clear frame rails etc under the floor, and how the warm air outlet would work. I installed the heater on the passenger side of the seat box, with the warm air outlet pointing toward the center of the car. The 3" diameter flex pipe then turns 90 degrees and connects to a fitting cut in the seat front. The cold air return for the heater is another grill cut in the seat front. The heater itself needs 25mm (1") of clearance around it for the air to circulate. The heater sits about centered front to back in the box. Intuitively you would be tempted to put all the way forward or all the way back. Be careful, if you put it all the way back, the vent pipes run into the rear swing arm frame rail. I couldn't but it all the way forward (save the 1" clearance) because I have a tool box mounted under the floor that I had to clear.

The gas line is 1/4" copper, although the instructions call it 5/16". (More on that later) I ran the copper under the rear seat heater, then into the side cabinets under the ciruit breaker/outlet boxes. (I discovered a new hidey hole for stuff here. The space between the lower cabinet and the water tank is blank. You can accsess it by pulling up the bottom of the upper locker. There is even a pull hole drilled in the bottom of the locker!) From there, under the fridge into the cabinet to the right of the fridge, with a joint in the left hand cabinet to make it easier to get under the fridge. I already had a tee in the propane line above the shelf in that cabinet. I used this tee to tap in.

The heater comes with a 1/4" compression fitting to connect the gas line. Compression fittings are NOT acceptable for gas line work in North America. I used the supplied fitting for the first section of the pipe, and all the remaining fittings are flare fittings that are acceptable for gas line work. Also note that the british supplied compression ferral is NOT the same as the US counter part. I suggest that you connect to the heater once with this fitting, and then put a gas line shut off valve next to the heater. When you have to take the heater apart, take it apart at the valve, not the heater, because once you tighten a compression ferral, you should never reuse it, especialy with gas! All the gas fittings were then tested with a spray soulution to make sure there were no leaks.

I mounted the t-stat on the closet wall, running the wire in through the cabinets. The twelve volts I picked up from the 12volt source in the cabinet to the right of the sink.

The exaust and intake flex pipes clamp on under the car and are strapped to the side. After test running, I made a cover out of birch plywood that sits over the heater so that you can still use most of the area for storeage. You need to leave 1" above the hater for cirulation, so the new cover sits on cleats 1" above the heater. You end up loosing 5 1/4" of space under the seat from the passenger side to the seat heater.

All in all it works great. It draws 1.6 amps, and puts out 1800 watts of heat. It is a bit noisy but it warms the cabin very quickly. Because it is vented and draws it's combustion air from outside, you can safely sleep with it on. It also cuts down on the condensation inside. You lose a bit of space under the seat, but if you are carrying a catalytic heater you more than make up for it by not having to carry it.

I'll post after a winter of ski area parking and cross country treks.

Icarus

PS The unit burns propane at a rate of 128 grams per hour. The 2.4 gallon net gallons in the propane tank yields about 4500grams+- leaving a run time of about 35 hours. This is not taking into account any use of the fridge or stove however.

PPS. In a test this morning, turning the unit on, it raised the cabin temp from 25f to 60f in about 10 minutes. Not bad for 1.5 amps 125 gram per hour!

PPPS. Update a few months later. I just did an installof a Propex for my Mechanic's Syncro. Installation was similar to my own with the exception of the gas piping. He already had a tee in his line, at the tank to fuel a catalytic. He had a rubber hose that was just hanging under the car. I removed the rubber, replaced it with copper ran the line back along the frame rail, entering the under seat area through a grommet in the floor. Much easier to run the line this way. I don't know how hard it was to tee the line at the tank since I didn't do it. (I had teed mine under the sink earlier for a catalytic.)

Once again it works great and he is very happy with it. I have used mine all winter for ski area parking and I love it. It is great to come in for lunch, fire up the stove for tea or soup, crank the propex and have instant heat. It is also great for drying out wet gear since the hot air volume is so high. Running it for several hours has never left my battery indicator in the yellow. (It runs in the yellow and returns to green when it shuts off.)

Hands down the best choice, (in my mind!) for aux heat. They are spendy to buy, but for what it give you there is no subsitude. It is too bad that none of the American manufacturers have figured out how to make something this small and elegant. All the atwoods and other brands are too big to fit in the cabinets.

Icarus
 

icarus

Moderator
I just got back from an extended winter trip through Oregon and Northern Cal. Spent several nights with temps in the mid 20's. We didn't leave the propex heater on all night, but it is great to wake up in the morning, roll over, flip the heater on and in a few minutes have the cabin 70 degrees. The lap of luxery!

Still highly recomended!

Icarus
 

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