Tag Archives: catalytic heater

New Make-up Air Vent for our Aluminum Home

Full-timing allows us to experiment with strategies for heating, cooling, venting, cooking in our RV. We thought for years about installing a make-up air vent.  We guardedly use an unvented 6,000 btu catalytic heater, and use the windows and roof vents to properly add oxygen and remove products of combustion. Safety concerns prevent us from using the heater when we’re asleep or without adequate ventilation.

Otherwise, we enjoy the soft warm glow and heating without any electricity. These benefits are especially nice when we are dry-camping and want to make our batteries last longer. Full-timers might have more opportunities to use this convenient heater, but it would work for anyone.

The heater has explicit recommendations for 24 square inches minimum each for fresh air intake and exhaust. No matter which window we use we seem to have a draft. Rain can limit which window we open. An intake located near the heater would serve the heater as well as the oven and stove.

We’ve read and heard that Wally Byam, Airstream Company’s founder, had gravity floor vents in his own Airstream trailers. Without air conditioning, the best place to find cool air is under the trailer. Jim proposed numerous times installing a gravity floor vent near the oven or catalytic heater. But management would not approve the project.

Jim found an approvable solution recently while we were at Alumapalooza at the Airstream Factory. Airstream Company (and others, too) installs Salem vents in the Eddie Bauer version of their trailers to vent flammable gases from motorcycles or gas cans in the trailer. Easy to install and operate, weatherproof, and durable, these are neat vents.

The vents can be a little difficult to source using the patent name, Salem vent. Just today, Jim found an easier name for search — 2-way hingeless vent. Several sources list these for under $30. Ours came with an abs plastic trim ring for the interior.

Here are pictures of the install:

Protect the aluminum before marking the cut lines

Protect the aluminum before marking the cut lines

Cut completed and pilot holes drilled to inside

Cut completed and pilot holes drilled to inside

Small holes for locating, large hole for starting saw blade

Small holes for locating, large hole for starting saw blade from indoors

Interior cut, fortunately it's above the 110vac wiring for receptacle

Interior cut, fortunately it’s above the 110vac wiring for receptacle

Vent sealed and riveted.  When caulk skins, we'll cut the Olympic rivets pins

Vent sealed and riveted. When the caulk skins, we’ll cut the Olympic rivets pins

This page cross-references with our web page about catalytic heater venting and about Salem Vent.



See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

Top Five Modifications to our Airstream

We were talking yesterday about which modifications are our favorite. I asked Debbie, “Which three are the tops?” She readily replied, “all-around awnings, kitchen utensils drawer, and solar panels system.”

This morning I thought about it some more and decided to up it two more. I submit the lift and lay antenna roof mount and the catalytic heater.

Here’s the complete list:

  • 1. awnings
  • 2. kitchen drawer
  • 3. solar power system
  • 4. electric antenna roof mount
  • 5. catalytic heater
  • These are all significant improvements in the function of our trailer. They are very different from each other, are among the most useful of our mods, and happen to be pretty noticeable too.

    picture of added awnings

    Awnings all around are useful year-round

    1. We took our trailer, still in its warranty period, to the Airstream factory for the Zip-Dee awnings installation on rear and road side of the trailer. We use these nearly every week, depending upon sun exposure. The added awnings allow us to keep one or more windows open regardless of rainfall. And the long road side awning is a great sun shade, both for the two large windows and for the refrigerator outside wall.

    picture of added drawer

    Added kitchen drawer is indispensable

    2. The kitchen drawer was a slam dunk — we were so surprised Airstream Co had not installed the same thing. A perfect place for it, and probably the most useful change we’ve made to the trailer. Without this drawer, the utensils would be in a drawer behind a cabinet door. How much easier this is, to just open a drawer just below the counter top and reach all the table utensils.

    picture of rooftop solar panels

    added two solar panels

    3. Almost six years ago we installed solar panels atop the trailer and a solar charge controller inside. It was a little bit an experiment for us, not having installed or used these before. When next we needed batteries, we installed a pair of 6v golf cart batteries, and later replaced them with two pairs of 6v batteries. We have ample battery power, generally enough for at least four days without sun. There is no noise, no fumes, no labor involved in starting or stopping them (although we can tilt them to maximize solar collection). They cost nothing to operate.

    picture of antenna mount

    Tarheel antenna mount

    4. Initially the amateur radio HF (long distance) antenna was on the truck’s rear fender. Little more than two years later we found and installed a Tarheel Lift and Lay® roof mount for the HF antenna. Four years later we are very pleased with this antenna location and operation. We push an electric 12vdc switch inside and the antenna raises from prone, or storage position, to full vertical position in twelve seconds. Push the button again and the antenna lowers to storage position on the roof. Easy, quick, works great and has a very high cool factor.

    picture of heater

    Catalytic heater on hinge mount

    5. The catalytic heater is a boon for boon docking or dry-camping. It consumes no power from the batteries or shore power system. It uses propane from the trailer’s attached bottles, and it burns oxygen from our living space. Yes, that’s a bit of a negative as is the contribution of products of combustion from this unvented heater. So if you don’t have one, we do NOT recommend it for you. We use it guardedly, and never when napping or sleeping. We designed a hinged mount to allow secure storage for towing days and easy directional aiming of the heating pad. We joke the heater is designed to follow Debbie’s location in the trailer, to keep her warm.

    That’s it, our wrap-up of the top five modifications of our 25′ Airstream travel trailer. We made these and other changes to help make our trailer into a suitable house for year-round living and travels.

    Jim and Debbie
    locate us here
    visit our website

    ©2013 Dreamstreamr

    How we found Twilight at Forks

    Plomp, plomp, tick, tick tick, tick, plomp.  Rain sprinkles down from the trees, high above, with small drops sounding like individual loud ticks.  Then a couple of tom-tom drum beats sound, as a drops hit the skylight above our living room.

    We packed up camp the night before leaving Sol Duc, expecting rain after midnight.  Rain drops on our Airstream’s roof woke us at 12:40 a.m.  Pretty sharp forecasters, these NOAA guys.  It seemed to sprinkle, off and on, all night and by 9:00 this morning had almost stopped.  Nice to hitch up without a lot of rain.

    Hitching the trailer took minutes, we’d already moved the hitch head to the truck’s receiver before going to bed.  This morning we only backed the truck to the trailer until the ball hit the back of our Quickbite coupler and the coupler automatically snapped shut and locked.

    No one’s offered a way to automatically connect the 7-way power plug, the safety chains, and the breakaway cable.  Bluetooth might someday work for the 7-way, but there’s just no good substitute for the heavy-duty connection of a big pair of safety chains.  Who wants to look back and see their trailer crossing lanes by itself?

    Our drive was very short, no more than 55 miles between Sol Duc Hot Springs and Mora campground near La Push (originally La Bouche, French for the mouth, apparently referring to the river’s mouth at the ocean).  Mora campground is in the Olympic National Park, is well distant from highways, and full of tall trees.

    We’re fifty yards from a comfort station, just right for keeping our black waste tank empty for days and days.  We have no hookups for the trailer and no appreciable solar exposure for the photovoltaic panels.  We’re only paying $12 per night, approx 1/3 what we paid at Sol Duc for water and electric.  And both campgrounds charge an additional $5 if we empty our tanks at the dump station.

    Nice campsite at Mora in ONP

    Part of our setup included connecting (but not starting or running) our generator to the trailer.  We love not using it.  The campground is nearly vacant today.  it’s the end of Labor Day weekend and besides, not everyone wants to camp in the park on a rainy day.

    Why spoil the majestic solitude and quiet of this old forest with our noisy generator if we can conserve our batteries for essential uses for at least three days?  We’ll use the generator to recharge the laptops when we need to, but are happy to avoid running it.

    Daily high temperature at Mora are 55 degrees, and we’re sitting at 71 in the Airstream after running our Wave6 catalytic heater a little over two hours.  Two weeks ago we met a veteran Airstreamer, a Boeing retired engineer, who claims he could never use or recommend a catalytic heater after having opened a trailer’s door and finding four people dead inside from anoxia.

    We didn’t ask, but perhaps could have asked, him if he practiced and believed in good engineering practice.  Surely he would have answered, “yes”.  The only safe way to use any heater inside a home or RV is to follow manufacturer’s recommendations.  And monitoring for any malfunction of the heater is necessary and, we think, requires we only burn this heater when we’re alert and awake.  Naptime or bedtime?  Off goes the heater, completely off.

    A direct-fired heater (as opposed to the RV furnace, which is separated combustion heat exchanger) like a catalytic requires, the manufacturer points out, a minimum of 24 square inches of free air intake (a low window at one end of the trailer) and 24 square inches of free air outlet (a roof vent or high window at the opposite end of the trailer).

    Jim continues, at low but persistent measure, campaigning for a floor intake vent installed under the catalytic heater’s location or under the Airstream’s L-sofa with a low transfer vent louver to direct the air into the cabin.  How cool would this be, not requiring any window opening?

    And the cabin would always have a nice amount of free ventilation from the coolest point outside (under the trailer). Oh well, back to reality — the gravity floor vent is a fun project idea but not something we agree on, for now.  We have a few other projects already agreed upon and just awaiting certain resources (time, money, tools, sources for materials).

    The rainy days incline us to play board games (no, not bored games, we really like these), catch up on our current cache of magazine subscriptions, drink pots of tea, and nap a little.  And we’re walking daily, rain or shine.  We’ve explored Rialto Beach, La Push, Forks, and Bogachiel State Park.  Hoh Rain Forest we’ve saved for Saturday, rain or not.  Rain is good, in good measure.

    not Bella's truck, but same model

    The Olympic Peninsula Visitors Guide we picked up locally features a lot of stuff about some book and television series named Twilight.  Upon our drive into Forks we were less surprised, then, to find stores and signs everywhere with Twilight advertising on them.

    Lumber has long been the product from Forks and finally they have another and more unique one, they are home to Bella, Edward, and Jacob.  Our good  timing allows us to be in Forks the very weekend they are celebrating Stephenie Meyer Day, in honor of all she’s done to excite the local economy.

    We bought three bundles of firewood yesterday.  Maybe we’ll stay at Mora this weekend, avoid as many vampires as we can.  I’m going outside now to build a big bright campfire.  We hope it works!

    See you down the road!

    Jim and Debbie
    locate us here
    visit our website

    ©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr