Advice on heaters...

Rover76

Member
Sep 22, 2021
20
Sunnyvale, CA/Cushing, ME
Oh boy, I've done it now! I know this has been discussed until the propane has run out, the batteries are dead and we are all frozen!

Looking for ideas and experiences with installing a heater in PUP that never had one in the first place. Leaning towards a Camco Wave 3 or 6. Seems like a simple install. Maybe a Buddy heater? People seem to like those things, but why? Or do I go forced air like the OEM set-up?

I will be camping in the snow, mountains (Nor. Cal, Nevada, Idaho etc). Both with hook-ups and boondocking. Gotta keep mama warm and happy!

Let's hear your preferences an experiences and preferences.
 

davido

Super Active Member
Jul 17, 2014
1,410
The Camco Wave 3 and 6 are 3000 BTU and 6000 BTU. The forced-air Suburban furnaces are more like 16000 BTU. The closest comparison I have to work with is an electric space heater. Those are typically about 5200 BTU. And in cold weather they aren't powerful enough to completely replace an RV furnace. If I'm camping in freezing conditions, an electric heater will allow the main RV furnace to run a lot less frequently, but the RV furnace still comes on. So if you use a 3000BTU or 6000BTU furnace, you may not get enough output to keep things snug in a popup in freezing conditions.

The MrHeater Buddy puts out up to 9kbtu. That's 50% more heat than a Wave 6, and they're pretty safe. So it's understandable why they are popular. There's a dual-burner version of the Mr Heater, too, but that gets to be a lot to carry around, and takes up a lot of space in the popup.

Portable heaters including Mr Heater Buddy are probably not quite as safe as a properly functioning built-in RV furnace such as a Suburban. Those pull combustion air from outside, exhaust air is sent outside, and the air that circulates within the cabin is never in contact with combustion air and exhaust. And a built-in can't tip over.

My preference would be to have a Suburban furnace installed. I think that's going to be the safest and will produce the most output.

Keeping it powered up is the next trick. My Suburban furnace consumes about 3A while operating, for its blowers. Duty cycle is around 40% in near freezing conditions, and I run it in the evenings and morning. So with a single battery I would get about 2 days. I have a dual-battery setup on my popup and that extends my duration to 4-5 days, which is perfectly adequate for my cold-weather camping needs. A single 20 pound propane tank would last about 26 hours of continual run time. At 40% duty cycle and usage through 50% of the day, that means a single tank should last me 4-5 days. I have dual propane tanks, though.

If I'm camping with hookups I run an electric space heater, and have the built-in furnace's thermostat set so that the furnace kicks in once in awhile if the space heater can't keep up. if I'm camping without hookups, I use the furnace exclusively.

One time my furnace's sail switch failed, and that highlighted the usefulness of having a backup plan. My backup plan is I carry a Mr Heater Buddy along for the ride in cold weather.
 

Rover76

Member
Sep 22, 2021
20
Sunnyvale, CA/Cushing, ME
Thanks Davido! I also have dual Batteries and 20 pound propane tanks. Your info about the BTUs is helpful. I never knew the output of the suburban furnaces. I found wiring existing in my PUP for a furnace and thermostat I believe. Maybe it was an option? I will check them out more now. Originally, it seemed cost prohibitive. The Wave and Buddy heaters seem so much cheaper! For good reason. Back to the drawing board. Thanks again!
 

Rover76

Member
Sep 22, 2021
20
Sunnyvale, CA/Cushing, ME
Thanks Guys. I have seen where you can use the thermal fan from a wood burning stove to help distribute the heat. Pretty informative youtube videos out there. I may look into that option with a hose connected to one of my 20 pound tanks. They seem pretty affordable compared to other options as well.
 

Sjm9911

Super Active Member
May 31, 2018
12,457
Nj
If you go the mr buddy option, get a co detector also. And as steve said, they need some make up air. So you need to crack a window.
 

dbhost

Super Active Member
Sep 19, 2018
1,348
League City, Texas USA.
Mr. Heater "Buddy" heaters are a line of heaters, not just a single model.

The bottle top "Little Buddy" is 3800 BTU and there really is no way to use a fan with it effectively.

The "Portable Buddy" is 4K BTU on low and 9K BTU on high. A wood stove heat powered fan can be set up over the heating element to provide LOTS of airflow.

The "Big Buddy" can be considered 2 Portable Buddy heaters in one housing. 4K, 9K, and 18K BTU selectable. Some variants have battery / 120V powered fans built in but those seem hard to find these days.

They have low oxygen and tipover shutoff.

IF you are going to use a tank, make 100% certain you are using a Mr. Heater inline fuel filter.

I have heard WAY more incidents with CO leaky into the interior of a camper furnaces where heat exchangers have failed, than incidents with the catatlytics, HOWEVER, every heater deserves respectful use. Meaning use a CO alarm.
 

davido

Super Active Member
Jul 17, 2014
1,410
Sounds like more are in favor of using a Mr Heater "Buddy" series.

I have the Portable Buddy (4000 BTU / 9000 BTU). They don't run very long on a 1 pound portable tank. A one pound tank holds about 21.5kbtu, so on low it would last five hours. On high it would last just over two hours. Far better than using one pound tanks is to get a long propane hose and an inline filter. In that configuration a single 20 pound propane tank would last over 100 hours on low, or about 47 hours on high.

The Portable Buddy, plus hose and filter, is a much better option than the Little Buddy, which pretty much has to sit on top of a 1 pound bottle. The Little Buddy puts out 3800 BTUs, so would last five and a half hours on a one pound canister.

The Big Buddy Portable is just a larger version of the Portable Buddy. It has a larger catalytic area, and puts out 4000, 9000, and 18000 BTUs in low, medium and high modes. Though it can accept a one pound tank, its run time with such a tank would be 5h, 2+h, and 1+h. So, again, it's better to use a hose and inline filter connected to a 20 pound tank. That would give it run times of 100h, 47h, and 23h on low, medium, high, on a single 20 pound tank.

It's unlikely that you would need to run it on high for very long. Use high to take the chill off and medium the rest of the time in freezing weather.

As I mentioned earlier, I prefer a built-in furnace but I have a Portable Buddy (the 4k/9k version) with a hose and filter that I bring along just in case the furnace malfunctions. It's only been necessary once, but when I needed it, I *really* needed it.
 

nitrohorse

Active Member
May 27, 2015
215
NE Pennsylvania
I believe in redundancy also. I have the factory install Suburban furnace, the Little Buddy heater, and I have a Chinese Diesel heater. Out of them all, the diesel heater is by far the most efficient and economical on both fuel and battery life. I strongly recommend looking into one of these heaters. I often read about fellow PUP campers stating that they only run their heater for a few hours prior to bed and then again in the morning. As these glorified "tents" cool down so quickly, I don't see the value in having a heater that I cannot use all night to maintain a heated cabin. Maybe it's me and my age, but I enjoy my comfort and the diesel heater provides that ability.
Just my humble opinion.
 
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Rover76

Member
Sep 22, 2021
20
Sunnyvale, CA/Cushing, ME
I have been leaning towards a diesel heater too. Now that I have seen a few reviews and installs on the good old youtube. I still don't like the idea of having to carry another source of fuel, although, my TR is a diesel. I still need a separate tank and can to carry spare diesel for the heater. I rarely carry extra diesel for the TR. I don't want to cheap out, but they seem cheap enough that if it didn't work out, I'm only out a couple hundred bucks. Ideally, I would install the original Suburban Heater for my trailer, but at about $1500 total, I am almost at the cost of my trailer to start with! I may bea ble to find a deal on one on ebay or my local repair shop. They sell lots of used/refurbished parts. I will keep shopping and searching the forums. Thanks all for the info!

I believe in redundancy also. I have the factory install Suburban furnace, the Little Buddy heater, and I have a Chinese Diesel heater. Out of the all, the diesel heater is by far the most efficient and economical on both fuel and battery life. I strongly recommend looking into one of these heaters. I ofter read about fellow PUP campers stating that they only run their heater for a few hours prior to bed and then again in the morning. As these glorified "tents" cool down so quickly, I don't see the value in having a heater that I cannot use all night to maintain a heated cabin. Maybe it's me and my age, but I enjoy my comfort and the diesel heater provides that ability.
Just my humble opinion.
I believe in redundancy also. I have the factory install Suburban furnace, the Little Buddy heater, and I have a Chinese Diesel heater. Out of the all, the diesel heater is by far the most efficient and economical on both fuel and battery life. I strongly recommend looking into one of these heaters. I ofter read about fellow PUP campers stating that they only run their heater for a few hours prior to bed and then again in the morning. As these glorified "tents" cool down so quickly, I don't see the value in having a heater that I cannot use all night to maintain a heated cabin. Maybe it's me and my age, but I enjoy my comfort and the diesel heater provides that ability.
Just my humble opinion.
 

Sneezer

Super Active Member
Aug 8, 2015
3,076
DFW, TX
Keep in mind that the buddy heaters generate some humidity due to the catalytic process being self contained. Extensive use in cold conditions can easily result in condensation buildup on the tent fabric. If you have hookups a ceramic heater or two will work well. You can run a 2nd power cord from the power pole for the 2nd heater - usually 2 on the same circuit will trip a breaker.

I use a portable buddy heater for tent camping, no issues. However, even with my large 6 person tent I find the buddy to be too warm for me, so I usually use it in the evening to warm up the tent for bed, and then click it off. In the morning I'll reach over and turn it back on to take the edge off before I get out of bed.
 

shotdowninflames

New Member
Jan 25, 2016
5
Two summers ago I purchased a new, open box Suburban brand 19k BTU furnace on eBay and installed it in my 1999 Jayco Qwest that didn’t come with a furnace. Many of the models that didn’t come with a furnace are still ready to accept one in the factory location with some relatively easy cuts for it to slide into place and for the exhaust coming out the side of the trailer. Propane lines were already run for the inside/outside stove under the seat directly adjacent to where the factory furnace would have gone, so I bought the right propane adapters (and an additional cutoff ball valve just for added safety when I don’t intend to use the heater) and got everything installed in an afternoon. We’ve done multiple off grid camping trips down into the 20s/30s and it keeps a young family of five comfortable at 65 degrees running occasionally all night long. No chance of tipping over or breaking anything, high output, and is out of sight, out of mind with a digital thermostat- set it to the temp you want and forget it.

If I had to do it again, I’d do it the exact same way.
 

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Ed L

Member
Jun 5, 2017
22
We just got back from a wonderful 2-week trip around the southwest in our ‘98 Coleman Taos. We intentionally stayed at places with electric as much as we could and, at those, used two space heaters, which kept us comfortable (one doesn’t have a thermostat and is on constantly; the other cycles on and off to maintain temperature). Temps got down to around freezing each night.

We knew we’d have at least one night without power so I picked up a Wave 3 from WM online for $175 (which I think was an error on their part; it’s up to $330 now). That was clearly not enough for ours. It kept it about 15 degrees warmer than outside (inside got down to 51 and outside was 36). We had brought extra sleeping bags, so we stayed warm.

I had toyed with putting in a built-in before the trip. That would definitely have made that one night warmer - but at the cost of permanently reducing our already-tight storage space. If we opt for more cold weather camping we may go that way but for now what we have works OK.

A Wave 6 or 8 would be better but then it too takes up more space. The 3 fits nicely on the sink cabinet door with temporary brackets.

I looked at the Mr Heater options and they’re much less expensive but not technically rated for sleeping, from what I understand. We did use a CO monitor with the Wave 3.
 

lifespeed

Super Active Member
Aug 26, 2014
756
There is best, and there is easiest. Best is forced air, no combustion products and water vapor in the interior combined with some air circulation and sufficient BTU output.
 

KBull

Member
Sep 11, 2019
19
For those running Mr. Heater Buddy heaters with a filter and a line to your large propane tank, are you taking gas downstream from the regulator? The Buddy has a regulator built in for use with 1lb. bottles. How does that work with two regulators?

My '98 Coleman-Fleetwood Cheyenne has a fitting and shut-off valve under the sink, which runs to the indoor low pressure stove. Has anybody tee'd into that line to run their Buddy? Thanks!
 

Anthony Hitchings

Super Active Member
Silver Supporting Member
Mar 2, 2019
3,951
Oakland, California
There is a youtube video where a recognized 'tuber tested a Mr Buddy inside an RV, and had a representative from the fire dept monitor CO and CO2 and O2 etc. The heater passed with flying colors.
 

lifespeed

Super Active Member
Aug 26, 2014
756
There is a youtube video where a recognized 'tuber tested a Mr Buddy inside an RV, and had a representative from the fire dept monitor CO and CO2 and O2 etc. The heater passed with flying colors.
It's a free country, inhale all the combustion products you want. Chemistry doesn't pay any attention to Youtube. The gasses left in the air are purely a function of air leaks, or lack thereof, with the exception of CO being influenced by clean (or not) combustion.
 

Grandpa Don

Super Active Member
Sep 5, 2018
1,886
Southern California
There is a youtube video where a recognized 'tuber tested a Mr Buddy inside an RV, and had a representative from the fire dept monitor CO and CO2 and O2 etc. The heater passed with flying colors.
I saw that same video some time ago. I did use my Mr. Heater buddy in my camper once or twice. Before that, I used it once in my big tent. The main problem I had was condensation on the canvas. I don't use it any more.
 

Arruba

Super Active Member
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 28, 2014
865
Central Oregon
For those running Mr. Heater Buddy heaters with a filter and a line to your large propane tank, are you taking gas downstream from the regulator? The Buddy has a regulator built in for use with 1lb. bottles. How does that work with two regulators?

My '98 Coleman-Fleetwood Cheyenne has a fitting and shut-off valve under the sink, which runs to the indoor low pressure stove. Has anybody tee'd into that line to run their Buddy? Thanks!

The Buddy’s are basically a high pressure heater. They self regulate. When I have used a Buddy, The one I have is a “Tough Buddy” I’ve just put a tank outside next to the door. I ran the hose through the canvas at the bottom to the filter and set the Buddy on top of the table aside the door.
 




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