Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have a forced air furnace in our motorhome. It works fine. My husband thinks we need to add a catalytic heater. He claims the forced air furnace fan drains our batteries too fast. I don’t want another gas appliance in our small space, it doesn’t look that safe, and I doubt it will make much difference in battery drain. He is insisting we need it. I need some help in convincing him this is not a rational idea. Please help me.
--Feeling the Heat in Helena
It is a rational idea. Your husband is right about the battery drain. The catalytic heater would be cheaper to operate, give constant heat, and create zero battery drain. Cons: it would produce more condensation, necessitate some added ventilation, and add a substantial investment to buy and plumb into your motorhome. You have gas equipment in your rig now, but perhaps you are not comfortable with this addition. If that is the case, you can add solar instead. A small solar investment will replace the battery drain from the furnace fan. When comparing prices between the two, don’t forget to add the cost of plumbing the gas into the motorhome. You will spend as much on brass fittings and copper lines as you will on the heater itself. I wish I would have bought brass fittings instead of stock for my retirement. I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. Brass is the new gold. If installed properly and used properly, one of the auxiliary heaters is a fine addition to any RV. We personally use all three, solar, catalytic and forced air and enjoy the freedom of not worrying about keeping a healthy battery charge.
Your husband is on the right track. I have often seen people leaving campgrounds early because of dead batteries. They have to drive or use a generator to power a battery charger. This often happens when there is a cold spell and the furnace is working overtime.
A small investment in solar will pay for itself over time. Calculate how often you find yourself paying for an electric site so you can charge your battery bank. If you like to dry camp a lot, your payoff will occur much quicker. Heaters like Big Buddy and Wave are radiant heat. They transfer heat to surrounding objects, which in turn release heat into the space you occupy. It is a very comfortable heat, but does entail finding a space that will be safe, convenient and aesthetically pleasing.
Good luck. Discuss this with your husband and maybe you will warm up to the idea of an added heat source.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink