Thursday, December 8, 2022


Couple have heated debate on adding catalytic heater


RV Shrink

Dear RV 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 Hazelhurst

Dear Hazel:
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. 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.

Radiant heaters 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.

Discuss this with your husband and maybe you will warm up to the idea of an added heat source. Good luck. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

RV ShrinkCan’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-book: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.


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3 years ago

No issue with battery drain unless you are boondocking with no shore electric plugin

Ralph Caldwell
3 years ago

In the Mr Buddy printed instructions is a caution not to use the Mr Buddy while sleeping. Being you need the heater during the coldest part of the night is when you are sleeping this seems a curious and scary caution. (I don’t want to wake up dead in the morning.) I never see this addressed in any of the publications touting the wonders of the Mr Buddy and other catalytic style propane heaters. So is a Mr Buddy heater safe or not?

Greg Illes
3 years ago

Also worth noting: the space heater is (at best) only 70% efficient. A typical unit burns 40,000 BTU worth of propane, but delivers only 30,000 BTU into the cabin.
The NOISE of a space heater is very objectionable to us, cycling all night and often waking us up. We really like the dead-silent operation of the radiant heaters.
Lastly — catalytic heaters (like the Wave) are more expensive, but cannot produce dangerous CO gas, and operate at much higher altitudes (12,000′) than ceramic heaters (4500′).

3 years ago

We have been using a Mr. Heater propane space heater in our 36-foot 5th-wheel with three slides (not sure how much square footage that is) quite successfully almost since we bought the RV nine years ago. We quickly found out that the central furnace wasn’t efficient and we had trouble boon-docking (dry camping) with it, even with solar panels. The space heater is very efficient and warms up the camper very fast on any of its three settings. The only disadvantage for us, as noted by the RV Shrink, is the extra condensation it produces. That’s probably a good thing when we are wintering in the very dry desert Southwest but not so much in cool, damp places like Alaska in the summer.