Wave 3 Catalytic Heater?

The Wave 3 Catalytic Heater

The Wave 3 Catalytic Heater

I’m having a debate with myself about whether to have our Suburban RV furnace repaired or to replace it with a Wave 3 Catalytic heater.  Apparently the fan bearings have gone bad in the Suburban.

Adventurenet RV has the Wave 3 for $191.00, and Amazon has it for $202 with free shipping.  Regular price is $300.  If I have an RV shop install it, I will pay $300 + labor.

The two things I love about the Suburban furnace are the thermostat that I like to set to around 60 degrees when we sleep in cold weather.  I also love the fact that, no matter how cold it gets, the furnace can be cranked up to keep us toasty.

What I don’t like about the furnace is that it is noisy, and it’s a battery hog.  That’s a big consideration when we are camping without hookups in cold weather.

I would put the Wave 3 where the furnace is now.

I would put the Wave 3 where the furnace is now.

I’m convinced that the Wave 3 is safe, as long as adequate ventilation is provided.  And I love the feel of the soft heat it provides.  I believe that, unless we were in extraordinary cold for our area, that the Wave 3 would keep us warm enough.  And we could run it non-stop without it draining our battery.

But I’m hesitating, and I’m hoping that some of my readers can answer a question for me.

I’ve read that the Wave 3 must be covered when not in use, and that if dust gets into the pad, it can poison it.  Replacing the pad involves sending the heater back to the company, and is expensive.

I would keep it covered when not in use, but I am very concerned about floating dog hair.   Sheba sheds prodigiously.  There are always light, airy balls of black dog hair floating around, no matter how often or vigorously we brush her.

And I’m afraid all that dog hair would ruin the catalytic heater.

Apparently other RVing dog owners are happy with their catalytic heaters, but maybe their dogs don’t shed as badly as Sheba does.

So…. does anyone have any person experience with dog hair and a Wave catalytic heater?

And finally, I have taken gas lines apart and reattached them before, and know how to make sure the gas doesn’t leak.  I wonder if it’s feasible to attempt a Wave 3 replacement by myself, or if it really is a job that must be done by a repair shop.  I could do it myself for around $250, but will probably pay someone at least $400 to install one at full retail price plus labor.

I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions!

40 Comments

  1. Tim McDougall

     /  January 20, 2013

    I don’t really know much about the catalyic heater but I am familiar with the free standing Mr Heater unit at about $179.00 for the big one. No electric needed. I use the small Mr Heater , Buddy, and it works great for me. Totally portable and storeable. If you use them with bulk propane be sure to use the filter. You can get information on both Mr Heater and the catalytic heater on the cheaprvliving.com website. Hope this helps.

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    • Tim, I do own (and love) a Mr. Heater Buddy. The Casita is so small, though, that I am hoping to get something that is permanently wall mounted instead of something that I have to find a storage spot and floor space for. Although I have the 12′ gas line for it, I have always used the small propane canisters, and didn’t know about needing a filter with the bulk tank. Thanks! 🙂

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      • Tim McDougall

         /  January 20, 2013

        The filter is used with the bulk propane to prevent the innerds of the black hose from gumming up the heater inlet orfice. It isn’t needed with the #1 canisters. Floor space is a pain sometimes. My camper is so small that my rv furnace is over kill for such a small area. I do prefer the wall mounted thermostat setup but I am also trying to reduce extra weight. And, I like not having to use any battery power to run the buddy when I don’t have power to plug into. It cuts my need for more batteries to boondock.

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        • I will order a filter this week so I can use the Mr Heater Buddy in case I can’t get the furnace fixed or replaced before our next trip. That’s a lot of money!

          The main problem with floor space is the two dogs. Obviously I didn’t think things through when we adopted Sheba. 🙂

          I also had a Coleman Black Kat catalytic heater that I LOVED that I gave to my sister for her van. I liked it even better than the Mr. Heater Buddy. (I always want to call it a Mr. Buddy!)

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          • Tim McDougall

             /  January 20, 2013

            The filter is not necessary with the stiffer green hose. A refill adaptor is available for about $25.00 to refill the one lb canisters from the larger bulk bottles. Places like Cabella’s, Tractor Supply, Acadamy Sporting goods, and others like that have them as well as online. I get lazy about using the hose and the small bottle makes it easier to move my heater around as well as using for my cookstove. I got a few #1 canisters at Walmart for $2.49 each this week.

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            • I ordered one of those refill kits a couple of years ago and ended up not using it. I’m not even sure where it is now. I read some things about the valves on the canisters possibly failing because they aren’t designed to be refilled. Anyway, it scared me. 🙂

              Good to know about the green hose. I might order that instead of bothering with the filter. That’s a pretty good price on the one pound cylinders!

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              • Tim McDougall

                 /  January 20, 2013

                Hope someof this is helpful.
                My bedtime now, a nice day to you.

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  2. I am so glad that someone else has problems with the shedding, our service dog also leaves the hair balls all over the house and he gets brushed daily. Must be the Aussie/Lab mix. He also loves to sit right over the heat vent when the heater is on, so I wonder if that would be a issue with Sheba?

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    • Shelly, I think the extreme shedding must be due to the Aussie/Lab mix. I don’t think Sheba would sit right over the heat vent because she loves the cold. The only vents she has shown any interest in are when they are blowing cold air.

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  3. Camilla

     /  January 20, 2013

    The answer is right at your feet :c). No need for the heater – just take the dogs off the floor and put them in the bed. Then, as soon as it warms up in the Spring, have the dogs shaved off. No more floating hair!

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  4. Gene Masse

     /  January 20, 2013

    Have you contacted Casita & asked about replacing the fan motor? I would think that the fan can be replaced on your heater fairly easy. No doubt they’ve had some expierience with that situation. They aren’t exactly big complicated units. I would think most RV centers could do it pretty easily if you don’t feel confident in a do it yourself project.

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  5. Gene Masse

     /  January 20, 2013

    I just did a search on Bing (or try Google) and there are lots of parts for sale even on ebay. Here’s a new furnace for instance for $349.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Suburban-NT-16SE-RV-Camper-16000-BTU-Furnace-NT16-SE-/360550092496?pt=Motors_RV_Trailer_Camper_Parts_Accessories&hash=item53f275ced0&vxp=mtr

    There were lots of fan motors for sale. They all were under $100.

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    • I was really hoping to get the Wave 3 because it’s quiet and there’s no battery drain. But at those prices, I may get the furnace fixed and just carry a small portable catalytic heater in case we don’t have sun for the solar panel to power the furnace when we’re without hookups.

      I’m not sure what the problem with the furnace is, but judging from the noise, I think it’s the bearings in the fan motor. Will have to have an RV shop check it out after all, I suppose.

      Anyway, fixing the furnace will cost a lot less than I expected. Thanks so much!

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  6. Good luck fixing the heater. I know they are a big drain on the batteries. But the noise will go away with a new fan I think. I think the smaller stand alone heaters are great and I will most likely get one if and when I find my van, but with the large dog and small space that can be a problem.

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  7. Well we brought the Mr. Buddy….no pups but just me in the middle of the night to knock it over. I’m really hoping I dont have to use it much as once I get under the covers I’m good. Heck in low teens, I still sleep with the window open. How is Sheba…is she settling in and obeying :O) I see RVSue has the Catalytic…nice that is low on the battery use. With power, I like the one that comes with our ceiling fan. Not to change the subject but I’m concerned about air conditioning when I sleep…suck it up I guess :O) or head for the high mtns! Hope you are heading out of dodge soon…and wish I was on was riding on your bumper! What are those blankets in your mod pics…I can decide which bedding I want. Told Jerry bedding IS A BIG DEAL for me….I want the best bed ding ever! Stuck on the pimaloft at Company Store…

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    • Sheba? Obey? ONLY when she is in the mood and figures it is in her best interest. I couldn’t make it without AC in summer since we usually stay in the southeast. We keep trying to get to the mountains, but so far it hasn’t worked out.

      Yes, I guess Spike and Bridget don’t shed a lot of hair… or else it isn’t a big deal with the Wave 3.

      We use good quality fleece blankets with the foam layer inside. They are ultralight and very warm. Doubled, with an afghan over them, we’ve slept comfortably in the coldest temperatures we’ve encountered. I wish I could find something dogproof to keep on the beds that looked good, though.

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  8. A cheaper fix: nearly all fan motors these days are (supposedly) “oiless” bearings, rather than ball or roller bearings, and are nothing but brass sleeves impregnated with carbon for lubrication. I have worked on numerous fan morors like this, that tend to squeal if they get dry, and all they need is a few drops of oil. Don’t use WD-40, as it tends to evaporate after awhile. Use something like 3-in-1 oil which can be bought in a small can with a spout. Simply take the motor out and get a few drops of oil directly on the shaft where it enters the bearing at each end, give it a few turns manually to “wick” it in, and your problem will be solved, for much less than the cost of a new motor.

    As far as the catalytic heater, all you have to do is vacuum the front off every time you clean house (trailer), and you shouldn’t have a problem. RVSueandCrew and many others use these heaters with no problem. We always carry one of those portable “Shark” vacuums in our RV’s and they work great. The only thing that tends to go bad on these catalytic heaters is the thermocouple, and those are easily replaced for less than ten bucks.

    I don’t understand why people are always willing to shell out big bucks for things that can easily be repaired by thinking logically. There’s nothing about any of these things that are hard to work on. And that Mr. Buddy, as nice as they are (for some things), will only run for about five hours without the bigger tank being attached to it, so unless you enjoy getting up in the middle of the night to change gas bottles, the portability comes with a price. VanTrekker installed his on the door of his van, with the hose attached to the larger bottle inside the van, but I don’t recommend using a tank like that in an enclosed space, either. If you can run the hose inside from an outside-mounted tank, that is much safer.

    So please… save your money for traveling, and buy a can of oil.

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    • John, it’s not a squeal. It’s a grinding, clacking, bumping sound. It starts out intermittent, then eventually is all the time. It gets worse and worse until we finally can’t stand the racket. This started gradually a while back, but now it starts when the furnace starts..

      I don’t know if it is relevant or not, but the last time we ran it I got an awful headache. When I opened a window the headache eased off. I do have a carbon monoxide detector that appears to be in good working order when I test it. So I don’t know if the headache was related to the furnace running or not. In any case, I would freeze before I used the furnace again before it has someone who knows what they are doing look at it.

      The Casita bathroom and screen window open, so a gas line could be run in from there for a portable heater, if needed. That would also help provide some needed ventilation if I go that route.

      I fix what I can figure out, but electricity is still something my brain will not wrap around. I think it was all those dire warnings about dying if I touch a wire that I got when I was a kid. 🙂

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      • OK, the description narrows it down a bit more. It sounds like a loose fan blade. Sometimes they just come loose from the shaft and move one way or the other, and the blades start hitting something, and yes, it can be intermittent. I have also see the blades actually come off the hub that they are mounted to, and the resulting noise can be the same to an untrained ear. That will be true of both the normal blade type as well as the “squirrel cage” types, of which I’m sure yours is. The good news is that you should be able to buy just the blade… not the whole motor or furnace. Your furnace book should have a breakdown of the parts in it, and the part numbers. Getting to the fan is no big deal. You just have to figure out how to get the furnace pulled out so you can open it up, and find the fan motor,

        Don’t worry about the electricity. Despite all the TV hype to the contrary, you can’t even feel twelve volts and that’s what all these furnaces run on. First, all you have to do is find the fuse for the furnace and pull it. If it isn’t near the furnace, then it might be on your converter box, and it should be marked. Once you pull the fuse, the furnace is dead. There will be either a connector block to unplug, or a set of terminals where the wires connect at the furnace itself. They should be red (hot=+) and black (ground=-). If you have a remote thermostat, there will also be two smaller wires for that to be disconnected. If they aren’t already marked, do so, to make sure you put them back the same way, as polarity DOES matter on DC circuits!

        You will also have to find the gas line. Shut off the gas at the tanks, and if you have an extra valve just for the furnace, shut that off, too. Then at the closest point to the furnace, disconnect the gas line.

        From the picture I saw, it looks like this furnace comes out from the front. Once you open it up, I’m sure the problem will be visually obvious. If your dealer doesn’t have the part, there are other places where you might find one, including Grainger.com, an industrial supplier with stores in every major city. Since this is used on a heating device, the fan won’t be plastic, so you can rule those out. It’s probably aluminum. The only things you have to worry about are the overall diameter, the shaft diameter, and (if it’s a squirrel cage type), the length of the fan drum. If you can match those things, it doesn’t matter where the fan comes from. An allen wrench of the correct size should be all you need to change it, and the blade should be somewhat inexpensive.

        On some furnaces, there are two fans, one each connected to opposite ends of the motor. One circulates air within the room, and the other is a power exhaust fan to pull in fresh air from outside and then blow the fumes outside. Most RV furnaces turn the blower on first to purge any gases within the furnace before it actually opens the gas valve and lights. This is a safety feature on most moving vehicles (including boats) to make sure that the furnace doesn’t explode from a gas leak that might occur within the unit and near the burner. It forces it to start with a clean chamber.

        From what you said, it could be the exhuast side of the blower fan that has come loose and is not exhausting the fumes to the outside as it should. Within the motor chamber you will see baffles dividing the room air from the exhaust air and should be able to tell which side of the fan is which. If the combustion fumes are not being exhausted properly, that may be why you were getting a headache. Maybe it wasn’t enough for the CO detector to be set off, which is the reason I like the ones with the digital readout on them, better than the ones that simply go off at a preset level. It’s too hard to test the latter, whereas if you see the readout changing you know it’s detecting.

        Also, keep in mind that a CO detector is no substitute for a smoke alarm. Each has its own purpose and you need both to be safe.

        If you give me the make and model of your furnace, I can research it and find the parts breakdown online, and then walk you through the removal and disassembly of it. If necessary I can even get on the phone and talk you through it. I have Magic Jack, so I have no long distance and we can talk as long as we need to. I know you know how to send pictures by email, so that might help also, once you get it apart, I can look at it and tell you what I see. If you click on my name, it will take you to my site where you will find contact information and a phone number at the bottom of the page. I’m usually here every day, and there’s no charge for my services. I just hate to see people spend money needlessly, and end up filling up landfills with stuff that is repairable for 1/10th of what it costs to replace. Monday I may have to be gone for awhile mid-day, but Tuesday I should be here all day. Let me know if I can help.

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        • John, WOW! I had the furnace manual on my computer, but deleted it when I decided the repair was more than I can tackle. Tomorrow I will go out to the trailer, check the model number, find the brochure again, and email it to you. I’ll be busy tomorrow, too, so it might be late Monday when I send it to you.

          I am in shock that there actually might be an inexpensive fix for this! If I can fix the furnace, I’ll just carry the portable catalytic heater to use when it’s cold and there is no sun for the solar panel!

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  9. As an added thought, if you (or anyone else) decides to put a catalytic heater in your RV (they ARE really great for boondocking) it would be wise to also buy a carbon monoxide detector, just to be safe. I prefer the ones that have a digital readout on them in PPM, so that I can monitor how much is in the air… but even those are less than $30 at Walmart. I know first hand what intense headaches you can get from too much CO in the air, as i’ve had it happen, and it’s not fun. In larger doses it can be lethal, so for what little it costs, protect yourself!

    Also, these types of heaters also put moisture back into the air, through the combustion prcosess… which is not necessarily a bad thing in dry climates, but be aware that you may see more condensation on your windows. So there is a double reason for allowing sufficient ventilation.

    In case anyone wonders how I know all this, I am a retired master electrician and robotics technician who also used to manage an appliance shop many years ago. Besides electrical systems, my studies have included pneumatics, hydraulics, all kinds of gas systems, and HVAC systems. Compared to what I used to build and work on, RV’s utility systems are toys.

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  10. We had the exact same sound coming from our air conditioner and it was caused by the rubber mounting grommets that were worn out. The fan blade was clicking against the shroud. My husband simply replaced the rubber grommets by taking the old ones to O’Reilly Automotive. They did not have the exact replacement, but one similar enough that a few cents for each grommet and a couple of hours (including removing the old ones) work solved our problem. Hope it could be as simple for you. You might take a look.

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    • I’m feeling a lot better about being able to fix it since John has volunteered to walk me through taking it apart! It’s not something I would be confident enough to attempt on my own!

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  11. If I could find a way to make a minimum of $1200 a month away from home and on a regular basis, I’d live there as long as I needed to! Unfortunately, we currently have about 23 months to go before we can get away permanently… unless the lottery decides to be generous to us! But we have a plan and the plan is doing what its supposed to.

    We thought about work camping, but my wife and I used to be park managers. I’m not sure I could do anything but manage other people with good decisions these days, as a bad back has me on the sidelines for now, trying to figure out what we might be able to do for the next 23 months without my retired executive assistant wife having to work at Walmart part time for piddly wages. Most jobs require lifting, and these days I’m lucky to lift 30 pounds without causing problems. As long as I can sit or move around naturally, without heavy lifting, I’d be OK. Anybody got any offers for a retired 64-year old that’s a reasonably well-educated, street-wise regular walking encyclopedia of useless information? I’m open to ideas! Just like old Willy, we can hardly wait to get on the road again!

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    • I certainly empathize with old Willy… and all of those of us who wish we could be full time gypsies! It seems like finances and health are the two biggies we have to overcome or find work-arounds for. Working at Walmart (part time and shift work) doesn’t even sound like an option to me!

      It seems to me that with your ability to fix things… or instruct people how to fix things… that there ought to be a portable market for skills like that.

      One of the bloggers I follow, The Travels of Kimbopolo, has landed an online teaching job in nursing. I hear of other RVers doing telecommuting work. Something like that wouldn’t be bad if you could do it under palm trees by a big lake in Florida in the winter. 🙂

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      • I know it sounds like it should be easy, but it isn’t. I have Kimbo’s blog in my stash, too, but unfortunately neither of us are nurses. Victoria, at Ozarks Crescent Mural, sent me some recommended sites, too, as she works from home, but about half of them are things that we either can’t do because they require a teaching license, or tried before with little success. My wife can do transcription work, and clerical stuff, but being able to do it consistently is the key. No matter what we do, it has to be consistent, as we have a minumum that we NEED to make. It can’t be hit and miss. As pitiful as the Walmart income is compared to what she used to make, and as crazy as the schedule is, at least it’s consistent.

        There isn’t any industry around here to speak of. It’s all stores, touristy things, or low paying labor work. Even the contractors here don’t pay much over $12 an hour with no beneifits for skilled help, when I was used to making WAY more than that and having all the benefits, too. But even if my back wasn’t screwed up from a torn tendon, no one wants to hire someone my age. They would need to want me for my brains more than my body! (:>)

        Also, before we can leave for an extended time, we have things that would have to be done here first, on the house, and that is my department. And we have our German Spitz, Angel to take care of, so no matter what we do, one of us has to be around for him. We have had him since he was a puppy and he has never been away from us. We wouldn’t even think of leaving him with a kennel. So if we have to stick around for another two years, he’s worth the sacrifice. Once we do stop working again, we don’t want to EVER have to work for anyone else EVER again, or with anything that is going to tie us down, and this last two years will put us in that position. But… if something should come along in the meantime that fits the requirements, we’re open for it!

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        • With you back problems have you tried to get SSDI?

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          • Hi Shelley, I’m 64 now and started drawing SS at 62, so I doubt I can get anything more. The problem is that my greedy sister used her crooked attorney to pull a sneaky deal and stole a 1/4 million dollars of my share of inheritance money from our family estate that we were depending on for retirement. My wife and I made very good money when we were working, and having to go on SS put a serious cramp in our budget that we weren’t ready for, so now we’re building up our reserves again, so we won’t have to work again later. Therefore the need for about $1200 a month over our SS for another two years yet. Once we meet our goals, we’ll be in good shape after that.

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      • Tim McDougall

         /  January 22, 2013

        Afterthought: When using your buddy heater, or any other, if you worry about the dogs getting too close to it you might place it inside one of those collapsable metal animal cages. Then just fold the wire cage up for storage. I would worry more about the dogs at night while I’m asleep. My dog doesn’t like to get too close to the heat but I still pay attention because of Murphy’s Law.

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        • I thought of that, Tim. What I will probably do is put it on the dinette table. The floor will be cold, though. If that doesn’t work, I may use a small metal dog crate on the floor.

          Thanks! 🙂

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          • Tim McDougall

             /  January 22, 2013

            I sometimes have to set mine up higher but I prefer the floor. I don’t like to get it too close to the ceiling as it tends to get pretty hot up
            there. No problems yet. It is really cold tonight and Buddy is keeping me comfy. 🙂

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  12. You just have to love the kindness of others….hope you get things up and running.

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  13. Patti L

     /  January 21, 2013

    Ask RV Sue about the wave 3, she had one installed in her Casita! If you go back in her adventures from last year you will find where she had it put in.. good luck!

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    • Patti, I know RV Sue loves hers. I just wondered if her short-haired dogs were the problem that Sheba’s long, floating hair would be. But I’ve decided to go with the Wave 3 anyway.

      I worried that it might not provide enough heat if it got really cold. But if it gets that cold, we’ll just bury deeper under our covers. Cold spells don’t last that long in Florida, which is where we would be spending most of the winter in the future anyway.

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