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Old 06-11-2017, 08:03 PM   #1
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Hot water radiator

On Fiberglass RV there is a post about the possibility of using the hot water tank as a source for a radiator to heat the trailer. I'm interested in hearing opinions on this. Maybe RoninBC, Myron, Rubicon, and others can analyze this, just to mention a few of the modification enthusiasts.

My furnace works fine, but when camping in temps of 45 to 60 degrees it is nice to have a source of constant low level heat rather than the intermittent furnace or a somewhat noisy electric cube. I have used a cast iron pan on low heat during the day with fair results. Would a little radiator be better?

Thanks for any thoughts.
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Old 06-11-2017, 08:12 PM   #2
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Using a hot water tank to heat water going into a radiator would mean making the system yourself, making it compact and practical enough for interior use, and using propane as a fuel source. If you have electrical hookups, I think a portable oil-filled electric radiator heater would make more sense. They put out alot of heat with a reasonable amount of electrical useage, are safe, and almost silent in operation. I know Delonghi makes some good ones.

The little convection space heaters are also great for heating a small space, and are very quiet if not silent.

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Old 06-11-2017, 08:19 PM   #3
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A radiator circulating hot water from the fully vented water heater would certainly be safer than using a stove burner as a heat source; it would also (presumably) be better placed and better shaped for effective natural convection heating of the air.

It would require a circulating pump to be effective, drawing from the water heater output and returning to the water heater input; that's normal for the equivalent domestic heating systems, but a suitable pump in the required (small) size would not be common. The radiator is easier: there are various suitable units designed for automotive use (such as bus and truck interior heating from engine coolant).

I don't know how efficient the water heater is on propane; that could be calculated. On electrical power, it will be 100% less losses to the outside (it's somewhat exposed).

My only caution would be that I knew a guy who built an interesting alternative heating system for his house which incorporated a gas-fired water heater as the heat source, and he found that the water heater failed very prematurely because it was not up to the task of running so much. I don't know how fast RV water heaters burn themselves out if asked to run a lot.

If a quiet and continuous heat source is the only requirement, and shore power is available, a radiant electric heater might be a simpler and still effective choice. I have used 700-watt oil-filled radiant heaters for this purpose; they are heavy and bulky for their power (compared to a fan heater), so if you can find a mounting location one of the lower-power radiant panel-style, wall- (or cabinet-) mounted heaters might be more convenient.
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Old 06-11-2017, 08:31 PM   #4
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Quite a few people with RVs use the oil-filled radiators that Robert and Brian are mentioning and they like them.

Contriving your own alternative system is fraught with unknowns and unimagianable problems of which you might not even be aware. Best to go with what already works.
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Old 06-11-2017, 08:32 PM   #5
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I love my Vornado Whole Room Heater (3 heat settings: 1500, 1125 and 750 watts). It's not silent, but not loud and the fan runs continuously so no hearing something powering up. It runs on a thermostat and when heat is required it pumps out heat, but no cycling on/off.

I know this isn't what you were asking about....
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Old 06-11-2017, 08:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donna D. View Post
I love my Vornado. It's not silent, but not loud and the fan runs continuously so no hearing something powering up. It runs on a thermostat and when heat is required it pumps out heat, but no cycling on/off.
They're very effective because they move the warm air around - so you get a much more even temperature throughout the trailer. Thing about a radiator, convection or ceramic heater is that it's red hot close to the heater but colder several feet away.

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Old 06-11-2017, 09:41 PM   #7
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The original poster in FiberglassRV did find a suitable 12V circulating pump - presumably intended for either those automotive applications or for the few RV (typically Class A motorhome) applications which include a water heater built for this purpose - so that part is easier than I first thought:
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Old 06-11-2017, 09:44 PM   #8
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Another variation of this approach which could work well is in-floor radiant heat, with the heated water circulating in a layer added on top of the Escape subfloor and under the finish flooring. In this case, underfloor insulation seems particularly appropriate.

As with the fan heaters and radiators, there is an electric equivalent if on shore power.
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Old 06-11-2017, 10:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
... the few RV (typically Class A motorhome) applications which include a water heater built for this purpose...
This is the best-known brand of these systems:
Aqua-Hot Products

I suppose one could fit an Aqua-Hot system in an Escape - although even their smallest 400LP would be hard to fit in - but even if home-brewing a system, a look at the setup in a motorhome at an RV dealership or belong to someone else at a campground might be worthwhile for inspiration. The installation and operation manuals might be informative, too.
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Old 06-11-2017, 10:55 PM   #10
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What you describe could be done, but I'm not sure it is very practical. At least with my experience in commercial HVAC you need a heat exchanger to isolate any domestic water heating and space heating loops. This is so the domestic water does not become contaminated. Plus you have to find space to mount the radiator. If 120V electric is typically available then the options mentioned by others are worth considering. With my mini-split mod we just run the heat pump which is great for heating at moderate temps.

The Truma Combi is cool, but boy would that be an expensive and challenging retrofit. Probably best done at the factory and designed into a build.
www.truma.com/us/en/heating/combi-eco.php
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