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Old 09-07-2020, 11:00 AM   #1
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electric heater for boondocking?

I have 2018 Escape 21', and furnace doesn't work above approx 7000'. I've given up on getting it to work, and have concluded it's a design issue. recently, I used it at approx 7500' and worked well, but then at 8100' was no go. water heater on propane is flaky too at higher altitudes, will heat water, but has to reignite many times, if above approx 7000'.

so, I'm looking for backup heater. at 1st I was focused on Mr Heater Buddy, and seemed like way to go. after some research, appears it has same issue, not recommended above 7000'. so scratch Mr Heater Buddy, bummer.

I found a nice heater I like that uses 400w, but don't know how long will run on battery. I'm familiar with oil filed style, and think it will probably do the job. I need some help figuring out if this will work for me. I have no solar, but use generators, so can recharge batteries, no problem. any comments or suggestions welcomed. cheers

https://www.amazon.com/NewAir-Portab...9494065&sr=8-7
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Old 09-07-2020, 11:52 AM   #2
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I would talk to Escape Industries about replacing the actual heater. A portable electric heater is a huge power draw and in no way a permanent solution (IMHO).


400 watts is a pretty high load. If you purchase it, I would try it at home first, and see how long the batteries can power that device.


I have a portable 500w power station. I don't think you could get more than 2 hours out of it (assuming there is a low power setting).
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Old 09-07-2020, 12:10 PM   #3
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400W heater while boondocking

Hi CharlesPou,

My guess is that using your 400W heater powered by the batteries and inverter would likely use somewhere between 35-40 amps from your batteries.

If you have the dual-battery setup from Escape, these are rated at 225 amp-hours. However, you don't want to go below 50% or you will damage the batteries.

So if you had fully charged batteries, you could run the 400W heater for maybe 2.5 - 3 hours or so before you would be at the 50% level.

Probably not a good solution unless you run a generator while running the heater.

Happy Trails - Bea
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Old 09-07-2020, 12:29 PM   #4
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I also would recommend having your furnace fixed. It should work at those altitudes.

We have a 2018 5.0TA and we live at 8,500 feet and often camp at 10,000 + and so far both the water heater and furnace have worked fine.
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Old 09-07-2020, 12:43 PM   #5
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It may be a matter of readjusting the furnace when you go to higher altitudes to allow for more O2. (I have no idea how, just know that's likely why there is a problem.)
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Old 09-07-2020, 01:03 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesPou View Post
I have 2018 Escape 21', and furnace doesn't work above approx 7000'. I've given up on getting it to work, and have concluded it's a design issue. recently, I used it at approx 7500' and worked well, but then at 8100' was no go. water heater on propane is flaky too at higher altitudes, will heat water, but has to reignite many times, if above approx 7000'.

I wonder if this is a clue. You mentioned twice that a system that relies on propane is having trouble. One is "flaky".

Could it be the propane side of the equation? Maybe the propane is not being distributed properly or a fitting is not tight (or something like that).

I have mostly been above 9,000 feet this Summer and twice at 10,300'. I have had no problems with either system.
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Old 09-07-2020, 01:36 PM   #7
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thanks for replies. I think it's a know issue these furnaces don't always work at higher altitude. I have called Escape, they say call Dometic, Dometic says to take it to repair center. I contact the repair center, that's at less than 1000' elevation, and it will be a month or so before they can look at it. so, not that easy/ convenient to get repaired, if anything is actually wrong with it? I suspect repair center will tell me nothing is wrong with it, because it works well up to around 7000' and they aren't going to test it above 7000' anyway.

I now know more than I wanted to know about propane furnaces. the comment about the propane is definitely an issue. all propane is not the same. propane is blended for local use, much like gasoline. Dan lives at 8000', and I assume gets his propane there. I live at less than 1000' and get my propane locally. I'm guessing if Dan and I swapped tanks, he may start having trouble?

comments about running the electric heater off batteries and what I suspected. I could run the generators, but guess what, even the generators are problematic at high altitude, and need to be rejetted to run properly.

I did some more research on Mr Heater Buddy, and some say they work well above 7000' up to 10000'/ 11000'. for others, they don't work reliably at higher altitudes. so, I may get one to try, not much to lose IMO. cheers
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Old 09-07-2020, 01:42 PM   #8
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How about filling a tank up at 8000 feet and turning off the switch so you can pick which propane tank to use? One for lower altitudes, one fo higher.
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Old 09-07-2020, 02:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesPou View Post
I now know more than I wanted to know about propane furnaces. the comment about the propane is definitely an issue. all propane is not the same. propane is blended for local use, much like gasoline. Dan lives at 8000', and I assume gets his propane there. I live at less than 1000' and get my propane locally. I'm guessing if Dan and I swapped tanks, he may start having trouble?

We live very close to sea level, get our tanks filled locally and have not had any problems running the furnace or hot water heater at altitudes close to 10,000 ft. My understanding is that if you are having troubles at higher altitudes it's just a matter of adjusting the air intake on your burners.
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Old 09-07-2020, 04:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesPou View Post
I have 2018 Escape 21', and furnace doesn't work above approx 7000'. I've given up on getting it to work, and have concluded it's a design issue. recently, I used it at approx 7500' and worked well, but then at 8100' was no go. water heater on propane is flaky too at higher altitudes, will heat water, but has to reignite many times, if above approx 7000'.

so, I'm looking for backup heater. at 1st I was focused on Mr Heater Buddy, and seemed like way to go. after some research, appears it has same issue, not recommended above 7000'. so scratch Mr Heater Buddy, bummer.

I found a nice heater I like that uses 400w, but don't know how long will run on battery. I'm familiar with oil filed style, and think it will probably do the job. I need some help figuring out if this will work for me. I have no solar, but use generators, so can recharge batteries, no problem. any comments or suggestions welcomed. cheers

https://www.amazon.com/NewAir-Portab...9494065&sr=8-7
Maybe I missed something, or maybe every else did, but you mention electric heaters and generators. I read that to mean you would be OK with using a generator to run an electric heater.
It would be inefficient to run an electric heater on the inverter and charge the batteries with a generator to do so. A Honda EU2000i or equivalent can readily power a quartz heater. I have a dual wattage quartz heater (900w/1,500w) that I always run on the low setting (900w) when I have power available. It will keep my 5.0TA around 72° F when outside temperatures are hovering around freezing. With an extended fuel system (a larger fuel tank and a modified gas cap) it can be made to run for much more than what Honda says it will run at half load in their specifications. If the generator is fairly quiet like the Honda is, the quartz heater and generator will be less noisy inside than will the furnace.
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Old 09-07-2020, 04:58 PM   #11
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more replies, thanks. using local propane when camping at altitude is great idea. however, not very practical in my experience. guess I could carry an extra empty propane tank? also, 1st thing I figured out with my trailer and the furnace, it works better with only 1 tank turned on. so, that's what I do now.

sunrise, I noticed your trailer is 2015?, my 2004 Casita never had issues with propane furnace or water heater. I think maybe something has changed, maybe stricter emission regulations requiring design changes?, IDK. my 2018 has the latest Dometric furnance for that year. I'm pretty sure it is different from 2017, and far sure 2015.

what I would like to see is someone with my same furnace that's working at high altitude? cheers
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Old 09-07-2020, 05:14 PM   #12
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also, 1st thing I figured out with my trailer and the furnace, it works better with only 1 tank turned on. so, that's what I do now.

This is sounding more and more like a pressure issue or a clogged head.
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Old 09-07-2020, 06:47 PM   #13
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Um, us. Our 5.0 was completed November 2018 so pretty sure its the same furnace.

As far as the propane being different for different altitudes I'd like to see where you are getting that information. I read most of the Wikipedia about propane and it looks like every one gets the same HD-5 Automotive grade in North America ( Canada and the US anyway)

From Wikipedia
The North American standard grade of automotive use propane is rated HD 5. HD 5 grade has a maximum of 5 percent butane, but propane sold in Europe, has a max allowable amount of butane of 30 percent, meaning it's not the same fuel as HD 5. The LPG used as auto fuel and cooking gas in Asia and Australia, also has a very high content of butane. Propane is also shipped by truck, ship, barge, and railway to many U.S. areas.[24]

Propylene (also called propene) can be a contaminant of commercial propane. Propane containing too much propene is not suited for most vehicle fuels. HD-5 is a specification that establishes a maximum concentration of 5% propene in propane. Propane and other LP gas specifications are established in ASTM D-1835.[25] All propane fuels include an odorant, almost always ethanethiol, so that people can easily smell the gas in case of a leak. Propane as HD-5 was originally intended for use as vehicle fuel. HD-5 is currently being used in all propane applications.

Anyway that's what the wiki says.

I thought this was also interesting, Since lightweight, high-octane propane vaporize before the heavier, low-octane propane, the ignition properties change as the cylinder empties.

I always thought the grill or whatever burned hotter with full bottles just because they are full and have a better rate of evaporation.
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Old 09-07-2020, 08:15 PM   #14
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propane is a specific chemical compound. it would only be higher or lower octane if it was blended with other stuff to raise or lower the octane equivalent (higher octane fuels burn slower than lower octane fuels)

what you said about working bettter with only one tank on suggests to me that your failover over regulator isn't functioning correctly. I recently replaced the one on my 2014 with an Excelsior-Marshall, as the original one wasn't reliably failing over. I also got new pigtails (same E-M brand, made in USA).
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Old 09-07-2020, 08:37 PM   #15
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Is there a standard pressure for filled tanks?



I can't imagine there would be any difference with the elevation when filled.
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Old 09-07-2020, 08:57 PM   #16
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the pressure in a propane tank is the partial pressure of propane at temperature of the tank, until there is no liquid propane remaining, whereupon the tank is empty



the operating pressure of the propane system in the trailer after the propane regulator is 11 inches of water, this is about 0.4 PSI.
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Old 09-07-2020, 09:08 PM   #17
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ideally, for high altitude operation, the burners would have smaller jets or larger air intakes, but thats not very practical. its usually not an issue until you are well above 10000 feet above sea level and there just aren't that many places you can drive that high and camp.
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Old 09-07-2020, 09:28 PM   #18
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so, Don have you been camping at high altitude and used your furnace? Sun has, but based on his info he has 2015, not 2018 Escape.

IDK, but I don't think we are getting auto grade propane in our 20# tanks, here's link about different grades of propane. there's more info out there, but idea is all propane is not the same.

https://www.propane101.com/propanegradesandquality.htm

since I've been having trouble with my furnace I've been checking with others if they open both bottles or just one. I always opened both bottles on my Casita and never had any issues, other than the changeover would leak propane if I took one tank off to refill. many Escape owners I talked to said they opened only one tank at a time. that way, they knew when a tank was completely empty. I tried it just to see if made a difference and seems to help the furnace work better. by the way, the changeover on my Escape works and doesn't leak when I take empty off to refill.

question?, if water heater, oven, stove top, furnace at 7000' or below all work great, why would it be a faulty regulator? keep comments coming, maybe I can get it to work at high altitude? cheers
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Old 09-07-2020, 09:37 PM   #19
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actually, John says it well, not a huge concern for me because I don't often camp at high altitude when it's cold. however, from time to time I do, and having a furnace is pretty great, not have a working furnace is a bummer. 1st time it did it was a major bummer, brand new trailer. I got the sail switch run around, but that's not the issue.

I noticed maybe John has a pre 2018 Escape too, so maybe not comparable to my 2018? cheers
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Old 09-07-2020, 09:56 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanandDaphne View Post
I thought this was also interesting, Since lightweight, high-octane propane vaporize before the heavier, low-octane propane, the ignition properties change as the cylinder empties.
There is no such thing as high-octane or low-octane propane.
Octane and propane are hydrocarbons, or carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. When the ignite in the presence of oxygen, the bonds are broken releasing energy and new bonds are formed between the carbon and oxygen atoms and the hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

Propane is a hydrocarbon which contains three carbon atoms. Octane on the other hand contains eight carbon atoms. Propane is propane and octane is octane. As such, the number of carbon atoms in the hydrocarbon chains determine what compound you have. Motor fuels, that is, gasoline, are typically a mixture of hydrocarbons having larger numbers of carbon atoms in the individual molecules. Essentially, the greater the number of eight carbon molecules in a volume of gasoline the higher the octane rating. Propane does not have an octane rating because propane does not contain any octane molecules.
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