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Old 11-12-2012, 05:16 PM   #1
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wood or propane opinions

im open for opinions on what to do for heat in my skoolie, i have tossed both around in my head and still can figure out which to use. Right know im thinking the propane would be cleaner and smell better but would create a sweating issue, not sure which one is safer. i have a freind with a 70's bus and they use a three burner infrared only on one burner says it sweats around the seems but one wipe with a cloth and it dont sweat anymore. What are yalls opinions on heating?
thanks in advance,
Shandon
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Old 11-12-2012, 05:49 PM   #2
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Re: wood or propane opinions

OPTIONS, OPTIONS...

We have our electric included in our site rental. So we use electric. Electric space heaters, electric water heater. LP gas range (I can heat water on the stove if need be), LP space heater in the bathroom area (roughly the middle of the bus), the hydronic heat uses a 6 gallon LP RV water heater with an electric heating element added to it but it's not fully hooked up yet. Once it is, we will get rid of the electric space heaters, add in an electric fireplace insert and use the hydronic system for most of our heat.

If the power goes out or we are not on shore power, we can heat with LP and still cook on the range. No, we don't have a sweating problem but I think it may have something to do with my range... a home style 30" GE Profile... very efficient on fuel, WAAAY more efficient than the tiny RV range that is in the Class C (very slight problem with sweat but we are in super dry NM). When hooked to shore power, we use included electric. We pay monthly rates and our electric has been included in our site rental more often than not. Even when on metered electric, AC was the same price or cheaper than LP (I have a tiny spreadsheet that figures it out for me).

But it's not really what we did. It's what will work best for you! How will you use your bus?

If you are in a high humidity area, you may want to get a dehumidifier and set it up to drain directly outside.
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Old 11-15-2012, 02:09 PM   #3
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Re: wood or propane opinions

We're set up to use 3 different heaters:

1) Propane/electric RV furnace (Atwood Hydroflame)
Pro - thermostat controlled, no humidity issues, very safe with no CO or O2 issues
Con - fairly heavy battery drain at 40w with fan running, not very fuel efficient

2) Electric 1500w milk house heater
Pro - fairly quiet, no humidity or CO issues
Con - need to be on shore power

3) Little Buddy catalytic propane heater
Pro - No battery drain, silent, 100% fuel efficient, no CO issues,
Con - Can use up all oxygen in a vehicle, humidity problems possible

If we were converting a full size bus I would consider a wood stove
Pro - Free fuel, no humidity or CO problems, nice homey feel
Con - Heavy, expensive venting, needs constant attention, takes up a lot of space, if no outside air vents installed the stove pulls a lot of cold air into the bus for combustion, must be cleaned often.
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Old 12-14-2012, 03:39 PM   #4
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Re: wood or propane opinions

I have a wood stove. It's pretty sweet, but if you're bouncing around in a city, it can be a pain in the ass. It really limits where you're able to camp out. I wouldn't try to get away with all of that smoke pouring out in a walmart parking lot. Plus if you want to be safe, it takes forever for a fire to die out completely. I'll drive around after it gets down to coals with the damper and the flue both closed. I like to keep the coals going as much as I can because it'll keep the place at lest reasonably warm for hours. CO is a factor. Get an alarm if you go with wood. Mine has gone off a few times now (still working out some kinks), at least once when I wouldn't have thought that anything was wrong. Also, keep an eye out for kreosote buildup. I have a 6" exhaust reduced to 4", so it builds up quicker. It's actually something that I still have to figure out, as it's blocked off the exhaust twice now. It forms when exhaust temps are under 250 F. As it turns out, at least for me it's been impossible to get temps that high without roasting me out of the place altogether. I could open some windows and crank up the fire, but that just seems dumb. The stove I got is probably just too big, but I couldn't imagine using one much smaller. As it is, I think that this one's on the lower end of the standard size. I wouldn't worry too much about it pulling in a lot of cold air unless you just really have no insulation to speak of. Even then you could keep the place warm. Might just go through more wood doing it. I've heard good things about pellet stoves if you can afford one. I'm happy with the wood stove, but it hasn't come without its challenges. BTW, ALWAYS go with dry, seasoned wood. I got talked into taking some free wood that was still green. He said that because it was late in the year, most of the sap had receeded into the roots so it shouldn't be a problem. I wish that I would've just left it there and went out and bought some legit firewood.
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Old 12-14-2012, 03:49 PM   #5
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Re: wood or propane opinions

Also, fair warning: if you go with wood and end up with the same kreosote problem that I have, you're gonna have the stuff dripping out of the exhaust cap as it condenses and eventually dripping down the side. I haven't tried to clean it yet. I figure I'll wait til spring and just get it all at once. And put a tee in your piping at the bottom of the vertical exhaust so you can clean out any buildup that breaks off and falls to the bottom (and if it gives you room to work a brush up there, all the better. And get a damper. Some people will tell you that you don't need one, but if you plan on driving with any embers at all, you'll need one to keep a draft from stoking things back up.
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Old 12-14-2012, 09:58 PM   #6
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Re: wood or propane opinions

Thanks Ridgeway, good post and well presented.
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Old 12-14-2012, 09:59 PM   #7
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Re: wood or propane opinions

wood stove does make creasote drippings... big deal... i just clean it every month or so.

i have propane furnace, wood stove, ceramic electric heat for heating... have yet to start the propane furnace this year. have used wood stove probably 7 nights this winter, and normally my bus is kept warm enough by one of the ceramic heaters in the kitchen, and occasionally if it gets below freezing to long, then the second one in the rear bedroom.

i would never build another bus without a wood stove, now that i have had one for the past year. Besides, it is great for burning paper, etc, instead of hauling it to the trash pile.

speaking of the bonfire pile, its gonna make a great christmas blaze this year, its 35 feet in diameter now since we have been clearing the fence line...
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Old 12-14-2012, 10:32 PM   #8
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Re: wood or propane opinions

I love the warmth and cozyness of a wood stove but to have one in my 90 sq ft Skoolie it would have to be on a trailer '49, you better be carefull with your 35' fire or you are apt to have extraterrestials thinking you are inviting them for a holiday dinner Jack
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:08 PM   #9
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Re: wood or propane opinions

If the creosote just dripped off, I wouldn't mind it so much either. But it builds up into a sort of styrofoam/honeycomb sort of formation and has cut off the exhaust a couple of times now. And disconnecting the piping to clear a clog while there's a fire already trying to start has been one of the more harrowing ordeals I've been through with this so far (I can see how a person could be overwhelmed by smoke). And they do talk about the risk of chimney fires, although I've heard that that's a danger that's been blown out of proportion. But really any fire risk is worth being at least mindful of. On an interesting note: I guess there are some legitimate uses for the stuff, as there's actually a creosote factory not far from where I'm staying. I think it's supposed to have some sort of anti-septic properties or something.
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:16 PM   #10
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Re: wood or propane opinions

I was thinking about putting a secondary burn in mine. It's basically just a length of perforated black pipe along the top of the baffle that introduces oxygen to the wood gas and ecourages combustion. If I do it, I'll be piping it in through the exhaust, so I wouldn't have to cut a hole in the stove itself. There are videos on youtube. It looks like a really simple modification that might cost $20 and is supposed to give pretty impressive results. If I do it, it'll mostly be to cut back on the smokiness, so I might have more options on where I park. It seems to make a remarkable difference with that. If anyone has any tips on that, it'd be appreciated.
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