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DIY Guide: Install A Catalytic Heater in an RV


Disclaimer: Warning! Propane gas is very dangerous. Leaks in enclosed areas can cause sickness, death, and explosion. This is not a difficult project, but if you doubt your abilities I recommend hiring someone else to do this for you. Always TURN OFF GAS TANK before working on the propane system and always use gas rated thread tape on threaded connections.

You're going to need a few things in order to make this work:

Catalytic heater with an operating pressure of 11 W.C.
Flared male brass T fitting (3/8 inch)
Two flare nuts (3/8 inch)
Flared female to flared female coupler (3/8 inch)
Flared to pipe thread 90? elbow (3/8 inch)
Gas shut-off valve - female to female (3/8 inch)
Male to male pipe thread coupler (3/8 inch)
Propane hose (3/8 inch)
MrHeater quick-connect (if your heater does not use the quick connect you'll need the appropriate fitting)

Pipe flaring kit
Small/low profile pipe cutter
Razor blade
Pliers/Pipe wrench
Adjustable wrench
Gas thread tape

The first thing you'll want to do is check under your stove and fridge for an accessible gas line. The gas line available to me was 3/8 inch so that is what this tutorial will be based on. If you have a larger pipe just adjust the diameter sizes to the diameter of your pipe.

Once you have found an appropriate line you will want to go through the plan in your head many times. I recommend loosely piecing the brass fittings together and putting them next to the gas line where you are thinking of installing it. This will let you know how much room you do or do not have and may influence your choice of placement. Note: I recommend trying to put your flaring kit in the area you plan to do the install as well. if you don't have room to flare the pipe you cannot complete the install!

Once you have decided on a suitable spot in the gas line go outside and turn off your propane - if you haven't already. If you have any plastic conduit around your pipe cut that away with your razor blade. Once you have the desired section exposed mark two cut lines with your sharpie using the brass T as a guide. Cutting this section out will make it much easier to install your T. You will be able to manipulate the copper pipe slightly, but if you get too rough with it you will kink the pipe and cause yourself a world of regret - be gentle. Before you make your cuts, ensure that the pipe cutter is on securely and is straight. You need a good clean cut for the flaring process to work properly.

Once you've cut out that section you need to put your flaring nuts on both ends of pipe. DO NOT FORGET TO PUT FLARING NUTS ON BEFORE YOU FLARE!! You will not be able to get the nuts on after you flare unless you cut the flare off the end of the pipe. I decided to do a couple test flares with the small piece of pipe I cut out and I recommend you do as well. At this point it is time to flare both ends of the pipe. The gas line in my RV seemed like really thick walled copper compared to some I've seen so it took a lot of force with the kit to get a good flare. The flare is what makes the gas tight seal so a good one is important. You do not need very much pipe sticking out for good results, in-fact too much excess can lead to inadequate results.

Now you need to install your brass T. Wrap some gas thread tape on all three threads of the T. Attach by screwing the flare nuts nice and tight to the linear attachments on either end. Use your adjustable wrench and pliers in an opposing manner in order to minimize strain on the pipe itself. Make sure the angle is how you want it before you tighten down all the way. Now on the perpendicular attachment attach your flared female to female coupler, thread tape your 90? elbow and attach, now screw on the gas shut-off valve.

At this point if you have thread taped and tightened everything down well you can turn your gas vale to OFF and turn on your gas tank to check for leaks. Use soapy water on your connections to look for escaping gas. If you have a leak make sure the connection is actually tight and that thread tape has been used. After you have confirmed you have no leaks go and turn the gas tank back OFF.

Now, you need to connect your hose. This can be done in many different ways depending on your heater's connection. What I wanted was a 5 foot male to male 3/8 inch hose, but I could not find these locally so I settled for a 5 foot male to female hose with a male to male gender changer for the female end. I connected the male to male gender changer to the hose and then connected that end to the gas shut-off valve. Then I screwed on the quick connect on the other end.

Now it's time to... check for leaks! Connect your heater to your hose so that your system is complete and turn the gas valve ON. Go outside and turn on the gas tank. Again use soapy water to check for leaks and fix any in the same manner as before. Once you have confirmed you have no leaks you can test the heater!

Make sure there is nothing flammable near by, like the cat, and try to turn on the heater as per the instructions for your particular appliance. It should be working and now you have heat even when dry camping!

If you have any questions about this installation process please feel free to contact me and make sure to watch the video below. Please subscribe and like on YouTube!

Take care,

December 8th, 2014

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