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Friday, October 21, 2011

MOTORHOME MODIFICATION - Repair of our Olympian Wave 8 heater

Yup, sometimes things break.
Sometimes they break because we didn't read the directions.
Sometimes they break and need to be repaired, rather than just thrown out.

WE LOVE our Olympian Wave 8 propane catalytic ventless heater for the motorhome.  It uses no electricity or battery power. It is very frugal on the propane use.  It heats the rig up very well, and on 10 degree days, setting it on high it can just about cook you outta the motorhome.  Although it is rated safe for indoors, we also crack open window for fresh air and have a working Co detector.

Here is a link to the blog when we first got it and installed it.

When we installed it in early 2010, the directions warned us to keep it covered when not in use.  (we didn't) ...  and we later found out that the dust out west in Arizona did what was called "pad poisoning" to the delicate fibery pad on the unit.  We were in a number of dusty areas, and waited out two dust storms besides.  Even with the windows closed, you could taste dust in your mouth and feel it in your lungs. It did the damage on the heater for sure. 

By the time we were driving near Quartzite, AZ last winter, the heater would barely function or throw off any heat.  It would also kick off during operation for no reason.  Rut Roh!

Plus,  a combination of high altitude and possibly running our propane tank too low one time also caused debris to get into the inner workings of the heater when we were in Arizona.    Although the desert was warm during the days, the nights were cold and we needed the heater at night. 

From that point on, we knew we were heading up further north and needed heat while at the Grand Canyon and heat to get the rest of the way home...  so we had to pick up another heater fast.  

The Olympian heater is factory sealed and has to be sent in to the company for repairs.  Kinda hard to do while travelling on the road.   We could not afford another Olympian Wave 8 at the current price at an RV dealer in Quartzite ($550.00)   but we did stop at a nice hardware store on the main drag and found a ProCom heater for only $175.00 that would work in the meantime. We installed it that very night in the same spot that the Olympian occupied. 

Whew... we had heat again! 

This ProCom heater is similar to the Mr.Heater Big Buddy heaters--- with a radiant design and square white brick units.  10,000 BTU on HI and 5,000 BTU on LOW.  It works good and we used it the rest of the trip home, and all summer while camping.  

But we had this $500+ Olympian sitting there in the garage all summer, needing repair.  

I recently called Camco who makes the Olympian heater, and got the information for shipping it in, where they could examine our heater.  I happened to send it in the empty box from the ProCom heater and added a note saying that we are using the ProCom in the meantime, but REALLY REALLY want our Olympian back! Just so they knew we were loyal customers.  LOL 

Sadly, the warranty does not cover "pad poisoning", nor debris that comes through the propane lines. And that is exactly what they diagnosed as the problem.   So we were out of luck on a free repair under warrenty.  But they were very nice.  The cost to replace the pad was $112 in parts and $48 labor estimate.   I called them back on the phone with permission to proceed with the repairs and mentioned how much we loved our heater and how I blogged about it when we installed it, he later returned an email with a discount on our repair bill!   How nice was that?   

The heater was returned to us after repairs and we had it back here in 2 days!  

The repair guy at the factory strongly suggested two items to prevent this happening again in the future.  

One was to make a "sediment trap" to prevent unwanted gunk and debris from the propane tank to get into the heater.  It has a much more sensitive orifice opening than regular RV appliances like the fridge, water heater and stove.    He sent me this diagram:

He also strongly suggested that we get a cover for the unit when not in operation.  They sell them for about $20-25 plus shipping, available at many RV stores.   But I knew I could make something similar, and had Heather pick up some grey vinyl from Joann's on her way up here the next day.  I sewed a nice cover with magnets all around for a tight fit.  Steveio put a sediment trap on the line, installed the heater back where it belongs, and we were good to go! Ahhh that feels good! 

We put the extra ProCom heater in our house as auxiliary heating on the main floor by the dining room window.  (he added a sediment trap on there too)  This helps on our heat bill, so we don't have to run the bigger furnace as often, and is replacing an older unit we used to have in that spot. 

 It's on LOW right now as I type this on a 41 degree morning and I am quite comfy. 

Of course we sometimes throw a fire in the fireplace in the evenings, 
which helps on our household heating costs too.  

Now that I see this pic, I think that tonight will be a 
"Relax-By-The-Fireplace" night! 


  1. what a great deal for the repairs...and you could still use the other newer one to offset the heating costs in the house!! Way to go...

  2. As expected.....another interesting and informative post. Stay warm!

  3. What a battle to get the heater fixed, but nice that they gave you a discount on the repair. Sometimes lessons learned can be expen$ive.

    Nice cover, you make the nicest things with your skills. Stay warm!

  4. Thanks for the sediment trap picture! I have saved it, but wondering how much clearance is needed above the heater? I really want to put one in my Winnebago, just concerned about the amount of space needed above it.

  5. Hey David.. good question!~

    The manual says 4 inches clearance on sides and bottom, 18 inches from the top, and 30 inches out in front. 0 inches clearance from behind. We are a bit shy on the top clearance by a few inches, but that window lambrequin does not get even warm at all, so we are fine. We do remove the shoes from the front of the heater when operating it, of course.

  6. We have had our wave 8 since the Spring of 2011. Like you, we love it. I have been using a pillowcase as a cover, but as we head down to California and Nevada in January - we may need an actual cover. Thanks for the info.

  7. Thanks for the informative post. Good information.

  8. Nice job!! They sent me a new pad and I installed it myself....but I didn't save much....Stay warm!
    Mike McFall

  9. Bummer that these cost so much to fix! Someone just gave me a Wave3 but the pad is thoroughly dusty, mostly from rust that flaked on from the cage. I'm planning to sand the rust off the cage and then hit the pad with an air compressor and maybe get lucky. I don't imagine anyone has any tips to get a new pad short of spending more than it would cost to go with Plan B, a Buddy Heater?

    Either way, can't wait to be done with the absurdity of draining my RV batteries to run that 70 watt furnace blower. I have no idea why that became normal for RVs.

  10. Hello - thank you for your info . I currently live in NM and believe my Wave 8 has “ paid poisoning “. I am looking fir the Camco # to contact they for repair it replacement pad. By chance do you have a contact info.? Thanks much Sherri


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