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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - *O* is Olympian Heater, TV and Front Porch

I am going to start off the new year with posting some of our motorhome modifications, a few at a time. I will post repairs, modifications, or neato things we have found for RVing.  I have lots of pics in my files so I will do them in alphabetical order.

Underneath that stuff, I will post my regular daily stuff..... kinda sorta fun, eh?

So here it goes, we are up to the letter O now!


Olympian Wave 8 Catalytic Propane Heater:

Steveio has been doing upgrades to our motorhome to make it more comfortable for boondocking. He had the opportunity to purchase a new catalytic heater at a great price.   They normally run $400-500, and he got it for less than half that price.  This is a Wave 8 model from the Olympian heaters from Camco. 

We do not like to use the big propane furnace that comes installed in most RV’s.  Not only is it a big waster of propane, but the blower unit really drains down the battery bank fast.  Unless you are on shore power hookups, it really isn’t a good appliance to be using for the type of boondocking or rustic camping that we do.  

The big furnace ducting on our motorhome is very inefficient and poorly planned. One duct actually goes OUT of the basement area, loops down through an open wheel well on the driver’s side with flexible hose, and then back IN again into the rig to heat the back bedroom.  Needless to say, the air flow is almost non-existent at the bedroom vent, and even shutting down the vents in the front portion of the rig doesn’t help much either.  The only time the big propane furnace would be needed is to keep the basement compartments heated in subzero temps, to prevent that holding tanks and water lines from freezing. 

So, in not wanting to use the big LP furnace, we did what most RVers do… Our First Solution----  we called on a buddy… Mr. Buddy!  I talked about him a few blogs back on the letter *M*. 

In the past, we had piped in an extra propane line through the basement, over to the passenger side of the rig, up through the cabinet that is under our table (it contains the extra leaves for our table)  …  and added a shut off valve and flexible propane hose.  Onto this hose we would hook our portable Mr Buddy heater.   Because the Mr. Buddy can operate on high pressure propane tanks, it has a built in regulator.  But so does the propane line in our rig.  Guess we were being *double regulated*  hee heee   We needed to alter the Mr. Buddy by removing it’s built-in regulator to let both Lo and HI settings work in our rig.

This setup has worked great for us for a few years….  but ….. we wanted something mounted to the wall, out of the way. My brother put a smaller Olympian Wave 3 in his fifth wheel and loved it. Steveio started hunting and researching, and found a great deal on this larger Olympian Wave 8 unit.

Our rig has a lot of windows, which is nice, but very little wall space.   This area is about the only spot that would work for such an installation.  It's in the middle of the motorhome so the heat could be more centralized.

Now… my guy has a *thing* about using templates.  He HATES them! But lo and behold, look at this:


Hmmmm seems Old Dogs CAN learn New Tricks?    
heh heh

He also hates instructions… so while on any project we do together, I am frantically reading the printed stuff, before he jumps way ahead and does something he ain’t supposed to do yet.

Here Steveio is flaring the copper pipe and drilling a hole through the cabinet to let the hookup attach to the heater.   I got to make sure it was *level*  and he did the testing of all the flare fittings for leaks.

It lined up pretty well! 

(note: we later installed a "sediment trap" which is discussed further below)

We lit ‘er up and filled the motorhome with heat in no time flat!   It was 28 degrees when we went out there, and in no time we were up to 57 degrees!   Now to put away all the tools (and remove that step cover)

This is the flip down step cover.  We felt it was too close to the heater, and also blocked the heat from coming to the back of the rig. When it is in the UP position, it’s a grab bar on the stair side and locks into place in vertical position along that wooden brown board you see next to the door.  

That carpeted surface was too close for my peace of mind. 

 In the DOWN position, it’s a carpeted cover to prevent folks from falling into the stair well of 2 steps down when the unit is parked.  (we never use it in the DOWN position)

   We removed the hinge and cover, and tucked the carpet edge along the brass strip surrounding the stair well opening. Ahhhhh much better! 

AND-----  A year or so later, here is our second blog post about the heater... when we learned our lesson about keeping the heater covered when not in use, and pad contamination from junk in our propane lines! 

 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 be thrown out.

WE LOVE our Olympian Wave 8 propane catalytic 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 very cold 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. 

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 we 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. 

I 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 2 problems.   So we were out of luck on a free repair under warranty.  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.  

1. 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:

(its a little blurry, I enlarged it from another photo) 

2. 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 with some heavy vinyl.  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! 

And now it is 2018, the heater is still operating just perfectly.  So my advice is that if you put one of these in, please put in a sediment trap on the propane line, and make or buy a cover for it.  Learn from our bad choices, and then you can enjoy your heater! 


I finished sewing the fabric for the couch cushions and the throw pillows and the ottoman seat.  Wheeeee I think it looks so nice and crisp and clean!  I am glad Steve found those chairs, because that gave me the inspiration to get different fabric and make new cushion covers.

 I have two more throw pillows to finish up yet. 
I also have four throw pillows that match that quilt too.
I might put 2 on the couch and 1 on each chair for accent.

Not sunny today, and quite a bit colder than last week.
We are not sitting out in our chairs this morning.

Now I realize the rugs are not in the same tones, 
these are more denim looking and dark. 
 I think I will weave some more in a matching tone. 

Steve is thinking we should change the color of the wood floor to a grey porch and floor enamel, and you know what that means?  It means ME repainting it (Steve hates painting).  I do think a grey will look better as well.  There are some bubbled up spots from when I painted the blue last year, probably from something clear that was spilled by the grandkids and we didn't know it was there when I painted on the blue.  It needs to be sanded down before applying more paint anyhow. 

It's snowing out there this morning,
It is looking so nice and white and fresh! 

The dogs are on guard duty, from the couch in the livingroom facing the porch. They are looking for Steve who is out there shoveling the sidewalk. They also keep an eye out for any doggies walking past, and especially for the MAIL LADY! 

Yesterday our 5 year old Vizio tv went bonkers. It would suddenly flick through all the channels on it's own, all by itself.  Then the volume would go up to 100 level and not come down. The only way to stop it was turn it off and unplug it!  I tried 3 different remotes and it wasn't the remote.  (we have Vizio's in the motorhome and bedroom)  Even using the side buttons on the tv itself, it would go crazy.  If you touched a button, it might work, but then suddenly it wouldn't work at all.  I went online and found out a lot of the older Vizio's fault out like that. I did all the online suggestions of factory reset, power reset, holding buttons etc. Nothing.  It would still be good for a gamer tv, just keep it set on one station and one volume.  So I posted it to give it away for free on the local buy sell trade facebook pages. Maybe someone wants it for their kid to play games on, and it will keep it out of the recycling center?

We went online to check our local Walmart to get another tv.  They had one on sale that we liked.  Now that we added unlimited higher speed internet to our house from Frontier, we decided to get a "Smart TV"  with an internet browser on it as well. Samsung has that feature and is below $300. 

We got to the Walmart and their inventory said they had 4 of those particular ones in stock, but the clerk couldn't find them.  He called a manager who couldn't find them either. We waited patiently while they double checked and triple checked.  Finally they came back and offered us the next size larger with the same features for the same price!  We got $60 off and got a tv 3 inches bigger (not that it really mattered in size for where we are putting it) It took a while to set up the menus and features and get it all figured out.  

Us Old Dogs are Learning New Tricks! 

We are due for cold weather, and more *S*N*O*W* all day today.  I think we will have to wait for more spring-type weather to enjoy our newly refreshed front porch. 

They said we are due for 4-7 inches around here.  Steve has to drive a handicapped person to the dentist in the next town over, and then wait for them.  After he returns them to the nursing home, he can come back home for the rest of the day.  I guess it's icy under the snow.  Time to curl up in front of the fireplace and forget about stuff for a while.

After all, it's only the beginning of March. 


  1. I really think you two are the handiest people of all the RV blogs I read.
    I'm just amazed at what your able to fix, repair and upgrade...... In your
    wonderful home and motor home. Good for you! Your able to afford much
    more and I think you enjoy the accomplishment. Bravo !
    I love the blue fabric in your sun room...... I vote for gray floor too. Lol


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