Installing Wood Stove in Camping Van

  • Hi NickG,

    the angled solar panel of 600 watts was needed to heat 21 gal of water to 160F for the HWHS in the V10 van in the winter. But I learned there are plenty of cloudy days during a winter in SE WY and to keep the circulating water from freezing I used an Iota power supply plugged into the 120v line from the house. There just was not enough good winter solar days to not need some electrical subsidization to the system. That system is gone.

    However there still is a need for the angled 600 watt panel. Both the van and the RV have 1200 watt microwaves. I have built 3 new toys -- electric dirt bikes. They all were made by me from Big Hit Specialized downhill frames and weigh in at 78lbs. The Sur Ron edirtbike from China weights 128 lbs.

    ![alt text](IMG_0194.jpg image url)

    For most of the time I use a 1200 watt hr battery pack of Multistar rotorcraft lithium polymer cells. On good summer solar days, panel flat, charging takes a little over 2 hr to charge one pack. This amounts to some 6 charges per day to be fully charged next morning.

    I also sometime employ an electric blanket in the night but this is 50 watts. 100 watts is too much for sleeping. I do have some electric heated motor cycle clothing which is power regulateable to about 150 watts. When temps are below zero and you are bucking a 40 mph wind you may want the full capacity even when wearing wind shells.

  • Pretty handy stuff. I am toying with your idea of keeping the propane cylinder under the kitchen counter. For space saving I am looking at both a 5lb and an 11lb tank. Both with a type 1 over flow valve. is that what I want? is there a different valve that I need for indoors???? Currently I am using the 1lb coleman bottles with a converter on my regulator hose. Seems to work fine when its charged but the one time I ran it completely dry it took
    an hour or so for the gas to start flowing again when I put a new bottle on it? is it possible that 1lb camping bottle is lower pressure than the regulator on the BBQ hose is designed for? It worked great when its charged. very new system to me. Only used one bottle of fuel on our short trip before winter. I can't remember if it worked right away the first time I hitched it up? The one time the bottle went empty it simply did not work when I put the new one on. went to a concert, came home and when I went to crash it was working and has been since then. Anyways I don't want to take any chances getting hosed with a stove that doesn't work so might get the 5lb or 11lb tank if I can convince myself that its safe to have under the counter.


  • NickG,

    My big and little propane tanks have performed quite well. Except the horizontal ones are harder to manage and not every one can fill them. I do not know of an indoor tank valve for propane tanks.

    The Coleman 1 lb bottle failure sounds like one of two things:

    1). Lint somehow can get into the propane line and plug up at the jet or earlier. I have had this type of stoppage with blow torches. Another form of lint blockage can happen inside the black or bronze depressing tip that is hollow, attached to the regulator and goes into 1. Lb cans to depress the tire like Shreador valves on these Coleman cans.

    2). The Schreader valve may be a little over tightened or poor quality control on critical dimensions of the cans valve positioning could make for little compression of the valve tip when the Coleman regulator fitting is tightened on the can.

    These Coleman bottle valves use a Schreader like wrench but the slot has to be longer than what length works on bike tubes. At any rate you may be able to back out the valve a little and then get adequate depression. Even if there is some propane leakage from loosening, the screwed down & tight regulator will seal off that type of leakage.

    Tracking down these Coleman bottle problems likely will not soon end. The quality control of critical dimensions on items like valve positioning may not happen soon with some Chinese manufacturing standards.

    I suppose if you expect a valve release on the propane tank you could build a setup to direct this released gas outside the cabin with a hose? Some other safety management policy is to fill you tank short of maximum legal fullness -- say 70%? And don't let it get too warm. Also reduce the propane pressure from 60 psi tank to the 11" water height just outside the tank. In other words minimize the high pressure lines.

    Nice looking cook stove. What brand?

  • I am using a brand new BBQ hose and regulator with an adaptor that allows the use of the coleman bottle. hence my thoughts that the coleman bottle did not have enough umph to push the gas through the regulator and fill the 5ft hose. I tried 3 different bottles with nothing happening. went to dinner and music came back and its worked fine since then but have not run out of gas again yet. I suppose the test would be to remove the bottle and let the system completely empty and then try again to see if it gives me trouble. Still new. I will look up the brand tomorrow. past my bedtime but it was very simple stove .did not come with regulator and has a standard 3/8th " fitting. Only regulator I could find with that fitting was standard BBQ hose with regulator. the adapter to coleman bottles is 8 bucks. its called a BBQ saver intended to be used if your 20lb tank runs dry in the middle of the party. stove cost $118.00

  • NickG,

    Whether propane is in the Coleman can or a big tank the unregulated line pressure will be some 60 psi when temp of the propane around 60F. Generally Coleman puts a regulator into the thread body that screws onto the male fitting on their tanks. The pressure coming out these regulators is roughly 11/(34 x 12) X 14.7. = 0.4 psi. Certainly 0.4 psi does not have a lot of umphf.

    RE: You might ask yourself why can one carry a flimsy Coleman can of propane inside a vehicle and not the somewhat heavier thick walled 10lb cylinder? The little cylinders have no relief valve and are not (by statue?) refillable for interstate commerce. They certainly are refillable and work well. But the safe limit of total fuel in the can is 1lb or whatever the full contents were when new or as designed.

    As I see it the unsafe feature of carrying the big cylinders inside a vehicle is that the overpressure release valve might release for high temp or overfilling the propane tank. A dispersed rich mix of propane and atmospheric oxygen in the cabin can make for one hot, loud explosion, that will singe the hair on you head and if the explosion is mild, you will just feel instantaneous hotness on your cheeks but no burns.

  • Not using a coleman regulator. using a coleman tank on a standard BBQ hose and regulator to an RV stove designed to run on BBQ tank and regulator.

  • Works great oce the line has bled but I ahd a problem getting it to work when the coleman bottle first attached.

  • NickG,

    You say:

    "Works great oce the line has bled but I ahd a problem getting it to work when the coleman bottle first attached."

    Trouble Shooting: open the gas line leaving the regulator output open to the air. Try this setup on several different Coleman cans to see whether you get propane flow consistently. It does sound like a faulty regulator that has developed to much leach in its mechanism. If you find you get propane outflow using an empty tank I want that faulty device and will buy you a new regulator in exchange.

    Some vendors of propane products claim (the likeness of ) a time delay (up to 5 min) from the time you turn on the tank valve until their control valve will permit lighting the pilot. Is this time delay a devise built into the control unit or do they mean there being air in the line on a new installation the propane arrival to the burner will come after all the air has gone through the pilot jet and that air expulsion might take 5 min?

  • My first thought was to just put a differ regulater on there but that seems silly if the issue is that standard BBQ regulators are not really compatible with coleman bottles...

  • NickG,

    Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The hardware sits in your hands along with doing the troubleshooting. Divide and Conquer or Divide and Measure. I would like to hear a resolved verdict on the propane tanks/ regulator issue as it sounds intriguing. You may have to spend time &. $$..

  • Success. Success. Two changes were made to the 3 cu ft. Guide Gear Wood Stove which is in the RV. First the OEM 3 3/8 " stove pipe was replaced with 5" diesel stack steel pipe. The second change was transformational in that the combustion chamber was reduced from OEM size of 3 cu ft to just under 2 cu ft.

    The RV stove had a 3.45" hub adapter to connect the stove to the stove pipe via a flange and i.d. Type insert. It was removable by unscrewing four screws which left a hole just under 3.5". If I could cut the needed 5" holes ( one in the stove and two through the thimble) on the same centers the 5" stove pipe would slide through the roof unto the new 5" hub adapter.

    ![alt text](IMG_0099.JPG image url)

    Here we see a makeshift unshortened hub adapter which is a 5" OD to OD coupler. Both it and the 5" OD to 5" ID couple which was the style used are noticeably wider in middle. This big bulge acts as a wedge stop to the coupler's further insertion into the stove. The bulge occurs in the center of the 8" height couple and most of the bottom half went into the stove. About 3" of the bottom of the pipe was cut off to leave a minor lip sticking side the stove -- 1/4".

    Note the right angle drill with the red 5" hole saw and fastened into it backwards is a 3.5" hole saw. These 2 hole saws are attached by 1/4" steel rod in lieu of the 1/4" steel drilling bit that is normally in the center holes of the two hole saw arbors. Typically half the hole saw teeth stick outward and half are bend inward slightly -- hole saw teeth set. Anyway the 3.5" teeth frame top is slightly less than 3.5" and fit the OEM hole very snugly. The inner hole saw in this fashion acts as a centering arbor for the outside hole saw. When the inner hole saw fit is tight you get very little wobble in the outer hole saw rotation and hence a very round hole.

    ![alt text](IMG_0100.JPG image url)

    There are 2 locations on the newly inserted ID to OD adapter that must have a sealing material added to stop smoke leaks. This location on a wood stove is too hot for RED RTV silicone sealant at 650F (temps at the hub (usually next to hottest spot on stove top) can get to 900F soon after startup). The black color visible above the yellow label on the coupler is Meeco's Red Devil Gasket Cement and Stove Sealer (2000F rating). This silicate cement sealant cleans up with soapy water. When dry the silicate cement sets up quite hard, almost brittle and does not form a supple gasket like material that is needed for the door gasket material.

    The second major change to the wood stove was to simply test for what changes adding the likes of fire brick would make on stove performance. Rather than spending $$ on real fire brick for such a test I just lined the stove's inside with clay bricks. A brick liner addition is a must for good low rate combustion control. But the addition of fire brick etc. will significantly reduce your combustion volume. I will report more later on the performance of these changes.

    Net gain: big reduction in smoke release into the cabin & may not go for external stove door.

  • Installing Fire Brick

    Lining a stove with bricks insulates the combustion chamber which makes for less scorching hot sidewalls. This retained chamber heat will also heat the wood up inside more uniformly and quickly during startup. The time interval from fire starting to steady state burning after brick lining is about one third of the time. An astonishing reduction, measured by how long the stove is burning until no gray smoke out pours -- clear hot air distortion with a tiny bit of black. The brick is placed on 3 of the sidewalls, not the door opening side. As for the bottom, the brick choice is optional since ashes will insulate his location quite well. The stove top will get hotter than before brick lining.

    Adding bricks will decrease combustion chamber volume. For example the nominal 3 cu ft large Gear Guide Stove in the RV is by selling dimensions 24" x 17" x 15" = 3.54 cu ft. Adding clay bricks to the bottom and 3 sides gave inside measurements of 22" x 11.625" x 12" = 1.776 cu ft. Clay bricks weigh 4 3/4 lb per brick so adding approx 35 bricks adds 166 lbs of thermal mass. The stove will cool slower as the wood charge dwindles.

    ![alt text](IMG_0236.JPG image url)

    Rutland Firebox bricks (ceramic) cost about $6.62 / brick delivered with sales tax while the clay bricks were free. The ceramic fire brick show 2700F and clay bricks rate a little above wood combustion temps 1400F. The thermal expansion rate of clay brick varies somewhat but often is about 1/2 of what the rate is for steel. Due to this big thermal expansion difference bricks are often not motar cemented to steel but fastened with just steel clips and rods. The joints however can be filled with high temp motar and this bonding together of the bricks will stabilize the brick wall to act like a unit.

    [link text](IMG_0231.JPG link url)

    So far I have not added any metal clips to hold the bricks in position nor applied motar to the joints.

    After doing the brick installation the trade off is a lower maximun heating potential of the stove while the gain was for lower temp controllable smooth burns and far less spurious smoke belching. The brick lining may yield lasting wood charges up to 6 - 8 hrs. The reduced flat plate office size ( a 3/4" washer) on the external pipe combustion air inlet feed demonstrates how low of a combustion rate the stove now stays burning.

    ![alt text](IMG_0102.JPG image url)

    A damper was also added:

    ![alt text](IMG_0104.JPG image url)

  • Interestin', fer' sure, fer' sure. Gonna tag this "DIY". Only other DIY'er thread thus far on RPU, at least as far as I can recall off the top of my noggin, is @NickG 's Sprinter Van Build. Be cool beans to see more of this kind of stuff. 🐕

    @DingusMcgee Let me know if you need help cleaning up those "![alt text](image url)" bits.

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