Installing Wood Stove in Camping Van

  • I used to piss in the snow barefoot in 20 below zero f. Over that. Now I use a pee bottle. I applaud your efforts. you are obviously very well educated and handy. The whole process just seems a bit too involved for me. I have no idea what the actual cost is but if I had something in a van other than a Mr Buddy I would be seriously looking into the unit that runs off your diesel and comes right out of the vehicles fuel tank. If not that system then propane off the kitchen supply. Is your propane tank outside the vehicle? gas guy told me that was mandatory.

  • Just after the time that some USA terrorist tried to use propane tanks on the back of a vehicle for creating some kind of an explosion, the local cops pulled me over for having a propane tank mounted on the back of a GMC Safari. I showed the officer the routing of the line to the 8000 BTU Atwood heater and he left.

    Yes, my propane tank is inside the van and one propane refiller has told me that it is mandatory to have it on the outside. Another propane refiller is more than willing to fill the tank while it is inside the van if the tank is dead empty when he begins to fill it. Tanks are not to be filled beyond 80% full. I have the tank filled to 70% of full so there is little likelihood the tank safety pressure valve will release. The all time high temperature in Laramie is 94F.

    When mounted underneath, the horizontal tanks rust soon due to highway salt in the snow melt. When on the back of the vehicle the tank could get rear ended. The steel propane tank has to be far stronger and wear resistant than the permitted copper lines and those thin rubber propane line we see in some Coleman applications.

    If you mount the pressure regulator close onto the tank valve the pressure is not 60 psi STP but 11 oz of water pressure equivalent that is on the low side of the regulator and in the hoses and lines.

    I have yet to hear a good argument as to why the inside location mount is so dangerous. You have a periodically pressure tested tank in a rust free setting. Do you know any justification or is this ruling just statute?

  • I had a potbelly cast iron wood burner in my van for years.
    Bought in Bishop for $25
    Never had smoke in the van
    Burned coal in it too.
    You could get 100 pounds of coal back then for $9
    One small chunk before you go to sleep burns all night.
    Now a days you can't get anything because they've made everything against the law by stupid brainwashed idiots.
    Now a days everyone is stupid and stares at their stupid phones all day and gets brainwashed while doing nothing but mental gymnastics.

  • SmokinDuck,

    I enjoyed your report and the use of coal. I had an option for a cast iron stove but it weighted almost 400lbs.

    I think it is those stupid Americans using cell phones all the time.

  • LOL !!! Too funny

  • I always thought a little marine wood stove would be cool in a van. These are petite but pricey. The Sardine is the smallest version.

    Can’t imagine cutting a hole in the sides of the van to put the door on the outside. Having a little stack of sticks/kindling to restoke it from the inside seems far more practical. Opening a door and going outside to restoke it? Seems overthought. Keep it simple.

  • @FritzRay sure thing gramps...

  • @RussWalling! Thank you. I always cherish your kindly attitude towards your elders.

  • Bargainhunt,

    You say, "keep it simple"? For simplicity I suppose we could run an auxiliary engine exhaust pipe down the middle of the inside of the vehicle and we would have almost instant heat. The other leg of of the exhaust pipe would go the traditional way. A simple thermostat could control to which pipe the prepondernce of heat went to keep the cabin temp at the desired temp. This system is simpler than the little heater radiator, hoses, fans, ducts etc we now use. But this simple design has some safety issues.

    The design heuristic "keep it simple" is likely never used in any serious design. You would get all kinds of poor working crap that had not accounted for safety and other constraints. The RV in question already had 2 outside access door panels to monitor the propane refrigerator and the propane hot water heater controls. Likely these doors were put outside for safety reasons -- propane leaks & CO release.

    So the stove monitoring door placed to the outside is not so unusual? Oh tell me how would you create a smoke free cabin space using a wood stove for heat and keep it simple? The real constraint for me is that I can get asthma from some particulates in the air.

    I suspect a well thought out design is not so simple for simple minds?

  • Sealing the Wood Stove Door

    Some doors on the finest cast iron wood stoves have overlapping rims meshing with glass rope gasket material and leak very little except maybe when full damper is applied. The gasket that is affixed to the cast iron door on the Gudie Gear Stove lays flat against the its cast iron frame. This fiberglass rope gasket is attached to the inside of the door and bonded to the door with furnace cement (2000F rated).

    The fiberglass rope even when compressed when the door is closed allows for smoke to enter the cabin because there are air passage channels in the rope weave making for air pathways to the outside. These can be sealed by rubing RED RTV sealant into the rope weave. The door temp is very unlikely to see temps near the sealants rated 650F. If you see some sealsant degradedation try Mil-Pack Black rated to 1100F and about $30 for a 10 oz caulk tube.


    These flat cast iron doors will get a little hotter in the upper center than they do near the perimeter. This temp difference pattern will cause the door to bow outward in the middle upper mating surface and leak smoke especially during the hottest phase of warmup. Using a flat type feeler guage say 0.003" you can delineate the edges of such gaps. The filling of the gaps is done with a flexible steel rule used as a trowel. A drywall trowel is a little stiff as you may want some convexity to the fill. I do this type of filling in several lifts or application of RED RTV.

    Another source of a miniscule smoke leak is the passage way of the door handle bolt through the door plate. Simply add the sealant into the gap around the bolt and its passage hole. After the sealant sets up you will still be able to turn the handle.

    door rope & sealant

    A window in the stove door may seem like a luxury but you can get ceramic glass as opposed to mica (Isinglass) for about $1.25 per sq in. Cut the hole in the cast iron door with either a thin grinder or metal cutting jig saw. A cutting torch just does not work well for cutting cast iron. You will need a steel frame, some kind of sealant and few little bolts.

    A stove window will allow you to check the wood charge volume and get an idea of the adequacy of the air supply without having to open the stove door or look at the fluent emitted from the end of the stove pipe outside.

    stove window glass

    Pellet stove window parts may not have a high enough temp rating? to use as wood stove window parts but here is another link offering various window kits and parts:

    Englander Stove Parts

  • Locating the Thimble Hole and Sealing the Stove Pipe

    Residenial Building Codes mostly require a 3 feet distance from the sides of the stove to combustible surfaces. This distance can be reduced to 2/3 = 2 feet if a non combustible covering material is placed over the combustible surface. Hardi cement board is good choice for such covering and also makes for a non flammable base for the wood stove. Drapes and the likes seem somewhat more combustible than wood surfaces. No curves in the stove pipe make for both the easiest installation and the least fluent friction.

    Stove pipe comes with a tapered knurled end and the bigger end is called the bell end as it fits over the tapered end. There are some worthy considerations for both running the bells up or the bells down. If the bells are down there tends to be less smoke leakage out these joints. However the big drawback is that when the cabin is quite cold at startup, condensate will form on the inside of the pipe and run down out the bell down configuration and dry on the outside of the lower pipes. I have done my installation bells up and sealed all the bell joints. The two bells closest to stove will likely sometimes exceed the temp rating of Red RTV sealant. Imperial black furnace cement 2000F will work on these lower joints.

    These seals can be tested for leaks by turning the damper horizontal during the hotter smoky phase of stove warmup. The location of the damper from the stove top is better farther than nearer to the stove top. When the damper is applied there will be noticeable temp drop accross the damper location as a you measure outward and stove pipe below the damper will get hotter when it is on. A hotter pipe releases more heat and a longer pipe space to the damper will release more heat than a short distance would.

    There is a residential rule for how much stove pipe is above the roof. The rule is referred to as the 3-2-10 rule. It means that the exit of fluent should be 3 feet higher than the roof below (the thimble) and at least 2 feet higher than anything that is within 10 feet of the pipe.

    The highest bell on my stove pipes is about 6 inches above the top of the thimble. The 32 inches of pipe above this location is removable. Not all underpasses are 14'6" and the tree limbs along 2-tracks can form a canopy of less height than the top of the pipe.

    There can arise situations for the 3-2-10 rule where things on the roof change height depending on the location of the sun. My RV has Solar Cell Panels on the roof that can be jib pooled up by a winch to get the best solar cell sun angle for a given time of year. Since th solar cells panel is up and angled only during the day I just have 3 feet of pipe above the roof as the stove is used when the panels are flat -- nighttime.

    Here we see the solar array flat.


    Here we see the winch pulling the panel into a good winter angle. Its shadow when on the panels will substanially lessen power generation -- the effect is somewhat non-linear and is more than simply a reduction of power gain proportional to the area of the shadow divided by the area of the affected panel. The 3 feet of stove pipe could cast a shadow on the panels at low sun angles.


    When the braces behind the panels kick in support the jibbing winch can be lowered enough to cast no shadow on the panels.


    For the RV stove the OEM pipe is too small at 3.5". I am switching to 5" non bendable steel exhaust pipe and will have only one joint about 4" above the thimble. The non bendable steel exhaust pipe costs about 55% of the what the bendable steel pipe does at an auto parts store. A muffler shop may see you coming and sheer you for this stuff and likes of pipe expansion to make a bell. The auto part stores have an assortment of couplers that are either OD over or ID inner fit.

  • I just have two 100w panels but they seem to keep up with my power needs rather well? I do try to park in good spots but so far have not needed any fancy tricks like this. pretty cool idea though if you use a lot of power.

  • 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.


    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.

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