When working on something like an Airstream, you realize how much effort goes into either heating something up or cooling something down. Refrigerators, freezers, ovens, air conditioners, fireplaces, water heaters….we are pretty finicky creatures! On this post I want to talk about the most important, and arguably least important of the lot: the fireplace, and water heater. (Ok, I will be the first to admit, I am not going to do cold showers for a year, but I did say “arguably!”)
Let’s start with the water heater. You have a number of options in RV water heaters. The usual sort is a 6 or 10 gallon traditional water heater. Most of these are either electric or propane powered. These have severe disadvantages though. The chief of which is that you would only potentially have 6 to 10 gallons of hot water, and then also that you are constantly heating that water even when not in use. This sort is fine if you are using the Airstream as a traditional camper, because you expect not to have much hot water…if any, and won’t keep the water heater in use for long periods of time. But if you are living in it full time, you will need more. That’s where my friends over at Precision Temp come in. I opted for the RV-500:
It is a tankless or “on-demand” propane RV water heater that instantly heats the water whenever you turn on the hot water faucet. The beauty is that propane is only being used when I turn on the hot water, and I have as much hot water as I want. (Well as long as I have enough propane and water…) It is so efficient that a standard 20 lb tank of propane will give you over 60 – 10 minute showers! All for the cost of about $20 a refill of propane. If you are an Airstream owner, then you can request an pre-painted aluminum door that will polish up quite nicely. Here are the pictures of the install:
If there are many options to heat the water in your Airstream. there are even more on how to heat the cabin on a frosty night. I took my advice on this matter from personal sailors who often brave cold nights out on the ocean in a cabin not much smaller than an Airstream. Actually many of the appliances and strategies of small living are the same between Airstream’s and sailboats. After all, that is why Airstreams were termed “Land Yachts!” On a boat you have to have great efficiency from a heater and one that holds up in rather extreme conditions. After reading many user-reviews from sailors, and also seeing them also installed in “Tiny Houses,” I decided the Dickinson propane marine fireplace was for the Cruiser. It has a 12-volt fan that helps circulate the hot air created by the fireplace. It is also a “direct vent” design” which means it pulls air from outside for combustion so the fire is sealed off from any air inside the cabin. You want that because of safety issues, especially in such a small cabin. Did I mention it was efficient? A 20 lb of propane will get you well over 100 hours of heat. And its all stainless steel to boot:
I promise to get more pictures of the fireplace once we get to the final reveal, but I can say that the Precision Temp works like a champ. It is nice and constant hot water, whenever you need it. I am almost looking forward to winter now with all of these new shiny appliances!!