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The Verdict Is In (and the verdict is GOOD!)
on October 27, 2012
Ordered the heater back in May of 2012. A licensed plumber (certified in propane) installed the 16 feet of propane line. My jaw dropped when I got his bill: $400.05 -- did he really need to include that nickel? The heater cost me $179.95 and I see that it is now going for $239.95. You might want to purchase it off season.
I hooked up the heater to a 15 gallon propane tank and connected the line to the tank using a Mr. Heater 5-Feet Propane Hose/Regulator Assembly. It says right on the regulator, "LOW PRESSURE." ***BE SURE YOUR REGULATOR CAN DELIVER LOW PRESSURE (i.e., it may be a hose rated for high pressure that you can turn down, but you need to run low pressure into the heater or it can damage it. I didn't want to take that chance of any faulty guesswork, so I purchased the hose that had the words "LOW PRESSURE" stamped right on the regulator).
11/07/2012 -- EDIT: I wish I had seen this before I bought the other hose hookup. I would have purchased it: Red Dragon SL-1C Low Pressure Propane Hook Up Kit With 10-Foot Hose. Just copy and paste it into the search bar and see what you think.
The instructions tell you to put the control knob on "Pilot" and then press it down (push on it straight down, toward the floor) and hold it for 30 seconds if this is the first time you're using it. Boy, were they ever wrong. First of all, it depends on how long your line is from the tank. My 16 foot run took about 3 minutes to get gas to the pilot light! So, be patient and don't do what I did -- wasted some of my AA battery by clicking the igniter constantly for about 30 seconds before I realized what was happening. Just keep holding that big knob down in the Pilot position and then try the igniter every 15 seconds or so until it flames. Once that flame starts, they say to continue depressing the knob for another 30 seconds. Well, that's a bunch of bull crap. You can take your hand off after 6 seconds. Count 'em. The flame will not blow out the pilot once 6 seconds have ticked by.
Our house is 1,727 sq ft. We keep all three bedroom doors, the guest bathroom door and the laundry room door, closed. I'm guessing we're heating around 1,100 sq ft with the heater.
Here are some statistics you might find interesting...
A gallon of propane weighs approximately 4.2 lbs.
A gallon of propane has a burn rate of approximately 100,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) per hour. This means that if you run your heater continuously (30,000 BTUs) you will be consuming propane at a rate of about 1/3 gallon per hour. At 33,000 BTUs, your heater would be right at the1 gallon per hour approximation. I am guessing that my 15 gallon propane tank could therefore run for about 50 hours (because I'm only burning 30K and not 33K). The shorter the time you have your heater on, the longer you'll go between refills of your propane tank. (What's HUD spelled backwards?)
Since I don't want to do the math to calculate how long I can go (in theory) between refills by running my heater for 6 minutes on after each 50 minutes off (see my experiment below), 14 times per day, I went ahead and wrote the date of the last fill on the tank itself. When it becomes empty, I will have my answer and I'll let you know. I started with an empty tank and it took on 14.4 gallons of propane when I filled it at the local station. By the way -- I paid $2.99 per gallon! It is much cheaper at other locations, but I was too excited to wait.
Here are some results from a runtime experiment I've conducted:
Outdoor temperature: 55.6 F
Indoor temperature: 68.4 F
Time heater not burning: 56 min 46 sec
Time heater burning: 5 minutes 50 seconds
Outdoor temperature: 56.8 F
Indoor temperature: 68.5 F
Time heater not burning: 44 min 3 sec
Time heater burning: 5 min 54 sec
Outdoor temperature: 56.8 F
Indoor temperature: 68.5 F
Time heater not burning: 51 min 39 sec
Time heater burning: 5 min 32 sec
On the large heat control knob, there are small raised dots. There is a dot right at the "1" and then four more dots is where the "2" is. To achieve these runtime intervals (i.e., on/off times), I have set the dial to one dot past the "1" and this is where we achieve our 68 degrees (with temps in the 50s outdoors).
Something you should also know, and I had to find this out from experience. I thought that the low setting would set the flame lower and on the high setting, the flames would be larger. Not so. The dial is merely a thermostat. The flames are pretty much full whether the heater is on LOW or on HIGH. I did notice a little more flame at the very top end of the dial, but it's not much. To control the temperature in the house, therefore, all you need to do is select a spot on the dial and leave it there.
We keep our house at 68 degrees and dress warmer if we get a little chilly. But I am here to tell you, you'll burn a lot more propane if you keep your house just 2 degrees warmer and to us, it's just not worth it. We "wear" our 2 degrees and it doesn't cost us a penny more.
Here's something else -- the pilot runs while the flame is off. BUT -- when you are not going to be running the heater, just turn the whole thing off, including the fan.
The fan is rather wimpy, but adequate. I think it moves more air than we might think, but if you want more "wind," you might want to augment it with a small electric fan.
CARBON MONOXIDE CAN KILL YOU! -- Having researched many opinions about vent free heaters running inside a home, I decided to go out and purchase a CO (carbon monoxide) detector with alarm. I have a model that includes a digital display of actual levels of Carbon Monoxide and it displays the reading in parts per million. The very first sign of CO poisoning is a frontal headache. Go read all you care to about CO poisoning and what symptoms are brought about by what levels of toxicity (you never want it above 70ppm and you definitely need to leave the house if it ever gets up to 100ppm, but my device detects zero Carbon Monoxide. I have placed the device atop a set of shelves about 30 inches, nearly directly above, the heater. That said, we still have plenty of ventilation in our manufactured home (bathroom fans pull air into the enclosure through vents in our window design) and the heater does come with a low oxygen shut-down safety feature. Which I don't trust. Which is why I bought the CO detector/alarm unit.
Obviously, it is still a warm Autumn with mild outdoor temperatures. But that's all gonna change soon. We bought this heater in preparation for the power outages we'll face when the big Pacific Northwest storms start pounding us.
I am giving the Mr Heater Model #VF30KBLUELP 30,000 BTU Vent Free Propane Heater 5 stars. Wimpy fan or not, this is a kick-butt alternative to any dependence on electric furnaces when the power goes out. And I think it can also hold its own as a primary heat source in any area with adequate ventilation (along with a CO detection device, just to be on the safe side).
Hope this review helped.