Date: 26 January 2019. Catalytic
Heater Won't Light Remedy.
As the temperatures plummet, I
have a solution for those of you with the Coleman catalytic heaters
that don't light easily. I too had that problem with my original
heater. Because I was sure the first one was broken I threw it away. The
replacement developed the same issue. Here's how I solved the
hard-to-light heater fiasco aboard Seaweed.
require ventilation. Aboard Seaweed, I've got enough drafts to not
worry about that issue. If your boat is air-tight be aware and crack
a portlight or window. Additionally, always use both smoke and CO
My Coleman catalytic heater put off
1500 BTU's. I liked it until one bitterly cold day when I couldn't
Theory: The water was unusually
cold. That compounded with frigid winds and a drafty boat was too
much for the heater. Seaweed's main cabin (the galley) simply
couldn't get warm. I took the heater into the forward cabin. My room
is smaller than the galley area. It quickly heated and I was finally
That day, being
all alone at anchor in the Carrabelle River was probably the worst.
It also injected a large dose of caution to the idea of doing the
loop. I had considered staying north over winter and now, well,
that's not even on the radar. Being unable to heat Seaweed's galley
area was frightening.
And yes, I've taken steps to
ameliorate any similar situation since then. The water was extremely
cold and that contributed to the inability to heat the main cabin.
Additionally, Seaweed's galley is drafty. My forward cabin is not as
large and easily warmed up.
The problem is that eventually the
Coleman catalytic heater would not start easily. At first it is quite
simple to light a match or butane lighter, then hold the flame to the top of the
unit. Those days passed all too quickly, especially as I was using
my heater frequently.
if it was not bitterly cold I would run the heater to take the
chill off Seaweed. I used the Coleman catalytic heater daily for between
30 and 45 minutes. That small amount of time would take off the
chill. It provided a bit of comfort first thing in the morning. Being
warm is important for my happiness quotient.
Using the Coleman for those few minutes on cool mornings was
a dose of decadence. I could toast an English Muffin on a piece
of aluminum foil while the boat was warming up.
Life aboard Seaweed is amazing!!!
The one pound green propane
bottles burns for 14 hours in a Coleman catalytic heater. The
catalytic heater only has one setting. It's either On or Off. There
is no adjustment possible.
On a drafty 23' boat the
standard Coleman catalytic setting is mostly fine. For a boat larger than mine, one
unit may not be enough to heat your home. Of course larger boats often
close off all but one area in order to make the most of the
A Coleman camping burner allows a person to adjust
the amount of flame, and heat.
Burner assembly ↑
atop a one pound propane bottle.
The wider base offers stability when the boat rocks.
Many of us who heat with propane
also have purchased a back-up Coleman stove for our boats. The
burner assembly screws on to the top of the one pound propane
bottle. It is always good to have a secondary way to cook and the
burners are an option to consider. I found one for $10 at a thrift
Placing the unit into
the sink is a good idea too, especially if the boat is
rocking. My crock-pot lives in the sink when in use.
There is not a lot of counter space in many smaller boats.
Boaters not only look at items for
their utility, but other factors come into play as well:
Where can it be secured while
How easy is it to clean?
What locker it will live in when not in use?
But I digress...
Eventually my Coleman catalytic heater became harder to start.
Lighting it became more and more difficult. I had to have a
I remembered that a
catalytic heater has a surface that emits heat. Once it is lit
via a lighter or match it continues to work by burning propane from
the green bottle. I needed to circumvent the whole matches/lighter business.
I must heat my home. For many years
my only source of cabin warmth was a catalytic heater.
When I couldn't light the unit, I was in real
trouble. I had to have a solution to stay warm aboard Seaweed.
Of course, follow
in my wake at your own peril. This works for me. I present it here
as an option to consider.
ALWAYS remove the
green propane bottle first.
First, shut off the heater. Remove
the bottle. Place it upside down on top of a burner on the stove.
Next, turn the propane stove burner on medium heat.
*I don't know if this would work with electric burners.
In one minute the catalytic heating surface will be
hot enough to self-ignite.
Remove the heater
from the stove. Be careful:
It's hot! Screw the one pound green bottle on to the heater
assembly. Invert so that the heating element is right side up. Turn it on. You're all set. The catalytic heater should
work just fine.
DOUBLE CHECK and
If your heater does not continue to put out heat, turn off the
propane. It is not working. At this point, I cannot offer further
advice. I simply don't know what else to suggest -- except to
contact Coleman if it is still under warranty.
I must offer thanks to my friend Irene who took the
photos of her Coleman catalytic heater for me. I've already upgraded
so no longer have a heater for the burner pictures. Thanks Irene!
For the curious, I opted for an
Aladdin Genie III from
Depending upon which source I believe, this lamp puts out either
2,000 or 2,500 BTU's.
What I know for certain is that the Aladdin keeps me warm here in
Florida. It is more powerful than the Coleman catalytic heater
which is rated at 1500 BTU's.
I like the Aladdin. On sale I paid $140 or so if memory serves me.
Please note that I opted for a
clear glass font. The font is where the lamp oil goes. It is
important to not overfill with fuel. A clear font makes that process
easier. I chose a table model, without a pedestal for added
I can verify the Aladdin makes a
perfect toasted marshmallow, in case you wondered.
need to know: When new, Coleman
catalytic heaters are easy to start. I've had two. Both
eventually developed issues. They became impossible to light
the "regular" way. This is how I managed to use them after
they quit on me:
advice at your own peril.
In other words, use your own judgment!
Make sure your Coleman
catalytic heater is turned off.
Remove the one pound green
bottle of propane from the heater.
Place the burner assembly
upside down on top of your gas stove.
Turn the stove on medium
heat for one minute.
Remove the heater from the
burner, carefully screwing the bottle of propane back in place.
Place the unit right side
Turn on the catalytic
heater. It should be lit/putting off heat. Confirm that the
heater is working. If not, turn off the propane.
For me this method worked
well. I hope it helps you stay warm. If in doubt, always opt
for safety first. That's the most important thing.
It is rainy here in Florida. With temperatures
dipping into the 40's I'm grateful for the Aladdin Genie III lamp
from Lehman's. It is keeping me warm today.
Life is Very Good
aboard Seaweed. I am truly blessed.
To you and yours, stay warm and
thanks for reading.
Addendum. 29 January 2019.
Please understand that I do not have any problems recommending a
Coleman catalytic heater. This option is acceptable for those of
us on a tight budget. Larger units such as the Mr. Buddy burn
significantly more fuel. A one pound can of propane costs about
$3 for 14 hours of heat. The reason I chose a catalytic heater
in the first place was price.
Much later Tom from
Apalachicola told me about the Coleman200 mantle lanterns.
I was intrigued because I love oil lamps.
They put off significant amounts of heat. Unfortunately I was
unable to locate a Coleman200 in working condition. I do
continue to look for one. Having a back-up source of heat is
important to me.
redundancy is critical to safety afloat.
Further research suggested for my purposes an Aladdin Genie III
would be best. That is what I purchased. It has proven itself
over this cold snap. The bonus for me is that I already have
lamp oil aboard Seaweed.
I'd love to hear other methods of making a catalytic
And, what heating system do you utilize aboard your boat?
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In the Bilges,
Frog and the Red Tide ~
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