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Thread: Aircraft Heat; What Works, What Doesn't

  1. #1
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    Default Aircraft Heat; What Works, What Doesn't

    I plan on setting the C-170 up w/ electric heaters for in town pre-heat. I've got a Honda 2000 generator, but when I'm parked out front I'll have power close to the plane.
    What do you guys use for "in town" electric heaters?
    What do you use for areas that you do NOT have power?
    What have you used that just did not work, and what were the reasons that system failed?
    Have you developed any new and cool ideas that you want to share?
    Are you a "fan" of under the cowling catalytic heaters? Why or why not?
    Where did you buy your "components" to build your own? Do you have photos?
    Likely there are charts someplace for ambient temps, vs. heat temp, vs. time to bring an engine up to an acceptable temp to avoid damage. Does anybody have one handy that they can copy and paste?
    Again, you guys have done this, been there, and I really do appreciate your insights. I find that there is all sorts of gear available today that I did not have access to 25 years ago.

    Along with the topic of heat, how did you develop or install winter fronts on your aircraft? The 170 is very open up front. No doubt that especially the front cylinders will run cold, especially at low temps. How did you solve that problem on your aircraft? I've noticed that my cowling is different than the original when the plane had a 0-300. I've been looking at other 170B w/ conversions, but have yet to really see what I think I'm looking for. Do you know anybody in the FAI area that I might be able to talk to? And of course, any photos you have, Cessna or other, would be cool.

    What am I missing?
    ARR

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    I prefer oil sump heaters, preferably a pair of 250W Wolverine heaters. The nice thing about the oil sump heaters is they are very safe. Installing them properly is best done when the engine is not on the airplane. Since my current plane has not had the engine off since I bought it, I don't have sump heaters. At present my solution is to use a 250W space heater in the pilot side air inlet, a battery blanket heater stretched along the copilot side inside the cowling, and an incandescent work lamp hanging from the engine mount. I am very cautious about how I set them up to keep from having cords that anybody could decide to try to walk over. Not a big fan of the current situation. Going to install heaters hopefully soon. And I use a 1000W Honda generator in the field.

    I use an oil cooler cover in the winter. Haven't done anything else.
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    Tanis electric heater and an engine blanket works pretty good.

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    Engine blanket...I guess I assumed that...certainly would be a waste to try to preheat without it...
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    For in-town I use my Red Dragon heater with a small propane bottle and 12 volt jumper cables. And of course my insulated engine cover.

    I have hauled the Red Dragon, engine cover and my 12 volt jumper system battery out in the boondocks a few times in larger planes.

    I also have a metal 5 gallon paint pail with vent holes and a flexi pipe. Inside that I place a Coleman camp stove. It drafts right up the stack and will eventually pre-heat an engine or hold heat into a ward engine. I have also used it as a large tent heater. In-flight i store items in the 5 gallon can.
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
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    I've used sump pad heaters and a Little Buddy and they work, but a Reiff Turbo XP system heats better and faster. I run mine on a 1000w generator. Away from town I can carry the generator when I can and have a home made Northern Companion knock-off for when the gennie isn't practical. You can but a Northern Companion or here's a recipe to build your own, plus a simple idea for using a camp stove with just a few bucks in parts from the heating aisle at the home improvement store. The Northern Companion uses an MSR XGK stove for a reason. They put out a crapload of heat and they're tough as nails. Use what you have but for the ammo can you'll need a remote tank stove like the MSR. Any combustion heater requires that you stay to attend to the flame. Electric heaters don't need your attention. BIG advantage to electric if you can manage it.

    .Coleman heater 2.JPGheater_005.jpg

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    Here's a couple more of the ammo can. I carry the stove, spare fuel, and two scat hoses in the can. This is a shameless copy of the Northern Companion except theirs uses one larger diameter hose that's hard to fit into the cowl. Mine uses two 3" hoses that are easy to stick into a Cub or a Cessna cowl. If you use a stove type heater it's imperative that you open the cowl cover a little in the front to let the warm air flow through.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Here's the Little Buddy heater. I used one for years. It was mounted to the engine mount with adel clamps. It's a 900w heater element w/ fan and no tip over switch. Along with a 50w pad heater on the sump a 1000w generator could power it but the Reiff alternative works way better, faster, and with less power. http://www.amazon.com/Zerostart-260-.../dp/B000NM73ZA

    The #1 lesson in airplane pre-heating.... it takes time. You want the oil warm enough to circulate and the cylinders comfortably warm. At least above 32*, which is the magic number most guys use for heating. Give the heater time to heat the oil, cylinders and the crank to your target temp. It takes time.

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    Great input folks, thx.
    I've preheated before, but let's just guess somebody new might be looking in on us. Experience tells us that long and low heat work best, not short and hot. The goal is to get the oil warm and insides of the engine, not the outside, right? There are no shortcuts to getting enough of the right heat on an engine. I'm still looking for that excel spreadsheet that shows time vs temps.
    Years back I used a "master" heater w/ steel ducting, an old sleeping bag, and a tarp big enough to tarp the engine and prop. I'd throw the bag over the prop too, so the constant speed hub got warmed up too. I spent a lot of time huddled under that mess. I also used an interior car heater mounted to the engine mounts. I liked that as I could plug it in late in the evening and the oil would be liquid the next morning by the time I had done everything else to get ready.
    Right now I have a MSR XGK that I never use. Also have the Coleman single burner stove and about 50 ammo boxes. That's plenty for making mistakes. I like the idea of light weight and self contained for both ideas. The MSR gives me a multi fuel advantage which is nice. As I recall though the small tank will require more pumping than the Coleman. I've also been looking at miniature catalytic flameless heaters. They seem like a good idea, not sure I can find a good place to put one under my cowling.
    For the guys using open flame stoves, did you install a spark arrestor in the tube?
    Thanks for the photos, those really help. Keep the ideas coming, you guys rock!
    ARR

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    In the old days I had a coleman single burner for preheating the cub. In the cold and in the wind this was a pain at best. Now have a tannis system on the cessna 185. After calling the factory rep they like to see 100 cylinder temp before starting. With an engine blanket this is about 3 hrs or so. Also have a glue on oil pad heater. Good easy starts.

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    I park our plane for the winter and go to our Nut farm on the Big Island. Works very nicely!

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    For my 170 I copied Mr Pids ammo can a few years ago. Works good and is portable to leave at the cabin. I have since installed a Reiff Turbo and am very pleased with it. Mine runs off my honda 2000 and I put a small indoor type space heater on the floor inside. Like everyone else says, give the heat some time to work into the crank and the cold spots inside the engine.
    You must have the 0-360 conversion?

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    I've got the 0-320 160hp w/ constant speed. I put heat on the plane today in hopes of flying. Small electric heater under the cowling and a heat lamp under the panel. Left it running for a few hours and when I got back the oil was flowing nicely. Alas, the wx turned sour w/ snow/mist. Just not worth going up and building ice.
    Does anybody have the old style XGK w/ the metal pump? Those worked in the cold better than the plastic ones they have now. I keep my eyes open for the old style, but never seem to find one.
    ARR

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    I use Reiff, works really well. I used to use a little electric car heater in the old days, but never felt comfortable doing that. Happy I went with Reiff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ak River Rat View Post
    I've got the 0-320 160hp w/ constant speed. I put heat on the plane today in hopes of flying. Small electric heater under the cowling and a heat lamp under the panel. Left it running for a few hours and when I got back the oil was flowing nicely. Alas, the wx turned sour w/ snow/mist. Just not worth going up and building ice.
    Does anybody have the old style XGK w/ the metal pump? Those worked in the cold better than the plastic ones they have now. I keep my eyes open for the old style, but never seem to find one.
    ARR
    Good luck on the metal pump, they quit using them around 40 years ago. The new XGK Expedition with the flexible fuel line works well. The older solid line version still works, but the pump has two problems, the leather cup seal dries out and shrinks. The dog ears that hold the pump together break off.
    Don't run 100LL through these stoves....use white or unleaded only...
    Both the reiff and the tanis systems work well as long as you have a tight fitting engine cover. You will need to heat your oil somehow. The silicone heat pads work well...use a liberal amount of MEK to clean a spot to apply a high temp silicone adhesive. Stick some metal tape over it until it dries. You can also heat up the pad for a few short periods to speed up the process. Also 100LL will eventually kill your generator....too much lead...little buddy heaters still do the job, you can just stick one in the cowling and pull it out when it is warm...hard to beat that for simplicity. Don't forget to warm up the gyros and any other cold sensitive items in the panel. To keep things simple, the Coleman Peak One lantern under the panel and the XGK Expedition heating up the engine is a hard combo to beat, if you are out hunting and using them in camp all ready... Best lightweight option there is...

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    Pipercub,
    good idea on the lantern, never thought about it. Another multi use item for the plane. I know any stoves, either white gas but especially propane, add moisture. I've never thought about a lantern though. See any added moisture from using one? Where possible, electric heaters would eliminate that concern.
    The crank case oil pan heater is a must do I think. Same as a car, put the heat where it matters. For only a few watts, and no weight, they make sense.
    ARR

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ak River Rat View Post
    Pipercub,
    good idea on the lantern, never thought about it. Another multi use item for the plane. I know any stoves, either white gas but especially propane, add moisture. I've never thought about a lantern though. See any added moisture from using one? Where possible, electric heaters would eliminate that concern.
    The crank case oil pan heater is a must do I think. Same as a car, put the heat where it matters. For only a few watts, and no weight, they make sense.
    ARR
    no moisture off of the gas lantern....little smell but not bad....

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    Without a doubt preheating with 120v AC electricity is the simplest and most convenient whether you are using a simple 150 watt light bulb, electric heater, electric pads or screw in stud heaters. Next in line would be the battery powered preheaters like the Red Dragon, Sure Start II and various other consumer and military vehicle type heaters. The last in this lineup would be the none powered natural draft or radiant type heaters. Like the Northern Companion, small catalytic heater for inside the cowling and the larger ones that sit in a 5 gallon vented metal bucket that is ducted to the cowling.

    When you're away from convenient 120v AC power the non electric preheaters like the Northern Companion cannot be beat. Likewise, when you have convenient 120v AC power the state of the art electric type perheaters cannot be beat. The best overall preheater that I have ever used was the Sure Start II a 12v dc powered preheater. More on the specifics of this preheater and others shortly.

    A good preheater for your application is only part of the equation. A well made engine cowling cover and prop cover are critical if you want maximum performance from any preheating system especially when using the natural draft and radiant heaters. A well insulated and proper fitting engine cowling cover with adjustable vent flaps (approx. 4" round or square) in front of the each nose bowl opening will decrease your preheat time and give you a more even preheat. The idea is to allow the hot gases to flow over the engine and exit through the vent flaps. That way you don't deadhead the hot gases in the engine compartment. Some experience using the flaps in varying wind and temperature conditions is necessary to maximize your preheater performance.

    In the late 1980's I invented, patented and marketed the Northern Companion Preheater. In 2001 I sold the patent and all rights to the preheater so I have no financial gain associated with it or any other preheater on the market. The information I'm sharing is based on experience gained during my nearly 15 years in the preheater business. Regarding test data for various preheaters (how long to preheat in various conditions etc.). Cessna, Piper, Northern Pilot or another one of those flying magazines tested various preheaters under somewhat controlled conditions and published the results. I have the data somewhere but cannot put my hands on it right now but maybe a forum member remembers the article and kept it for future reference.

    I fly a PA12 without electric heaters of any kind permanently attached to the engine or airframe. So with that being said my preferred preheater under normal conditions (not super cold, and a good airplane battery) is the Sure Start II. My next choice is the Northern Companion which is always in my plane along with wing and engine covers during winter operation.

    The Sure Start II is a very clever design incorporating a small 12v dc powered fan, recirculating hot gases to warm the 14.1 oz butane fuel bottle (the kind plumbers use to solder copper pipes) , Pizo ignition, safety cutout, temperature gage, locking flexible high temp ducting all of which is stored in a small metal tool box that doubles as a plenum for the hot gases. In my opinion it is the best portable all around 12v dc powered preheater I have ever seen and I've seen a bunch of them. But with all devices there are limitations and the Sure Start II has one significant drawback which is the 14.1 oz fuel bottle. They are readily available but expensive, non refillable, and they don't last very long. If you can deal with these drawbacks you will love this little preheater.

    The Northern Companion is small, lightweight, very compact, extremely reliable, doubles as a survival stove, uses various fuels including 100LL, very stable in windy conditions and to my knowledge is still the only combustion style preheater part 135 operators can legally carry in the airplane when hauling passengers. It must be collapsed and stored as designed for maximum strength and crush resistance. My field testers and I used the Northern Companion preheater for three winters here in Alaska before introducing it to the market place. It too has limits, the most significant being is a longer preheat time is required under all conditions and it really becomes unreasonably long when preheating the larger planes like C-208's and such in below zero conditions.

    Adrift

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