Heater Suggestions

It’s turning colder here in New England, and we’re looking for suggestions for a good, compatible heater for our SR20 (157CD). Our plane is kept outside, and we are not parked near an electrical outlet–so we need something portable.

We’ll also be checking out the vendors at the Expo this week. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

I gather that you are talking about a ground pre-heat unit and not a 24 volt unit to mount in the aircraft during the winter.

I did a search on www.aviation-consumer.com. They published an article in November 2000 with the title Warm A Chilly Cabin. They mention briefly the 110 volt small ceramic cube heaters without any specific recommendations. These are available widely, probably more in the upscale mail order catalogs than in the Home Depot type of store.

You would need a portable supply of 110 volt a/c. The generator of choice would probably be Honda. They have a number of models starting at about 700 watts and about 26# weight. You would have to do some careful matching of generator to load, particularly if you have the engine preheat option installed. You could carry the generator and heater in your trunk, and let it warm up the cabin (and engine) while you attend to other preflight tasks (or breakfast or whatever).

If you are looking for inflight additional heat, the Aviation Consumer article specifically mentions a product line from D.C. Thermal, Inc. of 12430 Highway 3, Suite E-20, Webster, TX 77598, 800 590-7500. You really need to subscribe to Aviation Consumer to get further details. Once you subscribe to Aviation Consumer you not only get the print version in the mail, you also get online access to all published articles in a searchable form.

The thought occurred to me that its strange that my reply is going to someone in New England. I’m in Southern California and was brought up with the notion that snow was something that you went to visit - it certainly didn’t come to your house!

I dont know of anything else “portable” that you would want to use in the aircraft other than a 110 volt generator outside the plane for preheat on the ground.

One question: I would guess that the Cirrus, being built in Duluth (presumably just as cold if not colder than New England) has an ample exhaust muff heater. Is this so?

Related to heaters inflight, you may want to look at carbon monoxide detectors. This is another subject that has been covered in detail in Aviation Consumer. It seems that the units that you can get in home supply stores, etc. have a c.o. threshold set arbitrarily high so as not to cause the gas companies, fire departments, etc. a lot of “nuisance” calls. There is one unit (see either Aviation Consumer or www.aeromedix.com) which is sold specifically for vehicle (or aviation) use that has a much lower sensitivity threshold. These units will alarm if any kind of leak occurs between the muffler and the heater shroud. I would not put much confidence in the little disks that you see in the pilot catalogs to do this function.

I have a Northern Companion, and it worked very well on my C-182. Portable, light weight, inexpensive, burns avgas which you can fill from wing tank drain.
I am curious if anyone has used one on a Cirrus. On the C-182 the heat duct went in the cowl flap, providing upward circulation of the heat around the engine and out the cowl opening. However, on the Cirrus it looks like it would have to go in the cowl opening. My main concern with the Cirrus will be the possibility of a hot duct from the heater damaging the composite.
I plan to install a Reiff heater o my SR22, and carry the Northern Companion for times when I can’t plug in the Reiff, but I will watch the Northern Companion very closely.

Since my earlier post on this thread, I looked in my Northern Tool & Equipment catalog. I can certainly understand the reluctance to put a sort of “ducted camp stove” under a composite aircraft. I don’t recall the current draw of the Reiff preheat bands and oil sump heater combination, but I think it is less than 900 watts. Honda makes a 900 watt continuous 1000 maximum generator. There are only two downsides compared to the alternatives. The first is weight. It is 30# shipping weight. However, unless you are real close on weight, that should not be a problem. The second is cost. Northern lists it at $690.00. It should run just fine on 100LL. It runs 4 hours on 6/10 gallon.

You could empty the generator tank after the engine was warm and probably modify a fuel sampler with a tube to fill it from the sump drain when you needed it again. This would avoid carrying fuel in the luggage area of the aircraft.

It’s certainly a lot safer than the alternative, and should be a lot easier to get going, even in sub-zero weather. It seems to be fairly quiet and could be used for other purposes when not warming the engine.

Thanks for the suggestions–I’ll start the search. I now realize, though, that I should have been more specific in my post: I’m most concerned about the engine pre-heat. Our experience this last month has shown that the cabin heat is more than adequate.

Thanks again, for the reply. Heath

I’m most concerned about the engine pre-heat.

Northern Companion Preheater always sounded good to me. Less than 10 pounds, no electricity required, runs on aviation fuel. You might want to check with Steve Lin. I saw him using it last winter to solve the Cirrus start problem and at that time he seemed to like it.

Yup - I would have replied earlier but I thought the original post was about cabin heat! :slight_smile:

The northern companion is the only preheater I found that did not require any power source – I also tie down far from a power outlet.

This preheater runs on autogas or avgas (or Jet A) and is basically a camping stove inside a cylindrical enclosure with a big tube (think of a clothes dryer exhaust tube) coming out the top. There’s no fan or anything, but the stove gets pretty hot, so there is actually a good amount of hot air coming out the top of the tube.

Overall, it seems pretty good - I usually let it heat up for 30-40 minutes on those days when it’s below freezing.

The main positive aspects of the heater are it’s size (pretty small, maybe 18" long and 6" diameter cylinder) and portability. An alternative would be to use a red-dragon type heater or an electric heater connected to an AC generator, but neither of those are very portable – even if they worked ok at the home base, they’re hard to bring with you on a trip. Given the small size of the northern companion and the fact it runs on avgas, it’s very portable.

Some negatives are as follows:

  • there’s a fairly good-sized open flame as a result of the camping stove, pretty close to the plane. Makes me a little nervous!

  • on windy days it’s sometimes hard to keep the stove lit; it tends to blow out more often then I’d like – particularly 'cuz those same windy cold days are the days you hate to spend a lot of time trying to get the damn thing started again!

  • doesn’t work as well as those types with an actual power source that use a fan to blow air, and certainly not as well as something like a Tanis or Reiff preheater.

Here’s a couple links on the northern companion:

http://kennoncovers.com/aircraft_preheating_options.htmKennon’s covers (they sell the preheater, look about 1/2 way down this page)

http://www.myles-rec.com/page29/page29.htmlMyle’s recreation (another retailer, look about 2/3 way down this page).

I was unable to find a more descriptive web site than these. I can try to snap a few pics of the preheater if anyone wants to see it in more detail.



The way I’ve been using the Northern Companion on the Cirrus is to place the tube in the opening near one of the exhaust pipes (on my SR20; not sure how the different exhaust configuration of the 22 would change things).

Not sure if this is a good place for it or not, but the presence of the heat-shield was one reason I decided to use that area. (By “heat-shield” I just mean the small gray area which looks like it’s there to protect the composite from the heat of the exhaust. I guess I’m just assuming it’s even a heat shield at all, but I’m not sure what else it would be.)