catalytic heater

What Are Catalytic Heaters and How Do They Work?


Property owners have a variety of options when it comes to heating their buildings. People like construction workers and other contractors can’t always rely on options like furnaces and boilers, though. More often than not, contractors or construction site managers must bring their own heat sources to their job sites to ensure safety and comfort. These kinds of portable heating applications are where catalytic heaters really shine.

What Are Catalytic Heaters?

Most gas heaters require an open flame to produce heat since the ignition temperature of this popular fuel is over 1200 degrees Fahrenheit under normal conditions. Catalytic heater introduce a catalyst to the mix to create an oxidation-reduction reaction, which releases the energy at a lower temperature than would be required for ignition and does not require a flame.

Contractors or property owners who want to cut straight to the chase and find the best options for their unique applications can get help from Bruest Catalytic Heaters. Those who want a better idea of how these advanced heaters work before making a purchase can find out everything they need to know below.

The Chemistry of Catalytic Heaters

The chemistry behind catalytic heater is actually pretty simple. By introducing a catalyst, the process of releasing heat from the gas is sped up and the need for an open flame is removed. Catalytic heaters don’t produce smoke or steam, either, which makes them ideal for construction sites and other environments with flammable items.

To work, catalytic heaters need three things:

  1.  Fuel
  2. Oxygen
  3. A catalyst

When exposed to oxygen and sufficient heat, gas will combust naturally without a catalyst. The natural combustion process creates unwanted emissions and requires extreme heat. Catalyst heaters, on the other hand, only need to reach operating temperatures of 225 degrees Fahrenheit or more. As long as the heater has fuel and oxygen and the catalyst is kept hot enough, they will continue to supply heat indefinitely.

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The most common catalyst is platinum, but other metals can be substituted. Alternative catalysts include rhodium and palladium, often in the form of an electrically charged, metal-coated plate.

In most catalytic heaters, the gas sits up against the metal. When someone turns on the heater, it charges the plate, which activates the catalyst and speeds up the heat production process. The end results? The heat from the gas gets released without the need for full ignition.

The Mechanics of Catalytic Heaters

While the chemistry behind catalytic heat is simple, the heaters themselves can be more complex. First, the enclosed heating element must be warmed up. This part of the process takes between 15 and 20 minutes. Once the heating element is up and running, the heater introduces gas into the mix via a dispersion tube assembly.

The heated gas then diffuses through an insulated dispersion screen and comes into contact with the catalyst, at which point the heat is released in the form of infrared light. Infrared light provides steady, consistent heat without creating a fire risk.

High-quality catalytic heaters are also equipped with thermocouple safety valves that turn off the gas supply when temperatures get too low. The safety shut-off helps to prevent excess emissions of unburned gas, offering further protection to users.

The Benefits of Catalytic Heaters

There are plenty of options when it comes to portable heaters, but not all of them are created equal. Catalytic gas heater offer a number of advantages compared to traditional gas heaters and electric space heaters. They include the following.

Flameless Combustion

Catalytic heaters oxidize fuel at a lower temperature, which means there’s no need for a flame to induce ignition. As a result, catalytic heater pose less of a risk of fire.

Safer for Small Spaces

Ordinary combustion heaters release a significant number of pollutants into the surrounding atmosphere. Since catalytic heaters don’t require traditional ignition-based combustion, they are less polluting. That’s a huge advantage for anyone who plans to use the heater in a small space where airborne contaminants would otherwise build up quickly.

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No Carbon Monoxide

Unlike ignition-based combustion, catalytic oxidation doesn’t release carbon monoxide. Its only byproducts are water vapor and carbon dioxide. Catalytic heaters still require venting, but they pose no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Precise Temperature Control

Modulating the temperature in catalytic heaters is a simple matter of controlling gas pressure. Most units are equipped with thermostats that provide responsive, precise temperature control.

Quick Heat Production

Catalytic heater start producing heat almost immediately. They warm the area up fast, accelerating the speed at which contractors can start working in otherwise unheated spaces.

Energy Savings

A combination of quick heat production and high energy efficiency can save a lot of money. Running a catalytic gas heater costs less than providing a comparable amount of heat using electricity and other energy sources.

Low Maintenance Requirements

Gas-powered catalytic heaters are nearly maintenance-free. They don’t rely on moving parts to supply heat, which means there’s less chance of wear. Most catalytic heaters will last 15 years or longer in a clean environment.

Applications for Catalytic Heaters

So far, this article has focused on why catalytic heaters are the ideal option for construction workers and contractors. There are plenty of other applications for high-quality catalytic heaters, though, including:

  •  Instrument heating
  • Antifreeze protection
  • Flammable maintenance storage heating
  • Transit maintenance facility heating
  • Compressor building heating
  • Meter house heating
  • Pipeline heating
  • Outdoor personnel heating

And more

What these buildings or areas have in common is that they could not be heated safely using traditional combustion heaters. Since combustion heaters require a pilot light, they pose too much of a safety risk for areas that are used to store flammable supplies or sensitive equipment. Catalytic heater offer a practical and affordable solution.

The Bottom Line

Catalytic heaters are safer, more efficient, and more portable than just about any alternative. Unlike propane heaters, they don’t generate carbon monoxide. They don’t use much electricity, and don’t produce significant amounts of airborne pollutants. The bottom line here is that anyone looking for a portable heater or a permanent heating system for rooms or buildings that contain flammable materials should consider purchasing a catalytic heater.

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