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What’s next for homes heated by kerosene?

For customers who need to replace their discontinued Monitor heaters, propane-fueled wall furnaces are a straightforward, highly efficient replacement.

By Jeffrey Lee

Staff writer

When the kerosene-fueled Monitor wall furnace entered the U.S. market in the mid-1980s from Japanese manufacturer Hitachi, the heater became quite popular in pockets of the country where oil was the predominant fuel source for heating. It offered an appealing promise: a single penetration for the venting and fuel line and the ability to heat an entire house from a single point with modulating heat.

While the Monitors lived up to that promise for more than 20 years, Hitachi eventually discontinued production of the unit and stopped manufacturing parts in 2014. So what's next for customers looking to replace their kerosene heaters? For many, upgrading to a similar wall furnace fueled by propane is a painless transition that offers improved comfort, reduced maintenance, and, potentially, lower fuel bills.

Rinnai, for instance, offers a direct-vent wall furnace that can use the same venting space and fuel line wall penetration as a Monitor heater. "The Rinnai EnergySaver Direct Vent Wall Furnace offers an excellent upgrade to the Monitor heating system," says Randy Kingsley, heating business director for Rinnai. "It uses clean, environmentally friendly natural gas or propane, has a whisper-quiet fan, utilizes modulating technology, and does not require periodic maintenance on burners or the potential oil clean-up."

Like the Monitor heater, which offered four-stage modulation, Rinnai's wall furnace relies on seven-stage modulating technology to provide consistent, even heating. The unit constantly monitors room temperature to detect temperature changes. The wall furnace modulates its fan speed and British thermal unit (Btu) output up to meet the desired temperature and then modulates down again to save energy and reduce temperature swings.


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See how the EnergySaver Direct Vent Wall Furnace uses smart modulating technology to reduce cold spots and minimize temperature swings.

For homeowners who previously heated with kerosene, switching to propane can offer a number of advantages. One primary benefit is that while kerosene can only be used for heating, propane can be used throughout the home, for stoves, water heaters, fireplaces, dryers, and other applications. And while kerosene is frequently stored in smelly, messy tanks, propane is easily delivered, can be stored in a hidden underground tank, and won't cause damage or contaminate groundwater the way oil can if it's spilled.

Rinnai estimates 500,000 to 600,000 Monitor heaters have been installed in the United States, primarily in the Northeast, Upstate New York, the Carolinas and Virginias, and the Pacific Northwest. For remodelers, technicians, and homeowners in those regions, propane wall furnaces can be a much more affordable alternative to installing a whole-home heating system with a boiler or furnace. While running the ductwork for a forced-air heating system can take two days, installing two Rinnai direct-vent units would take about four hours, the manufacturer says.


"Rinnai estimates 500,000 to 600,000 Monitor heaters have been installed in the United States."


The Monitor was available only in 20,000- and 40,000-Btu sizes, but Rinnai's wall furnace is available in smaller 8,000-, 11,000-, and 17,000-Btu models (as well as larger sizes up to 38,000 Btu). That makes them a great fit not just for replacement projects, but for hard-to-heat applications in new construction, as well as multifamily buildings and remodeling projects such as additions, Kingsley says. Rinnai recently completed a multifamily project in New York where all of the heat for each 450-square-foot apartment was provided by an 11,000-Btu wall furnace.

If your customers are looking to replace their Monitor heaters, let them know it's time to start thinking about alternatives. With propane wall furnaces offering an affordable, clean, and comfortable path forward, a future without kerosene will sound a lot more appealing.

 

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