A monitor heater is an oil-fueled, forced-air home heating system that capitalizes on the principle that hot air rises. It is usually situated in the basement or the downstairs level of a home, but not because it is unsightly; the monitor is actually a very attractive appliance. It resembles a large space heater, but the top houses a control panel on which one can find digital temperature settings, a clock, and of course, the on and off switch. There is also a feature that allows users to set the heater to different temperatures for different times of the day or night.
It's important to place monitor heaters against an outer wall, allowing a hose at the back to draw in outside air for combustion. It heats the cold air on its way in through the hose. This is the most efficient means of home heating because the heater does not re-use warm air in the home. The only ventilation hole is the small opening (about 2 inches or 5 cm in diameter) where air is sucked in.
Monitor heaters are fueled with kerosene oil, which is far less expensive than electric heat and other fuel oils. The only source of fuel that is slightly less expensive than using the monitor heater is wood, but wood is messy, takes up a lot of space, and the stove must be attended regularly. Monitor heaters draw in oil from an oil tank and can be left unattended for months. These heaters are one of the safest modes of home heating. They do not present the fire hazard of wood stoves, or the carbon monoxide concern of natural gas.
A monitor heater heats up to about 2000 square feet of space (186 sq. meters), regardless of the style of home. It forces warm air into the room where it sits, and it makes use of vents in the ceiling, as well as door ways and staircases, where the heat rises to the next level of the home.
How To Install a Monitor Heater
Installing a monitor heater requires the proper tools. Depending on the model, you may need both hand and power tools. Check your owner's manual for specifics, but make sure you should have some basics on hand:
- Phillips head screwdriver
- Electric power drill
- Steel tape measurer
- Straight edge or yardstick
Along with these essentials, you may need two special accessories: a hole saw attachment and a long drill bit. Review the manual for other required parts such as flue pipes, extensions and lifter pumps. This may also depend on where you plan to install the unit — into thicker walls or through a window, for instance.
Choose Your Heater's Location
When placing your heater, make sure the area is free of obstacles and debris. Pay attention to recommended clearance distances in your owner's manual. Watch out for foliage, plant debris, flammable objects and fuel storage near the outside area where the pipes will be placed.
Avoid unsafe areas when installing the unit. Do not put it inside a fireplace or in a wall that has plumbing pipes, studs, electrical wiring or air ducts. Also, you should place the heater near a wall outlet where it can plug in directly: Using extension cords with a monitor heater is unsafe.
Installing Your Monitor Heater
The owner's manual for your monitor heater will have specific instructions to help you install it. However, knowing some general principles can prepare you for the installation process. First, you must cut a hole through the wall to hold the flue pipes. You'll need to pull out any insulation around this hole. An outer flange should be placed around the hole through which the flue pipe will run.
Before situating the heater itself, you should ensure that it's on a level surface. After confirming this, you'll set up the heater, install the air damper and connect the joint pipe to the heater's exhaust port. You'll then place the flue pipe holder. The flue pipe should connect to the air supply hose and the air damper. Lastly, you'll clamp the heater into place and double-check for flammable hazards.
How Much Fuel Does a Monitor Heater Use?
Because monitor heaters use budget-friendly kerosene oil, they're usually less expensive to operate than other heaters. Fuel consumption can vary depending on your comfort preferences and climate. This can range between two and four gallons per day during cold weather.
Some monitor heaters are capable of running on diesel fuel. However, diesel should be considered for emergency use only. It can power your unit to provide essential heat until you are able to receive a kerosene oil delivery.
Fortunately, kerosene oil is widely available. You can typically find it at hardware and home improvement stores. Don't forget to check out farm supply stores and gas stations. Before putting diesel in your monitor heater, check your owner's manual. Follow recommended safety protocols, including refilling tanks outdoors.
How To Clean a Monitor Heater
It's easy to keep your monitor heater clean, but you should remember to include this task in your housekeeping and maintenance schedule. Be sure to clean the heater's exterior, interior and fuel strainer, plus empty the fuel tank. It's also important to keep the unit free from soot.
Exterior Heater Cleaning
Experts recommend dusting the outer cabinet at least once per week. You'll want to use a microfiber cloth, which you can lightly dampen to remove any extra dirt. While you can use an all-purpose cleaner, you must only spray it onto your cleaning cloth. Do not use abrasive or flammable substances to clean your heater. Grills and glass panels should be washed in hot soapy water and completely dried before reinstalling them.
Cleaning Your Fuel Strainer
You must empty your unit's fuel tank to clean the fuel strainer. This task should be done at least once per year. To pour out the kerosene, you'll need a bottle and a funnel. After the fuel is out of the tank, remove the strainer and clean off any debris with fresh kerosene. Never use water or other cleaners on your heater's fuel strainer.
Removing Soot From the Heater
Soot can be vacuumed out of your heater by using a hose attachment. Afterward, mix a solution of one tablespoon of cleaner with a gallon of water. Use the solution and a sponge or cloth to clean interior surfaces. Depending on the level of soot, you may need to scrub.