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by Hunter Kissam April 08, 2022 5 min read

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Thinking of ways to heat your new off-grid cabin, garage, or that one freezing room in your house? Well, you may have heard about Martin direct vent heaters, which make for great DIY projects and can work safely for any home! 

However, you have to install it properly to avoid any complications, which is easier than you may think. Let’s talk about how to install your new Martin heater!

Can Anyone Install a Martin Heater?

Yes, anybody can install a Martin Heater on their own, as long as they have the right tools and they follow these instructions. You can choose to have a professional install it, but the process is more intuitive than you think, and each heater comes with its own installation kit!

Also, Martin Heater’s don’t require electricity to run, and it will still produce comfortable heat. You won’t have to worry about wiring or anything else. Feel free to read more in our thorough Martin heater review.

Before you start, just make sure you’re using a wall that leads directly to an outdoor location where you can safely store your propane/natural gas tank. From there, it’s a lot easier than you think!

1. Grab the Right Materials

First, your Martin heater will come with plans fit for the size of your system. It will clearly mark where you need to drill, where the holes need to be, and everything else.

You can easily mark these points onto your wall by poking a hole through the points on the life-size plans taped onto (and leveled) your wall in the position where you want your heater. You can also free-hand it with the right measurements. Whatever works best for you!

For tools, you will need a measuring tape, something to mark your holes (pencil, pen, marker, etc.), a utility knife, and your choice of power tools. A drill is essential, but you may want either a Sawzall or a jigsaw as well. For an off-grid job, you’ll either need battery-powered tools or a portable power station to plug them in.

2. Measure

Every Martin heating system will require a hole in your wall of 4.5 to 6 inches (11 to 15.25 cm). There are many ways to do this, but a hole saw will be the easiest, and you can purchase a drill attachment for less than $20 if you don’t have one.

Without a hole saw, drill a hole near the outer perimeter of the circle and grab a Sawzall or jigsaw to cut through it. It’s unlikely your bit is long enough to go through the inner and outer wall together, so you’ll have to measure again to find the right alignment. Use your window frame as a reference if possible, ensuring first that the frame is the same width inside and out.

Also, your system will need to be 3 feet away from the edge of the building and at least 6 inches away from any window, but 12 inches is best to prevent fogging your window. Excess window fog may actually increase your energy consumption, as it will reduce the passive solar heat you receive in your home.

3. Find Your Wall Studs

If you have a stud-finder, find the studs on your wall and mark them. You will need to line the holes on your plans up with these studs later on, as this will act as the support for your wall heater.

On some of the systems, the holes may not be aligned perfectly with 16”, which is the standard distance for wall studs. If that’s the case, mark your studs clearly and drill at an angle to reach the stud. If you don’t have a stud-finder, there are other ways to find studs.

4. Double-Check Everything

Measure twice, cut once. It’s time to double-check your work and make sure you’re able to align it perfectly inside and out. Remember, this is your home or your cabin you’re cutting into, so we don’t want to make any mistakes.

If properly aligned, the hole you will drill in the middle for the vent should not interfere with any studs. Use a stud-finder to double-check before you drill.

Using your plans as a marker, make sure it is taped down securely and laid flat on the wall. If your power tools move the plans, it could mess up your alignment.

5. Cut Through

Using your Sawzall, jigsaw, or hole saw, cut through the drywall or first layer of your wall. Remember, it is far easier to cut more later than to fill in, so it’s better to stay a half-inch inside the circle and fix it later if you’re worried about cutting outside the lines.

Once you’re through the first layer, use a utility knife or similar sharp object to cut through any insulation that’s in the way. Use a glove to pull it out. Don’t worry if it’s touching the vent, as it won’t pose a fire hazard.

Also, as you cut through, try not to go too deep just yet. There may be wires in the wall that you don’t know about. Drilling a small hole first and checking with a flashlight could save you some serious repairs.

From the outside, measure from the same reference point (window, door frame, etc.), compensating for any variances of the inside and outside of the frames. To double-check, drill a small hole where you think the center point is and verify it by going inside and using the existing hole as a reference. Once confirmed, cut the vent hole as you did on the inside, which should be 4.5 inches or the circumference of your vent.

6. Drill

On the inside only, drill your holes into the studs for support. There should be four holes, two on the top, and two on the bottom. Hold your drill bit up to the screws in your kit and find a bit that is thinner than the screw before drilling.

7. Line the Thimble

No, not a sewing thimble, but the liner you’ll be using in the vent hole. Wrap it inside the hole and cut off any excess material poking out on the inside. Mark it with a marker along the inside wall so you know where to cut.  

You can then glue it onto the outlined hole you’ve cut, preferably with an insulative caulk. You can also drill it into your studs or walls for extra support.

8. Place Your Plates

Next, simply drill the square plates into either side of the wall to cover up your perfectly symmetrical (wink) holes on either side. These will have a hole in each corner and should align with your studs, so don’t worry. For the outside one, ensure that the angled piece is on the outside to prevent rain from coming in!

9. Attach the Vent

Next, attach the vent to the back of your heater and insert the exhaust side into the hole in your wall. You may now drill your heater into the wall and connect it to your natural gas or propane tank! Open your valves and you’re all set!

If you run into any length issues, measure and cut down the length with a Sawzall or move your propane tank further from the exterior wall. Double-check that the system is level and turn it on!

Stay Cozy

Now that you know how to install a Martin heater, you see that it isn’t too challenging. Martin heaters are designed for off-grid DIY projects, so why spend extra money hiring a professional when you can start enjoying your system today?

Stay up to date with our latest off-grid living tips and shop with us for a price match guarantee and free shipping on every purchase!
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Hunter Kissam
Hunter Kissam

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