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Full-time RVing: Space heaters - Jarn - 09-27-2019

I am looking at buying a space heater for my RV. Oil filled type or ceramic tower that oscillates and I was wondering what you full timers use if any. I would like to know the brand also since I am looking at Lasko for the ceramic and DeLonghi for the oil filled.

Thank you for your info.

Full-time RVing: Space heaters - rvwandering - 09-27-2019

Welcome to the CRVL forums Jan! I can't help you with your questions but hopefully someone will chime in with their experiences.

To help you learn the ins and outs of these forums, this "Tips, Tricks and Rules" post lists some helpful information to get you started.

Most of our rules boil down to two simple over-riding principles: 1) What you post should provide good information (like your introductory post), and 2) Any response to someone else's post should make them feel glad they are part of this forum community.

We look forward to hearing more from you.

RE: Full-time RVing: Space heaters - tx2sturgis - 09-27-2019

Whichever type you buy, you will want one with a thermostat AND a low heat setting.

RE: Full-time RVing: Space heaters - Elbear1 - 09-27-2019

IDK how you all need such small heaters. A 3k btu at 40f in my van is like burning a candle. Lows 30's 9k btu barely getting it done.

RE: Full-time RVing: Space heaters - sushidog - 09-27-2019

If you are looking at electric resistance heat, keep in mind that this is the least efficient type of heat possible. Plus all electric resistance type heaters have the same efficiency. None are any better than another in this regard, which is 3.41 BTUs per watt of electricity consumed.

That said, I sometimes use a couple little ceramic cube heater, (chosen because they are compact, taking up little storage space when not in use and lightweight, yet no less efficient than a big oil filled electric heater) especially if staying in a place where my electricity is included in my RV park rate. Last winter I stayed in a couple of state parks in Louisiana for about 2 months where this was the case. With my 1/2 price senior discount it was affordable, especially since I was able to save on propane with their free electric heat.

Now if you are paying for electricity, a much more economical choice would be propane heat. However the cheapest to operate and most efficient choice would be an electric heat pump. These routinely have EERs over 20 (compared to an EER of only 3.41 for electric resistant type heat) or said another way for every $100 you spend on electric resistance heat, a typical mini-split heat pump would only cost about $17 to produce the same amount of heat. This is possible because a heat pump does not actually make heat; it just moves heat.

Naturally there are drawbacks. The first is the initial cost of a mini-split heat pump, but this can easily be recouped in a couple years of use - less when the savings in air conditioning costs are factored in, as they provide even more efficient air conditioning too (indeed this is their primary application.) The other disadvantage of a mini-split for heat production, other than size, is the fact that the colder the ambient temperature is, the less efficient they become. Some of the newer ones can work when it's as low as 5 degrees F outside, however I would not plan on using them much below freezing, as their efficiency drops markedly below this. This means they would be perfect for milder climates, where most of us winter over, but not up north or at high altitudes. In these bitterly cold scenarios, propane heat makes more sense, if you can't move to a warmer area.


RE: Full-time RVing: Space heaters - 1shemp - 09-27-2019

I recommend a regular rv furnace,vented out the side or back.Much better temp control and no worry about leaving the heat on while sleeping.

RE: Full-time RVing: Space heaters - sushidog - 09-27-2019

I use my RV furnace a lot, but it is only about 50% efficient. According to my furnace manual, my Atwood Hydro-flame 8535-IV burns 34,000 Btu's per hour of propane and outputs 26,000 btu's per hour or 76% efficient. However another 25% of the heat output is dumped into the holding tank area, so they don't freeze (even though the ambient temperature is above freezing and this is not needed - which is all the time for me, as I never camp where the temperature drops below freezing for any length of time).

For reference, one lb of propane only has 26,000 btu's of heat, so my furnace burns 1.31 lbs of propane per hour while running. This adds up quickly, so much so, that when it's cold out (though never below freezing) my furnace can burn through about 7 gallons of propane a week (plus I use another 2 gallons a week for my fridge, stove and water heater.) I have paid between $2 - $3.50 gallon for propane over the last year. If the average cost of propane is $2.50/gallon then that means it costs me about $17.50 a week to run my furnace. I try to move where the weather is mild - not too hot nor too cold. Your cost could easily double that if it's freezing and windy out making your furnace run most of the night. BTW I have dual pane windows and good insulation in my motorhome. If you have single pane windows and typical travel trailer insulation, double that.

My furnace blower motor also draws 9.8 amps which can run an RV's batteries down quickly if it cycles a lot over night. For this reason alone, many folks use some form of supplemental heat, such as a Olympian wave 6-8 catalytic heater or a blue flame heater rated safe for indoor use. These are 100% efficient, so your gas bill will be half of what it costs to run your furnace, assuming the same net heat output.

For safety's sake if you are running any form of non-electric heat you should make sure your CO sensor is working properly. You should also leave one window cracked (about an inch or two open or whatever the manufacturer recommends) to replace the oxygen used by an inside propane heater.


RE: Full-time RVing: Space heaters - 66788 - 10-12-2019

(09-27-2019, 07:56 AM)Elbear1 Wrote:  IDK how you all need such small heaters. A 3k btu at 40f in my van is like burning a candle. Lows 30's 9k btu barely getting it done.

In a regular van, that sounds about right.  My step van has 2 inces of foamular all around on 5 sides, and one inch on the floor.  The 9,500 BTU propane heater (93% efficient) runs about 10-15 minutes per hour on a 20 degree night.

Vans are tough to heat comfortably and economically, but in my 3 years of living in my high top Dodge, the electric heaters were most comfortable.   One does need shore power for all night use.

RE: Full-time RVing: Space heaters - Cajunwolf - 10-12-2019


Thanks for the great information. I'm saving for a used class C atm, I have a disabled daughter who travels with me, so I need something like that. If it were just me, I'd be in a 1-ton extended van. The heat and propane usage was one of my questions, and the reason this thread caught my eye. You've given me a lot to think about now.

RE: Full-time RVing: Space heaters - maki2 - 10-13-2019

In terms of purchasing a small electric, portable heater. More important than the type of heat, ceramic versus oil is getting a heater that is low in height. Tall heaters such as the oil heaters often sold for use in homes need to be avoided as they are prone to tipping over.

The oil filled are often quieter than one with a fan but my experience is they do make some clicking metal expansion and contraction noises as they heat and cool. There is one that is recommended by 48 North magazine for use on boats. Boats rock even when at a dock so a heater that is easy to tip over has to be avoided. It is shorter in height than typical oil heaters. So if you want an oil heater get one that is not very tall. Here is the one they recommend:
Programmable Radiator Bathroom Heater - TRN0812T by Delonghi.

For ceramic heaters there is a very low profile one that is not going to tip over. Amazon does carry it and it is a Prime item.
Caframo True North Heater. Low Profile, Quiet, Powerful Heater for Work and Home. It has an antifreeze setting which is good for conserving electricity by keeping your dwelling just above freezing while you are snuggled up in your down bag. But of course it is variable output so you can blast it on up. It does have a built in thermostat but it does not have a digital readout or setting.

The small cube heaters are also fine, their height is proportionate to their width and depth which works relatively well for stability. But sometimes they can be too noisy for a light sleeper.

My favorite electric heaters are the ones with quartz infrared tubes. I have one that used to be made by Mr. Heater (discontinued product), it is very low profile with the height being only 5.5 inches but it is 11" wide and 10" deep so it takes up more counter and floor space than a cube heater. But it won't tip over and the infrared radiant heat is almost like sitting in front of a fireplace. It has a fan but a very quiet one.

Here are some keywords that might help:
low profile....that helps prevent tip overs
tabletop or perhaps countertop ....they are usually fairly small in size
personal ...they tend to be small and often have a wattage rating below 1500 watts.

look for one with a thermostat built into it
watch for good dimensions
make sure you check for recalls if buying on places such as Ebay
try to look at an actual manual tht you can read online or in a store before you buy so that you know how close to a wall it can be placed
It helps to purchase it from a place where it will be easy to return if you don't like it which on the road means big box stores that have lots of stores in the medium to large towns. Or from an online return friendly source.

One other thing to note it is not at all unusual for an RV park to forbid the use of electric heaters as they can quickly overload the parks electrical system with too many people running them. So before you check into an RV park on a truly freezing cold night be sure you read their regulations regarding the use of electric heaters. It is sometimes posted on their website.