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Are RV Propane Heaters Safe?

When it’s freezing outside, you may need to look for an additional heat source to keep your camper warm. An RV propane heater is more portable than an electric space heater, but are propane heaters safe? It’s a common question among RVers who want to improve the comfort of their home-on-wheels, especially when they don’t have access to shore power.

Let’s explore the safety of using propane space heaters and our top recommendations.

What Is an RV Propane Heater? 

An RV propane heater is a space heater that warms up an area using propane fuel. Unlike an RV furnace, many models are portable, but some are wall-mounted. 

Pro Tip: If you’re new to RV camping, check out The Beginner’s Guide to RV Furnaces to ensure you stay warm this winter.

Are Propane Heaters Safe in an RV? 

Yes, RV propane heaters are safe when used correctly. One should always follow safety measures when dealing with propane heaters, and we’ll explore that idea more later in this article. Also, review the manufacturer’s guidelines and maintain your heater regularly for optimal safety.

Are Buddy Heaters Safe For Indoor Use? WE ASKED A FIREFIGHTER

Benefits of RV Propane Heaters

Now that you know RV propane heaters are safe, you might be thinking about getting one for your rig. So, why would you choose a propane heater for RV camping over other options? Let’s look at the benefits.

Doesn’t Require Electricity

An RV propane heater is not reliant on electricity. The heater runs off propane, so finding a propane fill station or having extra propane containers is your only need. This makes propane space heaters an excellent option for boondocking or camping without electricity.

Quiet

In general, an RV propane heater is quiet. They don’t have the loud blowers that some RV furnaces do.

Efficient

RV propane heaters are efficient. You can find a model with a shut-off valve that automatically turns off the heater when it reaches the desired temperature. This limits the amount of propane you use. 

Propane heaters are typically more budget-friendly than electric heaters. However, if you’re winter camping in cold temperatures, it’s possible to go through a lot of propane in a short time.

Pro Tip: Winter RV camping is not for the faint of heart! Learn How to RV in Winter to make sure you’re well-prepared.

RV propane heater
Propane gas is dangerous, so proceed with caution when using it as a heat source.

Safety Considerations for RV Propane Heaters

Propane can be extremely dangerous. That’s why practicing safety precautions is of utmost importance. It’s crucial for propane heaters to be used in well-ventilated areas.

First on your list should be installing a propane detector in your RV to alert you of leaks. Propane can be deadly if inhaled. Leave your RV immediately if you smell propane, hear the hissing sound of a gas leak, or your detector goes off. Next, turn off the propane at the source and call a professional to investigate the problem.

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Installing a CO (carbon monoxide) detector is also an RV safety must. Although CO sensors don’t detect propane specifically, they do detect colorless and odorless gas.

Many RV propane heaters have built-in safety features, including self-generating starters and automatic shut-off valves. Shut-off valves can prevent issues if the heater tips over.

Our Top 3 Picks for the Best RV Propane Heaters

If safety is a concern, you don’t want to go with just any RV propane heater. Check out our top RV propane heater picks to help inform your purchasing decisions. 

1. Camco Olympian Wave 3 RV Heater

The Camco Olympian Wave 3 RV Heater warms a 130-square-foot space. It’s portable, and you can stand it up on the floor or mount it to a wall. You can also adjust the heater from 1,600 to 3,000 BTU (British thermal unit). Its self-generating starter will last for around 20,000 starts for long-term performance. This heater is quiet, as it doesn’t have a fan or blower.

Safety Features: The Camco Olympian has a 100% safety shut-off valve, which prevents non-ignition fuel discharge. It also has no flame, flue, or chimney. 

2. Mr. Heater Indoor-Safe RV Propane Heater (The “Mr. Buddy Heater”)

The Mr. Heater Indoor-Safe RV Propane Heater is 4,000 to 9,000 BTU and warms up a 225 square foot space. This efficient heater is portable with a fold-down handle. You can use it indoors or outdoors. 

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Safety Features: Mr. Heater shuts off automatically if it tips over, the pilot light goes out, or if it detects low oxygen levels. It also may shut off at altitudes over 7,000 feet.

3. GASLAND MHA18B RV Propane Heater

The GASLAND MHA18B Propane Heater has 3 heating modes: 6,000, 12,000, and 18,000 BTU levels at Low/Medium/High settings, respectively. This means that on its highest setting, it can heat up to 450 square feet!

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This model runs off of a 20-pound propane tank—the same one your propane grill likely runs off of and is easily exchanged. It comes with a built-in 15.3-inch LP gas hose and a regulator. The heater weighs 17.4 pounds and is 15 x 17 x 21 inches.

Safety Features: The Gasland MHA18B Propane heater had two safety mechanisms. The first is the tip-over automatic shut-off in case it is knocked over. The second is a low-oxygen automatic shut-off.

Pro Tip: Stay toasty by using one of these 6 Best Small Propane Heaters for Campers.

Other Ways to Stay Warm in Your RV

Other options for staying warm in your RV include an electric space heater, an electric blanket, or an RV furnace. 

electric pace heater
Electric space heaters are another portable heating option.

Similar to a propane heater, an electric space heater can be portable. However, it requires electricity, as does an electric blanket. An electric blanket can be a great supplemental source of warmth in an RV.

An RV furnace comes standard in many travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes. It runs on propane and requires power for its fan. The RV furnace’s fan can run off an RV battery, too, so shore power electricity isn’t necessary for the furnace to operate. However, you need electricity to charge your RV battery.

You can install RV furnaces with ducted vents or forced air through a vent. Typically, higher-end RVs have ducted vents in the ceiling or floor.

Is It Cheaper to Heat an RV with Propane or Electricity?

The most cost-effective way to heat your RV depends on how you camp. If you mostly stay in campgrounds with electricity costs included in your lot rent, an electric heater is likely the best choice. An RV propane heater can be the less expensive choice if you have to pay for electricity. 

If you do a lot of boondocking without access to electricity, propane heaters are also cheaper, more efficient, and easier to maintain. 

Pro Tip: Use our guide on How to Buy the Right RV Propane Regulator for your RV.

RV propane tanks on tongue of travel trailer
RV propane heaters are a good choice if you do a lot of boondocking.

Are RV Propane Heaters the Right Choice for You?

After determining which type of heater fits best within your budget, think through your other preferences. Do you want a portable space heater? Does having propane inside your RV make you uneasy?   

Many RVers rely on propane heaters throughout the winter. As long as you follow the safety guidelines, this can be a safe and cost-effective way to warm your RV’s interior.

Do you use an RV propane heater to heat your camper? Share your experience in the comments below.

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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russ

Wednesday 13th of September 2023

do propane detectors detect propane leaks or too much co2 gas from burning say a heater or both? also do co2 detectors also detect propane?

Mortons on the Move

Friday 6th of October 2023

Propane detectors only detect unburned propane, CO detectors only detect the burned gasses. You need both in an RV that has propane, propane mounted near the floor and CO anywhere.

Dennis Wintjes

Thursday 22nd of September 2022

A side effect of propane is excess humidity. Depending on where you are, this humidity can be good, or very bad.

Bill Morgan

Wednesday 23rd of June 2021

You mentioned "CO2 (Carbon Monoxide)" detectors. CO2 is Carbon dioxide. Carbon Monoxide is CO. The link is correct.

Mortons on the Move

Friday 25th of June 2021

Thank you for catching that typo. It has been corrected in the article.