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.
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.
In general, an RV propane heater is quiet. They don’t have the loud blowers that some RV furnaces do.
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.
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.
- Includes mounting bracket
- Power Supply and Current Draw: 12 vDC 75mA @ 12 vDC
- Alarm Point: < 25% LEL of Propane and Methane
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.
- 4,000- to 9,000-BTU radiant heater for spaces up to 225 square...
- When operating the heater at altitudes over 7,000 FT above sea...
- Auto shut-off if tipped over, if pilot light goes out, or if...
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.
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.
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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