If the lifestyle you want is traveling all the time, all-year-round, and constantly going to new places, a recreational vehicle will be perfect for you.
Talk about a free lifestyle!
But not all places are the same, and seasons change with time.
When your next destination is a place with low temperature, or when your next trip happens in winter, there’s nothing better than having something that keeps you warm and cozy as you go on your adventure. And that’s exactly what an RV heater is for.
If you bought your RV, chances are it came with a built-in propane heating system. However, there are those who prefer electric-powered systems instead. For those people, and for the people who custom-build their RV, this is the guide for you in order to make sure you don’t make any mistakes in buying your next RV Heater.
Whether it’s just for having an extra one, or for replacing the existing one, or even for building a new RV entirely, if you’re going to buy a heater, you want to get the one that serves your needs best. And to help you with your decision, there’s also a list of our top 10 best choices to buy this 2020.
WHAT ARE RV HEATERS?
As the name suggests, RV heaters are used to help heat up your vehicle during cold weather. This is accomplished by producing heat through a heating device, which is then spread throughout your mobile home. If your heater is gas-powered, it will also have ducts and vents strategically spread out over your RV that release the heated air. If your heater is just a small, portable one, expect it to only heat up its surrounding space. However, the space it can heat up also depends on the model.
TYPES OF RV HEATERS AND HOW THEY WORK
The method that the RV heater uses in order to increase the temperature depends on its type. There are two major categories of RV heaters: gas-powered, and electric-powered heaters. There is also the oil furnace, but this is used more as radiators as opposed to heaters. The following is the description of each type, as well as how it differs from the others.
This type of heater provides heat using combustion. First, an ignition (either a pilot light or electric) lights up the burners found inside the combustion chamber. These burners provide heat which then flows to another chamber which contains air, this air will then heat up, resulting in the increase in temperature.
When the air within the second chamber reaches the desired temperature (the temperature of the thermostat), it is blown throughout your mobile home via the network of ducts and vents.
When it comes to gas heaters, they are normally powered by one of two fuels: natural gas and propane. Propane gas is man-made and is better for the environment, due to the lack of harmful gases released during combustion.
Not only does this mean less risk for you, but it also makes propane gas better for the environment, unlike natural gases which release greenhouse gases when burned, which contribute to global warming.
There are also downsides to gas heaters. Firstly, it needs gas to work. Thus, it needs regular refilling, especially if you use it constantly. Second, it is also dangerous due to the highly flammable nature of the fuel used. This means that it is imperative to ensure that there are no leaks anywhere that can allow the gas to escape.
In general, full-range gas heaters cost more than electric-powered ones, mostly because it requires the installation of ducts within the RV. Keep in mind that it is also cheaper to run and easier to maintain, making it a better choice in the long-term.
Additionally, it does a better job of warming up the entire RV due to the ducts being spread throughout. In cases where you only need to warm up a small area around you, portable propane heaters are also an available option.
One thing to take note of regarding propane heaters is that they still require minimal amounts of electricity in order to run. However, they only require a DC connection capable of supplying 12 volts, which can easily be provided by the battery of your RV.
ELECTRICALLY-POWERED RV HEATER
As it says in the name suggests, electric heaters make use of electricity, which it converts into heat. To do this, an electric current is passed through a resistor, which dissipates the current into heat. Instead of having a chamber for exchanging the heat along with a network of vents, the heat produced by electric heaters is just released through an open vent, aided by a blower and sometimes electric fans.
Because of this, the dispersion of heat is comparatively slower, especially without electric fans to aid in spreading. However, unlike gas heaters, electric heaters do not have any byproduct so it’s 100% safe for you and the environment.
An important trait of electric heaters you should be mindful of is the fact that they can only heat up a relatively small area around their heating coils, which can either be good or bad depending on what you need. If saving energy and money is a priority, then this is the better option since it only heats up specific spots in your mobile home. However, if you want your entire RV to be nice and cozy, electric heaters might not be up to the task.
Another point of importance is that electric heaters, much like gas heaters, can also be dangerous. Unlike built-in gas heaters, electric heaters aren’t built into the RV itself. This means there’s a chance they get tipped over, which can result in an accident.
If your RV is solar-powered, know that electric-powered heaters can consume a significant amount of energy, which can vary depending on the model. Make sure that your power source can adequately provide enough energy for both your heater and other essential appliances that are also powered by electricity.
RV OIL FURNACE
Oil furnaces function in the same way as gas heaters. Oil is burned in a sealed chamber within the furnace, causing the temperature within a second chamber to rise. When the temperature within the second chamber is at the desired temperature set in the thermostat, the hot air will be blown through the ducts and out the network of vents.
Not only do oil furnaces heat up just as quickly as the other gas-powered heaters, but they also last longer. Oil is also safer than the other two because it is non-combustible, even if it leaks out. It also does not have a carbon monoxide by-product. However, oil furnace heaters are uncommon, since oil furnaces are generally used as radiators instead.
WHY BUY AN RV HEATER?
RV Heaters allow you to control your motorhome’s temperature, so you can prevent the cold climates from freezing you up, along with your company. It also helps your RV and all your other appliances that may be ruined by condensation or the cold. Finally, the best part about RV heaters is they enable you to go on adventures even in places with cold climates.
When looking for a new RV heater, these are the aspects that you need to consider
- Power Consumption
This refers to the amount of fuel or power required to heat up your space for certain amounts of time. This allows you to know exactly how long your supply can last. It also lets you know how much you need to stock up, so you’re not left freezing in the middle of a winter drive
You want your RV heater to be a long-lasting investment. It won’t do you any good to have it die on you in the middle of your third drive after buying it. It should be able to handle the drive even through the roughest roads.
How many resources does it need to heat up a certain amount of space? Different heaters have different BTU (British Thermal Unit), which refers to the maximum area that it can warm up effectively. For example, warming up an area of 150 square feet requires 5000 BTUs, and 300 square feet requires 7000 BTUs.
Another point of notice is also the time it requires to heat up your space. Is it the type that turns on and off frequently, or does it stay on to maintain the temperature for an extended period? This depends on the type of unit you choose. For example, the DeLonghi Radiator is normally used for maintaining the temperature, because using it for heating up an area will take hours.
- Ease of Maintenance
You should also look into the difficulty of maintaining the heater. If you’re inexperienced about RV heater troubleshooting, low-maintenance heaters should be preferable.
- Extra Features
What other useful features does it have? Try to choose something with safety features. Since a heating system can be dangerous when taken care of improperly, you want to buy something that can take care of itself in the worst-case scenario, such as an auto-shutdown feature when it gets tipped over, or a built-in CO and CO2 sensors.
Look into the price and decide if it’s justified by the features and capabilities of the heater. If it’s something small like a portable heater capable of heating up only around 50-100 square feet, expect the price to only be around $100. If it’s something bigger, such as a full-range centralized heater, the price will definitely be at least $500, even more depending on the brand and other features.
To help you decide on your next source of warmth during your next adventure, here are the top 10 RV heaters of 2020:
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT
The top 10 RV heaters you can buy right now. If you can afford one, there is literally no reason why you shouldn’t have a heater in your RV. It has tons of benefits with absolutely no downsides.
The only problem in buying an RV heater is deciding which one is the best for you. Is your RV a big one, with a number of rooms to accommodate your entire family? A centralized heater would be the best option, so it can heat up all the rooms evenly. You also need to make sure that your heater has enough BTU for all the space in your RV.
If your RV is a small one, just enough for yourself or a company of one or two, then you might want to buy a small portable heater instead. It’s much cheaper and allows you to save up on fuel or electricity. The best part about portable heaters is that you can take it with you anywhere you want, even outside if you’re in the mood for camping in a tent.
There are numerous factors that come in when you’re choosing your next RV heater, but always remember that safety should always be the main priority. Especially since there’s a good chance you’ll be running your heater while you’re asleep. Know the possible hazards of your place, such as whether you or your company are clumsy, or if there are kids or animals that tend to run around a lot, and choose the RV heater with the appropriate safety features. If you don’t know where to start, then check the list above for suggestions.
If you need any more help in choosing your next one, here is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ).
- How do RV furnaces work?
RV furnaces work pretty similarly to the furnace you have in your home. There is a centralized heating system where the air is heated up. This air is then sent through ducts to the vents located throughout your RV, where it is blown out into the space.
For ductless furnaces, the heated air is just blown directly through the furnace’s vent. Tankless water heaters work slightly differently.
- How do I keep my RV warm during winter?
It depends on how large your RV is. If you’re alone and you just want to keep a small spot in your RV warm, then a portable heater should be enough for your needs. If your RV is huge and you’re traveling with family, a centralized heating system is suggested to keep all the space inside warm and cozy. If you want your heater to function quickly, get one powered by either electricity or natural gases. Oil-equipped radiators work slower, but they maintain the temperature for a much longer time. A combination of the two, a heater to raise the temperature, and a radiator to maintain it, is ideal.
- Are there any alternatives to propane heaters?
You can choose either natgas (natural gas) heaters, or electric-powered heaters. You also have the option of getting an oil-based radiator instead, but these may take longer in heating up your motorhome.
The best option is propane heaters, choose a portable one which can function with just propane canisters.
Another option are RV wood stoves, which have inherent risks due to the flammable nature of the items necessary.