The purpose of a recreational vehicle is to allow you to travel to places unexplored. Some of these places have mild climates, while others have extreme ones. If you are traveling on a winter or you are visiting a place that is unusually cold as compared to what you are used to, you would need a heating system that will allow you to stay warm and comfortable. This is where finding the best RV heater comes into play.
Most RVs of today come pre-built with propane heating systems. However, many RV owners opt to switch to heaters that run on electricity. There are also those who have custom-built their RVs, so they don’t have a pre-built heating system. If you are among those who need help finding the right heater for their vehicle to either replace the current heater or to get a supplementary one, this complete guide can help you.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best RV Heater Reviews 2020
- 1. Camco 57351 Olympian Wave-8 LP Gas Catalytic Heater
- 2. Handy Heater Wall Heater
- 3. Lasco CD09250 Ceramic Heater
- 4. Bovado USA 166648 Ceramic Space Heater
- 5. Lasko 755320 Ceramic Tower Heater
- 6. Broan NuTone 6201 Big Heat Heater
- 7. Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater
- 8. DeLonghi EW7707CM Oil-Filled Radiator
- 9. Suburban NT-30SP Electronic Ignition Ducted Furnace
- 10 Suburban 2438ABK NT-16SEQ Furnace
- What to Look for When Buying an RV Heater
- Other Important Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
10 Best RV Heater Reviews 2020
1. Camco 57351 Olympian Wave-8 LP Gas Catalytic Heater
If you are worried about the power supply in your RV, the Camco Olympian will heat up your space without consuming a single volt of electricity. This unit uses propane as its main source of power.
The first thing that I like about the Camco Olympian is its capability to heat up my RV fast. Even though this is only intended to be used as a secondary heat source, it works great in a motorhome as it provides 4,200 to 8,000 BTU. This can warm up 100 square feet to 350 square feet of space easily.
Another benefit that I tremendously enjoyed about this RV heater is that it doesn’t make much noise. Unlike other RV heaters that clatter when being used, this one is as silent as the night. You can actually enjoy a good night’s sleep without being awakened by some weird noise.
One drawback is that this RV catalytic heater only uses HD-5 propane gas. Although HD-5 is the most common type of propane gas distributed in the US, you should be careful about not accidentally using HD-10 (which is common in California). It’s very little but it’s one more thing to always remember.
2. Handy Heater Wall Heater
The Handy Heater is one of the smallest heaters I’ve seen. It is 6.2 inches high and 3.3 inches thick and enclosed in a metal casing. It’s an electric heater that uses only 350 watts of power, which means its power consumption is hardly noticeable. You can bring it anywhere as long as there’s a plug or an outlet.
The temperature controller is a little bit harder to push when I crank up the heat a little, though it could be because it’s brand new. One thing I like about the Handy Heater is the automatic timer, which is pretty useful for those who are forgetful. It has high and low settings and you can program it for up to 12 hours.
What I don’t appreciate in this RV electric heater is you have to set the temperature and other settings manually each time you need to use it. Think about it turning off in the middle of the night and you have to get up and manually input the settings. It can be a pain. It should have some sort of presets so you won’t need to input everything every time you turn it on.
3. Lasco CD09250 Ceramic Heater
Most RV heaters that are sold in the market these days have digital settings controller; Lasco CD09250 is going against the tide by utilizing knobs. However, I find the two manual controllers very convenient to operate. Those who like it old-school will be fond of this heater.
One knob has three modes: high heat, low heat, and fan. The other controller gives you more control over how warm you want your room to be (essentially, it’s a thermostat). It’s easy to use and straight to the point.
The casing is made of thick plastic, and I cool enough to touch even while the heater is operational. This is a nice feature to have if you want to move it around. It uses an adaptable ceramic element which regulates the temperature on its own.
I am happy that this ceramic heater for RV has a fan option that most heaters do not have. Once my space is toasty enough for my liking, I can switch to fan mode to save energy. It also automatically shuts down whenever it detects overheating. I was disappointed that it does not have a tipping safety feature.
4. Bovado USA 166648 Ceramic Space Heater
This medium-sized RV heater may be smaller in size compared to furnaces and other heaters, but I’m telling you its performance is beyond spectacular! I left it on a high setting for about 20 minutes and my trailer got very warm indeed, similar to what a full furnace could have done. I can say that this heater totally packs a punch.
What I like about this RV heater is its durability and resistance to meltdown. There are plenty of RV heaters that may be working well, but if left working for long hours may overheat. Bovado USA 166648 is made of durable materials that make it possible to blast a serious heat power without compromising the components inside and outside the unit.
It also has an overheat protection system that shuts the system off when it reaches a certain temperature in its components. Another safety feature is its Safety Tip-over switch that shuts the unit off when it falls over.
What I don’t like about this particular RV heater though is its noise. If you are sleeping in the middle of the night, you might wake up because of the sound coming from the unit’s fan.
Just like the Lasco CD09250, it makes use of two knows to control the settings. One knob is for the three modes: fan, low and high heat. The other knob is for the thermostat. Nothing fancy, but better than digital displays that you have to set every single time.
5. Lasko 755320 Ceramic Tower Heater
When it comes to flexibility and power, I can honestly say that The Lasko Ceramic Tower belongs to the top of the list. This 23-inch 1500 watt RV heater is made of quality materials that can withstand tremendous heat.
This Lasko heater was built well. The cover is made from top quality fiberglass that allows you to touch it without getting burned. Also, the handle is properly designed that allows you to safely move the unit from one place to another while being operational.
The multi-function remote is my favorite feature of this RV heater. Once I have everything up and running, I can adjust the settings without having to stand up or stoop down just to get the temperature right. I can say that this is ideal for those who have mobility issues, especially during winter. I also find the remote control reliable when I am sleeping; I didn’t have to get up just to re-adjust the settings or turn off the unit.
It also has an oscillating feature, which is nice to keep the temperature even all throughout the room. And even with the oscillation and the blowing of its internal fan, it makes very little noise, which is a relief.
Another important benefit that I liked about this product is its self-regulating feature. I can actually rest my mind easy while I am doing my chores inside the RV. It also has an auto-off timer that you can schedule for up to 8 hours.
One problem that I noticed is that this tower heater does not have a safety feature that shuts it off when tipped over accidentally. It may have a safety feature that protects it from overheating but it cannot prevent an accident from happening once it is tipped over. This is a very important concern since this unit can be easily toppled down due to its tall and slender design. If you have kids and pets running around, this heater can become a safety hazard.
6. Broan NuTone 6201 Big Heat Heater
The Broan NuTone 6201 is an impressive-looking electric heater. The casing is made of metal, while the edges are lined with thick plastic mold to prevent it from tipping. The handle is made of thick plastic as well, which I think is a good thing because you can easily transport the device without getting worried about being burned.
I’ve read a lot of Broan Big Heat reviews which inspired me to actually try one. The NuTone 6201 looks like a mini tank, which I like because the heater looks very durable overall. When you look at it, you might feel doubtful that it will heat up your space, what with its small size of 6 inches cubed. But it does what it’s supposed to do.
One thing I don’t like is that for the first few hours that I turned it on, it released a chemical-smelling odor. This usually happens in most heating and cooling devices that are brand new, but some brands are able to significantly reduce this smell. If you buy this device, you can run it outside or in your garage when you use it for the first time.
If you want to heat your space up fast, turn it to the highest setting. Then turn it back to the actual setting that you want when you feel that the space is already warm enough. If it’s set to the lowest setting, it takes a while to reach the temperature you want because only a few plates are running at the lowest setting.
7. Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater
If you’re looking for a small propane heater for camper, this is definitely what I would recommend. Mr. Heater is actually a household name, and it’s wonderful that they have released this portable propane heater. Being portable, I can also take it to my tent whenever I decide to camp out.
You can tell that this product was efficiently designed and manufactured with one look. It has an automatic shut off feature if accidentally tipped over or if it detects that the level of oxygen is low, which is good. The same happens when the pilot light goes out.
You can fuel it with a small propane canister, or you can also hook it up to your propane tank. It can easily warm up your space for up to 225 square feet. Anything more than that, you would need to use a fan and crank it up at the highest setting. This might end up using more propane though.
If you want to use it overnight, I suggest buying the adapter and connecting it to a propane tank of at least 5 pounds (lbs) as it burns up a lot of fuel. I estimate its propane usage to be 1 pound for 5 hours at the lowest setting.
As an additional safety, make sure to purchase a carbon monoxide detector when using it in enclosed areas (or if you can’t open a window). Centralized propane heaters have an outside exhaust, which this one lacks. It is supposed to be 100% efficient, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.
8. DeLonghi EW7707CM Oil-Filled Radiator
The DeLonghi Radiator is for me the best oil filled heater for RV. As its name implies, it radiates heat, which means it gradually increases a room’s temperature. Agreeably, it does not heat a space up as fast as other heaters, but what I love about this device is that it can maintain the comfortable temperature for a long time.
If this is the only heater you’ll be using, it’ll take two to three hours to heat up your motorhome. It’s best to use a different heater to heat your space up fast, then turn it off and use the DeLonghi one to maintain the temperature.
However, it’s not as portable as other heaters, as it weighs 25 pounds. Although you can simply roll it from one room to another since it has wheels, you can’t very well take it to your tent.
Furthermore, it relies on electricity to power it up, so unless your RV is set-up for off-grid living, you would need to find a caravan park. It uses up to 1500 watts of power but can go as low as 700 watts. It has 6 levels of heat, so I would recommend setting it to the highest level (6) at night, then going down to around 3 or 4 during the day. Or you can use the ComfortTemp feature which is pretty nifty, in my opinion.
What I love about this oil-filled radiator is you don’t need to refill the oil, so that’s less cost for you. There is also very little safety issues with this device; no burning gases and minimal possibility of tipping over.
9. Suburban NT-30SP Electronic Ignition Ducted Furnace
If you are looking for a replacement furnace for your motorhome, Suburban NT-30SP is a fine choice. It’s a propane heater but makes use of electronic ignition to turn the heating cycle on. Electronic ignition is more efficient than conventional pilot lights in a sense that it does not need to always be on. It will spark up the burners just when you turn the furnace on, which makes this furnace more efficient.
To make sure your heating system works perfectly, it would be best to get the complete Suburban NT-30SP with the complete package – this includes the vent assembly. The complete set is easy to install and only took me two to three hours to set everything up, including installing the ducts and aligning the ports and vents.
What I like about this popup camper heater is that it can heat up your entire RV, so no more taking a warm bath then stepping out into a chilly room. It also helps get rid of the frosting from your door and windows. It can reach up to 30,000 BTU, which means it can warm up as much as 2,000 square foot, which is 4 to 5 times the size of a regular motorhome. If you have a very big motorhome with several rooms, this heater is definitely for you.
The only drawback with this propane furnace is that it uses up a lot of gas, especially since it’s heating up the entire room. Also, if you have no idea how to set-up and install the heating system yourself, it’s easy to become intimidated by all the work.
10 Suburban 2438ABK NT-16SEQ Furnace
If you have already tried the Suburban NT-16SE, you would be happy to know that this is almost the same, except for one improvement – it’s inaudible! The “Q” in NT-16SEQ actually stands for quiet. The noisy fan blades of the NT-16SE have been improved so this unit now vibrates less and produces less noise.
I think this small vented propane heater is perfect for an RV as it has a maximum of 16,000 BTUs, which means it can heat up a large space of up to 800 square feet. Much like the previous Suburban we reviewed, this also makes use of electric ignition.
The NT-16SEQ is a ductless heater, so it is quite easy to install. Its air intake and combustion exhaust are vented towards the outside of your motorhome so it’s pretty safe. I also like that it automatically closes off the gas valve if it senses that there is no flame.
Since it runs on 12 volts, you wouldn’t need to go to an RV park as you can just use your battery to run it. I’ve tested it and it works great on solar powered 12-volt DC battery. It pulls very little power which is only needed for the fan and the circuit board.
What to Look for When Buying an RV Heater
When looking for the best space heater for RV, it’s important to consider the following factors:
Maintenance – how easy or hard is it to maintain the heater? Can a beginner maintain the unit with ease or do you need to be an expert? If you have very little knowledge about RV heater troubleshooting, it would be best to choose one that requires very little maintenance such as portable heaters.
Efficiency – how efficiently does it burn its fuel (if it’s an oil or gas heater) or how much electricity does it need to heat up your space? Look into the device’s BTU or British Thermal Unit to learn how big of a space it can heat up. For example, 5,000 BTUs can effectively warm up 150 square feet of space, while 7,000 BTUs can efficiently heat up 300 square feet.
Also, take into consideration how quickly it heats up the said space. Does it turn on and off frequently, or can it maintain the temperature for a long time? However, this depends on your unit of choice. For instance, the DeLonghi Radiator is best used for maintaining the temperature but it is not recommended for heating up a cold space as it can take hours.
Durability – since you will be on the road frequently, it’s important that the device doesn’t give in when you stumble through rough roads.
Safety Features – a heating system is always a safety hazard, so make sure the unit you are looking into has built-in safety features. This can include auto-shutdown when tipped over, or fuel valve closes when the pilot light goes out (for propane heaters), or has built-in CO and CO2 sensors.
Power or Fuel consumption – how much fuel or power does it need to heat up your space? And for how long? If you only have 10 lbs of propane, for example, how long will it last when your heater is running continuously? It’s important to know this so you won’t run out of gas right in the middle of the camp with no nearby store to purchase propane from.
Cost – the price of the unit is dependent on the number of useful features your heater has. If it’s a portable heater that can heat up around 50 to a hundred square feet, being less than $100 is good. If it’s a full-range centralized heater, then you can, of course, expect it to be priced $500 and above, depending on the brand and extra features.
Other Important Factors to Consider
What is an RV heater. How does it work
An RV heater is a heating system that helps keep your vehicle warm. It makes use of a centralized heating device that produces the heat. If you are using a full propane heater, it has several ducts and vents placed strategically inside your motorhome which carries and releases the heat all throughout.
If you are using a portable heater, it only releases warmth in the area where the heater is located. How an RV heater works actually depends on the type of heater that you are using.
Types of RV heaters
There are two major types of RV heaters, and these are gas heaters and electric heaters. Let us discuss the difference and how they work:
- Gas heater
A gas heater makes use of combustion to provide heat. An ignition (commonly a pilot light but can also be electric) fires up several burners located in the combustion chamber. The heat produced by these burners then flows to the heat exchange chamber, where it builds up and heats the air inside, effectively raising the temperature.
Once the temperature in the heat exchange chamber reaches that of what is set in the thermostat, this hot air is blown towards the vent. If you are using a central heating system, then the heat will be blown through the ducts and released through the vents located in various parts of your motorhome.
There are also two types of gas heaters, namely natural gas heaters and propane heaters. Propane is a man-made gas stored in a tank. The advantage of RV propane heaters is that it does not release harmful gases when it burns. This means burning propane poses no risk to you or the environment. Natural gas, on the other hand, releases greenhouse gases.
The disadvantage of a gas heater is that it needs to be refilled with gas regularly if you constantly use it. Also, if there is a leak in the tank or the tube, gas can easily escape. This can be dangerous since the fuel being used is highly flammable.
Full-range gas heaters are much more expensive to purchase and install, especially with the duct work. However, it is cheaper to use and maintain in the long run. Plus, it can warm up your entire RV home. Portable propane heaters are also available in case you want to heat up just a small space.
Contrary to popular belief, propane heaters that make use of ducts and vents still use electricity, albeit minimally. These are powered by 12 volt DC connections and can run on your house battery.
- Electric heater
Electric heaters work by converting electricity into heat. Essentially, an electric current passes through a resistor, which converts electricity to heat. This heat is released through the open vent with the help of a blower.
Unlike gas heaters, it does not have any byproduct. However, an electric heating system does not make use of ducts and vents, so dispelling heat can sometimes be slower. To aid the spreading of warmth, electric fans are often used.
One thing to remember about an electric heater is that you can only power up one space at a time. This can be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. It can be advantageous to you if you want to save power (and money) and only focus on areas you need heated. It can also be disadvantageous if you actually want to heat up your entire motorhome.
Furthermore, electric heaters can be a safety hazard, as they have a chance of tipping over and causing a fire. Since full-range gas heaters are built into the home, it seldom becomes a fire hazard unless there’s a leak in the tank.
If you’re using solar power in your RV, keep in mind that electric heaters might use a lot of energy, depending on the electric heater you buy. Make sure your solar power system can carry this load side by side with your other appliances such as electric coolers and cookers.
- Oil furnace
An oil furnace works in a similar manner as a gas heater. The furnace burns the oil in a sealed cavity, which causes the rising of temperature in the plenum chamber. Once the temperature in the plenum chamber reaches the temperature you set, the hot air will then be blown through the ducts and out the vents.
Oil heats up as fast as propane and natural gas, but it doesn’t get used up as quickly. Furthermore, oil is considered to be safer than its gas counterparts because it is not combustible when released into the air and it does not produce carbon monoxide.
This is the least popular heater type among the three, though. It is mostly used as radiators.
Benefits of RV heater
An RV heater basically keeps your motorhome warm, therefore preventing you and your family from freezing up in cold climates. Maintaining warmth inside is also important to keep your trailer and other appliances from being ruined by the cold and the condensation.
The number one benefit of having an RV heater is that you don’t need to limit your adventures to places with mild climates. You can still be comfortably warm while enjoying the view during winter months or in chilly locations.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How does an RV furnace work?
An RV furnace works very much the same as your home furnace. It has a central heating system, usually a propane heater, which heats up air. The heated air then flows through ducts and is blown through vents around your motorhome. If you have a ductless furnace, then the hot air will immediately be blown through the vent.
How to heat an RV in winter?
You can install a centralized furnace or you can use portable heaters. You can have an electric or propane heater that heats a spot up quickly, or you can go for oil-filled radiators that can maintain heat for longer periods.
How to heat an RV without propane?
If you don’t want to use propane, you can use natgas or natural gas heaters. Conversely, you can also use portable electric heaters which are also popular nowadays. You can also choose oil-filled radiators like the DeLonghi EW7707CM, but this type takes a while to heat up your space.
How to heat a camper without electricity?
You can use portable propane heaters for this purpose, such as Mr. Heater F232000. Centralized propane furnaces still need electricity to run (albeit only a little).
You can also make use of an RV wood stove, but this not advisable if you don’t know how to properly maintain one as it can cause fires. Wood stoves in an RV are also not recommended for families with small children as it can be a safety hazard.
There is absolutely no disadvantage to having a heater in your motorhome. However, it’s important to choose the right one that fits your needs. If you have a big RV that accommodates your entire family, a centralized heater would be best since family members are usually scattered around and not sitting in one place.
However, if you are a solo camper or just traveling with your partner, a portable heater can save you a lot of money. You can just place the portable heater wherever you are; you can even bring it with you to your tent.
Choosing the best RV heater can be based on a lot of factors, but keep in mind that safety should always be your first concern. Check my list of the best electric heater for RV above and I’m sure you won’t regret your choice.
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