After the scourges of COVID, more and more people are looking for opportunities to get away, the weather is becoming less critical, everyone wants to get away. An RV is the best way of doing this without being forced to break social distancing rules while staying in a relatively safe bubble of your close family members or travel companions.
There are several methods to heat your RV without resorting to propane. These include infrared or ceramic electric heaters, oil heaters, and heat pumps. What’s more, improving the RVs insulation will retain the heat better, which makes for an even more comfortable vacation.
Many of these cost a fraction of the cost of propane, and they don’t run out in the middle of an icy snap of weather, as so often happens with propane when the propane tank runs out. This post looks at what you can do to reduce your reliance on propane gas to heat your RV.
The Ways You Can Heat Your RV Without Propane
Propane is the most commonly used fuel to heat RVs. While most RV s do have a 30amp or 50amp electrical circuit available, and there are many electrically powered appliances, such as the microwave and air conditioner, installed in a regular RV, many of the RV’s devices require propane or a combination of both to run.
The main reason for the reliance on propane is that it allows you to venture off-grid into the “wilds” without needing a secure hook up to electricity.
The Steps You Can Take To Warm An RV Without Propane
There are practical alternatives to heating an RV without propane.
1. Stop The Heat Escaping
Before looking at the alternatives to a propane heating unit, one of the most effective ways to heat your RV is by insulating it first. Stopping heat from escaping is both a practical and necessary action to take.
The Hatch Vent
Remember, hot air rises, and while the roof of the RV is probably adequately insulated, the hatch vent may be the weak link in the system.
Third-party manufactured hatch vent insulators can be purchased at a reasonable cost and are a great way to seal the warmth in the caravan. The vent insulator is designed to fit onto the inside of the roof vents.
A 2 3/4-inches of foam helps stop heat loss and is covered on the side facing outside with a reflective material, which reflects the sun’s heat away from the RV; this is useful in summer as it helps keep the RV cool.
Hatch vent insulators also keep the heat out of the RV when the sun is at full strength, and it acts as a shade to keep the harsh light outside.
If it is not practical for you to buy a hatch vent, cut a piece out of a Styrofoam board to match the exact dimensions of the hatch vent.
Insulate The Windows
Windows are made with thin glass or Perspex, which is tough to insulate. Unfortunately, these materials have excellent heat convection properties, which means if the weather is icy outside, cold will get inside the RV.
Consider fitting an insulating material to your RV’s windows to reduce heat loss. The product is provided with tape to attach the film to the window frame. The product shrinks with a standard hairdryer to create an airtight lining over the window. The product adds a layer to the window and stops drafts and heat loss.
Other products are available, but each works in essentially the same way.
Check The Doors For Air Leaks
Doors need to seal very well to keep out the cold. If you have ever been in an RV with the wind howling outside, with the RV being buffeted by the gusts, and an eery howling noise coming through the gaps in the door, you will appreciate the need to seal it well.
Ensure you check the door seals regularly as any little gap or opening will let in drafts of the freezing air from outside.
All your work to create a warm cozy environment can be lost through an irritatingly badly fitting door seal.
Replace the seals as often as necessary and regularly re-caulk the seams around your windows and doors.
Check The RVs Floor For Gaps
An often-overlooked part of the RV is the floor. There are probably many gaps in the floor that aren’t being fixed. Check for holes where pipes and wiring run from outside the RV.
Your RV may also be equipped with floor vents through which dust can be swept.
Commercially available skirts explicitly designed for RVs are available. Manufactured from vinyl, insulated vinyl, vinyl with a sewn-in backing, canvas, or a homemade tarp skirt, RV skirting fits into the awning tracks running along the bottom of the RV. As a result, they completely enclose the bottom of the RV. It serves two purposes.
- It prevents freezing air and stormy weather from circulating under the RV and potentially freezing water in its plumbing system.
- By stopping the cold air from blowing around the bottom of the RV, it acts as a thermal barrier to the cold.
Skirting made from wood and foam board is also available; however, these are heavy and bulky to carry around.
In Wall Slide Out Systems
If your RV is fitted with in-wall slide-out systems (a cut-out portion of your RV that increases the living space available), make sure that there are no gaps that allow for cold air to get into the RV when deployed.
Some wall slide-out systems have canvass walls or sheets to enclose the expanding sections. Depending on the material used on these sections, there may be an issue with losing heat.
It is also good to place foam board underneath each RV slide-out to reduce drafts.
2. Keep Yourselves Warm
After you have insulated the RV, the next step is to keep yourself warm; this may seem obvious, but before spending money on heating your RV, a low-cost, simple solution is to retain your body’s core temperature.
The Latin proverb “vestis virum facit” means “clothes make the man.” Whether you agree with this or not, by butchering the phrase and adding the word “calidum” to this phrase, you get “clothes make the man WARM”!
All this is a very involved way to say that if you dress with the correct gear, you will save a fortune in heating costs.
- Pack the right clothes! Bring that reliable and comfortable fleece and thermal underwear if it is freezing.
- Because of the greater blood flow in the head and neck, 40-45 percent of body heat is lost compared to the rest of the body. A simple solution is to wear a beanie. It may look a little gangster-like, but at least you will be a warm gangster!
- Use quilts to sleep.
- Your ankles, feet, and wrists account for a collective 25% of body heat loss. Put on warm socks, and if you must venture outside, use a decent pair of gloves.
- Use a product like “hot hands.” These are small packets that get warmed up when activated by exposure to the air. You can slip hot hands into your gloves, pockets, or socks.
- If you are not connected to an RV park AC system, use a hot water bottle over an electric blanket.
3. Use A Non-Propane Heating Device
You will need to source alternative heating devices to replace the propane units.
If you are holidaying at an RV park with a decent AC power supply, you can opt for any electric units we list below.
Except for limited use, electric heaters will not be the optimum solution if you are boondocking. Suppose you have sufficient batteries capacity to run the heaters off. In that case, they will drain the batteries very fast, and you will end up having to run the system off the generator, which is both expensive and noisy – so much for the peaceful getaway in the snow!
Have A Look At A Solar Heating System
Solar heating systems consist of
- A solar ( photovoltaic) panel that produces electricity, just like a conventional solar system,
- A heat panel absorbs heat from the sun.
- A thermal regulator.
- A fan that sucks in the external air.
The system works by uptaking air that the heat panel has heated and recirculating it through a thermal regulator. As the air is constantly circulated, it is reheated every time it passes the heat panel.
Some models also incorporate fresh air drawn from the outside; however, in freezing conditions, it takes more energy to heat air from a lower temperature.
Unless you use the batteries to run the fan, it will not work at night or when the weather is overcast and cloudy.
As these are the instances when it is coldest, and you need the heating system to work, it is advisable to use a system that incorporates a solar batter controller and battery.
Consider Installing A Heat Pump
Although heat pumps run on electricity, they only use electricity to drive the fan that pulls the air through the system. They are much more energy-efficient than conventional electric heaters.
Heat pumps work oppositely to a household refrigerator.
Heat pumps transfer heat from the air surrounding an RV and increases it to a more comfortable temperature in the RV.
Heat pumps are ineffective when temperatures are below freezing.
Diesel Heaters Are Effective, But Costly To Install
Diesel heaters use fuel from the RV’s diesel tank (assuming the RV, or your towing vehicle, runs on diesel).
They draw in the air from the atmosphere, passing through a heat exchanger to warm the air.
The warm air is circulated in the RV, raising the ambient temperature. They are very reliable and work well with freezing outside temperatures.
Installation must be undertaken by a suitably qualified professional, making the installation costs high; the running cost of diesel heaters is subject to the general gas prices. Presently these are economic units to run.
There are a few disadvantages of diesel heaters.
- Running a diesel heater is noisy, particularly for your neighbors
- An older heater or one that is not well maintained may emit fumes
- Diesel heaters need to be serviced regularly.
What About A Wood Burning Stove
It sounds crazy, I know, but a wood-burning stove is a viable option to heat the RV. The simplicity of operation is one of the key attractions of a wood-burning stove. All you need is wood, an ignition source, and heat is produced.
Now you have recovered from the shock at the mention of fire-breathing wood stoves being installed in your RV; they are perfectly safe to operate in an RV if they are installed correctly.
You must follow basic safety guidelines to ensure sufficient free space around the stove to prevent the radiated heat from the furnace from damaging appliances or furniture immediately around them.
Wood stoves for RV’s are very cheap, the wood to fuel them is not expensive, they are very effective, and they create a wonderfully cozy atmosphere in the RV.
There are a few downsides which include
- If you don’t make the fire properly, it can be smelly. You will soon learn the best process!
- Finding storage space for the wood may be a problem.
- Some insurers don’t cover damage resulting from a fire caused by a wood heater.
- Make sure you don’t install too large a heater, as they are so effective, they could make the interior TOO hot.
You Can Make Your Solar Heating Box
You can install solar heating boxes through a partially open window on your stationary RV. Make sure you seal the edges to ensure no air gets between the unit and the window frame.
Why don’t you try to build your solar heating box if you feel adventurous?
You don’t have to be a professional craftsman to attempt this project.
It is possible to heat your RV without equipment that runs on propane.
Start with the basics and ensure your RV efficiently keeps the warmed air inside. Dress correctly for the weather and make sure you have warm bedding. When you are satisfied that these two tasks are complete, you should consider what type of device you need to heat your RV without propane.
Good luck, and happy camping!
Check out our article on: (9 Steps) How To Insulate A Travel Trailer For Winter Use