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What is the Most Effective Way to Heat an RV?

Updated: Jan 24

What is the most efficient way to heat an RV during winter? How do you heat an RV without propane? Read on to learn the best way to heat an RV.


best insulated rv

Winter is here! and for a lot of RVers, that means storing their RVs for the season. But not all RV families are the same. If you are a full-time RVer or just like camping in the winter, then you need to start thinking about preparing your rig for the cold months to come. RVing in the winter can be a pretty awesome experience once you get a hang of how to heat your RV. Read on to learn some ways to keep your RV warm in the winter.



Insulation

When it comes to heating your RV, insulation plays a pivotal role. RV insulation is more than just covering the door and windows. Here is how to insulate RV for winter.


Rv insulation panels on windows

RV Window Insulation

Let's start with the basics; how to insulate RV windows. Insulating RV door and windows can go a long way in controlling the temperature in your RV. You want to make sure that all heat stays trapped inside the RV so that your rig remains warm and cozy. You can use spray foam insulation to cover any cracks or nooks on the walls around the windows and doors. This is also the best insulation for RV walls and for RV floor insulation.


But reflective insulators are usually more effective in keeping your rig warm in the winter and cool in the summer. You can find these insulators with R-values ranging from R-3.7 through R-21, the higher the R-value. the better the insulation provided by the covers. Investing in insulated RV window covers and insulated curtains are also a good way to make sure your rig remains toasty during the winter. Don't forget to install an RV skylight insulator and RV windshield cover as well.


Vents

Vents are the next thing you need to insulate to keep your RV warm. Start from the hatch vents and make your way down to the wall vents and cover them all. You can use RV vent insulator covers that cover all the vents with a very thin layer of plastic. Another option is to use Styrofoam around the vent covers to make sure no cold wind gets inside. No matter what option you choose, make sure the vent covers are the right size for your RV vents.


Holding Tanks

RV holding tanks are very sensitive to cold temperatures. You have to insulate them properly to make sure they don't crack in the cold weather. Use heating cables and pads to make sure there are no blockages in the piping system. Wrap a heating blanket around the freshwater tank to keep it warm (or use an RV holding tank heater). You can also invest in RV antifreeze for your black and grey water tanks (don't use in the freshwater tank).


Heaters

Once you've made sure all the parts of your RV that can let in the cold are properly insulated, it is time to start thinking about actively heating your RV. A great way of doing that is by using RV heaters. Here are some types of RV heaters you can use.


Rv fireplace heater

RV Electric Heaters

Electric heaters are the easiest and most convenient option for heating your RV. These heaters come in all shapes and sizes. You can find electric oil heaters, ceramic heaters, infrared heaters, and even electric blankets. RV electric heaters are lightweight, safe to use indoors, inexpensive, and emit no smell or CO2. The best electric heaters for RV provide consistent heat and are adjustable. The downside to electric heaters is that they draw a huge amount of power so it is recommended to use them when you have electric hookups available. Also, most electric heaters are great for heating smaller campers, but for larger rigs, the heat provided by a single electric heater might not be enough to heat the entire RV.


RV Gas and Diesel Heaters

If you're looking for quick, even heating in your RV then you can't go wrong with RV gas and diesel heaters. They are the cheapest option to heat your RV (after initial installation) and they provide dry heat so you don't need to worry about condensation. Diesel heater RV is usually mounted below the front seats of the camper. The downside to these RV heaters is the costly initial setup and installation.


RV Propane Heaters

Propane heaters work like any other Rv space heater, but they use propane instead of electricity to work. Propane heaters are very popular among vanlifers because they are affordable, effective, and do not use electricity to work. They provide a lot of concentrated heat and are available in a number of sizes. RV propane heaters are easy to use, propane itself is easy to procure and you can use it for a number of other camping equipment like cooking plates, stoves, and propane firepits. The downside to RV propane heaters is that they release CO2 so you need to make sure your rig is well ventilated and has a monoxide detector installed before using them. Also, propane heaters produce wet heat that can cause condensation which can, in turn, lead to mold development. Invest in a good RV dehumidifier to counter that problem.


RV Wood Stoves

If you're looking for something a little more aesthetic and romantic, you can invest in RV wood stoves and heaters. They provide consistent dry heat and are inexpensive to operate, not to mention they look amazing. But installation does come with a hefty price check and you need a regular supply of wood to keep the stove burning.


Hydronic Heating Systems

Newer models of Class A rigs now have an added feature by way of hydronic heating systems. These systems work in the same way as hot water heating in old houses. The system works by pushing a solution of water and antifreeze through a system of pipes and small radiators that are distributed throughout the RV. This fluid is heated from the heat of the engine when driving the rig or from a small diesel or propane-fired boiler system. Hydronic heating systems can be used to keep your rig toasty, pre-heat the engine for improved starts, and warm water used for showering and washing.


Radiant Electric Heating

Radiant electric heating is a concept introduced by higher-end rigs and bus conversions. The system involves installing electric heating panels under the floor of the RV that keep radiating heat throughout the rig. Radiant electric heating systems can be powered by a 12-volt system, an auxiliary generator, or electricity in the campground.



Insulated RV Skirting

You can't completely winter-proof your RV without protecting its underbelly. There are two ways to do just that; RV underbelly insulation and insulated RV skirting. You can use a combination of foam spray and foil paper to do the former. It may take some time and effort but it is a cheap and effective way to keep the cold winds at bay. You can also install an RV skirting to make sure no cold wind gets under the RV. You can find weather-resistant skirtings, foam boarding, and plywood skirting. You can choose to install a permanent skirting or one you can take off and pack.


Solar Heating


solar panel heating

If you have solar panels installed on your RV you can use them to heat your RV using this very creative DIY "window box" solar heating collector. Head over to MotherEarthNews to learn how to make this super-simple and super-effective solar heating collector in just one hour!


How to Keep Warm in an RV: Winter Accessories to the Rescue

Staying warm in an RV isn't just about finding the best RV heater, you can also keep yourself warm by using some common winter accessories.


best heater for rv boondocking

Warm Clothes

Layering is the best way to keep yourself warm during the colder months. Heavy pajamas, thermal leggings, woolen mufflers, and warm sweaters are your best friends. Don't forget to use insulated socks to keep your feet warm and toasty.


Blankets

Nothing says warm and cozy like some plush blankets. Use electric blankets if you want to stay extra warm on cold nights. If you like your blankets to be light and breathable, consider microfiber blankets.


Rugs

RV rugs are a great way to keep your RV floors warm and insulated. Even with socks, some RV floors can get really chilly during the winter. Rugs also make your living space look cozy and comfortable.


Hot Water Bottles

Hot water bottles can be a Godsend when it comes to staying cozy during winter. You can use hot water bottles to warm up your beds before you dive in. They are also great for some extra warmth when it's really cold outside.


The Last Word

Heating your RV in the winter can be a challenge. But some preliminary insulation work and smart investments in heating equipment can help you enjoy winter RV camping without a hitch. Let us know how you winterize your RV for the season.



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