Published Date: August 13, 2020
Last Updated on December 24, 2022 by Camper Front
How can I heat an RV without propane?
Let’s find out below!
Most RV’s come with an onboard furnace that runs on propane. While this might be efficient to keep your home warm, it is costly, and let’s not get started on the unhealthy fumes they emit.
Most of them also require the use of electricity whereas if you happen to find yourself in a place without access to a campground power outlet, you are done for.
Luckily there are easier ways to heat your RV without burning a hole in your pocket and still enjoy a perfectly warm home.
Now, let’s quickly look at how to heat an RV without propane.
Table of Contents
How to Heat an RV Without Propane
Below are a few easy ways you can heat your RV without propane:
If you are trying to be environmentally conscious, then this is the best way to go, solar panels work by generating protons while in the sun for hours, after which the protons are converted into electricity to be used in your RV.
It consists of a heat panel that absorbs enough heat from the sun, a fan that sucks in air, and also a photovoltaic panel that produces electricity.
When air is sucked into the panel, it heats up and then pushed into the RV, solar panels are known to work just fine during winter times, even though it’s not as effective as during summer.
One great benefit of a solar panel is being able to pull up and stop anywhere without having to worry about the space or campsite having electrical outlets, so you are able to visit exciting and off-the-grid places.
A solar panel cost ranges anywhere around $300 to $500 depending on the size and efficiency of the panel, now this might seem like a lot, but with a solar panel system, it’s a one-time purchase, and you get to save up costs from subsequent uses.
Hatch Vent Insulation
A Hatch vent is one of the biggest culprits of heat loss because hot air rises. Vent covers are typically made from thin plastic, which is not reliable in preventing cold air from getting into your RV.
It is recommended to add an extra layer of protection like a layer of styrofoam, cut it to fit precisely, and secure it in place with adhesive or tape.
Another option is to use a vent insulator, which is basically a large piece of insulated foam that sometimes comes with a reflective surface.
Using a vent insulator will help to prevent heat loss and escape from your RV. In fact, you want to look for any gaps that let in air and allow heat to escape and cover it with whatever you can, adhesive, Styrofoam, or blankets just to make sure warm air stops escaping from your space.
Skirting is simply blocking off the empty space underneath your RV from wind and cold air.
Outside elements are bound to penetrate your RV from underneath because there are probably more gaps in the underbelly of your RV than you think to make space for different types of equipment and pipes.
Using a skirt to wrap around the lower part of your RV helps to act as an extra barrier between you and the elements.
But before you apply your skirting, you have to make sure to fill any gaps without interfering with the pipes underneath, and there are usually two types of skirting to choose from depending on your needs.
In terms of skirting, we have:
Hard wind skirting: This is skirting made from durable materials like plywood, hay bales, and foam insulation boards. They are the best option if you plan on staying in one spot for a long time.
Plywood, for example, is very durable and can last you for years. Using plywood skirting can cost about $200-300, which is relatively inexpensive. Still, the downside is you are going to need some power tools to install it, which can be an additional cost.
Another great hard wind skirting option is hay bales, which provide heavy-duty insulation and are also inexpensive plus it’s biodegradable, so it’s also an environmentally friendly option.
But with this skirting option, you may have to deal with mice infestation as they love to burrow and make a nest in hay bales, so at the end of the day, you may have to deal with a rodent infestation which isn’t that great.
The last type of hard wind skirting is foam insulation board is also very easy to use and inexpensive but tends to deteriorate quickly.
Soft wind skirting: There are different ways to achieve soft skirting with the easiest one being purchasing skirting at a hardware store.
They come in ten-foot lengths and are insulated, purchased wind skirting is often very expensive as they range between $80-100 for a ten-foot length skirting, so covering a regular size, 30-inch RV can cost up to $800 or more.
Most people use rolls of Reflectix to improvise wind skirting, but you have to use a secure method to attach it to your RV, especially in windy areas.
You can also make use of vinyl or canvas wind skirting, but you may need some sewing tools for this, which can make it more expensive than planned.
Using portable heaters
There are quite a number of portable space heaters you can use in place of a propane furnace, and they are either run by electricity or propane.
Since we are looking for propane-free heating RV methods, that leaves us with electric heaters. Now everything has its pros and cons, and when it comes to electric heaters, you have to keep in mind that they are going to require a lot of electricity and are most effective while plugged in with full hookups.
They do not emit any exhaust fumes and have very high-efficiency power, but to use them, you will need to plan your trip, so it goes through a lot of campsites with power outlet hookups, and this can rake up some bills.
The pros of using a portable space heater are that it gives you some sort of control over the area you want to heat up, which can be useful, especially during nighttime when you just need warmth in the bedroom area.
These electric heaters have their risks, in order to avoid fire starting from an overheating heater you need to make sure the electric heater you are going for has an in-built safeguard that prevents it from tipping over or overheating.
Let’s look at the common types of electric heaters you can use in your RV;
These are basically air conditioning units that give off heat instead of cool air; heat pumps use less electricity than most electric heaters, and they deliver up to twice the amount of heat per unit of electricity as most electric heaters.
They can be switched to either cool or heat up your space, depending on your needs. They are far more efficient than most heaters; however, they can be quite noisy, and a heat pump will cost you far more than a conventional heater plus they don’t work really well in very cold temperatures.
Ceramic space heaters
This is also an excellent option for heating up your space, its heating element is made from ceramic, and they have powerful fans unlike other electric heaters, which makes them great at pushing the heated air around your RV.
Like every other electric heater, they require electricity, so you will be required to be plugged in at a campsite to make use of them.
Also, with their powerful fans comes a lot of noise, so if you prefer a serene and quiet ambiance at your campsite, this might not be the best option.
The idea of the wood-burning source of warmth can be refreshing and reminds you of home, and your RV may or may not be able to accommodate a full-size fireplace, and you can actually generate enough warmth for your RV with a wood stove.
To install, you need to create enough room to accommodate the stove and also keep the area free of clutter, and it can be tiled with ceramic or metal.
The ducts of the stove also have to be installed outside to allow proper ventilation.
Hydronic heating system
Most RVs especially newer models are equipped with a hydronic heating system, and it works a lot like a home heating system.
It uses a mixture of water and antifreeze, which is pushed around the vehicle’s pipes to the small radiators which are placed throughout the RV.
This mixture is then heated by the engine when driving, and by a small boiler system when it is parked, this boiler is powered by propane or diesel, so you have to be cautious.
This hydronic heating system can be expensive and hard to install in existing RVs but a great feature to look out for when shopping for one.
While these methods on how to heat an RV without propane are passive heating techniques, do not underestimate how effective they are.
In the long term, whether you use electricity, gas, or propane for heating your RV or not, these environmentally friendly methods will better keep your RV toasty on long winter camping trips out in the snow while saving you money.