How to Choose the Right RV Heater
When the average person shops for an appliance, they usually look at the brand, the price, and the size. These are all great features to pay attention to when buying an RV heater, but they aren’t the only features you should pay attention to. This is especially true when looking for an RV heater because there are so many variables involved. The most important decision you’ll have when purchasing an RV heater is the type of heater you want. There are quite a few types, but two of them are extremely popular, and those are the ones we’ll focus on for this article.
Type One: Furnace Heaters
Furnace heaters are non-portable heaters that need to be installed in your RV. There are two types of furnaces: forced-air furnaces and RV heat pump furnaces. These two types are very different from each other.
Forced-Air RV Furnace
A forced-air RV furnace use electricity to power the fan and propane to control the temperature. The fan then blows the heat through the ducts and out of the vents into the RV. Thus an RV furnace is much more potent than a heat pump furnace (next section). They output an average of 30,000 BTUs of heat. This means it can heat a large RV with no problem.
- Extremely powerful and fast heating.
- Durable – they last longer than the other types of heaters
- Inexpensive compared to heat pump furnaces.
- Can heat the RV basement, ensuring that the pipes don’t freeze.
- Installation can be complicated.
- They require two power sources.
- Can be noisy.
Heat Pump Furnace
If you have an air conditioner installed on top of your RV and it has a heater function, that’s a heat pump furnace. Heat pump furnaces are convenient because you don’t need a separate appliance from your air conditioner. However, they are nowhere near as powerful as a forced-air furnace. For example, a forced-air furnace might produce 30,000 BTUs of heat (discussed in the following section), while a heat pump might produce 6,000 BTUs of heat. This doesn’t mean that a heat pump furnace can’t keep you warm; it just means that a heat pump might not be the right choice in specific scenarios.
- Only uses one power source – electricity.
- Produces dry heat, so no foggy windows.
- Built into the AC unit, so no separate appliance purchase.
- No additional installation required since it is built into AC.
- Not as powerful as forced-air furnaces.
- Uses a lot of electricity.
- Doesn’t work well below 40°F Fahrenheit.
Very popular among RV owners because of their portability. They are compact, lightweight, and you don’t have to worry about complicated installations. There are three types:
- Catalytic – Gas heaters that produces heat from the combination of oxygen, natural gas, and a catalyst that is heated through electricity. When these substances combine, they break down molecules in the catalyst, and this breakdown produces heat. Keep in mind that you need two power sources with this type of RV heater, but it’s safer than the others since it doesn’t produce a flame.
- Gas/Propane – RV propane heaters (or gas) produce a beautiful blanket of hot air. They are also extremely quiet – almost silent. They do cause a fair amount of humidity in the air, so your windows may get foggy. Fuel may become an issue unless you have a lot of backup canisters.
- Electric – These are the most straightforward heaters to use. Simply plug electric heaters in and turn them on. You don’t have to worry about a stock of fuel around, open flames, humid air, or weird smells from propane gas. However, they don’t heat as well as gas heaters, and they tend to cost a lot more.
Once you’ve narrowed down your type, you can decide on other factors. One such factor is wattage. You’ll need to make sure that your RV’s battery can handle the starting watts of your RV heater. Be sure not to confuse this number with the running watts. Most electric heaters use a maximum of 1,500 watts, and RV batteries can usually handle that unless you have a lot of appliances hooked up and turned on at once. If you’re connected to shore power, you’ll likely be okay running most of your small devices simultaneously.
BTUs (British Thermal Units)
You’ve probably heard of BTUs before. In case you haven’t, the simplest way to explain it is that it’s a measure of how much hot air a product can produce. We briefly mentioned BTUs in the heat pump section regarding how different types of furnaces can vary significantly with BTUs. You can look at it like you look at watts – the more you have, the more your space can be heated.
There is no “best amount” of BTUs that can be recommended because it’s a personal preference type of decision. However, there are some standard BTU ratings for different types of heaters. For example, many portable gas heaters produce somewhere around 1,500 BTUs.
The Best RV Heaters – The Results
Camco Olympian Wave-8 8,000 BTU LP Catalytic
The Best RV Heater – Catalytic Model
The Camco Olympian Wave-8 is one of the most phenomenal catalytic heaters on the market. For starters, it’s constructed extremely well. There’s nothing worse than buying a flimsy product. You don’t have to worry about this with the Wave-8. It is phenomenally built, and many people have said that this product lasts ten years and more without significant problems.
The product can be mounted or used as a portable unit, but you’ll have to purchase the legs separately if you choose to use it as a portable version. This product works extemely well, so it’s good that you can adjust the BTU output anywhere from 4,200 to 8,000. This is perfect in case you’re using it in a smaller area of your RV. With that being said, the Wave-8 is more of a supplemental unit since it’s only going to heat about 230 square feet efficiently. It might not heat the entire RV, but it’s going to warm whatever room you’re in with no problems.
- Piezo starter is self-generating.
- No fans mean silent operation.
- Has a safety shut-off valve.
- No tip-over safety feature.
- Gives off a high amount of CO emissions.
Best RV Heater – Compact Class Winner
This is another product that is more of a supplemental unit. The Lasko Ceramic is an electric heater that is considered as a “personal RV heater” because it’s so small. It measures 5.7 x 3.7 x 9 inches and weighs only 3.5 pounds. However, it’s a 1500-watt RV heater, so it’s going to heat your personal space very well. If you don’t expect it to do what it’s not designed to do, you won’t be disappointed.
The Lasko model has an adjustable thermostat. While the specific temperatures aren’t marked, it shows a series of circles going from small to big, indicating less to more temperature. You also have the option of adjusting the fan speed. You can choose fan-only (no heat), or you can set the fan on low or high. It also has some decent safety features like overheating protection and cool-touch exterior. It’s a durable little product that will keep you nice and toasty when it’s chilly outside. Keep in mind that it is a tower model, so you may have tip-over issues if you drive around curves wildly, but as long as you secure it well, it may be okay.
- Eleven temperature settings.
- Sturdy construction.
- Very affordable.
- The carry handle only accommodates your fingertips.
- Continues to run even if you pick it up.
Comfort Zone Portable Ceramic Space Heater
Best RV Heater on a Budget
This fantastic little personal product has a lot of similarities to the Lasko ceramic model, but one big difference is that it has the tip-over safety feature. This feature, as well as a slightly lower price, is what bumped the Comfort Zone up above the Lasko as the best budget choice. It also has an overheating protection system as an additional safety feature. The product measures 6.5 x 5.75 x 10.25 inches and weighs a little over six pounds.
The Comfort Zone has two fan speeds and an adjustable thermostat with bars that go from small to big, indicating more or less temperature. Like the Lasko, it has a carry handle that is a joke, but it does have a stay-cool exterior that makes it safe and comfortable to carry. Speaking again of safety, the Comfort Zone has been tested and approved by many global standards, including UL, ETL, SAA, CE, CSA, and NOM.
We do want to point out that this product doesn’t have the highest quality parts. Don’t confuse this with performance – it works very well. However, it may not last as long as other models.
- Very affordable.
- Tip-over safety feature.
- The parts feel a little cheap.
Lasko 755320 Ceramic Space Heater
This 1,500-watt electric heater is quite a few steps up from the last two in the list. It has a lot of outstanding features that set it apart from the others. One convenient feature is the oscillation of the tower. This helps to spread the hot air evenly around the room. Oscillation is excellent for RVs because it makes the unit a lot more effective for the space.
Another one of the convenient features of this product is the built-in timer. This is a great feature to have for times that your RV isn’t connected to shore power. Since it’s digital, it has a remote control to make it convenient to turn off and on and control the settings. It also has a friendly, bright digital display panel so you can quickly tell what settings you’ve chosen.
Other impressive features include the overheating protection and the cool-touch exterior. It’s not as compact as the other RV heaters so you’ll have to make a little extra room. It measures 7.2 x 8.6 x 23 inches and weighs about eight pounds. However, it does work superbly and won’t break your budget.
- Included wireless remote.
- Lengthy three-year warranty.
- Sturdy, reliable, and durable.
- No tip-over protection.
- Plastic on the electric cord tends to melt.
Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Buddy
Mr. Heater products are known for being some of the safest RV heaters on the market. They are constructed well, have decent warranties, and have plenty of safety features. If you have children or pets in your RV, this is probably an excellent choice for you. This radiant heat style model efficiently keeps you warm by transferring heat to the surface of objects (like yourself) rather than heating the air.
What we were most impressed with was the thoughtfulness of the design. The product has a strong, folding handle that stays cool to the touch. It also has a swivel-out regulator so that you won’t have difficulty connecting your propane canisters. It has a low-oxygen shut-off feature as well as a tip-over safety feature. The design is comfortable, convenient, and trustworthy.
Mr. Heater Buddy has dimensions of 7.7 x 13.4 x 15 inches and weighs about nine pounds. You can use the unit at either 4,000 BTUs or 9,000 BTUs. Its a fantastic, high-quality product for anyone needing a portable RV heater. It is one of the oldest and most popular RV portable heaters around. Its longevity on the market is a testament to its outstanding quality.
- Single-button ignition and startup.
- Adjustable BTUs.
- Works quickly.
- Start button tends to jam.
DeLonghi EW7707CM Comfort Temp Full Room Radiant Heater
This product is an electric radiator model. It’s filled with oil that, when heated, radiates the warmth out into the room. The oil container is sealed, so you will never need to worry about refilling it. You simply turn the product on and let it work.
We loved the design of this model. It doesn’t look like your typical old-school radiator. It’s more modernized with a sleek look to it. The edges are rounded off for safety, and it blends well with a well-decorated room. The product measures 5.9 x 13.8 x 24.9 inches. While it’s a compact size for a wheeled radiator model, it’s a bit on the heavy side. It weighs in at 23 pounds.
The most important point of this model is that it works well. It’s only going to heat the room it’s in, but it will have the room very toasty in a relatively short amount of time. It may work so well in some cases that you’ll have to dial the temperature back a notch. It’s better to have more heat than not enough. With that being said, this might not be the best choice if you have curious children or pets around. The radiator rings get hot, creating a burn hazard for anyone who touches it.
- Automatically turns on when the temperature is lower than 44°F.
- ComfortTemp technology saves energy by only running it when needed.
- Front cord-keeper provides storage for electric cord when not in use.
- It’s heavy.
- No numbers or marks to indicate temperature on the thermostat.
Suburban 2453A Dynatrail NT-30 RV Furnace
Best Heater for Large RV
If you’re in the market for something more potent than the previously mentioned RV heaters, this furnace produces up to 30,000 BTUs to heat your entire RV. While most users say that it feels more like a maximum of around 22,000 BTUs, this is still enough to keep you warm in freezing cold weather. The unit measures 24.4 x 14.6 x 14.6 inches and weighs about 40 pounds. This is a bit compact for a furnace model, but it makes the furnace easier to work with.
The quality of the furnace is superb. It’s made with an all-metal housing, steel gas manifolds, and even a chrome-plated vent cap. The furnace has a high-quality construction that most likely will last for a very fair amount of time. This makes it an excellent investment.
- Comes with a thermostat.
- Easy-to-follow installation instructions.
- High-quality and durable.
- Packaging for shipping isn’t very protective.
Mr. Heater MH18B, Portable Propane Heater
This product is the larger, stronger version of the previously mentioned Mr. Heater Buddy. While the smaller version works very well, this version has more firepower. The most significant difference between Buddy and the Big Buddy is that the Big Buddy produces up to 18,000 BTUs for superior warming ability in a portable model. It measures 18.5 x 18 x 11.4 inches and only weighs around 11 pounds.
It has a battery-operated fan that is optional to use. However, without the fan, it functions as a radiant model, which works well also but takes longer to warm your space. While we don’t mind that the fan is battery powered, we are concerned with the fact that it doesn’t use your RV’s battery. You must purchase D size batteries separate. These batteries typically can run down fast.
- Can warm a mid-size RV.
- Can be used as a radiant or fan heater.
- Three temperatures available instead of two.
- Handle doesn’t fold down.
- Uses D batteries which can drain fast.
Honeywell Ceramic Surround Whole Room Heater w/ Remote Control
The Overall Best Heater for RV
This is truly a remarkable electric heater, which is why we chose it as the best of the best. Instead of oscillating, it simply blows the hot air in a full, 360-degree circle. You can also program it to blow the warmth in any direction that you choose to in 180-degree increments. It’s full of amazing features such as a cool-to-touch handle and an included wireless remote control. We also love the fact that it has an LCD screen with bright numbers so you can easily see the screen from across a room.
We wanted to point out the safety features. The product has an all-around cool-touch exterior, including the handle. It also has overheating protection and a 360-degree tip-over protection feature. The model has a sturdy, broad base, so it’s not easy to tip over anyway.
As powerful as this unit is, it’s still very compact. It measures 8.9 x 8.9 x 17.21 inches and weighs only 5.3 pounds. The only thing we didn’t like was that the manufacturer doesn’t give a specific BTU rating for the product. However, it uses up to 1,500 watts to get started, and it’s known to warm up a space up to a few hundred square feet with no problems.
- Lightweight and straightforward to use.
- Comes pre-assembled.
- Wide base for extra sturdiness.
- Timer isn’t programmable.
- Timer is limited to only one, two, four, or eight hours.
Last update on 2020-07-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API