Camping in the cold might sound like a fool’s errand, but with the right RV heater, it can offer a stunning and secluded winter oasis. Cold-weather RV travel offers the best of both worlds: a beautiful winter wonderland of views and scenery all from the cozy comfort of your warm and toasty motorhome.
Sounds pretty perfect, right? Well, as long as you can keep that RV warm and toasty, it really is.
That’s where your RV heater comes in. That heavenly setup can turn hellish if your camper heater fails on you or isn’t strong enough to heat your space to comfortable temperatures.
If you are planning an RV trip in seriously cold climates, it’s important to have the best RV heater for your needs and always plan appropriately. Even if your RV already has a heating system or furnace, a small camper heater can make an awesome supplement, especially if you already know your existing system struggles in cooler weather.
If you don’t know where to start, right here is a good place. We’ve listed the best RV heaters available to help make your search a little bit easier (and to make it even easier, there’s a comparison chart at the end).
The best RV heaters to keep your motorhome warm
We want to jump right into showing you the best RV heaters on the market right now. There are RV electric heaters, propane heaters, infrared heaters and ceramic heaters. We’ll explain more about the difference between these heaters below.
For now, here are our top picks for the best RV heater:
Price: $200 – $300
BTUs: 3,000 – 8,000
The Camco Olympian Wave RV heater comes in three main sizes and multiple other variations to fit into almost any setup. The three power options are 3,000 BTUs, 6,000 BTUs, or 8,000 BTUs, and all models can either be standalone or mounted to the wall.
From there, you can choose to add on a dust cover, leg stands, frustration-free packaging, and expert installation.
Since this camper heater is powered by low-pressure gas, the installation is a bit more complicated than simply plugging it into an outlet. You’ll need to tap into your existing furnace or gas line to get this connected. The process is actually pretty simple, you just need to add a T connection and an additional gas line to your existing one.
If that process scares you at all or if you’re uncomfortable fiddling with something as essential as your gas line, it might be worth your while to get the expert install. That includes mounting the heater, wiring it to an existing circuit, wiring the heater to a thermostat (another huge plus), and a unit test and cleanup.
Overall, this is one of the best RV heaters available, it’s extremely efficient and uses radiant heat to truly cover and warm your space. Many reviewers tout the heavy-duty, reliable build of this unit, and several have chimed in to note decades of perfect performance and powerful heating.
This camper heater might seem a bit small for its high price tag, but you definitely get what you pay for with this unit.
The Edenpure Infrared is an RV electric heater with a fan for even and fast distribution. When the heating element isn’t active, this fan allows the heater to double as a cooling unit for year-round use.
That is a huge plus with RV travel, as most people use their motorhomes even more in the summer than the winter. That can make it hard to shell out money for a device you’ll only use a few months out of the year.
This RV heater can be used all year long, making it a much more functional purchase.
It also features a convenient digital control panel, allowing you to easily set and maintain a comfortable temperature instead of fiddling back and forth with “high” and “low” knobs like a janky motel shower. The remote control puts all that convenience right in the palm of your hand.
This unit’s air intake is on the front, which is ideal for space-saving as it can sit snug up against a wall and still be safe and effective. While its price tag is one of the highest on this list, it’s clear you get what you pay for with this handy little unit.
This sleek little camper heater boasts some fancy features at a surprisingly affordable price. It has an oil-filled body and works by heating the interior oil and radiating that heat throughout the room.
A unique and awesome feature of this heater is its energy efficiency. Not only is it built with an EnergySmart® design, but it allows you to easily monitor its energy use with an indicator at the top of the control panel. On the panel, you can easily select to run the unit on its EnergySmart® setting.
You can also set the thermostat to your desired temperature and set an adjustable auto-off sleep timer.
While this RV electric heater claims a silent operation, oil-bodied machines do make noise when they initially heat up. Once it reaches its running temperatures, you can count on that silent operation to kick back in, a big benefit over noisy, fan-distributed heaters.
You can rest easy with this unit’s list of safety features, including tip-over protection, overheat protection, thermal insulated wiring, and reinforced wire connections. Despite their safety features, always follow any safety instructions included with your unit.
If you’re like me, you took one look at this unit and double-checked it’s BTU output. But that’s no typo. This tiny little heater packs 1500 Watts and 5,100 BTUs of power, all at an insanely affordable price.
Seems too good to be true, right? Well, it might be. This is a very highly rated unit, and with over 6,000 reviews, you can put a fair amount of trust into that much positive usage.
Unfortunately, you should also note the not-so-positive usage. This magically powerful unit really was too good to be true for some users, who experienced overheating and melting elements. Also, unfortunately, I’m not a fly on a wall, and I can’t tell you if those instances were due to user error or mechanical malfunction, but either way, it’s something to take note of.
If you have a particularly small space to put your heater without ample clearance, this might not be the safest unit for you. If you have a large open space with minimal fire risks and can reasonably monitor the heater while in use, its hazards aren’t as important. Always follow any instructions or safety guides that come with any RV heater.
Despite its issues, this unit does have plenty of safety features, like an auto shut off and cool to the touch design. It also has a smart oscillation setting that rotates the unit like a fan to better distribute heat quickly and evenly throughout your space.
This infrared electric heater was built for efficiency. The unique Auto Energy Saving feature and dual heating systems combine to optimize this unit’s heat output. At the same 1,500 wattage of most RV heaters, this unit claims to put out 60% more heat than its competitors.
It also features a state of the art blower in lieu of a fan, which is just as efficient at throwing heat while staying whisper quiet.
While this unit is still fully portable, its design feels a bit more like a true piece of furniture. Its solid wooden base would stylishly fit into any interior as a funky, mid century modern piece. It also has a range of safety features like tip over shut off, overheat protection, and cool to the touch encasing.
The DeLongi Radiant heater features the most classic heater body and design. When you invest in a tried and tested build like this, you are buying a fair amount of reliability, too. Especially, when it comes to a device like a space heater, buying something you can rely on to be safe and effective means a lot of peace of mind.
This unit does have some upgraded features added to its classic base, like a maintenance-free system that’s permanently sealed off, so you’ll never have to replace the oil within. It also boasts Comfort Temp Technology, so the unit automatically adjusts its power settings to provide the perfect amount of heat and maintain an optimal temperature.
This heater does not include a fan or blower, and some users report issues with its heat throw, which is important to consider. If your space is rather stagnant in terms of air flow, and doesn’t have a ceiling fan or other means to circulate air, this device might not be able to distribute heat across your space as much as you’d like.
This sleek modern RV heater is a chic way to add some heat to any space. Its panel design makes it easy to tuck into small areas, and though it comes with wheels for portability as a standalone unit, it can also be mounted to a wall for an even sleeker look.
This camper heater features many of the standard safety elements like thermal cutoff and tip-over kill switch, but with one surprising addition. This RV heater has a unique anti-freeze feature that’s perfect for cold weather RV travel. This feature is designed to prevent pipes and tanks from freezing in the cold; this can be a huge benefit and added peace of mind for any RV traveler.
This panel heater does not have a fan or blower, which makes it ultra-quiet. Despite the lack of air circulation, users and reviewers thrill over this heater’s effectiveness and heat output.
The Mr. Buddy heater packs a whole lot of heating power into a small and affordable package. Its rugged design was built to last in all types of conditions and handling. That makes this an ideal option if you plan to haul it around for a lot of different uses.
Not only is this model a #1 Amazon Best Seller, it’s also North America’s Most Popular Propane Heater.
With how many thousands of heater makers and models there are on the market, those are pretty impressive titles. At 9,000 BTUs, this heater will warm up much larger spaces than all the previous heaters on this list, and at one of the lowest prices.
Since it is an RV propane heater, ventilation is essential and does limit its potential usage areas slightly. It can be hooked up to both propane tanks or a gas line, making it a great option for a more permanent install and for portability alike.
If you’re looking for some serious heat, this furnace is your best option. At 16,000 BTUs, this furnace will heat any sized RV, as well as some tiny homes or cabins. This is also the most expensive unit to make our list, but its efficiency will likely pay for itself in the long run as it can truly be used like a standard home furnace.
This is also the only totally not portable option on this list. Since it’s a true furnace, it requires rather intensive installation. That makes this an option for only a pretty specific type of user, and will likely be overkill for most occasional winter travelers.
The Cubic Mini Wood Stoves are truly tiny and can fit in an RV or a campervan.
This wood stove is ideal for spaces that are 100-200 square feet.
Types of RV heaters
Before you pick out the best RV heater for your setup, you’ll need to figure out what type of heater works best for you. Each type of camper heater has its own ups and downs, so there isn’t a universal best RV heater, it really depends on you and your unique space and needs.
Electric vs. propane RV heaters
The two main types of camper heaters are electric and propane. One is not better than the other, they’re just different and cater to different types of travelers. We’ll start with propane.
RV propane heaters
Propane heaters run on gas instead of electricity, so they don’t need to be plugged into an outlet or electric source to run. With the range and accessibility of portable propane tanks, these camper heaters are a bit more versatile than electric heaters.
Since we’re talking about RV travel, most people have an electric outlet pretty easily accessible, but it’s a good thing to note if you plan to take your heater outside or on off-site camping trips.
In addition to being able to hook up to portable gas tanks, RV propane heaters can also install directly into your RV’s furnace or gas line. Either source of gas will likely cost you much less than an electric heater, as propane heaters tend to be more efficient.
Most propane heaters use radiant heat to spread the warmth, an effective and efficient way to disperse the heat. Some units also include fans to further distribute the heat.
An RV propane heater also tends to have a higher purchase price than an electric heater of the same heat output, though you might end up saving money over time with their lower cost of running.
There are a few more elements to consider with propane heaters, like the need for a dehydrator and proper ventilation. RV propane heaters tend to throw a lot of moisture into the air, which can lead to things like mold. A simple solution is to run a dehydrator and make sure your area stays dry.
Also, since these heaters use true combustion to produce heat, their output can be highly hazardous. You’ll need to install these units with ample ventilation and purchase and install a carbon monoxide detector.
For these reasons, some people are uncomfortable with propane heaters, though as we’ll go on to discuss, electric heaters have their own share of hazards.
RV electric heaters
Electric heaters run off of…you guessed it…electricity! They can simply plug into any outlet and power up. If you’re not planning to use your camper heater away from your RV’s outlets, and you’re not particularly concerned about the electric draw to your system, RV electric heaters are an extremely convenient option.
If you want to spend your time off-grid, that might make things a bit trickier. Electric heaters, in general, are not as efficient as RV propane heaters, and the power they draw might be too much for your unplugged system.
An RV electric heater tens to be less expensive upfront, which means it’s easier to purchase multiple heaters to more adequately heat a large or closed off space. Because they are less efficient than RV propane heaters, the cost to operate will be higher.
While RV electric heaters come in a ton of different types like ceramic heaters, infrared heaters, oil-filled heaters, and micathermic heaters, the main two variations are radiant heaters or ones that use fans to circulate the heat.
While radiant heat is highly efficient, a fan enables a unit to disperse heat better and cover a larger area. Fans make noise though, and can be a big downside compared to their nearly noiseless radiant counterparts. Fans also tend to heat a room faster than radiant heat, though radiant heat can maintain a heated room better once it’s warmed.
A big benefit to RV electric heaters is that there is no fuel combustion taking place, so there isn’t carbon monoxide, dioxide, or any other nasty fumes to ventilate. That means you can put these camper heaters virtually anywhere throughout your RV.
That also makes these heaters seem much safer to most users. Though, it should be noted that RV electric heaters have some hazards, too. Many electric heaters make use of plastic components, which are prone to melting or worse. Buying a quality model and always adhering to the safety manual will help eliminate this risk.
How many BTUs do I need for my RV heater?
There isn’t a simple relationship between room size and the BTUs you’ll need to heat it, because there are so many other variables at play. The climate you’re in is a huge factor, but also the shape and openness of your space, the insulation of the surrounding area, circulation, heater placement, and tons of other variables all affect the efficiency of your camper heater.
Unfortunately, that makes it a bit tricky to determine exactly how many BTUs you’ll need to adequately heat your space. An incredibly broad rule of thumb is to estimate 40-45 BTUs per square foot of space.
If you’re in a particularly small area, or you know that your RV isn’t particularly well insulated, you might want to overestimate that amount.
An RV heater is a high-stakes purchase. Not only can it be a pretty costly upfront investment, but a poor selection can not only mean freezing temperatures but safety failure and potential catastrophe. It’s important to select the best RV heater for your space and specific needs.
Buying too much or too little, too big or too small, can lead to very undesirable results.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you figure out what type of RV heater is best for you. If you’re still on the fence or have any questions, just ask! Let us know in the comments what information you’d like from us that can help you select your perfect RV heater.
Check out this table comparing the heaters in this post:
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