Last Updated on June 22, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine
It takes a brave family to head out in their RV in the middle of winter. Some destinations (such as the Rocky Mountains or the amphitheater at Bryce Canyon) are particularly impressive in the coldest months.
The most effective way to evenly distribute heat in an RV is to ensure that the RV’s doors, windows, vents, and floor are well insulated and are not conducting heat to the outside. Ensure the heater’s ducting system is correctly set, and close off any vents in the bathroom.
If you expend some effort on insulating your RV and ensuring that the heating system is working optimally, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use it all year round. If you have checked the RV heating system’s health and added to the insulation, and you still can’t get the heat to spread evenly, it may be necessary to add some standalone heating devices.
How To Uniformly Heat Your RV
To manage the heat distribution, it is important to address the question of heat loss.
It doesn’t matter how efficient and capable the systems are. If you cannot preserve the heated air within the RV, you are fighting a losing and expensive battle. Remember that physics advises that heat naturally flows in one direction only: from hot to cold.
To maintain the RVs heat, there is a constant struggle against the laws of conduction, convection, and radiation.
Fortunately, this isn’t the RV manufacturer’s first walk in the park, and they have developed materials that minimize heat loss.
RVs are manufactured from materials that are not good conductors of heat, and the manufacturers spend many R&D hours finding the best window, door, and vent seals.
However, you can do a few things to supplement their efforts.
If you look at the common ways that heat energy is lost from an RV, you will be able to manage the distribution of heat more evenly throughout the RV.
The easiest areas to look at are.
- The windows
- The door
- The floor
The RV Windows
Depending on the material used in RV windows and their seals, massive heat can be lost through these components.
Without investing in double glazing or some other impractical fix, the cheapest solution is installing fold-up reflective insulation for your windows. These lightweight barriers come in several radiant heat insulation values (R-Value).
The higher the R-Value, the more effective the product is.
The RV Door(s)
It can be noticeably “draftier” around the RV’s door, even when it is closed. The problem with the door is that you don’t want to insulate it so thoroughly that it becomes difficult to get in and out of the RV.
Check the weather stripping around the RV’s door; if it is worn out or damaged, it will allow the air between the inside and outside to join up together.
Replacement door seals are readily available and are easy to install.
The RV Vents
RV vents are a common culprit for heat loss. It is generally not the seals that are a problem (although you need to check these) but rather the material they are made from, sometimes a thin piece of Perspex.
Adding a vent insulator will help resolve this.
The RV Floor
The floor is often the weak link regarding RV heat loss.
The floors have many entry points for external plumbing and electrical connections and generally have vents that can be opened to sweep out dust.
A worthwhile investment is a skirt that fits around the bottom of the RV and reduces air movement.
The Different Types Of Heating Systems In RVs
Several different heating systems are installed in RVs, and the methods to ensure an even distribution of the heat will vary between the types of heaters.
The following lists the different heating technologies used in RVs; however, they are not necessarily exclusive, and high-end RVs may use a combination of the different systems.
- Blown air heaters.
- Standalone propane heaters.
Blown Air Heaters
Blown air heaters have a central heating unit powered by propane gas, electricity, or diesel.
Blown air heaters use the simplest technology and are safe and easy to use.
They are generally attached to a thermostat which starts and stops the system from running as determined by the set temperature.
A powerful fan is attached to the heating unit and forces the heated air into a ducting system which will typically have outlets positioned throughout the RV.
Hot air ducting serves a dual purpose: many manufacturers also use warm water pipes to heat out the water in the plumbing system to stop it from freezing.
There are two potential issues with this design.
The Air Cools Down Unevenly
The air is pushed to the heating unit’s other end and installed at one end of the RV.
- Loses momentum and is blown out of the vents at a lower pressure.
- Cools down while in the ducting system.
To compensate for this, many RVs have adjustable vents at the end of the ducting pipes, which can be adjusted to reduce the airflow at the end that is receiving the greatest pressure. It causes more pressure at the furthest end and evens out the airflow.
If there is a heating outlet in the bathroom, a good starting point is to close this completely and keep the bathroom door closed.
Radiant Electrical Heating
Several manufacturers install under-floor radiant heating mats in their products.
An electrical current powers the heating mats, and a thermostat maintains the chosen temperature.
A radiant heating system will generate even heat throughout the interior of the RV. The temperatures should be even as long as each room has a similarly sized flooring area.
Floor heating systems have the added advantage that, while heating the RV’s air temperature, they also heat the floor, making it very comfortable to walk on bare feet.
Direct Spark Ignition Systems
Direct spark ignition systems are not a heating technology but an automated way to fire up an installed propane heating system.
These systems do away with the need for a continuously burning pilot light because the system control module regulates the flow of propane to the gas burner and its ignition as follows.
When the control module receives power, it energizes three circuits:
The Gas Control Circuit
DC is supplied to the gas control, and it opens, allowing gas to flow to the main burner.
The Flame Ignition Circuit
A voltage is sent to the ignition electrode, which creates a spark across the ignition device, which ignites the gas at the main burner.
The Flame Monitoring Circuit
A voltage is supplied to a “flame sensor,” and if there is a flame, a small current signals the control module that flame is present.
The system stays in this condition until the end of the cycle when the thermostat sets it to stop or continue.
Hydronic Water Heaters
The clue to this technology is in the first word of its name. The system is an extension of a typical water heating system in other vehicles, where water from the radiator is routed across the car’s interior blower fan.
Some RVs take this mature technology to the next level by using the engine to pump water (the Hydro part of the name) and antifreeze through pipes and small radiators in the RV living space.
Variations on this theme include a standalone diesel-powered motor to heat the air and blow it into the RV.
A thermostat is connected to the engine and automatically starts when the temperature drops.
With the ever-increasing petrol and diesel price, this technology is becoming more expensive to run.
Stand Alone Propane Heaters
Some RV manufacturers install gas plug-in points connected to a central propane bottle to power standalone propane heaters.
There are many advantages to this setup, the main one being that they can be flexibly positioned and move around to provide the greatest spread of warmth.
Getting the heat distribution spread inside the RV evenly takes a lot of fine adjustments and additional insulation. However, the results are worth it because you can now use the RV for twice as long through the year.
Before you head off, make sure you check out our other RV-related posts to help you on your journey.