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How to Heat an RV without Propane

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Last Updated on May 15, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine

Learning how to heat an RV without propane can keep you from spending tons of money on propane during the cold times of the year.

I have to embarrassingly admit that we didn’t know that our first RV could switch from propane for the water heater to using electricity. We were staying in RV parks hooked up to their electric source and spending lots of money using propane. Doh.

If you’re really desperate and out of propane but hooked up to electric, you could turn the hot water on in the bathroom for a bit and get a little warmth in the RV.

Anyway, let’s get into some other more standard answers to heating your RV without propane that doesn’t entail leaving your hot water running.

Keep the Cold Out by Insulating Your RV

If your RV doesn’t have very good insulation, it might almost feel like you’re outside. I know when we were in our smallest RV in the winter, we were freezing ourselves to death because we had no idea what we were doing.

I hope that you learn from our mistakes and insulate your RV as good as you can so you can keep the cold air out during those cold days and cold nights.

Some of the important places to put insulation are the RV vents and the RV windows. This is where most of the cold creeps in, and most of the heat seeps out. Get some RV vent covers aka RV vent insulators as well as insulation you can put over the windows.

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How Do You Shower When Boondocking?
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When we got stuck in a freak icestorm in Texas, it definitely wasn’t any fun our first winter. We were totally new and didn’t have any of this stuff because weren’t prepared and we didn’t know what we needed.

Put Skirting Around Your Fifth Wheel Front

If you have a fifth wheel then putting skirting around the front of it can help keep out some of the cold air. Just make sure you get the right size for your fifth wheel because they do have different sizes.

Your goal is to keep the cold air, including cold wind, from getting right up beneath your fifth wheel. That’s usually where the fifth wheel bedroom is and you want to keep where you sleep as cozy as possible while you’re in cold climates.

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Keep in mind that some people also find ways to insulate around their RV sides. I didn’t find any specific products just for that but you might even use the insulation that is used for windows. It might not be perfect but at least it would do something.

Use Another Type of Heat Besides for Propane

Just because you don’t want to use propane to heat your RV doesn’t mean that you can’t heat your RV with another heat source. Some people do not like propane because they’re afraid it will blow them up in their sleep. If that’s you, then you can easily use one of these other heat sources so you can rest easy.

Electric Heaters

When we were trying to stay warm in the Texas icestorm, we did have a small electric space heater. Our RV was really small so it did a pretty good job of keeping us warm.

As long as your RV outlets are working, you can plug in the electric heater and let it do its job.

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When you use electric heaters, make sure you don’t put them too close to anything. The last thing you need to do is start a fire in your RV. That’s a bit too warm.

That’s why we put the space heater we used on our counter.

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Other Heater Options

  • Radiant heaters
  • Oil heaters

These are valid options but with electric heaters being the best alternative heat source for RVers, I figured I’d just briefly mention them, but as of right now, it’s not something I would recommend.

Focus on the Floor

Do you hate anything more than when you’re cozy in bed and then you need to go to the bathroom but you remember how cold the floor is? Your socks and slippers are nowhere to be found and the floor is so cold.

Just keep in mind that since the floor in the RV is so cold, it’s also allowing the cold to radiate through the RV. Instead of letting the cold do its thing, why not put down a carpet, some foam pads or something similar to keep the RV from receiving so much cold from the outside?

The floor is a lot of the RV, so taking care of this can make a big difference in the warmth of your RV.

Heat Is Heat

Any way that you can bring heat into the RV is helpful. Whether you’re using the shower trick and let the hot water run and have steam warm your RV, you make hot water bottles, or you use an electric heater, radiant heater, or oil heater like we talked about earlier.

When you’re cold and you don’t have propane, these are some good options.

How to Heat an RV without Propane – Frequently Asked Questions

Will an RV furnace run without propane?

No. You need both propane and electric for the RV furnace to run. Thankfully, your battery should offer enough juice for it to run as long as you have propane.

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Living in a School Bus - What It's Really Like Living in a Skoolie

Does RV heat run on electric or gas?

An RV furnace runs on propane but it must also have electric from the RV battery or another source.

What happens when an RV furnace runs out of propane?

When an RV furnace runs out of propane, it will work less and less until it stops working altogether.

Heating Your RV without Propane – Conclusion

Now you know the answer to how to heat an RV without propane. Use whichever methods you think will work the best for you without breaking the bank. Electric portable space heaters make the most sense in my book because they work great and they don’t cost much.

Before you head off, make sure to check out some of the other articles that can help you as an RVer.

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