what's better to heat your RV?

Propane or Electric?

by Dave Helgeson

Let's review the pros and cons of both heat sources in your RV.

Let's look at examples of when it's best to use either.

Why use electric space heaters if your RV has a furnace?

Why use electric space heaters if your RV has a furnace?

Sometimes electric is best. Propane might be better in other situations.

Unlike residential heaters, RV furnaces are not 100% efficient.

Up to 35% of RV furnace heat goes out the exhaust.


Some say RV furnaces are only 75% efficient.

Others say only 60% efficient.

RV furnaces are less efficient than residential models.

Occasionally, propane heat costs less than electric space heaters.

But RV furnaces still come in handy.

(Image: @geo-gypsy, iRV2 Forums)

Here's 3 reasons why propane RV heat can be better than electric.

(especially in freezing cold weather)


Propane heat ducting throughout the RV prevents frozen plumbing lines.

The 1st reason:

Propane can prevent freeze-ups.

Space heaters run on about 1,500 watts.

Most operate on 120 watts or less.

RV furnaces need minimal electricity to operate.

The 2nd reason:

Propane is safer.

The 3rd reason:

Learn to compare propane & electric costs

But don't rule out portable electric space heaters yet.

They have some advantages when temperatures drop.

These are the top 3 ways to know when electric RV heat is better.

Some of these situations apply often, some rarely.

When electricity is free.

Take advantage of the no-cost heating source.

Is electricity is included in your campsite rent?


You can target an electric heater to warm just a small section.

When you don't need to heat your entire RV.


When you need to focus & relax, plug in and warm up without the noisy RV furnace.

RV furnaces sound like a jet engine overhead.

When you want quiet.



Beware of electrical overload when using electric heaters.

RV fires happen all the time when a space heater draws too much power.

Electric vs. Propane RV Heat

RV Heat without Propane

Best Electric Heaters for RVs

Learn more winter RV camping survival tips

Image: @MisterT, iRV2 Forums