Do RV Furnaces Run On Electricity?
Yes, there are some rv furnaces that run on electricity. However the most common type of rv furnace is the LP (liquid propane) or gas-run heaters. The ones that run on electric are generally not recommended because they use quite a bit of energy, even when it's turned off.
Electric RV Furnaces
There are differing opinions surrounding how many hours you can safely run an electric heater in an RV if it's plugged into shore power (120 volt). Some sources say to never run one for more than 1 hour per day while others say 2 hours per day is fine for limited periods of time, like during bad weather. It all depends on various factors such as: the size and insulation of your unit, whether you have a single or two-story RV, whether or not you have a generator, how strong the shore power is, etc.
So the best thing to do is check with your manufacturer and do what they say.
The one hour per day rule was created because of potential problems with freon leaks in window air conditioners that would cause them to lose pressure while running. If this happens while you're plugged into shore power it could be very dangerous since a high voltage circuit will run through your unit unchecked. Without any type of breaker or fuse between the source and your RV it would essentially become an arc welder.The "one hour" recommendation protects against two different things:
- The first is a high voltage arc caused by a pressure drop in the system.
- The second is over heating from the unit running continuously without being able to exchange heat from inside to outside which means your house will begin to get pretty hot.
If you can't run a window air conditioner for one hour in any 24, then it's time for a new one that uses electric motors instead of freon compressors. When this happens, centrifugal force kicks in and pulls the freon out of the seal between your condensing unit and your evaporator coil. That gas has nowhere else to go but back into your home, creating an explosive environment. It's why when you hook up to shore power, all RVs have refrigerant leaks slowly, over time. If you hook up shore power and don't turn on your AC, no refrigerant leaks out as long as the heat strip is warm enough to keep everything closed. When it's cold outside, then the seals shrink down a bit and allow some of that freon to release into your coach, but not nearly as fast as when you run an electric motor for a couple hours.There are ways around this problem however:
- Use small window units or even portable ones with wheels so they can be moved from window to window easily. Portable models have become very popular in many RVs these days since they're easy to move from room-to-room by simply plugging them in anywhere there's a good window.
- If you use window air conditioners, then make sure that the one you buy has the "Energy Saver" feature. This feature allows your unit to cycle on and off at regular intervals which trickles your batteries so it's much easier on them when using AC in an RV. Although it doesn't happen often, when the unit is running constantly, this will drain your batteries quickly so be aware of how much power each appliance inside your RV uses to save battery life when necessary.
- Use gas heat instead - Gas heat is usually more efficient than electric heating in RVs because there are no voltage conversions or whatever else that reduces overall efficiency over long wire runs (the main thing that makes less efficient than in homes).
For many RVs, you'll find it very hard to run anything inside the RV while driving. This often makes running your gas furnace in an RV the only viable option when dealing with colder temperatures and harsh weather. If you can afford a diesel RV, consider getting one for this reason alone.
Different Types of Electric Furnaces and Heaters (For Rvs)
There are a couple different types of electric furnaces and heaters that you can choose from instead of using the propane option.
- Electric Wall Heaters: The electric wall options are sometimes some of the more costly option. They are sometimes called cube heaters. These types of furnaces use both convection and forced air to transfer the heater's warmth.
- Electric Heat Pumps: An alternative option for heating an RV with electricity is the heat pump furnace or space heater. This option uses water or other liquids like antifreeze solutions (like ethylene glycol) to help transfer the heat throughout your RV, in this case through a room in your RV that heats up in colder weather, but starts to cool down when no one is around in it anymore
- Radiant Heater: This type of rv electric furnace/heater uses resistive wires or elements to heat the air inside your RV. With these types of heaters, the heat is distributed evenly around the area it heats either through flooring or wall-mounted panels.
Carbon Monoxide Safety Information
A carbon monoxide sensor or monitor should always be present inside your motorhome, especially if you have an RV furnace installed. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. To know whether or not there are high levels of carbon monoxide in your motorhome, look for symptoms like headaches, fatigue, nausea and dizziness.
These are the most commonly used type in RV furnaces. Propane heaters are also known as LP heaters that emit up to 60,000 BTU. These work by burning propane fuel. If propane runs out, the furnace shuts down immediately.
The modern day propane heater is equipped with automatic shut-off mechanisms, which are needed to prevent overheating or excess gas consumption when there are leaks in the gas line. Leaks can be caused by loose connections between your 300 PSI water system and LP tanks . Using an improper regulator valve for your RV furnace will cause leakage too. The proper regulator must be one endorsed for use with LP gas appliances only. A secondary leak detector needs to be present within 10 feet of any motorhome appliance that uses flammable gas, close to the ground. This is an important safety measure that will help detect problems early on.
A popular propane furnace for motorhomes with RV furnaces is the Dometic CFX. The CFX has a built-in thermostat and automatic temperature control that allows you to set desired warmth levels without constantly monitoring it. If your gas supply gets cut off, the furnace automatically shuts down until it's restored. It can be manually shut off too for air quality purposes or when you're leaving the vehicle unattended.
Accordingly, running out of fuel does not leave you stranded in cold weather conditions with no heating whatsoever. Electric furnaces use up to 50% more power than propane ones per BTU output and require a connection to shore power. They also only give you heat when an electric current is being supplied.
This means that if your battery dies, so does the furnace. This can be dangerous because it leaves you with no way to keep warm during an emergency or until you get another battery source. On the other hand, propane furnaces continue to work even without electricity - which makes them much more reliable in case of emergencies.
In addition to the Dometic CFX unit mentioned before, some other popular models that are used on RV's include: Air Bear, Arctic Fox, Atwood Amana, ATCO Frigiking, Coleman / Mr Heater / Fast Maxx.
Propane Heater pros
There are many benefits to owning and using a propane heater. Below you will find a list detailing some of the most popular benefits:
- Powerful - They are generally more powerful than electric furnaces. A typical model can produce between 19,000 and 28,000 BTU's per hour . This means you will get more heat from a propane furnace compared to an electric one.
- Blazing Fast Heatup Time - Most models can reach operational temperature within five minutes or less . Compare this with an electric heater that takes several hours to come up to temperature. Propane furnaces can reach operational temperature within a few minutes which means it will be nice and toasty very quickly. With an electric heater you may have to wait several hours before the area is warm enough for your liking!
- Cheap to use & maintain - Propane is extremely cheap when compared to electricity. For example if you run your RV's furnace non-stop for a week it would only cost around 30 dollars for gas while if you used an electric furnace it would probably cost around 300 dollars.
- Longer Lifespan - Since propane heaters run hotter and more efficiently it means they will last longer than electric heaters.
- Safer - The flame of a propane furnace produces less carbon monoxide compared to electric heaters meaning you are safer around them in general.
- Versatile - What other appliances use propane gas? Pretty much anything that has to do with outdoors camping ; lanterns, stoves, etc. RV furnaces are just another versatile propane appliance.
Propane Heater cons
Like almost anything in life, there are cons to propane heaters. Some include:
- Somewhat Expensive - If you use propane gas for cooking and heating then you know that it is a little more expensive than other options. It's about 50 cents per gallon where we live!
- Takes Up Space - Remember what I said earlier about size? Yeah, gas heaters can take up a lot of space depending on how big they are so keep that in mind if you have limited space in your RV or truck camper.
- Negative Air Pressure - This one may or may not be a con depending on your opinion but when running any type of heater you have to make sure that all windows and doors are closed to avoid negative air pressure which could actually suck the oxygen right out of your camper or RV thus putting you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Positive Air Pressure - The opposite of negative air pressure is positive air pressure which means that you have to keep all windows and doors open when running a gas heater. If they are closed, you will have the problems listed above.
- Installation Time - Again these run on Propane so it can require an installation if you choose to install one in your vehicle instead of just buying a propane portable unit. An installation may also be required to hook up an outside propane tank because there needs to be certain measures taken to ensure that the tank is safe and installed properly. Just contact an RV technician or someone who installs them and get more info on this.
If you choose to purchase a furnace that runs on propane, make sure that it is compatible with your RV- some RVs may need the propane line running through the roof or another unconventional place on your device. Some furnaces can be installed inside of your RV's ducting, while some others are more difficult to install and require additional work. Make sure you research these details before buying.
- RV furnaces can be an efficient and affordable way to heat your RV for free during the colder months using propane. Propane does not require electricity, which makes it a perfect choice for RVs that do not have access to electricity while camping or traveling.
- Be sure that the furnace you purchase is compatible with your specific model of RV by researching its installation procedures and requirements beforehand. Also, don't forget to install the right type of propane tanks in accordance to your furnace's specifications!
- With all things considered, RV furnaces are an excellent way to heat your RV when you're parked for the night. Prolonged use of unvented cooking appliances can harm your lungs and eyes, so consult with your doctor if you have any respiratory problems before using them.
To conclude this blog post, RV furnaces are a great way to save money on heating bills. Be sure to research your options before buying any type of RV furnace, as it is important that the devices are compatible with your specific RV model.