gtag('config', 'UA-128417102-2');

Are Space Heaters Safe in My RV? | RV Safety Tips and Tricks
Are Space Heaters Safe To Use in my RV?

Are Space Heaters Safe To Use in my RV?

So Many Sizes and Shapes To Choose From

Are Space Heaters Safe to Use in My RV? – What You Need To Know

Well, it’s that time of year when the temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are getting colder the further north you go and, as we all probably know, winter and RV’ing are not very compatible.

Then I got to thinkin, Are space heaters safe to use in my RV? Are they safe for my readers to use?” Is there anything we need to worry about?

Now, I don’t use my trailer at all in the winter, ( call me a woos. I can take it), but, I know there are some hardy souls out there who do. And, as I said, RVs and winter living don’t really go together. The walls in most of them are thin (2 inches), so, there isn’t much insulation. The insulation under the floors isn’t that great either although it is a little thicker and most underbellies are sealed up these days.

Overall, you’ll be pretty scuppered (Father-in-law vernacular for “out of luck”) when it comes to keeping yourselves warm and snugly in your RVs when those temperatures start to get down towards the freezing level and beyond. (“Baby, it’s cold outside”, I’m sure you recall the song?).

I was actually thinking about using a space heater in my own RV, a travel trailer, just to keep the chill out and the air a little drier and I started to wonder, is it safe to use a space heater in your RV? If it is, what’s are some of the best space heaters (next article) to use for this purpose? Which ones should you stay away from?

The Included RV Furnace!Our RV Furnace is simmilar to this one

So, what do we do if we want to camp when it’s cold anyway? Well, let’s talk a little about that heater that comes with your RV, the one that runs on propane.

First and foremost, they do a pretty good job of heating up space in an RV, what with all the floor vents that are in most units. That’s what they are built to do. Our “Couples Trailer” is a little smaller than those used by families so, even though there are no heater vents on the floor, the heater still does the job. However, the drawback is that, on those cold nights, no matter what kind of RV you have, it’s going to use a lot of energy (propane) to keep your unit warm.

Second, they can drive you nuts on those cold nights when they keep going on and off and, on and off throughout the night. I don’t have to tell you, RV furnace fans are loud and on those cold nights they can stay on for a loooong time.

Last of all, some older motorhomes, small trailers and especially those older van conversions, don’t come with heaters unless you install one so when it gets cold, there aren’t many choices other than extra blankets Or a really good sleeping bag (or a big dog?). Hot water bottles won’t do the job either. (I can hear some of you younger folks saying, “What’s a hot water bottle?”)

Many different options to choose from

Enter the Space Heater

I did some research trying to find information about the major causes of RV fires. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be much info on that specific subject. There was a lot of info around the causes of house fires but little if anything to do with RVs

However, what i did find was a little surprising.  My research found that during the period of 2011 and 2015, portable as well as stationary space heaters were found to be responsible for more than two out of five (43%) home heating fires in the US and five out of six (85%) home heating fire deaths” ( I had no idea that it was that high.

So, are RV’rs at a higher risk than homeowners when using space heaters? I ‘m no expert but I think the risks are about the same. I suppose it could be a little higher because RV’rs are living in a smaller space. However, I think that with proper attention to safety, at home or in our RVs, we can significantly reduce that risk.

Space heaters have been around for many years now and the technology behind them has been getting better and better. With features like tip-over switches on the bottom and other sensors, they are much safer now than they used to be.

But, how are you supposed to know which one is right for you? After all, you want it to be practical, affordable and, most of all, you want it to be safe especially if you’re travelling with children and/or pets.

Many people like to take their RVs with them when they go hunting. Around our area, that’s from September to the middle of December depending on what one goes out hunting for. It’s good to have a little extra heat after a long cold day in the woods. The ones that run on Propane are great for those Ice-fishing huts too.

At a campsite with power, an electric ceramic space heater would be a great addition on those cold nights. They come in various sizes and configurations so there are choices for everyone.

Space heaters, good ones, are quite good at providing dependable heat in an enclosed space while higher quality ones come with energy-efficient and durable components that help make them last a lot longer and they are pretty quiet as well.

I’m going to presume that you are still in the research process, trying to figure out what the best option would be for you because you’ve found this post. So Let’s discover together what I think are some of the best, and safest, space heaters for our RVs.


What About Those Safety Features?

And Children Too
Built To Be Safe

There was a time when these units first hit the market, there were no safety features at all. I guess manufacturers thought that the consumer was pretty cautious or they probably didn’t think about the possible issues that could arise from them.

Well, things have changed a lot over the years. Due to fires and loss of life because of these devices, laws have been created that have changed the way these heaters are made and, these days, they are much safer.

Today, the better ones on the market all have auto shut off safety features that kick in if they get knocked over or even if they are lifted. There is a button that compresses under the unit. When it’s knocked over or lifted this button decompresses and shuts off the heater.

Others run on propane and have a pilot light. If the pilot goes out or the unit gets knocked over, the unit automatically shuts off.

But, there are other things we can do to increase the safety of the space heater we have chosen. And it doesn’t take very much.

  • First and foremost you must read the owner’s manual and follow the safety recommendations.
  • Make sure all the smoke and CO detectors are working properly and replace them at least every year. Check them before you go out for a camping trip and replace it if not working.
  • Only use heaters with an auto shut off when tipped over.
  • Do not use or leave a space heater running when you are not home.
  • Maintain a minimum of at least 3 feet of empty space around your heater.
  • Don’t allow children to play near the heater
  • Make sure your heater is on a flat and solid surface.
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation. Open RV windows and roof vents. This will allow fresh air to move through the RV.
  • Don’t disable any of the sensors or safety switches.
  • Don’t use with extension cords. If you must, make sure the extension you use is CONSTRUCTION GRADE. That’s at least 16-gauge.

RV Electrical Panels

RV Electrical Wiring – Is It Adequate

Most RV electrical panels look very similar and this brings me to another thing that you need to take into consideration when purchasing a Space heater for your RV. Is the wiring in your main panel adequate? An easy way to find out what the gauge of wire is in your trailer is to ask your service technician.

Another interesting thing that I found out during my research for this article is that USA electric outlets weren’t designed to be heavy enough for the task of providing 1,500 watts continuously for hours on end. the chances are that this is the case in other countries as well so, that might be worth checking out as well.

A typical electric space heater, (lets’ use a 1500W ceramic heater), will draw about 12 1/2 AMPS. the formula to calculate that is  Watts divided by Amperage + Amps. That is the first part of the puzzle.

You might think that would be just fine for a 20 Amp outlet and I would too. But, it turns out that those 20 Amp outlets are only rated for 16 Amps (80% of 20Amps) on a continuous basis. Now you’re down to a 16 Amp outlet providing 12.5 Amps.

That circuit could be using only 14-gauge wire when it should be 12-gauge (14 is thinner than 12) which would only be using a 15-amp circuit breaker. 80% of a 15-amp capacity is only 12-amps. Heater draw – 12.5-amps. The actual capacity of a 15-amp circuit breaker is 12-amps. Looks like we have a problem here. Read more about Heater safety here.

So. it would seem that the wiring could be an issue and should be checked by asking your RV service guy some questions.

You might want to sign up for the newsletter from the link I provided. It’s really good and the website is jam-packed with information about everything to do with RV’ing.


Final Remarks

Well, we’ve covered a lot in this article and I really hope it has been helpful to you as you try to make a decision about using a space heater in your RV. Check out my next post.

Yes, there have been some issues with these but I really believe that these issues are caused more by the users NOT taking proper and adequate safety precautions when using them. Sadly some people look for short cuts and, in the end, that can and has been very costly. I repeat, VERY COSTLY. Loss of property and loss of life.

So, if you don’t get anything else out of this post, at least take away the parts about safety. We will all have a much better experience because of it. And who doesn’t want that kind of memory?

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope it has been a help to you and if you have any questions or other comments, please leave them in the comment section below and I will reply asap. I value your comments and won’t ignore anyone.

Happy Camping and please… be safe,


Owner and author of My Stay Home Business

10 thoughts on “Are Space Heaters Safe To Use in my RV?

  1. Definitely RV walls are functional as long as the unit is in good working condition, as they are designed for the specific areas of your RV, this could be by far a more efficient way to heat it up during winter low temperatures. 

    If for any reason it fails or needs to be supported by other heating means, always remember that safety is first!

    In summary, legislation has evolved for our protection and we can trust any recently produced heater done under minimum American standard (Auto-Shutoff among them) and most of the risk will be most likely related to the wiring system of our RVs.

    If having the Auto Shutoff feature, most likely it will also be advertised in the label: Is there any standard (like the “Star Energy” in regards to electricity consumption efficiency) related to the safety components integrated into a portable heater? 

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information!

    1. Hello, Juan and thanks for your comments.

      With respect to RV walls, I was mostly talking about the exterior walls of an RV. An RVs exterior walls are normally only about 2 inches thick maybe a little more but not much.  Because of this fact, they only do a reasonable job of holding heat inside the RV during the late spring through the early fall.  Sometimes not even then depending on how far north or south you live.

      All that being said, that is why some people turn to “Space Heaters” as an extra source of heat and the electrical ones are especially convenient when your in a campsite that has an electrical hook-up.

      In the winter, during times of storage, they don’t have to be turned up full bore but just enough to help dry out the air inside.  Warm air holds less moisture than cold air hence, there are fewer problems with condensation on windows and walls.

      Government legislation has made these heaters much safer to use in RVs but that doesn’t mean we should be any less diligent in making sure things stay that way, and, yes, the safety features are, or at least, should be clearly marked on the exterior of the packaging.

      As far as “Energy Star” requirements for efficiency, I haven’t seen any that actually make claims about that.  I do know that ceramic heaters are pretty good at pumping out the heat even at 750W.  The gas heaters I reviewed are 99.9% efficient and if the proper ventilation cautions are put in place there should not be any issues with CO.

      I hope that all helps in your understanding and again, thanks for your comments and our question.

      Happy Camping,


  2. It’s never good to look for shortcuts when getting things done especially when safety is an issue as well. You have given lots of good info here on space heaters in RVs.

    I will always lean on the safe side rather than take any unnecessary risks. Taking the time to read the owners manuel and its safety features is a small price to pay.

    Thanks so much for this information as it is very helpful. I will share it will my RV friends. 

    1. You’re welcome, Joseph and thanks for leaving a comment.

      That’s absolutely right, safety IS important and it really doesn’t take that much time.  Unnecessary risks can have grievous consequences that no one has to live with if they just take those extra few minutes to make sure everything has been done to secure the safety of our RVs and, more importantly, our family (pets included).

      Please, do share this site with your RV friends.  Not only will they be safer, but they will also find some other great info here as well that will help them have a better camping time.

      Again, I appreciate your taking the time to visit my site.


  3. This is really great to see here and I must say that you have enlightened me a lot as an RV owner. Seriously, I feel that safety should come first before deliberating over anything else concerning the space heater. 

    Since it has been proven that even homes got burnt cause of it, I feel the RV would be at more danger. Hence I would not want to risk anything at all with it.

    1. Glad I was able to “enlighten” you, Ro.  Safety is so important no matter what we are doing and, really, I don’t know why it’s so hard for some.  Whether we are out and about camping in our RV or just driving our cars, we need to have respect for the people we are with and those around us as well.

      Can you imagine how much insurance rates would go down if people would just be more considerate and safe, (gotta be careful here, don’t want to rant)?

      I suppose there could be a little more danger using a space heater in an RV simply because it’s a smaller place with less room to maneuver but, with a little forethought I think RVs can be just as safe. 

      Home or RV, don’t let the kiddos or pets play around them and make sure the space heater is far enough away from walls or any other objects.  I think if folks could just do these two things, a lot of accidents will be avoided.

      Thanks for your comments and have a safe camping season,


  4. Hi Wayne, 

    Good article, I think you’re correct when it comes to using space heaters to ensure safety, you need to opt for a higher end model. The automatic safety features make all the difference, especially if you’re in a confined space like an RV. 

    It’s more of an investment; but you need to make these investments when it comes to protecting your life!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Nate and I have to agree, safety should be our #1 priority especially when using these heaters in our RVs and If that means we have to spend a few more dollars to get those safety features then so be it.

      I, for one, don’t want to live with the consequences of cheaping out on something like this.  For a few extra dollars, just having the auto-shutoff switch on the bottom of an electric heater would make me feel so much better.  I truly believe that this should be standard equipment on every electric and gas heater.  It just seems like a no brainer to me.

      I truly was shocked when I discovered that the heater I was using didn’t have any safety features at all. It has been replaced, to say the least.

      I’m really hoping that many will read this and change out there old unsafe ones for something safer.


  5. Space heaters are devices used to heat a single room or a small area. They are powered by electricity, gas or propane. It is good to know that space heaters have undergone a thorough examination to satisfy government regulations because of the importance of safety. 

    It is also good to know that the latest space heater should be the safer one due to safety reasons. Now I know that it is better to check the date of manufacture so as to keep updated with safety measures. 

    I am sure that there shall be fewer accidents and loss of property because of governments’ stringent measures regarding safety in RVs or conventional homes.

    Thanks very much for sharing this awesome knowledge.


    1. Thanks for visiting my website, Joseph.  Glad I was able to help with your understanding.

      Safety is the sole purpose behind this article and I hope many will read it.  It’s just not worth having something like this if it’s not safe.  

      Lives and property can be saved if people just take the time to make sure that what they are buying has these safety features.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *