Electric space heater in your RV? Think twice

Electric space heater in your RV? Think twice

By Steve Savage, Mobility RV Service

Fall is fast approaching and it will not be long before things start to cool down at night. For most RVers, that means using their heater. For many it means using a portable electric space heater. A recent survey by RVtravel.com revealed that more than 80 percent of its readers carry such a heater.

And there’s no doubt about it. These inexpensive devices are great for taking the chill off or for supplementing the onboard heating system. But, beware … there can be dangers. Among them is catching an RV on fire.

The mistaken belief of many RVers is that a circuit breaker will always protect the electrical wiring. It is true it will do just that — if the draw is above the capacity of the breaker. But what about when the draw approaches but does not go over the rating on the breaker?

Current draw that approaches but does not exceed the breaker rating can really heat things up, and not in a good way. The photo shows the space a wall receptacle used to occupy before the owner decided to use a space heater in the bedroom. In case you think this is a rarity, it is not — and I see it frequently over the course of an RV season. I have also seen the ends burned off 50-amp shore lines, and I just replaced a transfer switch due to melted wires and a charred terminal bus bar.  Wall receptacles that once were white and now are a smoky brown are also not hard to find.

When looking for ways to save money, if you do plug electric space heaters into your wall receptacles I would encourage you to keep them on their lowest setting.

Here is one final thought: Suppose you have a system designed to keep your fresh water system from freezing by distributing heat from your furnace. Guess what happens if instead you use an electric space heater, with the end result the water lines freeze? The last time I got called to make that repair meant an $800 repair bill to run new water lines, along with fittings and fixtures. So think twice before relying on electric space heaters to keep your RV warm. And when you do, use caution.

The staff of RVtravel.com contributed to this article.

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