By Curtis Carper
Setting the thermostat at a comfortable level on your RV’s furnace is the simplest way to bring your rig up to a comfortable temperature. Sadly, it’s not the most economical way to keep warm. If your style is to get as far away from society as possible and if you rely on your furnace, you will be headed home shortly.
Like your older home furnace, the standard propane furnace in your RV sends most of the heat out the exhaust port — they are very inefficient. The other downside is they require electricity to run the blower fan which distributes the heat through your RV.
If you are spending time away from hookups, at best you will last a couple days before you have a dead battery. If you have the means to recharge the battery, you will still run out of propane long before you are ready to head back to the barn.
Catalytic heaters make much better use of your propane supply and, best of all, they don’t require any electricity to function. Generally, they have a piezoelectric igniter that provides the spark to light them, and there is no blower involved at all.
Because the heat radiates throughout the RV, with none going out the exhaust, you get every BTU from your propane, making it last many times longer than what the furnace uses.
You can buy permanently mounted propane heaters or you can use a portable model that is designed for indoor use. Be sure whichever brand or model you use is equipped with a low-oxygen automatic shut-off, such as the Buddy Heater or the Big Buddy heater. Also be sure your heater has an automatic tip-over shutdown feature so if it gets knocked over you will be safe.
I have used the Buddy Heater with an extension hose so I could run it off a larger propane tank that is kept outdoors. I also have a larger heater with a 20-pound LP tank mounted within the heater that really cranks out the heat.
If you only need to take the morning chill off, a smaller heater does the job nicely. The larger 18,000 BTU heater will bring an RV up to comfortable temperatures, even in winter climates.
Camping away from society means you need to be self-sufficient for longer periods of time. Using a supplemental heater will keep you toasty warm and help stretch your propane supply. Just be careful where you place such a heater because there is more danger of a fire or injury to small children.
Catalytic heaters require some extra caution, but when used within the manufacturer’s guidelines they are a good way to provide supplemental heat when you are boondocking.
Editor’s note: Be sure to have adequate ventilation when using non-vented LP appliances — read and follow the instruction manual on this. And never bring an LP container inside your RV. Catalytic heaters and accessories are available at Amazon.com.