Can You Run a Space Heater in an RV?

Running a space heater in an RV can be a convenient way to keep warm during cold weather, but it’s important to follow safety guidelines to prevent fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that space heaters were the leading cause of catastrophic fires in the US, and RV fires are usually far more devastating than home fires due to their multitude of highly flammable components.

Safety Guidelines for Using a Space Heater in an RV

To prevent space heater fires in an RV, follow these safety guidelines:

  1. Buy a heater with a seal from Underwriters Laboratories (UL): Look for the UL seal on the space heater you are considering to ensure it meets safety standards. UL-listed space heaters have been tested for fire, electric shock, and burn hazards, and they must meet strict safety requirements to earn the UL seal of approval.

  2. Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection: This feature will help prevent the heater from getting too hot and causing a fire. Thermostats allow you to set a desired temperature, and the overheat protection will automatically shut off the heater if it reaches a dangerously high temperature.

  3. Select a space heater with an auto shut-off feature: This feature will turn off the heater if it gets too hot or tips over. This is an essential safety feature that can prevent fires in the event of an accidental tip-over or other malfunction.

  4. Keep the space heater at least three feet away from any object or material that could possibly burn: Remember, the electric fireplaces that many RVs come with now are actually just decorative space heaters. Don’t put dog beds, curtains, or other flammable objects within 3 feet of the heater.

  5. Only use space heaters on a solid, flat, non-carpeted surface: Placing a space heater on a carpeted surface can cause it to overheat and start a fire. The heater needs a stable, non-flammable surface to operate safely.

  6. Keep space heaters out of the way in places where they won’t get tripped over: Space heaters should only be used when you are present and awake. Never leave a space heater plugged in when you go to sleep or leave the RV, as it could tip over and start a fire.

  7. Always keep children, pets, and their toys away from space heaters: Never plug a space heater into an extension cord or power strip, as this can overload the circuit and cause a fire.

  8. Frequently check the power cord and plug for heat: If the cord or plug seems warm, unplug it immediately. This could be a sign of an electrical issue that could lead to a fire.

Technical Specifications for Running a Space Heater in an RV

can you run a space heater in an rv

The technical specifications for running a space heater in an RV depend on the size and type of heater you choose. A 1500-watt heater will put out 1500 watts of heat, but the distribution of heat may vary depending on the style of heater. For example, a ceramic space heater with a fan will distribute heat more evenly than a radiant heater.

When selecting a space heater for your RV, consider the following technical specifications:

  • Wattage: Most RV-safe space heaters range from 750 to 1500 watts. Choose a heater that is appropriately sized for the square footage of your RV.
  • Voltage: RV electrical systems typically operate on 12V DC or 120V AC power. Make sure the space heater is compatible with your RV’s voltage.
  • Amperage: A 1500-watt heater will draw around 12.5 amps on a 120V circuit. Ensure your RV’s electrical system can handle the additional load.
  • Heating Element: Ceramic and infrared heaters are generally safer and more efficient than coil-based heaters.
  • Safety Features: Look for features like tip-over switches, overheat protection, and automatic shut-off.
  • Dimensions: Choose a space heater that fits comfortably in your RV without blocking walkways or exits.

It’s important to choose a heater that is appropriate for the size of your RV and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Consult with an RV electrician if you’re unsure about your RV’s electrical capacity.

DIY Tips for Running a Space Heater in an RV

Here are some DIY tips for running a space heater in an RV:

  1. Check your RV’s electrical system: Before using a space heater in your RV, make sure your electrical system can handle the extra load. Consult with a professional if you’re unsure. You can use a multimeter to measure the voltage and amperage of your RV’s electrical system to ensure it can safely power a space heater.

  2. Use a heavy-duty extension cord: If you need to use an extension cord, make sure it’s heavy-duty and rated for the size of your space heater. Look for cords with a minimum 14-gauge wire and a 15-amp or higher rating.

  3. Place the space heater on a stable surface: Make sure the space heater is placed on a stable, non-flammable surface like a metal or ceramic tile to prevent it from tipping over.

  4. Monitor the space heater: Never leave a space heater unattended, and turn it off when you’re not in the RV. Set a timer to remind you to turn off the heater when you leave the RV or go to sleep.

By following these safety guidelines and technical specifications, you can safely and effectively use a space heater to stay warm in your RV during the colder months. Remember, the key to preventing RV fires is to always prioritize safety when using any heating appliance.