How Many Gallons of Propane to Heat an RV: A Comprehensive Guide

The amount of propane needed to heat an RV can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the size of the RV, the insulation package, the climate, and the specific appliances being used. This comprehensive guide will provide you with the technical details and advanced insights to determine the optimal propane usage for your RV heating needs.

Factors Influencing Propane Consumption for RV Heating

RV Size and Furnace Capacity

The size of the RV is a crucial factor in determining propane consumption. Larger RVs, such as a 40-foot model with a 30,000 BTU furnace, will require more propane to maintain a comfortable temperature compared to a smaller 20-foot RV with a 20,000 BTU furnace. As a general rule, the larger the RV and the higher the furnace BTU capacity, the more propane will be consumed.

Insulation Quality

The quality of the RV’s insulation package also plays a significant role in propane usage. An RV with better insulation will require less propane to maintain a comfortable temperature, as the heat will stay inside the RV for a longer period, reducing the need for the furnace to run as frequently. Factors such as the R-value of the walls, ceiling, and floor insulation, as well as the presence of thermal barriers, can impact the overall insulation efficiency.

Climate Conditions

The climate in which the RV is being used is another crucial factor. In colder climates, the furnace will need to run more frequently to maintain a comfortable temperature, resulting in higher propane consumption. Conversely, in warmer climates, the furnace may not be needed as often, leading to lower propane usage.

Appliance Usage

The furnace is not the only appliance in an RV that consumes propane. Other appliances, such as the water heater, refrigerator, and stove, also use propane. The amount of propane used by these appliances will depend on how frequently they are used and their individual BTU demands.

Calculating Propane Consumption

how many gallons of propane to heat rv

To calculate the amount of propane needed to power the various appliances in an RV, you’ll need to know the BTU demand of each appliance and the BTU capacity of the propane tank.

Appliance BTU Demand

The BTU demand of each appliance can be found on the tag on the appliance itself or in the appliance owner’s manual. For example, a typical RV furnace may have a BTU demand of 43,800 BTUs.

Propane Tank BTU Capacity

The BTU capacity of the propane tank can be calculated by multiplying the number of gallons in the tank by 91,502 (the number of BTUs per gallon of propane). For instance, a 14-gallon propane tank would have a BTU capacity of 1,281,028 BTUs (14 gallons x 91,502 BTUs/gallon).

Using these values, you can estimate the runtime of the appliances before the propane tank is depleted. For example, if an RV has a 14-gallon propane tank and a furnace with a BTU demand of 43,800 BTUs, the RV would have roughly 29 hours of stove, water heater, and heat use before running out of propane (1,281,028 BTUs / 43,800 BTUs per hour = 29.3 hours).

Impact of Cold Weather on Propane Consumption

It’s important to note that the colder the weather, the faster the propane will be used up. When temperatures drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit, the BTU hourly capacity of the propane can be reduced by 50% or more. This is due to the decreased efficiency of the propane combustion process in extreme cold conditions.


Determining the optimal amount of propane needed to heat an RV requires a thorough understanding of the various factors at play, including the size of the RV, the insulation package, the climate, and the specific appliances being used. By considering these factors and calculating the BTU demand and capacity, you can accurately estimate the propane consumption and ensure your RV stays warm and comfortable, even in the harshest of winter conditions.

1. Good Sam Community:
2. Seattle RV Rentals:
3. Reddit RV Living:
4. Forest River Forums:
5. The RV Geeks: