How To Choose the Best RV Heater For Your Needs

Derrek Sigler
by Derrek Sigler
(Arina P Habich/

Anyone who has camped in the spring and/or fall, or maybe just in some of the more extreme climates, knows that a heater in your RV can mean the difference between a miserable camping experience and a fun one. There are several ways to go about installing a heater in your RV, with everything from portable units, to complete furnaces. As long as you know how much space you want to heat, picking the best RV heater for you isn’t that difficult. Just like when you picked out your RV when you bought it, there are lots of options for getting the best RV heater for you.

Suburban RV Furnace

If your furnace breaks down in your home, you call a repair expert to come, and hopefully it can be fixed. A home furnace carries a significant cost, so replacement is never fun. In your RV, if the furnace breaks down, you can take it in for repair, but if you’re a DIYer, there are some easy options. Suburban makes direct replacement RV furnaces that are not only easy to install, but often offer a significant upgrade to many RV furnaces. This model is a 16,000 BTU furnace with direct discharge and electronic ignition. Simply follow the instructions and you’re back in the business of being warm. Different models are available to fit different RVs, so consult your owner’s manual to see which model you need, or compare available units to what is in your RV now.

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Caframo Limited 9206CABBX True North Heater

A small, compact electric heater can make a huge difference. Whether you’re needing a little more heat for your RV than the furnace can dish out, or your smaller RV, like a pop-up camper, didn’t comes with a heater, and you don’t want to freeze anymore, an RV heater, like the Caframo True North Heater can make a huge difference. Small in size, but not in delivery, the True North can be mounted anywhere. It has 600-, 900- and 1500-watt settings, three heat settings and has a two-speed fan. It has a durable powder-coat finish and a five-year warranty. The price makes it affordable for all, too.

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SENDOW Portable Electric Space Heater

Sometimes you just need a small, portable electric space RV heater. This unit from SENDOW is an oscillating, 1,200-watt ceramic heater that is perfectly safe for interior use. It is small and compact, so it can fit in well with the limited space within your RV, and it has an automatic failsafe shutoff in case it gets knocked over, making it both kid and pet friendly. It also shuts off if it gets too hot, a nice feature. Another nice touch is it has extremely low noise, at just 45db. That way it won’t keep you up at night should you need the warmth while you’re sleeping.

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Dinosaur Circuit Boards

You may not need a replacement furnace after all. You may just need to fix your old one. One of the parts that wears out is the circuit board that tell your furnace how and when to operate. Electrical work can be tricky, but when the whole circuit board is available prewired and ready to install, that makes it easier. That is what you get with this board from Dinosaur. It is a direct replacement for a number of furnace brands, from Atwood, to Coleman, Suburban, Duoflame and more. Check the list to see if your model is there, and if not, it is most likely available.

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Atwood 34570 Replacement Electrode

One of the most common parts that wears out in an RV heater is the electrode ignitor. Think of your gas grill you have on your deck. The ignitor is usually the first part to go, isn’t it? The best part is the price. An Atwood replacement electrode comes in under $10 and is a great place to start when trying to figure out why your RV heater won’t stay lit. A variety of Atwood RV heater parts are available for any problems that come up.

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What Should I Do When My RV heater Won’t Work?

The reason most people start looking for RV heater options is due to their current heater not working properly. Diagnosing the issue can be tricky, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, it is always best to consult a professional. Replacing an RV heater unit isn’t too expensive or difficult, for the most part. You just need to find the right replacement model and installation is quite easy.

Replacing parts of your existing RV heater is a little trickier, but can be done if you have a basic knowledge of mechanics. The usual suspects are the electrode that ignites your heater, or the circuit board the controls when and how the RV heater works. Luckily these parts are readily available and reasonably priced.

A third option is to switch to portable heaters. This works well if you have electrical hook ups at the campground you’re in. Be sure to get ones that are approved for indoor use and never use a gas-powered portable heater indoors for extended periods of time. The carbon monoxide buildup is lethal.

Does My RV Heater Need Electricity?

That totally depends on the heater itself. There are electric-powered RV heaters that are cheaper to run than propane or other gas heaters. But you either have to run them off your RV’s generator, a portable generator, or the electrical hook-up at an RV park. As long as your gas generator is efficient, you’re fine. If not, then the costs will have to be weighed by you to see which is best.

The battery system in your RV should have enough juice to run the fans that push the warm air out of your heater, but like your home furnace, your RV heater does need some form of electricity to operate.

Why Does My RV Heater Keep Shutting Off?

The number one cause of an RV heater shutting off early is a dirty air filter or intake. It can essentially choke off the heater, causing it to either not run, as air is an important part of the burning process, or it will cause an emergency shutoff due to overheating elements. Either way, make sure your airway is completely open. If the heater is still shutting off early, take a look at the elements listed above regarding why it won’t work.

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