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Winter Heating for Your RV - 2011 Edition

Every year about this time I re-visit the subject of winter heating for your recreational vehicle. This post from 2009 explores how we stay warm in the Old Girl through a moderate Texas winter.   I am thankful we don’t try to winter over farther north in an RV.  They are just not made to endure day after day of extreme cold.  I do have one reader that I know of, Coal, who winters over in a Fiver In Canada so it can be done. I am not that tough by a long shot.   Boondocking during a mild Texas winter is plenty enough hardship for me.

You have two heat sources in an RV – electric and propane.  Choice of heat sources is usually dictated by which one is cheaper to use.  Since we are on a company supplied generator here at the oil field gate guard job, my first choice is electric heat.    If you go to Wal-Mart or Home Depot this time of year,  they are going to show you a whole aisle of electric heaters but they all have one thing in common.  Regardless of how fancy or tall, blowers or oscillators or whatnot, the max heat ANY of them is going to produce is 1500w on a 120v outlet.  It is a law or something.  That little cube heater will put out the same amount of heat as that tall tower.  Ain’t that something?

I have been going through one and sometimes two electric heaters each season.  Some of them die a natural death.  One was murdered last year.  Ah well, they are cheap, right?  The biggest problem on the Old Girl is electric capacity.  I can run one electric heater on the low 750 watt setting without blowing the breakers.  I usually run a dedicated heavy extension cord directly to the power source and connect one electric heater in that fashion.  But you gotta be careful folks.  Electric heaters do not like puny extension cords.  They will melt plugs and burn your house down if you don’t feed them properly.  One of the mistakes I have made in the past is to run a big, heavy extension cord into a power block and then a puny extension cord from the power block to the electric heater.  That was bad, bad juju.  The little Dollar Store extension cord looked like it had been nuked in just a few days.

The plan for the electric heaters will be one hooked directly to the generator which will give me a full range of independent operation all the way to 1500 watts.  The second electric heater will be plugged into the 20amp onboard electrics and limited to the LOW setting.  That will be the heater that sits at Miss Kathy’s feet.  She is a Desert Girl and has to wear a coat just walking down the frozen food aisle at Wal mart.  Every time a breaker flips, I will ask her “Do you have your little heater on low?”   I get the stink eye every time I ask her that. I am just a glutton for punishment.

Broan 6201 Two Level Electric Heater

Sometime last year the subject of electric heaters came up on one of the RV forums and it was pretty typical.  Some people swear by this or that brand or they like the oscillating towers or the ceramic cubes.  I have tried them all and there is not a nickle’s difference between most of them.  You will be lucky to get more than one winter of hard use out of any of them.  One post stood out because they recommended a heater I had never heard of and raved about it. It was a Broan-NuTone 6201 Two Level Heater.  At just under $70, I was skeptical but I had to check it out and order one.  Over the past few cool nights, we have been test driving it and I have to say it gets a hearty endorsement from us.  Miss K says ‘It will run you out of the room!’  Well, alrighty then. If mama is happy so am I.  You can see by the pic it is a tiny rascal.  That is my Razr cellphone in the pic for reference.  You can tell it is my cellphone because the screen is broken and I have it taped up with clear packing tape which really irks Miss K.  What the picture doesn’t tell you is the little rascal is all steel and built like a tank.  I am really liking it, yes I am.  I will most likely buy a second one.  Amazon reviews indicate some folks have been using the same heater for years.

The second option for heat in a recreational vehicle is propane.  Even though we are footing the bill for propane, the cost will be written off as a business expense.  The Old Girl has the typical RV propane furnace.  It is used sparingly because it is a propane slurpin’ bitch and noisy as hell.  These furnaces are so inefficient!  Don’t believe me?  Go outside and put your hand close to the exhaust when yours is running.   They exhaust enough to heat half the RV.  Typically, the onboard furnace is only used for a quick whole RV warmup on the coldest mornings.

Mr Heater Buddy Heater

We use a Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Propane Heater – 9000 BTU, Model# MH9BX inside the RV. It has 2 settings — 4000btu and 9000btu.  This heater has its’ own regulator so you can hook it directly to a propane bottle and run it.  What I do is connect the heater to a Mr. Heater 75,000 BTU 12-Foot Propane Hose Assembly #F273702 and run the 12′ hose out the belly of the Old Girl to a 40lb external bottle.  A 40lb bottle will last you a good many days.  Make sure if you go this route that you use a Mr. Heater Fuel Filter. It attaches directly to the heater and then you attach the hose.  If you don’t use the filter with an external bottle it runs all sorts of oily nasties into the regulator and gums it up.  One last caveat when using the Mr Heater Buddy heater.  It uses oxygen to burn and you need to leave a window or vent cracked to insure an adequate replenishment of fresh O2.   We never run it when everyone is sleeping.

The last piece of equipment is not strictly for winter heating  – it is used year ’round. It is the Marshall Brass Deluxe Extend A Stay.  The Extend A Stay is plumbed into the onboard 40 gallon propane tank on the Old Girl and allows me to use an external bottle to run all the propane gizmos in the RV.  It is way easier to take a 40lb bottle to town for a refill than it is to drive the Old Girl in for a fillup.

Here are the Amazon links for the products discussed above.   Stay warm!

Broan-NuTone 6201 Two Level Heater

Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Propane Heater – 9000 BTU, Model# MH9BX

Mr. Heater 75,000 BTU 12-Foot Propane Hose Assembly #F273702

Mr. Heater Fuel Filter

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Winter Heating for Your RV - 2011 Edition, 8.5 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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8 comments to Winter Heating for Your RV – 2011 Edition

  • Can you play Angry Birds on that Razr?

    I giggle every time I see a picture of it.

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    • admin

      Thanks good buddy!

      I have one gadget whore in the family. Miss K is jonesin’ for an Ipad to go with her Iphone.

      That old Razr looks like ass but runs just fine -thankyouverymuch.

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  • Scott, he uses my I-Phone to play Angry Birds
    when I’m asleepin’!

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  • Maybe an electric temperature adjustable blanket
    would be a good thing?

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  • I’m sitting here with warm toasty feet this morning due to the Broan-NuTone 6201 Two Level Heater. Thanks for the info. This little machine is pretty powerful. 🙂 Also waiting on a 1,000 tubes and will start rolling, rolling, rolling tomorrow. Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the information you put out here. Hugs to you both!! 🙂

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    • admin

      Nice Ms. Tango!

      Looks like a second Broan is in out future. Miss K now takes ours with her from work back to the bedroom when she sleeps.

      I am sitting here rolling 1/2 a carton and watching Sons of Anarchy on the DVR.

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  • coal

    Another month from now I will start the winter preparations, number one concern for me is getting out of the wind. Second is a good 30 amp service to the trailer, will run one electric heater just to maintain a even temp. Still rely on the propane furnace and it will gobble a hundred pound tank in three days during the coldest part of the winter.

    I had one of those buddy heaters, but I did not like it. Having a couple of german shepherds makes me uneasy that they may knock it over. I know that they have a safety feature, but I already went through one trailer fire and don’t want a repeat. I use those little black ceramic heaters, usually they are about 20 bucks,. usually last one winter. Place it by the entrance door as that is where most rv’s loose most of the thier heat.

    Besides, real men camp when its minus thirty lol

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  • Arleen Whittier

    I will spend my first winter in 5 th wheel. I live on disability income so very concerned about cost for heat. I am thinking about purchasing cover (like car cover) and cover the whole trailer.

    I lived in very old camper before and used to wrap with 8′ x 100′ plastic. That made incredible amount of difference.

    Any thoughts about the covered or suggestions? I really appreciate you article.

    Thanks, Arleen

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