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Electrical Heaters - RV

Electric fan heaters, Ceramic heaters, Convention heaters,
or simply a reverse cycle air conditioner.
Which will keep you warm in your RV this winter?


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Electrical Heaters

If you have access to a standard mains power source or a generator then you will be able to use portable electrical heaters to heat your RV, trailer or motorhome.  The usual safety precautions should be taken when using heaters in confined spaces.

If you intend to use a generator to run the heating appliance make sure you keep in mind the amount of wattage the heating unit requires to operate before buying a heating appliance.  For example, if you have a Honda EU20i it has a 2,000 watt capacity so the heater you buy will need to have less wattage (say 1,800 watt) for the generator to be able to run it.

NOTE: Electric radiant/bar heaters are not covered here as these are considered unsafe for use in RV’s.  Oil filled column heaters are also not included as they draw a lot of electrical current and can trip electrical circuits.

Electric fan heaters can supply almost instantaneous heat but they tend to be the least economically efficient of the electric heaters and they also should not be left unattended.  The noise can vary from make and model depending on the fan and the fan settings.  The plastic surface does not get hot but the heating grill can get very hot.  To avoid burns make sure you purchase a fan heater with a plastic cover over the heating grill.  Select one that has an automatic cut-out feature for such things as the heater tipping over or overheating.






Ceramic heaters – although ceramic heaters are not the most energy efficient heaters they are more energy efficient than most types of electric heaters.  Most models of ceramic heaters incorporate a fan which makes them quite effective for larger spaces.  Some models come with a heat sensor to assist maintaining the temperature in the room. Look for ceramic heaters that do not have exposed radiant heating elements and have safety features such as thermostat and tilt safety cut-off switches.  Items of clothing or anything flammable should not be placed on top of or close to the front of the ceramic heater and these heaters are not recommended to be used with an extension cord.

Sunbeam has a range of ceramic heaters from 1800 watts to 2400 watts.  Other brand names for ceramic heaters are DeLonghi, Honeywell and Holmes.



Convection heaters: There are electric convection heaters available but note not all models come with a fan.  The convection heaters are more suited for long heating periods rather than the occasional fast heating and one that has a fan is more effective as it disperses the heated air.  These heaters rely on natural convection with the heated air rising and being replaced by cooler air flowing being drawn over the heating element.

The convection heater operates similar to an electric fan heater but the surfaces do not get hot so there is a low risk of fire ignition and they are better if there may be young children around.  Convection heaters however can take up valuable floor space, so the physical dimensions (size) of these heaters may make them unsuitable for an RV.  In some models the fan can also be a bit noisy so you would have to talk louder or have the TV up higher to be heard.

Some brands of convection heaters have features such as electronic thermostat, timer, remote control, thermal cut-out or tilt switch and frost watch.

Some brand names are Dimplex, Sunair, Celsius, DeLonghi, Prima and Raypak ‘Paloma’. One of the DeLonghi models has a safety tilt switch feature where an alarm will sound if the heater is tipped over accidentally.  It also has anti-frost protection and a thermal cut-out. 

Reverse Cycle Air Conditioners

Most caravan trailers, fifth wheelers and motorhomes have an air conditioner but not all have a heat cycle.  Some air conditioners have a fan heat cycle or there is the Air Command air conditioner which is a true reverse cycle air conditioner.  Air Command claim their ‘Wren’ is a reverse cycle refrigerative heat pump, which produces almost twice the heating output compared with their competitors' products.  The Wren also has an auto de-icing function on the heat cycle.

If you are away from a power source, a good size generator such as the Honda EU20i (2,000 watt) will run a standard air conditioner in your RV.  However, if you want to run an air conditioner on a generator in temperatures in the high 30 - 40 degrees some users have reported generators of that size tripping out due to the heat so they believe a larger generator is required (ie. the Yamaha 2.4). Thermostats in air conditioners have been known not to cope with the load in very cold conditions so travellers have looked to the fuelled blown air heaters as another option.  See article - Heating your Caravan with Gas / Diesel

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