Gas or Electric RV Heater – How to Choose and What to Avoid

Gas or Electric RV Heater

If you want to go camping in your RV in the winter but find your RV is not warm enough, you’ll want to look for an RV heater to help keep your motorhome nice and cozy.

The challenge though is deciding which RV heater to choose – gas or electric.

So, is a gas or electric RV heater better?

A gas RV heater is an overall cheaper option. Gas is cheaper than electricity, and an electric RV heater is more expensive. An electric RV heater can be used when propane is exhausted and is portable between rooms. For travel in off-grid locations, a gas RV heater is a better choice.

In this post we will look at all the pros and cons of both gas and electric RV heaters – as well as which type of RV heater you will want to avoid!

Benefits of a Gas RV Heater – and some negatives

To really see if a gas RV heater is best suited to your RV setup and travel itinerary, it’s a good idea to look at the pros and cons.


A gas-powered RV heater is a popular choice for many.

The main reason for this is the fact it can be used totally off-grid.

Simply put if you are camping in an off-grid or very rural location with limited or zero electricity, and your generator is running on maximum with all the current electricity outputs, then a gas RV heater will be perfect.

It will run on its own propane gas source in any location, which can be really useful for some, depending on where you regular travel to.

If heating your entire RV in one go is a consideration, then a gas heater may be a better choice. As your heater will need an outside flume, it is generally stored in the roof which will give a flow of hot air up and down your RV – rather than just in one room or location.


There are of course some downsides to gas RV heaters.

Gas RV heaters are renowned for being very noisy, not just for you but your RV neighbors too. They are considerably more noisy than small electric heaters, which will not be heard outside.

Propane is also a factor, as the heater are considered ‘gas guzzlers’, and consume propane at a relatively rapid rate.

If you just want to keep the bedrooms warm at night, rather than the entire RV, a gas heater may not be the more efficient type. A gas heater will work outwards from a central source, whereas an electric heater can be confined to a small area and only use the power needed to heat one room.

Once you run out of propane of course you will not be able to heat your RV, regardless of whether you have electricity through a generator or a hookup at the campsite.

You need to consider whether propane or electricity will be the more accessible source of fuel during your vacations, and the locations you are likely to visit.

Benefits of an Electric RV Heater – and some negatives

An electric powered heater is a good option for those who often find themselves at campsites with electric hookups, or never use all the wattage limitations of their generator and often have more power to spare.


They are portable, can be used in any room in the RV and do not need an external flume.

This is great if you want to have with you in the living area during the evening whilst eating and relaxing, and when it’s time for bed you can simply carry or wheel it into the bedroom.

Electric heaters are relatively quiet – at least compared to a noisy gas RV heater!

This is not only a plus point for you, but you’ll also be more popular with your RV camping neighbors.


As well as having several selling points, the electric RV heater comes with a few cons you will need to fully consider before making your choice.

First is coverage. If you want to warm your entire RV it’s not very practical to do so with a portable electric heater. You might start to notice the benefits after a few hours, but they are best for localized areas.

You could though buy and use more than one if you have the power to manage multiple heaters.

Also, electricity is considerably more expensive than gas, by many multiples.

Which RV Heater to Avoid

It’s quite essential to look at all the pros and cons of the different RV heater types.

After all, you’re just planning on warming up the inside of your motorhome.

Regardless of which heater you decide to choose, you will be dealing with potentially harmful fuels such as propane or electricity.

We deal with these elements almost daily but there is something about using these within the confides of a temporary travelling home, such as an RV, that makes the experience slightly different.

The type of heater to avoid are those on the second-hand, or reseller, market.

Safety needs to be paramount. Although many resold propane and electricity heaters are probably just fine, you never truly know the reason for resale or whether the heater has an undetected fault.

The older a propane heater gets the more problems it is likely to have or develop quickly.

New heaters are less likely to have any issues if installed correctly and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Running costs of a Gas vs Electric RV Heater

The ongoing cost of running an electric RV heater is considerably cheaper than running a gas RV heater, although the initial cost of an electric RV heater is higher than a gas heater.

We can compare running costs using the following data table:

RV HeaterEnergyUnit CostCost Per 24 HoursCost per 10,000 btu
Gas35,000 btu$0.80 per 35,000 btu$19.20$0.02 per hour
Electric3,400 btu0.125 kwh$3.00$0.14 per hour

Based on these fundamental, and very real numbers, it is cheaper to heat your RV using a propane gas heater rather than an electric one.

Although it appears as if the gas RV heater is more expensive ($19.20 vs $3.00 – which is 6.4x more expensive) you will notice that the output from the gas heater is more than 10x the electric RV heater.

Therefore when you compare like for like, the electric RV heater is 7x more expensive to run than a gas RV heater.

The overall fuel costs will depend on your location and state. The U.S Energy Information Administration has a helpful guide on how to compare costs of various heating fuels.

If fuel costs are a concern, and you want to keep running costs to a minimum, a gas RV heater is a good choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a 30-pound propane tank last in an RV?

A 30-pound propane tank will last for 15 hours in an RV when running standard appliances through the day. This can increase significantly if electrical appliances are kept to a minimum. A 30-pound propane tank can last up to 30 hours or more in summer.

How much does it cost to run a 1500-watt heater for a day?

The formula watt x hours / 1000 x kwh provides the answer. For example, 1500 x 24 / 1000 x $0.125 will cost $4.50 for 24 hours of use. The overall cost will depend on the kwh electricity rate charged. A $0.15 kwh charge will cost $5.40 per 24 hours.

Is it cheaper to heat an RV with propane or electric?

It is almost always cheaper to heat your RV using a gas RV heater.

This is because propane is cheaper, and an installed gas heater will expand more heat into a larger area than a portable electric heater will.

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