Avoid Having To Deal With A Space Heater Fire In Your RV
Using a space heater can be a great way to keep your RV warm and toasty on cold winter days. While your RV’s propane furnace will meet most of your heating needs, a space heater can quickly provide heat where you need it. The problem is, space heaters can cause (sometimes fatal) RV fires when we aren’t careful with them.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that 9 out of 10 fire-related deaths involved the use of mounted or fixed electric space heaters. According to the report, space heaters were the leading cause of catastrophic fires in the US.
That being said, space heater fires in RVs are usually far more devastating than home fires due to their multitude of highly flammable components. The chances of you losing your life in an RV fire are far greater than losing your life in a house fire.
Have a fire escape and a fire extinguisher on hand
There are more than 2,000 RV fires each year. It makes good sense to be well prepared in case you are ever faced with this nightmare in your RV.
For instance, it’s a good idea to have a fire escape plan and practice your fire escape route before you need to use it. And don’t be shy about sharing it with everyone who stays or travels with you in the RV. Everyone in the RV should be familiar with the fire escape plan and routes.
You should also have a fire extinguisher within easy reach at all times. While most RVs come with a single fire extinguisher, having an extinguisher within easy reach at all times requires a minimum of three fire extinguishers, depending on the size of your RV.
Inside the RV, you should have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and one in the sleeping area. Outside, you should have a fire extinguisher in an unlocked compartment and/or one in the tow vehicle.
While electric space heaters can be used safely in RVs, warming up an RV with a space heater requires more caution than using a space heater in a sticks-and-bricks home. This is due to both the limited size of the RV and the limited electrical supply in an RV.
Electric space heaters, including electric fireplaces, put a draw of about 12.5 amps onto RV wiring. With a constant draw, RV wiring can heat up and cause a fire. While breakers should take care of this, they can become worn and don’t always work.
Space heater fire safety tips
If you use a space heater in your RV, it should only be to supplement your RV furnace for short periods of time and not be run for extended periods. With that being said, here’s what else you can do to prevent having to deal with a space heater fire in your RV.
- Be sure to buy a heater that has a seal from Underwriters Laboratories. Look for the UL seal on the space heater you are considering.
- Get a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection.
- Be sure to choose a space heater that has an auto shut-off feature, so it turns itself off if it gets too hot or tips over.
- Keep the space heater at least three feet away from any object or material that could possibly burn. Remember, the electric fireplaces that many RVs come with now are actually just decorative space heaters. Don’t put dog beds or other flammable objects next to them.
- Only use space heaters on a solid, flat, non-carpeted surface.
- Keep space heaters out of the way in places where they won’t get tripped over.
- Space heaters should only be used when you are present and awake. Never leave a space heater plugged in when you go to sleep or leave the RV.
- Always keep children, pets, and their toys away from space heaters.
- Never plug a space heater into an extension cord or power strip.
- When you are using a space heater, frequently check the power cord and plug for heat. If the cord or plug seems warm, unplug it immediately.
Get tips from other RVers
Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.
Lynne lives, travels, and works full-time in a Forest-River R-Pod 180 with her 2-pointers, Jolene and Annabelle. Lynne has been an enthusiastic RVer for over 35 years. And then one day in 2019, she began full-time RVing as a lifestyle experiment. She quickly fell in love with the convenience, freedom and minimalist lifestyle offered by full-time RV living. Lynne is a professional writer and has been a professional dog trainer since 1995. You can read about her travel adventures on her R-Pod Adventure blog, R-podyssey at: http://www.rpodaventure.com
Gary Schubert says
Remember…. a RV fireplace is nothing more than a space heater.
John Parker says
I use space heaters almost exclusively since I’m paying for electrical as part of the campground fees. Also, the large propane bottles are a real pain to pull out and then
put back in. In my rig, I only need the propane furnace to kick on occasionally when the outside temps are in the lower 20s.
Jesse W Crouse says
From a Plumbing & Heating professional. All the above tips should be applied in both your sticks and bricks home as well as your RV
I use a space heater but I have a heavy gauge extension cord I run in through the window to plug it into (it is plugged into the 30amp with a pig tail to 20 amp). I don’t trust my older MH’s wiring to deal with it. It points towards the front of the RV which makes it easier to heat the rest with the furnace.
Adolph Sykes says
Thanks again for the information
Kirk Eastburn says
The first time we had a mobile tech come to our RV, it was happenstance that he discovered our breaker box connections had all melted down to bare wire, caused he believed by use of our space heater we had brought from home. He was with us for a slide issue, he normally would not have opened that panel as it wasn’t a breaker issue with the slide. We believe this tech saved us from disaster and possibly saved our lives. (Oh, and he did fix the slide.). We still use the heater, but with a super duty outdoor extension that is plugged directly into the electric pole. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Very grateful.