It’s getting to that time of year again where, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be wanting to get out on the road to enjoy the beautiful fall colors and crisp air.
Thing is, it gets pretty, pretty cold out there, especially in the evening. Now, I don’t know about you, but I like to enjoy a little comfort alongside my dose of the outdoors.
Nothing wrong with a good blanket, but there are other ways to keep yourself warm, and while your RV furnace is an option some supplemental heating is definitely worth considering (not forgetting those furnaces can be noisy and inefficient).
So, I bet you’re thinking, “Hey, propane heaters are pretty good for outdoor heating!” You’d be right, and they are, but can you use a propane heater indoors?
I mean, they’re portable and affordable, but is it safe? Let me take you through it so you can see if you can use a propane heater indoors.
Propane heaters release carbon monoxide
Okay, so there are lots of things we’re not supposed to do indoors.
Lighting a campfire? Best not to.
Running a generator? Definitely not.
Given that a propane heater is a fire, and uses fuel, you might jump to the logical conclusion that you should not run one indoors. Makes sense, right?
Well, I’m happy to tell you that you’re wrong. Sure, you shouldn’t grab your cousin’s patio heater and set it up in your RV, but there are a bunch of indoor propane heaters designed for keeping you and your RV toasty warm during the cold seasons.
You’ve got a few things to think about when you’re looking for an indoor propane heater. The most important thing is safety.
You probably know the reason you can’t run a generator indoors. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to suffocate in my search for warmth. Any form of burning fuel creates carbon monoxide, and propane heaters are no different.
Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, utterly undetectable to you, the person sitting in your RV drinking coffee. You need something looking out for you, and that’s your carbon monoxide detector.
RV Lifestyle wrote a blog post on just how dangerous carbon monoxide is and how you can prevent it when you’re traveling in your RV.
Lots of RVs have carbon monoxide detectors installed anyway because of the popularity of extra heaters and the fact that many RVs have propane furnaces installed, but check, check, and check again.
Check how it works, and how it’s powered.
Does your carbon monoxide detector need new batteries, and what does it sound like when those batteries are running low? Is it hardwired? Is it even working? (Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and press that test button on a regular schedule).
If you somehow don’t have a carbon monoxide detector in your vehicle, I can say nothing more than, “Get a carbon monoxide detector in your vehicle.” Do it now. It’s essential for your safety.
You’ll need proper ventilation
So, we’ve established that you have a carbon monoxide detector. That’s a great start, but you don’t want to get to the point where you’re having to hear that beeping in the first place.
The other primary safety concern that you need to address is ventilation.
Ventilate your space, people!
For one, it stops it smelling like dog and old boots, but if you’re running a heater in there it will keep you alive. Cross-ventilation, so more than one open window, is the way to go. You’ve got to get clean air coming in and take that indoor air away.
Reduce risk of fire
Another thing that’s very important with indoor propane heater safety is to make sure that you do not, and I mean do not, put anything on top of your propane heater or cover it up.
For one, you’ll prevent the heat from circulating like you want it to, which sort of defeats the object. Apart from that, there are two other important safety issues.
One is that if you put stuff on a heater it might catch fire, which you probably figured out yourself.
The other is that it prevents the circulation of air and can allow carbon monoxide to build up. Keep the top of your propane heater free of any and all obstructions.
I’m going to add in one more safety tip here, even though it seems like it should be obvious. Do not, and I repeat, do not fall asleep with your propane heater running. It’s like falling asleep with the stove on, just a basic safety no-no.
To recap on safety, make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors installed, ventilate your space and keep the area immediately around the heater clear, and don’t leave it on while you’re asleep.
Catalytic vs flame?
Now you’ve got the safety basics secure in your mind, you’re going to be thinking that a propane heater sounds like a pretty good idea for some extra warmth.
There are two main types of propane heater available, open flame and catalytic.
I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to go for the catalytic heater when you’re buying a propane heater for indoor use.
Catalytic heaters don’t burn with a visible flame. Instead, they use a platinum catalyst to kick-start the combustion reaction between propane and the air.
They technically burn at a lower temperature than an open flame, but there’s a major difference. I talked about carbon monoxide earlier, and one sure-fire way to generate carbon monoxide is through incomplete combustion.
An open flame doesn’t burn anything close to 100 percent of the fuel that’s powering it, whereas a catalytic heater gets way closer, minimizing the amount of carbon monoxide produced as a result.
Also, catalytic heaters are far less likely to catch fire if you knock them over or leave something in contact with them, which is pretty handy too.
So there you have it. You can, in fact, use a propane heater indoors. Far from being just a patio mainstay, I would recommend a propane heater for your indoor RV needs.
When you’re buying make sure you check that your heater is designed for indoor use and pay attention to any manufacturer’s guidance, but you can rest assured that, as long as you’re sensible, you can use a propane heater indoors safely.
However, I’d definitely recommend you get an air conditioner with a built-in heat pump. It’ll also save you a lot of electricity. I’ve written a blog post on the 10 best air conditioners for RVs.