Propane vs. gasoline RV heater – Differences explained

It’s late December and you’re just about to leave home for a winter RV adventure. Let’s take a guess and say you don’t want any teeth chattering disturbing your peace while driving. Are you thinking about installing a propane or gasoline RV heater? If so, you’re in luck. You’ll find some pretty useful info in the article below.

There’s nothing like watching the snow from inside a heated room. There are even songs written about that feeling. Anyway, a neat RV heater might be just the thing you need. To be completely honest, it’s a necessity! Let’s check out why!

Obviously, propane RV heaters use propane tanks as their energy source. Gasoline RV heaters use the same energy source as your vehicle’s engine. While that might seem like a problem, it’s actually more convenient. You don’t have to carry propane tanks along on the trip. Also, gasoline RV heaters are the safer option.

A more detailed approach to the subject matter awaits you below! Also, a few bonus tips along the way won’t hurt anyone. Don’t you think so? Alright, let’s begin!

Table of Contents

Propane vs. gasoline – what’s the difference?

They might sound like the same thing, but the truth’s a bit different. In other words: there are many differences between propane and gasoline. Here we’ll point out some:

While we get both products from crude oil refinement, we can still differentiate them. Unlike gasoline, propane doesn’t damage the atmosphere. That’s why folks consider propane as the more eco-friendly option out of the two. We talked about it, among other things, in the article you’ll find here.

Also, propane is much safer to handle. Its also known as a safe fuel. It has a much higher ignition temperature than gasoline. Propane tanks offer more security than regular gasoline tanks. Still, you should definitely keep an eye out for leaks, as they can be deadly.

When used as a vehicle fuel, propane does less damage to the vehicle’s engine. That’s why more and more people choose propane as an alternative fuel for their cars. It’s holding the third position on the chart, right behind gasoline and diesel.

While we’re at it, is propane better than natural gas?

Most folks use either propane or natural gas to heat their homes. Yet again, propane seems to be the cheaper and cleaner option in this debate. Also, you’re not dependent on a bigger infrastructure for your propane supply. As is the case with natural gas, that is. Anyway, for more info about this topic, feel free to click on this link.

Wait, why’s gasoline so dangerous?

Well, gasoline’s got a pretty low flash point of -40°F (-40°C). What does this mean? When exposed to temperatures higher than its flash point, gasoline releases toxic fumes. Those can be quite dangerous since they’re highly flammable. Also, it’s no good breathing in the air mixed with gasoline vapors, believe us.

In order to ensure the safety of you and your family, you need to store gasoline in a proper manner. Visit this address to check out what’s the best way to do it.

An old school RV during nightfall.

Propane RV heater – a brief introduction

Let’s start this one by saying a word or two about how propane RV heaters work. RV heaters are also known as forced air heaters. Imagine the temperature in your RV goes below the one you set on the thermostat. Once that happens, hot air is forced into the living space via the vents. This hot air comes from burning propane and is directed into the vents by the blowing fan.

The system is comprised out of a sail switch, safety limit switch, circuit board, and ductwork. And we shouldn’t forget intake and exhaust vents, also. This combination keeps the inside of your RV warm and cozy, just the way it should be. It also keeps the pipes and tanks safe from freezing.

Let’s see what else should you know about propane RV heaters.

Be safe!

First things first, you’ll want to ensure the safety of your passengers. And yourself, of course. You might want to obtain both carbon monoxide and propane detectors. Make sure they’re always on and check if batteries are alright every now and then. There’s nothing more important than being safe and secure!

Oh, and we almost forgot to mention. Even though it’s not flammable as gasoline, you should still be cautious with propane. Avoid smoking or lighting fires near your tanks. Also, they should be light-colored and stored outside.

Noticing a “dusty” smell?

If so, there’s nothing to worry about. The smell of dust coming from the vents isn’t something unusual. It’s caused by the burning of the dust and debris in the vents and/or ductwork.

The so-called cycling

After you switch “on” the thermostat, you’ll have to wait a bit. There will be another 15-30 seconds until you notice hot air coming from the vents. Once the desired temperature is reached, the blower will run for several seconds more. This is completely normal, and shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. We call this process cycling.

Noticing a propane smell?

Okay, this should be a cause for alarm. So, what do you do? First, check the tank. If it’s near empty, that’s probably the reason behind the smell. Still, if that’s not the case, immediately stop the flow of gas and open the windows.

Once you’ve done everything we mentioned above, inspect the tank for leaks. As we’ve said, these leaks can be quite poisonous. Also, they can be deadly. That’s why it’s of utmost importance you check for leaks every now and then.

Liquid petroleum regulators

All RVs have these regulators which, of course, wear out with time. That’s why it’s important you change them if you notice they don’t work well. So, how do you check if everything’s alright? Open up the furnace and take a close look at the flame in the burner. If you see some yellow in the flame (it should be blue), you probably have an issue.

Gasoline RV heater – what’s the deal?

Alright, let’s see what’s so different about a gasoline RV heater. In other words: what makes it stand out?

Let’s see what’s the main difference between a gasoline (or diesel) RV heater and its propane cousin. A gasoline RV heater uses your vehicle’s fuel to heat up the place. You power your RV and heat it up from the same source. As we already said, propane comes in separate tanks.

What’s the main issue there?

Well, it’s pretty easy to spot it. If you’re a newbie, you might have to stop for gas regularly. You need to reach the destination and stay warm at the same time. Luckily, folks get used to this quickly, so don’t worry.

How much gasoline (or diesel) do they consume?

Folks say you can leave it on for 24 hrs and it will consume only a gallon of gasoline. So, yeah, you can say they’re pretty energy-efficient.

Is a gasoline RV heater the safer option?

When compared to propane heaters, gasoline RV heaters are the safer option. It’s as much as dangerous as driving your car. With propane, you have separate tanks you need to carefully store and pay attention to.

Also, the fuel line and combustion intake/exhaust are all positioned under the RV. You don’t have to worry about smell or venting whatsoever.

Additional tips on staying warm in your RV

It might be time to show you some bonus tips on staying warm during cold winter nights in your RV. Here’s what you can do:

  • Wear warm clothes. Well, this one probably goes without saying. Wearing warm clothes is a must. For example, don’t leave home without a pair of good wool socks to keep your feet toasty.
  • Bring a lot of blankets. Don’t forget to pack a lot of thin blankets. That way, you’ll be able to adapt more easily to temperature changes.
  • What about an electric blanket? This item is very popular among comping enthusiasts. You might be able to save a bit on propane or gas using electric blankets.

Propane vs. gasoline RV heater – do we have a winner?

Well, it’s kinda hard to say. A gasoline RV heater is the safer option while using propane might be cheaper. Still, your family’s safety doesn’t have a price. Also, as we’ve seen, a gasoline RV heater doesn’t consume that much energy. That being said, it might turn out they’re also the cheaper option.

So, yeah, your best bet might be to install a gasoline RV heater instead of its propane alternative.

Final words

Alright, that’s that. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reading about the differences between propane and gasoline RV heaters. If you want to stay informed about a broader range of gasoline-related topics, click here.