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Friday, 13 December 2019 16:49

Fireplaces for Your RV Featured

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Furnaces keep you warm inside your RV on cool nights—and cold ones—but they’re not much to look at. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a fellow RVer to say, “Hey, you really need to see our heat vents. They’re just beautiful.”

Not gonna happen. Now, a fireplace—that’s a different story. A fireplace can be attractive on its own, offer a lovely view of flames, and throw a lot of heat.

A heat source that’s nice to look at is always welcome, and that’s what an electric or propane fireplace is. (If you want a rundown on woodstoves, see our earlier blog.)


When done right, a retrofitted RV propane or electric fireplace installation is just as safe as an original equipment, built-in fireplace. It may be safer than a freestanding propane space heater because it won’t accidentally tip over.

It’s imperative that the installation follows manufacturer’s specifications for clearance and ventilation. Recommended gaps between the fireplace and surfaces must be maintained, and in the case of a propane fireplace, a nonflammable wall barrier may have to be installed.

On electric fireplaces, look for a proximity detector. If it senses an object too close, it shuts down the fireplace to prevent fire.

With a propane fireplace, make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector and alarm low on a wall, plus a propane leak detector. Mount a smoke detector high on a wall or on the ceiling for either type of fireplace.

When looking for a space for an electric fireplace, try to find out from the RV manufacturer where the optional fireplace would have been installed had it been ordered with the RV. Usually the space is covered by a shallow cabinet. Remove the doors and maybe some material at the back of the cabinet and there’s probably a space for an electric fireplace. There also may be an electrical outlet already installed where the fireplace can be plugged in.

Choosing a Fuel

Fuel choice is largely personal, but it may be influenced by your RV lifestyle and whether you boondock often. It also can be influenced by the location you have for a fireplace, clearance around that space, and the size of your RV.

Electric and propane can be used under different circumstances (see below). The real flames that come with a propane unit may be enticing, or they may scare you. The simulated flames of an electric fireplace may satisfy your aesthetic sense or turn you off.

Both fuels are clean, but health issues are associated with unvented propane fireplaces. A vented fireplace, which burns outside air and exhausts gases through a vent or chimney, leaves indoor air healthier.



  • Clean operation.
  • Can be used while boondocking.
  • BTU rating often higher than on electric fireplace, heating bigger RVs.
  • Real flames to view.


  • Can leave you without heat if you’re out of propane and have no electrical heater at campsite.
  • Higher BTU output too much for some small RVs.
  • More expensive to buy, install than electric.
  • Can get hot in small spaces.
  • Can use more propane than other appliances combined.
  • May need more propane tanks to ensure adequate fuel supply.
  • High humidity, resulting in mold, possible in unvented installations.
  • Unhealthful air buildup in unvented installations.
  • Cutting through RV exterior required for healthier vented installations.

Electric Fireplaces


  • Clean operation
  • Cheaper to buy, install than propane fireplace.
  • Cheaper to operate than propane unit.
  • Arguably safer than propane because no flame or lethal gas; proximity sensor (if so equipped) shuts fireplace off if it detects objects too close.
  • No need to cut through roof or wall because no chimney or fresh-air vent needed.
  • No degradation of interior air.
  • Can be used at campsite with hookup even if you’re out of propane.
  • Easier DIY installation.
  • Not too hot for smaller RVs.
  • Color change of simulated flames on LED models.


  • Cannot be used while boondocking unless generator running.
  • Produces fewer BTUs than bigger propane fireplaces, so may not heat bigger RV.
  • No real flames; simulated flames produced by lights.
  • Some flame simulations look cheesy.
  • Some fans noisy.
  • Artificial fire pops sound fake on some models.

Built-In or Surface Mount

Both gas fireplaces and electric models come in wall-mount or recessed styles. What you buy may depend on the space you have, clearance, and venting requirements, but as long as you follow the fireplace manufacturer’s recommendations, your choice should be a matter of preference.

Clearance requirements differ by manufacturer, model, BTU rating and fuel choice. In general terms, electric fireplaces need a half-inch to one inch clearance from combustible surfaces, but don’t assume: Follow the specs. Propane fireplaces are likely to need more clearance and a noncombustible lining between the fireplace and wall surfaces, and the flue pipe and surfaces.   

A propane fireplace, even with wall liners, can look attractive. A good example is the 22-pound Dickinson Marine P9000. This 8.5x14x5.5-inch vented unit, designed for boats, is used frequently in RVs. It requires a stainless chimney, but the fireplace can be mounted at floor level if needed for proper draw. It also needs metal shielding on the wall adjacent to the firebox and flue pipe. The P9000 is stainless steel for a brighter look. Make sure you get the propane version, not the wood-burning solid fuel model. It’s rated up to 4,500 BTUs and can burn up to seven hours on a pound of propane. With liners and chimney, the whole setup probably costs $1,200 or less.

Electric fireplaces abound for RVs. Electric is what most RV manufacturers install. With no chimney or wall liner needed, you’re looking at $250-$500 in most cases. Figure on another  $100 or so if you’re framing around it and trimming the enclosure out. You also may have electrical costs for wiring in and outlet.  Still, it’s cheaper than a propane installation.

Photo Credits: rvupgradestore.com

Read 252 times Last modified on Friday, 13 December 2019 17:04

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