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Selecting the Best Portable Space Heater for Winter Van Life

Charles has long experience fishing, hiking, exploring, and camping in the Northeast.


Winter Living in an RV

So, you are thinking of surviving the winter in an RV? Well, you came to the right spot. Let me start by saying, I am just a regular guy. I survived two and a half winters in the Northeast living in my small couple’s camper RV. Was it easy? Relatively so. It was definitely a learning experience and what I am about to share with you will hopefully help you prevent making the same mistakes that I made and save you some of your hard earned money.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Size doesn’t matter. Let me explain. When I say size doesn’t matter, I am referring to heater size. A lot of portable heater manufacturers will label their heaters as good for small, medium and large spaces. Ignore that! Look for the WATTAGE! Portable heaters come in various sizes, what you need to look for is the wattage of each of these heaters. The wattage will most likely be listed as 250, 375, 500, 750, 1000 and 1500 watts I have seen heaters labeled as small room size but have a wattage rating of 1500. 1500 Watts is going to produce the most heat regardless of the physical size of the heater.

Ceramic Heater

Ceramic type heater

Ceramic type heater

Heater Types

Ceramic Heaters: Ceramic heaters use a ceramic heating element. They are capable of regulating their own temperature without the use of wiring and coils to generate heat, the ceramic heating element uses it's positive temperature coefficient to self-regulate its own temperature, thereby reducing the temperature as the desired room temperature is reached. This ensures safety when heating, reliability, and long life.

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Oil-Filled Heaters: Oil-filled heaters use the same heating technology as mica thermic heating. Using radiant and convection heating, heat is generated via the diathermic oil inside the heater. This oil disperses throughout the heater fins, spreading the warmed oil, which then is dispersed through radiant heating. The heat is carried throughout the room using the natural convection process.


Infrared Heaters: Infrared heaters or radiant infrared heaters use the transfer of energy to heat surrounding objects and people. Most infrared heaters use 2 types of heating elements. I had one that was similar to the one pictures and it only kept the area directly in front of it warm. Waste of money!


Mica Thermic Heater: The most important component of the mica thermic space heater is the heating element. This element is more powerful than the one used in normal convection heaters despite being similar to the filament used in convection heaters. Surrounding the heating element is a stone that conducts heat. This stone type material is known as Mica. Several layers of Mica sheets are used in manufacturing a Mica thermic heater. Mica is the most important component of this heater. It is responsible for helping the heater to relay the heat to different areas in the room. One of mica's properties includes producing electromagnetic waves when this stone-type material is heated. These waves, in turn, radiate out from the heater and heat up the entire room.

My Favorite

As you can see, there are many types and styles of portable heaters to choose from. Don’t let this discourage you. I have found, through trial and error over two and a half winters that the best heater for the money was the Pelonis Electric 1500W Oil Filled Radiator Heater. This heater produced a warm steady heat that kept the RV toasty and warm in temperatures below freezing. I tried the other heaters listed above and found that they just couldn’t keep up with the drafts and frigid outside temps. The Pelonis Electric 1500W Oil Filled Radiator Heater heated the walls and furniture as well as the air. A unit with digital thermostat with a remote is a plus for dialing in the perfect temperature. In summary, in my humble opinion, if I were you and I was looking to make a decision on a space heater for my camper or RV. I would save myself a lot of time, money and aggravation by purchasing an oil filled radiator heater. You just can’t beat the performance and reliability offered by one of these heaters. Long lasting and reliable, this space heater was the best performer by far.

Tell us what space heater you think is best

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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