RV Fireplace – Electric or Propane, Which one is the best, and how to install them

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If you are an RV owner, being able to stay warm as winter approaches and the snow starts flying is one of the things that can change your experience in your rig. You might decide to sit outside and sip some hot chocolate as the snow falls but truth be told, it’s extremely cold out there. 

The good news is that you can install an RV fireplace that provides the much-needed warmth in your motor vehicle. However, you can’t just install any available fireplace out there. 

In this article, we guide you through everything you need to know when installing an RV fireplace in your camper and review some of the best RV fireplaces for your camper.

What to Consider When Choosing  an Electric or Propane Fireplace

A heat source in your RV that is aesthetically pleasing is what every RVer is looking for. This is what either an electric or a propane RV fireplace offers. But how do you choose between the two options considering that they have their advantages and downsides? You need to consider a number of factors before moving on to the advantages and disadvantages of using either of the two options.

Safety

When installed correctly, propane or an electric RV fireplace is safe-probably even safer than a free-standing space heater because of the reduced chances of tipping over. The manufacturer’s guidelines regarding clearance and ventilation are crucial during the installation of propane or electric RV fireplaces. 

In most cases, there are specifications on the gaps that must be maintained between the fireplace and the surface. For a propane RV fireplace, it is recommended that you install a non-flammable wall barrier. 

In the case of an electric RV fireplace, use a proximity detector that automatically detects when objects are too close to the fireplace. Once this happens, the detector automatically shuts down the fireplace to avert a fire.

Choice of Fuel

The choice of whether to go for propane or an electric RV fireplace is largely personal. However, it can also be influenced by other factors such as RV lifestyle and how often you boondock. The location of the fireplace is also a factor especially on the clearance around the designated fireplace spot and the size of your RV. 

Propane and electric RV fireplaces are often used in different circumstances. To some people, the flames from a propane RV fireplace can either draw you to the ambience or scare you. On the other hand, the simulated flames from an electric RV fireplace are aesthetically appealing to some people while to others, not so much.

Built-in or Surface Mount

Both propane and electric RV fireplaces are either in wall-mount or recessed designs. You can make your choice based on the amount of space you have in your RV, clearance and venting requirements. However, everything comes down to your personal preference as long as you are able to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when installing the fireplace. 

When it comes to the clearance requirements, the difference is either as a result of different manufacturers, fuel choice, model and BTU rating. For starters, an electric RV fireplace will require at least one inch clearance from combustible surfaces. 

More clearance is needed for propane RV fireplaces where you are also required to add a non-combustible lining between your fireplace and the wall surface.

Electric or Propane Fireplace?

A vast majority of RVers prefer an electric RV fireplace as opposed to a propane one. For starters, electric fireplaces are easier to install. They are also affordable and considered much safer. 

Once you have your electric unit, all you are required to do is to plug it in and you are good to go. You can sit back and enjoy the ambience without having to worry about possible gas leaks or fire. Electric RV fireplaces also come in different sizes and colors making it easy for you to pick a great fireplace that matches your motor home. 

On the other hand, a propane RV fireplace can heat up your motorhome much faster compared to an electric fireplace. This means that propane fireplaces often come in handy if you are traveling to cold areas where the fireplace is meant to be the only source of heat available.

Propane RV Fireplace

RV Fireplace - Electric or Propane, Which one is the best, and how to install them 1

Pros

  • Smooth operation
  • Very effective when boondocking
  • Has a higher BTU rating than an electric fireplace, great for heating bigger rigs
  • Offers a real flame view

Cons

  • You can go without heat if you happen to run out of propane and have no alternative heat source
  • The higher BTU output is not ideal for smaller RVs
  • It is more expensive to buy and install compared to an electric RV fireplace
  • Provides too much heat in smaller spaces
  • Uses a lot of propane compared to all the other appliances combined
  • Might require several propane tanks in order to ensure consistent fuel supply
  • Causes condensation leading to high humid levels. This can result to mould especially in unvented installations
  • Leads to the build-up of unhealthy air especially in unvented installations
  • Requires you to cut through the exterior of your RV for ventilation

Electric Fireplace

Pros

  • Smooth operations
  • Relatively cheaper when buying and installing compared to a propane fireplace
  • Less expensive to operate and maintain
  • Arguably the safest option unlike a propane fireplace where there is the presence of a flame increasing the risk of fire or lethal gas
  • You are not required to cut through the exterior walls of your RV as no fresh-air vent is required
  • Does not degrade the interior air
  • Reduce risk of heat interruption compared to a propane fireplace where there is a risk of the propane running out
  • Is still ideal even for smaller RVs
  • Offers aesthetically appealing color-changing simulations of flames on LED models

Cons

  • Is not ideal for boondocking unless you have a running generator
  • Reduced BTUs compared to propane fireplaces which makes it ineffective for heating bigger RVs
  • No actual flames but simulated ones produced by lights
  • Some models have noisy fans
  • The artificial fire props are not appealing to some people

The 5 Best RV Fireplaces

A great RV fireplace is one that provides maximum comfort in your motorhome. You deserve a fireplace that delivers enough warmth regardless of how chilly it gets. Below is a list of some of the best RV fireplaces for your rig.

 Product's Name FeaturesMore Info
PuraFlame 1250W Clara Red 9 inch Mini Portable Electric HeaterBest Mini Size Fireplace
PuraFlame 1250W Clara Red 9 inch Mini Portable Electric Heater

  • Overheating protection

  • Easily portable

  • Can heat up to 440 sq. ft. at 1250 W

See Latest Price
Crane Fireplace Heater, 750W/1500W, Realistic Embers, 3 Settings, Ceramic Space Heater, Overheat...Best Budget
Crane Fireplace Heater, 750W/1500W, Realistic Embers, 3 Settings, Ceramic...

  • Overheat protection

  • 750W or 1500W heat settings

  • Near-silent operations

See Latest Price
Dimplex 26' Multi-Fire XHD™ Firebox With LogsBest Energy Saver
Dimplex 26" Multi-Fire XHD™ Firebox With Logs

  • Can heat up to 1,000 sq. ft.

  • Has both inbuilt touch and remote controls

  • Electric-powered

See Latest Price
ClassicFlame 36' Traditional Built-in Electric Fireplace Insert, 120 voltBest Premium Fireplace
ClassicFlame 36" Traditional Built-in Electric Fireplace Insert, 120 volt

  • Adjustable timer

  • Heats up to 440 sq. ft.

  • Can produce temperatures ranging from 60-90 degrees

See Latest Price
Vitesse 36 inch Ultra-Thin Electric Fireplace Inserts in-Wall Recessed and Wall Mounted...Best Design
Vitesse 36 inch Ultra-Thin Electric Fireplace Inserts in-Wall Recessed and...

  • Has both touch and remote controls

  • Full-spectrum 15-color LED display

  • 750W and 1500W settings

See Latest Price

1. PuraFlame 1250W Clara 9-Inch Mini Portable Electric Heater – Best Mini Size Fireplace

If you have limited space in your RV for a larger fireplace, then you will find PuraFlame just the excellent choice due to its compact size. The best part is that its lightweight design enables you to move it to any spot in the RV that makes sense to you. 

You can easily set and maintain the temperature you want and to top it all, this fireplace has an automatic shutoff feature that is a safety feature in your motorhome. If you are the kind of RVer who is looking for that traditional fireplace feeling without actual flames, PuraFlame has an LED-lit coal flame effect that simulates an actual fireplace. 

When it is extremely cold, the portability of this fireplace makes it just the perfect appliance for your wandering lifestyle.

Pros

  • Overheating protection
  • Easily portable
  • Can heat up to 440 sq. ft. at 1250 W

Cons

  • Has a loud fan
  • Overheats quickly

2. Crane Fireplace Heater – Best Budget

Crane Fireplace Heater, 750W/1500W, Realistic Embers, 3 Settings, Ceramic Space Heater, Overheat...
  • UPSCALE: Crane’s ceramic fireplace heater is built with a metal housing that elevates the look and feel of your...
  • QUICK WARMING: Crane’s fireplace heater is equipped with a fan to warm any room in a breeze. The heater has an...
  • OVERHEAT PROTECTION: Crane’s fireplace space heater automatically shuts off if the unit overheats, giving you...

If you are looking for a fireplace with the most practical yet simple design, then the Crane Fireplace Heater should be your best bet. One of the most unique features about this fireplace is that it has a noise-reduction effect therefore doesn’t emit excess noise. 

The heat settings are at two levels with the lower setting being at 750W and the high at 1500W. The Crane Fireplace Heater also has the ability to provide warmth in your RV in just a matter of minutes. There is also an inbuilt over-heat protection feature that makes it safe especially if you have children around.

Pros

  • Overheat protection
  • 750W or 1500W
  • Near-silent operations

Cons

  • Has no thermostat or timer
  • Issues with the scent produced

3. Dimplex 26-Inch Multi-Fire XHD Firebox with Logs – Best Energy Saver

Dimplex 26" Multi-Fire XHD™ Firebox With Logs
  • High-contrast flames feature improved brightness and character for a dazzling, lifelike effect.
  • Molded from meticulously selected and charred hardwood and positioned to maximize the illusion of depth and the...
  • Settings and temperature display are hidden when not in use.

If you are looking for an RV fireplace that exemplifies class and sophistication, then the Dimplex Multi-Fire Firebox would be an excellent choice. Once you install this magnificent fireplace, you might confuse it for a traditional fireplace with logs and all. 

The LED lights that come with the Dimplex Multi-Fire Firebox simulates glowing logs with flames. For RVers looking for a perfect appliance for a cold winter night, this fireplace is the perfect addition to your motor home with the ability to warm an area of approximately 1,000 sq. ft. 

The Dimplex Multi-Fire Firebox requires no wood or gas and relies on its electric capabilities to save energy. While it is a relatively large fireplace, it also happens to be one of the classiest electric fireplaces in the market.

Pros

  • Can heat up to 1,000 sq.  ft.
  • Has both inbuilt touch and remote controls
  • Electric-powered

Cons

  • At 25 pounds, it is too bulky for some RVs
  • Has a maximum temperature of 78 degrees

4. ClassicFlame 36-Inch Traditional Built-In Electric Fireplace Insert, 120-Volt – Best Premium Fireplace

ClassicFlame 36" Traditional Built-in Electric Fireplace Insert, 120 volt
  • 4,400 BTU heater provides supplemental zone heating for up to 400 square feet to help save you money
  • Multifunctional remote and wall mounted thermostat allow you to decide the temperature of your room from 60°F -...
  • Flame effect can be operated with or without heat, providing the ambiance of a gentle rolling fire all year long

ClassicFlame is a top premium fireplace for your motorhome if you have no problem investing in a top product that guarantees reliability as a heat source. ClassicFlame combines a modern contemporary style with its sleek glass design while at the same time showcasing the effects of a traditional flame. 

The best part is that you can use this fireplace with or without the flame effects. ClassicFlame has the ability to heat up to 440 square feet and you are able to set your preferred room temperature. The set also features an electric timer that can run anywhere between 30 minutes to 9 hours.

Pros

  • Adjustable timer
  • Heats up to 440 sq.  ft.
  • Can produce temperatures ranging from 60-90 degrees

Cons

  • Non-portable
  • Concerns about its electric circuit board

5. Vitesse 36-Inch Recessed and Wall Mounted Electric Fireplace – Best Design

Vitesse 36 inch Ultra-Thin Electric Fireplace Inserts in-Wall Recessed and Wall Mounted...
  • 🔥【Multiple Install Methods】: This electric fireplace not only can be recessed or semi recessed in wall, but...
  • 🔥【Energy Savings】: 750W and 1500W modes can be adjusted accordingly for both warm and energy saving purpose....
  • 🔥【Perfect Flame】: Full spectrum LED colors for a unique ember bed display 12 flame colors, 5 flame speeds,...

Known for its sleek design, Vitesse is perhaps one of the best electric RV fireplaces for your motorhome. If you are looking for a mounted fireplace that will work with any contemporary style of your mobile home, then this fireplace should be top on your list of options. It offers a colorful display for those looking for a more permanent solution in a fireplace. 

The LED flame display has a 15-color spectrum, not forgetting the remote control ability. The remote control abilities allow you to increase the speed and height of the flame further  enhancing the aesthetic appeal of Vitesse.. 

This fireplace is a great option as an energy saver for your rig considering that it provides 750W on the low and 1500W on the high heating options. It can heat up to 400 square feet and also features an overheating protection system for extra safety.

Pros

  • Has both touch and remote controls
  • Full-spectrum 15-color LED display
  • 750W and 1500W settings

Cons

  • Bulky in size
  • Variance in terms of heating output

How to Install an RV Fireplace

RV Fireplace - Electric or Propane, Which one is the best, and how to install them 2

Installing an RV fireplace can sometimes appear like a more challenging task than it actually is. With some planning however, you can warm your recreational vehicle in no time by following a few steps.

Determine Where you want to Install the Fireplace

Start by determining the actual location of the fireplace. This new appliance can be installed anywhere in your RV such as a bookshelf, a TV inset or even a cabinet. What you need to understand is that most RV fireplaces require that you have at least 6-inches of depth. 

You might be forced to add an opening on the back wall of your RV if the designated spot has not achieved the set parameters. While doing this, make sure that you do not damage anything behind the wall such as plumbing and cables.

Measure

Once you have narrowed down on the location of your RV fireplace, take the exact length, depth and height measurements and compare these with a good RV fireplace that would be the right fit. If you find a fireplace that is smaller than your current measurements, you can still install it and cover the excess space with trim.

Order Your Fireplace

There are many RV fireplaces available in the market that come in different sizes, cost and energy sources. This means that when making your order, choose a fireplace that suits the specific needs of your recreational vehicle. 

It could be that size is your top priority or perhaps the affordability, choosing the ideal RV fireplace ultimately depends on what you are looking for in the market. Once you identify the one that is right for you, order it.

Create a Support for your Fireplace

Whereas there are some lightweight RV fireplaces, not all holes or cabinets can support the weight of your RV fireplace. This means that you need an additional support structure that can hold the weight of the fireplace. 

You have the option of either building a 2*4 structures that should be placed at the bottom of the cabinet. Alternatively, you can build a box structure around the space. Creating a support for your fireplace is crucial since some fireplaces can weigh up to 30 lbs.

Plug the Unit In

Most modern RV units are sold while pre-wired for a fireplace. These units come with a dedicated fuse right to the designated area for the fireplace. There are certain inserts that require an outlet or 110V close to the installation area. 

Since RV fireplace models are different in many ways, you might be required to route some wiring to a fuse box. If you are not comfortable with the electric work, then find an expert who can be able to trace the wiring from the insert to the fuse box to plug the unit in for you.

Slide In and Secure

After plugging in your unit, here is the fun part. Just slide in the RV fireplace and secure all the sides to the supports. The good news is that most RV fireplaces have instructions manuals on how to do this.

Add Trim and Decoration to the Fireplace

There are instances where you need to take off the doors of the cabinet where the fireplace is installed. In such an event, add some trimming to the area in order to cover the screw holes where the doors were. This gives your fireplace a more polished look.

RV Fireplace FAQ

Can You Put a Fireplace in an RV?

RV Fireplace - Electric or Propane, Which one is the best, and how to install them 3

Yes you can and the good news is that you have various options to choose from. You can have your RV fireplace in many options such as wood or propane. However, many RVers tend to go for the electric RV fireplace. Another popular option among RVers is the mini wood stove.
However, the installation process for a mini wood stove in your RV is complicated and could involve major alterations to your recreational vehicle. There is also the potential risk of fire to consider when considering this option.

How Do You Install a Fireplace in an RV?

Once you have identified a designated point for the fireplace, the rest is pretty much simple. If you are using a cabinet space for the fireplace, you might be required to modify the space to fit your fireplace. If the installation is being done to a blank wall, it is recommended that you consider adding a box around this area for extra support. 
For the electric RV fireplace, the installation should be done on its own breaker. The reason for this is because the electric fireplace has a significant power draw hence requires its own outlet.

Are RV Fireplaces Gas or Electric?

RV fireplaces can either be gas or electric. RV fireplaces come in many forms depending on personal preference although most modern RVs have designated points for an electric RV fireplace. The propane RV fireplace is often connected to a propane tank and produces a propane flame that heats up your RV. 
These fireplaces are effective when you need to heat the space fast but at the same time produce a lot of condensation. The electric RV fireplace is plugged to a power source and operates by blowing air over a heating element.

How Many Amps Does an RV Fireplace Use?

It is a known fact that heating appliances tend to use a great deal of electricity to run and that includes an electric RV fireplace. Most of these appliances use between 12 to 15 amps (750W to 1,500W). Ideally, running your electric fireplace on battery power will kill the battery pretty quick. You should only use this option if your RV is using shore-up energy or the generator.

Final Thoughts

An RV fireplace is a great option that gives you not just warmth but ambience in your camper. A regular space heater or furnace might not give you all that. So is an RV fireplace a great addition to your motorhome? Absolutely yes! 

The best part is that it will not take much of your time to install a great fireplace as long as you have an ideal spot for it in your camper. Once you are done, you can sit back and enjoy the ambience of the flickering flames right inside your camper on a chilly winter night.

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About Chris Coleman

Chris Coleman is an interesting travel blogger and outdoor photographer with a great sense of humor. He owns an RV Accessories shop in New York City so he has the knowledge necessary to provide thorough reviews and give advice on how to choose the right products for RV travel. He puts all that RV knowledge and experience to good use in his sharing posts. Besides product buying guides/reviews, Chris also writes informative articles, how-to articles and RV camping guides in his own interesting viewpoint. Chris’s blog is one of the most reliable information sources for RV campers no matter if you're an expert or a determined beginner.

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