The Cost of Heating the RV During the Winter

sample-costs-to-winter-rv-in-South-Dakota

RV living is affordable. Maybe. But this winter, heating the RV has not been.

When we made the change from a regular sticks and bricks house to an RV, we anticipated that our living expenses would drastically go down.

Now that the dust has settled and we’ve experienced a normal winter month without going on vacation or having to buy vinyl skirting & fix frozen pipes, we actually have time to figure out how much it’s costing us to live in the camper.

It’s ugly I tell you. Like go into a corner and suck your thumb ugly. Not ugly compared to a mortgage or all that goes along with it. But ugly in that it’s not been nearly as frugal as we expected.

To give you a snapshot, here are our expenses due to living in the RV this past January.

  • Site Rental – $170
  • Electrical Costs – $165
  • Propane – $240
  • Laundry – $65
  • RV Payment – $375
  • RV Insurance – $40
  • Total $1,055!!!

Now take into consideration that we’d have to pay for our water and our internet in our normal house. Still, the numbers are shocking.

Our site rental is unbelievably cheap! Clearly we have a heating problem (and possibly a laundry one as well). For reals. Our propane and electric cost us $405 this past month! Needless to say our camper is NOT energy efficient.

We go through a 25 gallon propane cylinder every week!

Propane Breakdown

We have the camper set at 70 degrees and it’s fairly comfortable. Since we have little ones we keep the heat higher than we would if it was just Mark and I. The kids and I are home all day so we do very little adjusting to the thermostat.

I bake, but maybe only a few times a week. I don’t think it’s our big problem.

I really think the heating is the cause of our high propane usage.

Electrical Breakdown

Our electric is higher than we had hoped too, I think mostly because of 2 space heaters we run.

You see, the space heaters really cut the chill and focus the heat where we are in the camper. One is usually directed toward the living room slide area because it is draftier there.

We run the other one in the kid’s bunkroom because it still can get pretty chilly back there, especially with their bathroom not being ducted and the outside door that leads to that same bathroom. Oh and their room has 2 slides, which means more draft. Our 2 youngest still take naps through the day so leaving their room without additional heat is not an option.

Our water heater does run off of electric and it’s a 10 gallon. That contributes I’m sure but again, I think the space heaters are the main energy hogs.

Things are Looking Up

That’s all we can figure on why our heat is costing us so much. Everything else was expected when we moved. The heating was huge variable that we were unsure of and we’ve had a colder winter this year than the last for sure.

So we’re really excited to get into our new/old rig. It is a smaller space and (hopefully) better insulated but I’m not holding my breath. It only has 1 slide though and since so much air exchanges in the slide area, we’re hoping for less drafts. We will NOT be skirting it though since we’re almost through the bitter cold and also we read that it’s not as necessary in a Class A.  We shall see.

By April we should be able to update what a full month of our heating costs in the Class A. But now you have a snapshot of what it costs to live in a 41 foot 5th wheel with 4 slides during the winter.

 

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Comments

  1. Come up to Wisconsin! I have spent upwards of $100/week on propane when it got below zero! RV living is a little cheaper for us because outside of winter we have almost no rent or utility the rest of the year. We have been just talking about how we consider RVing to be = to renting. Its just you get some of your money back because you can sell your RV vs. you get nothing back for rent. Plus you get to be awesome and take your house on vacation.

    • I’m to weak for Wisconsin! 🙂 But you’re right, it’s definitely more cost effective to RV, especially over renting. We’ve actually had a fairly warm spurt where we got to 50s + during the day. Our propane has slowed down…it’s just crazy how quickly you can go through a tank.

  2. In our small house we already are paying $400 a month for electric/heat and that’s barely to be comfortable so I’m hoping we can cut that a little bit at least! So far we’ve found that our heater in the camper heats up the bunkhouse and the bedroom really well, just the living room stays a bit cold so we are going to stick our infared heater in there. Of course maybe in another month by the time we get out there it will be spring? (Or maybe we will get a bunch of blizzards yet, lol)

    • Wow! That is crazy for heat. I think with the smaller space we expected a smaller heating bill but it’s so drafty any heat is lost. Being South Dakota…it would be normal to get a blizzard in July right?? 🙂

  3. Well a few years ago we had that big blizzard in May so it’s not totally out of the question. Yes, draftiness really is the worst, that’s why our house costs so much right now, it’s so poorly insulated.

  4. Where have you been spending your winters and what were the average temps?Also what is the size of your rig? A friend and I will be traveling all over the rockies this winter in a 24ft Class C traveling between ski resorts. Since it is only the 2 of us I expect our costs to be way less (less cooking,showering etc.)

    • The one winter we spent RVing was in SD. We had the benefit of the Banana Belt which meant that we had more fluctuation in the weather. Somedays it was 60 degrees, other days it got below zero. Our rig was a 42 foot 5th wheel and we had 4 slides on it. I’m convinced that it was a heat hot. Much of the heat escaped through those slides and we could feel a breeze in the areas. I’m certain your heating expenses will not be as much as ours were. We were home most days all day long and cranked the heat to cut the chill.

  5. Oh my goodness. I grew up in the Rockies & our furnace was never above 68F. I’m not sure kids really do need it at 70F unless they’re from Florida. I lived in England for 3 years & everyone kept the heat around 65F, & lower at night, though children’s’ bedrooms often had an electric radiator kept on low to take the chill off. I am now in Alaska & heating my 1,400 sq ft house with Monitor heaters (they run on heating oil) runs $200/mo- which seems high to me. Of course, we keep them on 65F during the day & 62F at night, which is plenty warm enough since we wear lightweight fleece sweaters much of the time here anyway. We have down & fleece throws in each room to snuggle up in while we watch TV. The space heaters are outrageously expensive. At 1500w, just running one for 8hrs a day would easily add at least $50 per month to your electric bill. For each heater. My electric is $150/mo. Way too high for our frugal use. I installed an EconoHeater & it has been amazing. It plugs into a regular outlet. I leave it on all day & it gives gentle radiant heat that keeps a 9×10 room comfy – at 400w it is less than a 1/3 the cost of a space heater. Might be worth considering. Also, I have a small front loader washer with a high spin which we only run on cold. I use a drying rack in front of the heater for most things, & the dryer for towels, etc. That alone cut my electric bill $25/mo.

    • The EcnoHeater sounds very interesting aLicia, and like a real possibility! The poor insulation in an RV make it not at all energy efficient so any heat in a room quickly escapes outside. :/

      Winters in an RV mean you have to wear layers. No ifs, ands, or buts.

      Great job cutting your costs!

  6. I intend to have a heated mattress pad and just spend most of my time curled up in bed with my laptop, typing, when I am not at work and it is cold. 🙂 I can’t handle temps under about 75! And yet, I can’t handle high electric bills, either…

    • Ha! It is a delicate balance. I didn’t think the cold would bother me as much as it did. The electric bills were quite a sticker shock for us!

  7. Thank you for sharing this breakdown of information. I have family who are considering purchasing an RV or pull behind camper for the first time with the intention to winter (in MN) to save money. I am not against living in an RV or wintering in one, but I do want to make sure they know what they are getting into so that they can plan accordingly to meet their family’s needs. I always appreciate transparency 🙂 shows you’re a genuine person!

  8. Consider a non-vented propane heater. Last winter was absolutely wicked for Virginia. I’ve lived here my whole live, and while I’m only 32, I can only remember one winter that was colder. Last winter my wife and I lived I a 1977 Chevy Class C RV, and the furnace didn’t work. I bought a used non-vented heater and custom-plumbed it into the propane system. We used so little propane I can’t even remember how much it was. I think we had about a 20-gallon tank and I’d fill it weekly. That old RV was well-built for the year, but drafty still. We would turn the heat on low, crack a roof vent to ventilate the heater, get up in the upper bunk and be warm. Now we have this new 35-foot trailer, and I spend so much money on propane it’s ridiculous! It blows hot air out the side of the camper! Of course, when you have a $1400 old class C, it’s not a big deal to drill a hole in the floor, rip out some cabinets, and build your own custom cabinet for a heater. Not so easy when you have a financed 2013 high-end trailer. That’s the only reason I don’t have a non-vented heater in my current rig.

  9. Hi there. I just wanted to point out the difference in price between propane that is in small tanks and propane that is in big tanks. I travel for my job and the next one I am going to in a week is in Jamestown ND. I filled my 30 pound bottles today for 2.95 a gallon. I will use this propane to hold me over when I get to Jamestown. I called a co-op yesterday and they will drop off a 200 gallon tank when i get there. I will pay a small delivery fee of 35 bucks but the propane is only 1.50 a gallon. Huge difference. I live in my camper, for work reasons, about a quarter of the year and have been in it down to -5F. If you are not traveling alot and are settled down for atleast a month or more this can be an option and save alot of money.

    On a side note I don’t like the idea of unvented heaters because of the amount of water that they put into the air. It can be approx. a half a gallon of water per gallon of propane burned. To each his own. Have a good one.

    Rob

  10. Come up to Canada! Ha-ha, I don’t know off hand what -30C translates to y’all down south, but I’ve seen it for weeks up here in northern Alberta, and I’ve had a few nights where the propane turned back to liquid (happens around -42C, = no pressure, = no furnace, = life or death situation real quick) skirting helps alot, and I have backup heat sources, and backups to those backups. I am off grid, the summer I only have to empty full tanks, but I make up for it in the winter when the solar panels aren’t charging as good and the batteries are less efficient. I constantly have to monitor battery, lpg, gasoline, ice build up, and trailer humidity when it cools off for winter season. It’s a real challenge working out systems to maximize efficiency and comfort, but it’s well worth the effort when your system is running correctly.
    Matty

    • Ha! No kidding!! Converting to Farenheit it is stinking cold!! -22F! It’s pretty remarkable that RVing can be done in that kind of weather.

  11. Hi. My daughter just moved into an “all weather” (Avion Silver) RV here in IL. We are wondering how expensive it will be to heat it this winter. Is anyone familiar with this type of trailer and how hard it will be to heat?

  12. John Starke Sr. says:

    I full time in a all season 1998 nuwa snowbird 35′ 5th wheel with 3 slides, in VA. I’m thankful for a place to lay my head, but, it’s not cheap to heat when the propane furnace comes on (has a heat pump) when it gets below 30 f outside
    Last winter, it got down to -0- f, and we stayed warm, but we could burn 30 lbs of propane in 48 hrs.
    I really enjoy the since of freedom in a rv. We have a small piece of land with well, septic, and electric, with no mortgage or payments of any sort, and we think God for that.

    • Yes! There are definitely trade-offs and sacrifice but SO much freedom! 30 lbs in 48 hours!!! Ouch!! Hope you guys have a warmer winter this year!

      • John Starke Sr. says:

        Wow-I didn’t realize I got a response…that’s cool!
        Update-recent events have allowed us to buy a house (closing Lord willing on the week of Nov. 7th 2016).
        We trust we will no longer need the camper, so we are considering selling it.
        We have not advertised it so far….
        It is in good condition, and is complete down to the entertainment center-day night shades-org kitchen table & chairs-double door fridge w ice maker-2 recliners-sleeper sofa-pillows in queen bed (all matching and original except mattress)-private water closet-stand or sit shower-awnings-hardwood kitchen floor-domestic toilet-non smoker-all manuals-gobbs of storage-washer dryer prepped (not included)-vary comfortable-sleeps 4-vary heavy @ 12500 lbs-inside is in vgc-decals coming off outside-hot water heater works on gas only.
        It is a 1998 Nuwa Snowbird SE 102.
        We will take $10,000 for it.

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