Guest Author - Erin Floresca
Up until recently, I really only knew of two methods to heat an RV in cold weather. You either used a propane furnace or plugged in a portable space heater. While both of these heating methods have their perks, they also have several disadvantages. As far as the space heater is concerned, you have to stay in one location to keep warm or drag it with you from room to room. Also, running a space heater in an RV feels like such a safety hazard and, it wonít keep your pipes from freezing. With regard to the propane furnace, it seems like you can never get the temperature just right. Youíre either too hot or too cold. Additionally, you always have to worry about running out of propane, which in many cases, means unhitching and driving to the nearest travel plaza. To top off the negatives, there are safety issues as far as carbon monoxide is concerned.
I recently became aware of an innovative new method of RV heating that intrigued me, so I opted to learn more. Larry McGaugh, president of RV Comfort Systems, developed a way to get electric heat to run throughout an RVís central heating system. He calls it the CheapHeatTM system and hereís how it works, "Itís basically an electric heat module and PC controller that is added to your existing propane furnace that allows you, with just the flip of a switch, to run your furnace on electric," says McGaugh. This invention has been 10 years in the making as there were several challenges that Larry had to overcome. "The forced air furnaces in RVs donít move as much air as in a home, so we had to invent a coil," says McGaugh. The unit also had to be extremely compact because it would be installed in an already space conscious structure.
From what I have gathered, the advantages are many. To begin with, you donít have to refill your propane tank as often. According to McGaugh, "The only time I need to fill up my propane tanks is when I am going on a long trip. Weíve actually parked in one spot for a full year and never had to refill our tanks."
The CheapHeat system appears to eliminate many of the safety issues that I worry about. When you are running the electric furnace, thereís no carbon monoxide scares or worries about tipping over a space heater or overloading the circuit. "The CheapHeat system has a triple redundancy system in place to ensure safety," says McGaugh. "The safeties on the electric heat coil are two auto reset 200 degrees limits (if one fails the other one kicks in) plus additional fusible links that are a failsafe that permanently opens the circuit at 333 degrees and cannot be reset. In addition to the high temperature safeties and failsafe controls, all of the components and circuits on the controller have been overbuilt to a minimum of 35 to 40 percent of a normal 100 percent load and duty cycle."
Another piece of information that really got my attention was when Larry described how the CheapHeat system eliminates hotspots. The inside air stays comfortably and evenly warm, unlike a propane heater or even a rooftop heat pump (which I just learned about when I was talking to Larry). "The problem with rooftop heat pumps is that you are trying to heat the lower part of the RV from the upper part. Thatís bad magic," explains McGaugh. "The air has to go outside to the roof of the RV and back into the RV again. Thatís inefficient. Heating from the floor keeps your coach warmer."
The cost benefits are plenty as well. While talking to Larry, I learned that about 40 percent of propane heated goes out the furnace flue rather than in your coach. Thatís pretty inefficient sounding to me. McGaugh explains, "So, that means if you put in one dollarís worth of energy, youíre only getting sixty cents out of it. With this electric heating system, every dollar of that electricity stays in the coach. Itís one hundred percent efficient."
Another big plus to the CheapHeat system is that it is an eco-friendly way of heating your RV because it runs on electric. "Youíre not using fossil fuels so youíre not injecting monoxide into the ecosystem," says McGaugh. "If you are getting electricity from the grid, youíre reducing your carbon footprint." Plus, since the system runs so much more efficiently than other heating methods by keeping all that warm air inside, this translates to a greener machine.
So just what kind of RVer was this electric furnace system designed for? From what I can tell, the product benefits every style of RVer with any kind of RV. "Itís not just for full-timers, itís for the weekend warriors, and itís for the guy who wants to keep his pipes from freezing in the winter," says McGaugh.
The CheapHeat system comes with a controller, a heating element, a cabinet that houses the heating element along with all the wiring. The device should fit practically any RV as it adds less than six inches in length to an existing furnace. Most certified RV service facilities can install the CheapHeat system in about five hours. With a suggested price of $1,595 including installation, itís a heating system alternative that every RVer will want to learn more about. You can contact Larry McGaugh at 425-408-3140 or www.rvcomfortsystems.com to find a dealer near you that handles the product.