For the avid camper, the coming of fall brings with it the beginnings of the end. With the colder weather comes the decline of camping season. Unless, of course, you could put additional heating in your travel trailer, such as a fireplace. But how viable is this option, really?
It is possible to put a fireplace in your travel trailer. It is not commonplace, but there are campers that have them. In fact, many luxury trailers come with them built-in on purchase.
The reason fireplaces are so uncommon is not because of safety, but rather the expense. Installing a fireplace, or buying a travel trailer with one already installed, can add a pretty penny. However, there are a slew of benefits to having them, such as providing an extra source of warmth to take the load off of your heater, improved aesthetic and design, increased value of the trailer (if you choose to resell one that did not have one before), and more. All of these factors contribute to one’s ability to extend the camping season in a way that is comfortable and enjoyable.
But where do you begin when deciding to get a fireplace for your travel trailer? There are many important factors to consider.
Fireplaces in Travel Trailers
Deciding to put a fireplace in your travel trailer is only the first step. There are different kinds of fireplaces and other factors to consider, such as safety.
Reasons to get a Fireplace
If you haven’t fully committed to the idea of a fireplace for your travel trailer yet, a better breakdown of some of the primary benefits may help.
A fireplace adds convenience to the camping experience: Think of your fireplace as an upgraded space heater and what that brings to the table for camping on a chilly night. While not as strong in terms of heat output as the travel trailer’s furnace, it will do a fine job of heating the space you are staying in.
Say you go out into the cold for a short period, maybe to heat some marshmallows over a real fire, and just want to warm up a bit. The fireplace will provide the much-needed heat without you having to turn on your furnace, which will only burn through gas and be, in most cases, a rather noisy intrusion.
An alternative heating solution: To bounce off the earlier point about furnaces, fireplaces also provide a different option for heating the indoor living space. Rather than having to blow through gas, a non-replenishable resource that must be stocked up on for your journey, by turning on your heating system, the fireplace (especially if electric) can provide a large portion of necessary heat. This could also potentially increase your heating unit’s lifespan and cost less in the long run.
Additionally, a fireplace will do much more than a space heater, which you might bring along with you to help on those extra chilly nights. While the space heater might do the job in some of the smaller areas, or when right up against you, a fireplace will likely be able to provide warmth to a larger space, potentially even spreading throughout the whole trailer.
Improve the ambiance and décor: This is a less practical point. A lot of times, travel trailers are your home away from home. For those who enjoy decorating and want to make it feel, well, homey, fireplaces offer a nice touch. Plus, RV furnaces and heaters tend to run a bit noisy, whereas your fireplace will be much quieter, so it won’t interrupt your relaxation.
There are a wide range of fireplace designs, styles, and types available for purchasing, so finding one to fit your preferred aesthetic will be easy. Just picture your family curled up, reading and/or sipping a warm beverage in front of a fireplace, almost as if you are in a cabin during a fancy retreat.
Choosing your Fireplace Fuel Type: Gas vs. Electric
While electric fireplaces are the most common for travel trailers, there are gas (propane) options available for those who prefer them, and both will heat your trailer just fine. Of course, there are pros and cons to each type.
- Highly functional operation
- A higher heat rating than electrical fireplaces, making it a good choice as a primary heating source or for bigger RVs
- Gives real flames
- Great for boondocking, as you can just pack your gas and disappear into the unknown
- You will have to keep up with propane; if you run out and are not at a campsite with electrical heating or are unable to connect your RV, you will go cold
- High propane expenditure
- The higher heating output can be too much for smaller RVs or more confined spaces
- Will cause higher humidity, which can result in some mold or damage to property if not accounted for properly
- Needs proper ventilation to prevent unhealthy air buildup
- Highly functional operation
- Cheaper than a propane fireplace in terms of buying, installing, and running
- Typically considered the safest option; no flame or lethal gas with the option to install a proximity sensor to shut it off if anything gets too close
- The effects of flame (heat) without the negative side effects (humidity, unhealthy air, etc.)
- Will need an electric hookup to run; can only boondock with a running generator
- Will take up an outlet and could overload the trailer’s electricity if too many other electronics are run at the same time as your fireplace
- Easier self-installation
- More manageable heat for smaller trailers or spaces, without compromising comfort
- Might not heat larger RV or camper models as easily
- Can run overnight without having to be watched
- While not providing real flames, does provide vibrant and sometimes even colorful ones
- Some fireplaces can have gaudy flames, noise fans, or less-than-ideal fake fire “pop” sounds
Overall, despite some of the cons, electric fireplaces seem to provide more benefits than the gas options, hinted at by their higher popularity. However, if you prefer gas fireplaces, it is certainly doable.
Built-In vs. Free-Standing/Mounted Fireplaces
If you decide to go the electric fireplace route, there is yet another decision to make: whether to buy a built-in or plug-in/mounted fireplace. Yet again, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each.
Built-in (and/or insert):
- Designed to be installed into a wall, preexisting cabinets, or an already existing fireplace; basically, there must be a hole in the wall big enough to accommodate the exact dimensions
- The installation process is fairly complex
- Being in a wall, you won’t have to worry about the insert being close to any other electronics or materials, reducing concern for safety or malfunction
- Stuck in a stationary location, cannot be moved
Wall Mounted or Free-Standing (plug-in):
- Slide the unit right into place, or clear a spot for the mount; you will still need to measure the area to accommodate the unit
- Must have a designated (instructions per unit) amount of space between electronics or other materials to ensure safety and avoid damaging the unit
- Some are fixed, especially if you insert them into a wall or cabinet (similar to built-in), but others can be moved around to accommodate changes in décor or need
- Typically has easy installation
An important element of any travel trailer fireplace is safety, regardless of whether your model is gas or electric.
Pick a good location: When choosing a location for your fireplace, you should choose a location with plenty of clearance and/or ensure it fits exactly in any insert location.
Leave space between the fireplace and other materials: This should be obvious, but even with built-in units, make sure there are no other materials or objects near your fireplace. Doing so is important for your own safety and the continued functionality of the fireplace. Nothing flammable should be nearby, including the frame (if inserted), particularly if your fireplace is gas but even if it’s electric.
Don’t leave your fireplace on and unattended: Another obvious point, try to avoid leaving your fireplace unattended. For gas fireplaces, you never want to leave an open flame, even just a candle, so certainly not a fireplace. Even for electric, despite the temptation to leave it on, and the decreased risk of fire, it is best to leave it off, unless you have a proximity detector.
Follow the manufacturer’s specifications: This is primarily a concern for self-installation. It is vital that the installation follows any and all manufacturer’s specifications. We have already discussed issues of clearance, i.e. finding a good place away from other objects, but it is also important to maintain ventilation standards, ensuring you will have clean, healthy air.
Install a nonflammable wall barrier (gas): A nonflammable wall barrier may be needed in the instance that you install a propane fireplace. This is to protect your trailer itself from having any resulting damage or catching on fire. Even if it is not necessary, it might be a good idea to look into one for the extra precaution.
Look into a proximity detector (electric): Proximity detectors are used on electrical fireplaces to avoid fires. If an object is too close to your fireplace, the detector will shut it off automatically for you. While it is a good idea to avoid leaving your fireplace on and unattended, having a proximity detector will significantly reduce the risk if you do.
Don’t plug-in too many devices (electric): Overuse of the outlets and electrical power can lead to an outage in your unit. This will leave you cold and might risk damage to any electronic devices plugged up. If your fireplace is on, reduce the number of electrically powered devices that are plugged in.
Top 5 Choices for Electric Fireplaces
Since electric fireplaces are the most common, the top choices for travel trailer fireplaces are all electric. Among the top picks are:
Dimplex 25-Inch Plug-in Electrical Fireplace: All you need is a standard 120-volt outlet for this fireplace to run. Provides heat for up to 400 square feet of space. Low-noise and realistically colored flames.
Classic Flame 36-Inch 120V Traditional Builders Box: This is a built-in model. You can fit this unit in interior walls or corners, and it comes with an aesthetically pleasing trimmed design. The flame brightness can be controlled digitally on 5 settings. Included in purchase is a plug kit for easy installation, or you can choose to hardwire it to any 120-volt outlet.
DuraFlame 550 Black Electric Fireplace Stove with Remote Control: This is a freestanding unit. This fireplace prioritizes cost efficiency and is extremely lightweight for easy relocation to anyplace you want. The metal surrounding it remains cool to the touch, even win on, making it safe for children and pets.
R.W.Flame 36-Inchn Electric Fireplace Insert: This fireplace will go into any recessed wall or cabinet. The image portrays realistic logs and flames, controlled by 5 different colors, speed, and brightness settings. Additionally, you can control the heat and add a timer by touchscreen panel or remote control.
Homedex 36-Inch Wall-Mounted Recessed Electric Fireplace: Somewhere between an insert and a wall-mounted unit, this fireplace is intended to be placed in any recessed area. This unit boasts a variety of aesthetic potential, with nine flame colors and a log or crystal visual setting for a unique ambiance tailored to your liking. This unit also has 5 heat settings and the ability to set a timer.
Other Heating Options
If a fireplace is not right for you, but you are still looking for other alternatives to your furnace or heating unit, there are also other options available.
Wood Stove: In the instance that your travel trailer doesn’t accommodate a full-sized fireplace, but you still want a nice wood-burning smell or fiery source of heat, you can still get a wood stove. This is basically a smaller version of a fireplace and can be placed on the floor, sat on a shelf, or in some cases, even mounted to the floor or wall. Believe it or not, wood-burning stoves are often designed to be eco-friendly, so there are very few unwanted or unhealthy emissions.
Solar Heating: This is perhaps a rarer and potentially more expensive option. Installing solar panels on your travel trailer can provide power to a variety of different sources, including heat.
In fact, you can even build a solar heating window to keep you warm, and doing so is even cheap. This method works through the sun heating the glass, which then heats the surrounding aluminum, that then transfers that heat to the surrounding air. That air then spreads around the trailer. This is called a “Heat Grabber.”
Electric Heater: An electric heater is equivalent to a space heater and is meant to heat small spaces, rooms, or portions of the travel trailer. In smaller models, you may even be able to place one in the center and heat most of it. Electric heaters are very convenient because they are highly portable and can be moved around based on where people are sitting, or laying, at any given moment, or can follow around the coldest passengers. Just be sure it doesn’t get knocked over and isn’t too close to anything flammable.
To answer the primary question, it is completely safe and viable to install a fireplace in your camper. Many luxury travel trailers even come with one already installed. There are plenty of fireplace options available, even after choosing gas or electric. Just make sure that when you make those decisions, you inform yourself of the best options for your specific trailer model and always keep safety in mind.
Hi, I am Brad. Car Independent is your source for independent views on cars and car accessories. Whether you looking to buy a new car or something cool for your car, you have many options. My aim to help you make the best-informed choices.