How to Add an Electric Fireplace in an RV
Aside from being an almost immediate source of radiant heat, electric fireplaces contribute a homey ambiance to the interior of a recreational vehicle or RV. Most units on the market require no ductwork or venting, and many are available with a built-in air mover. None produce particulates, moisture or gasses as byproducts of their operation. Electric fireplaces are available with natural flame effects featuring dimmer controls operated by a remote handset. Modern units have built-in fully adjustable thermostats or multiple heat settings, and some even feature realistic sound effects with volume control.
Create a space to install the electric fireplace. Determine what wall-mounted preexisting feature in the RV will be least missed, whether a seldom-used bookcase or magazine rack, a floor-mounted storage cabinet or the space behind a chair. Many RV owners have exchanged old-style tube TVs for new flat-screen models that are wall-mounted, and the site of the old TV cabinet can make an ideal location for an electric fireplace.
Purchase an electric fireplace that fits into the designated space and projects heat from the front only. Some designs emit heat to the sides and to top, but these will be dangerous in the close confines of an RV.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install a dedicated outlet that matches the plug supplied on the fireplace cord. Use 8-gauge or greater three-conductor cable and a heavy-duty outlet assembly. Route the cable where it will not create a trip hazard and mount the outlet where the fireplace cord can be plugged in without being stressed or crossing foot traffic. If replacing a TV cabinet, ensure the gauge and outlet of the preexisting supply is sufficient to support the fireplace's amperage draw.
Connect the three-conductor cable's hot wire to a dedicated breaker in the breaker box. Ensure the RV shore connection cord is not attached to a power supply before working inside the breaker box. Visually check that the generator is not running. Connect the color-coded wires in the cable as follows: black or red to the downstream side of the dedicated breaker, white to the neutral bus, and green or bare to the ground block. Observe the fireplace manufacturer's instructions when sizing the breaker.
Affix the electric fireplace firmly to the wall of the RV. While most manufacturers supply the plate that forms the back of their products with predrilled holes for use in securing the unit, the likelihood of these mating conveniently to studs within an RV composite wall is remote. Before installing the unit, use a stud locator to find where the studs, support hoops or rails pass behind the paneling of the chosen location. Transfer these measurements to the back of the fireplace and drill new holes to match the anchor points. Ensure the drill bit is sufficiently sized to accommodate the mounting fasteners.
- A typical electric fireplace requires an unobstructed, flat and smooth mounting location approximately 2 feet high and 3 feet wide. Most units project outward from the wall behind them by 10 to 14 inches. A decorative mantle will increase this requirement. Because heat rises, a prime location should have considerable open space above.
- Do not site the electric fireplace immediately beneath the thermostat that operates the RV's heating and cooling environmental controls.
- RV interiors are typically constructed of highly combustible materials. Never leave an electric fireplace switched on overnight or when the motorhome is unoccupied.
- Parts of the unit will be dangerously hot to the touch when operational. Ensure children and pets are guarded from accidental contact.
John Cagney Nash began composing press releases and event reviews for British nightclubs in 1982. His material was first published in the "Eastern Daily Press." Nash's work focuses on American life, travel and the music industry. In 1998 he earned an OxBridge doctorate in philosophy and immediately emigrated to America.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images