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Is the Propane Mr. Buddy RV Heater Dangerous?

Is the Propane Mr. Buddy RV Heater Dangerous?

Is the Propane Mr. Buddy RV Heater Dangerous?

Mr. Buddy Heaters are popular with RVers, campers, hunters, cabin-dwellers, and others. But are they safe?

In this article, we take a closer look at the popular propane heaters, including claims that Mr. Buddy Heaters can kill. 

Let’s dig in!

What Is a Mr. Buddy RV Heater? 

A Mr. Buddy Heater is a portable propane heater by the brand Mr. Heater. Portable Buddy heaters come in many sizes. These heaters have an open-flame heat source and produce a good amount of heat in the immediate area. Campers, hunters, RVers, and more use Mr. Buddy heaters. 

How Is a Mr. Buddy Heater Powered?

A Mr. Buddy Heater uses a propane flame as the heat source. These heaters use no electricity at all. You ignite the pilot light by opening the propane valve (or the power knob) and pressing a button to create a spark. Once the pilot light is on, you can select your heat level.

Mr. Buddy Heaters can run off of small, disposable one-pound propane tanks. However, for bigger heaters or extended use, you can purchase an adapter and hose kit to hook your heater up to a larger propane tank. 

Close up of Mr. Buddy Heater product.
The Mr. Buddy Heater uses propane to keep you warm in the winter. Source: http://www.mrheater.com

Is It Safe to Use a Mr. Buddy Heater in an RV or Camper?

Many people safely use a Buddy Heater in their RVs and campers as a primary or secondary heat source. It’s important to note that you should only use Buddy Heaters with proper ventilation and a carbon monoxide detector installed.

Buddy Heaters can produce carbon monoxide gas, a colorless and odorless vapor that is fatal to humans and animals. If not properly vented and using an alarm, a propane heater can be deadly. Many Mr. Buddy Heaters are labeled “indoor-safe,” but you shouldn’t use them without good ventilation and a working alarm.

Pro Tip: When using propane in your RV, it is crucial for your safety to use it correctly. Read more to find out: When is RV Propane Dangerous?

Is It Dangerous to Sleep with Your Buddy Heater On? 

While many people do sleep with a Mr. Buddy Heater on, we don’t recommend it. A Buddy Heater has an open flame. So, it’s safer to be awake to supervise any heat source that has an open flame. Most models have automatic shut-off features if the heater accidentally tips over, but you can never be too safe. Sleeping with a Buddy Heater on is especially precarious if you have pets or kids.

If you want to use the Buddy Heater as a night-time heat source, we recommend heating your RV before you go to sleep, shutting off the heater, and burrowing in blankets. If it gets too cold at night, you can wake up and run the heater for a few minutes before turning it back off. To help you stay warm throughout the night, you can put hot water bottles in your bed or sleeping bag.

Woman in RV bed during winter.
It is not ideal to sleep with the Mr. Buddy Heater since it does contain an open flame.

Can the Mr. Buddy Heater Produce Carbon Monoxide? 

Mr. Buddy Heaters can produce carbon monoxide if they’re used improperly. Improper use of a Mr. Buddy Heater includes using unapproved third-party attachments, using them without proper ventilation, or disabling fail-safes like the “tip over” shut-off switch. 

The Mr. Heater website says you can “enjoy years of comfortable indoor safe heat” with any Buddy Heater products. Also included on every product page is a warning from Mr. Heater’s parent company, Enerco Group. The warning advises against using unauthorized accessories or attachments, as this can cause injury and void the warranty.

Has Anyone Died Using a Mr. Buddy Heater in an RV? 

There are no reports of RV carbon monoxide deaths explicitly linked to Mr. Heater brand Buddy Heaters. In a semi-recent story out of Kennewick, Washington, a man and his dog died from carbon monoxide poisoning while cooking on a Mr. Heater outdoor heater inside a van. 

Further details about this case reveal that the van-dweller was using a heater that isn’t indoor safe and had been altered to remove fail-safes. This van-dweller removed automatic safety shut-off switches and used an outdoor heater inside his van, which may have contributed to the poisoning and death. 

Tips for Safely Using a Mr. Buddy Heater 

Mr. Buddy Heaters are used and loved by RVers and campers everywhere. If you’re worried about the safety of a Mr. Buddy Heater, remember always to supervise it and follow these safety tips. 

Clear the Area Around and on Top 

The Buddy Heaters heat with an open flame and the area around the heater can get very warm. Without proper care, you run the risk of melting or burning nearby objects or lighting them on fire. 

Before turning your Buddy Heater on, clear the area above and around it. Remove any objects that could ignite or melt, and be sure nothing is hanging above it (like coats or decorations) that could ignite. 

Woman bundled up in winter. Can see breath in the air.
The Mr. Buddy Heater is an excellent option to keep you warm in colder months, but it is important to use it carefully to prevent accidents.

Turn It Off When You Leave a Room 

Since a Buddy Heater uses an open flame as a heat source, you should never leave it unsupervised. If you have to leave a room, turn the heater off to avoid accidents. Never sleep with a Buddy Heater turned on. 

Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Every RV needs a carbon monoxide detector. If you have a large RV, you need a carbon monoxide detector in the living space and bedroom. You can purchase battery-powered detectors or DC-power CO2 detectors that hard-wire into your RV power system. Perform regular safety checks on all detectors in your RV. 

Crack a Window

You must have proper ventilation for the efficient and safe operation of any type of propane-powered heat source or flame. Crack a window when using a Buddy Heater. It may seem counterintuitive to crack a window when it’s cold outside, but you need to do it to ensure your heater is running safely.

Pro Tip: Not sure the Buddy Heater is right for you? Consider trying one of these 5 Ways to Heat Your RV This Winter.

Dog sitting in RV bed next to cracked window.
When running your heater, make sure to crack a window to supply proper ventilation.

Listen to Your Nose

You can’t smell carbon monoxide, but you can smell melting plastic and smoke. If your Buddy Heater is emitting a funny odor, don’t use it until a professional can check it out. 

You can smell propane, too. If you smell propane at all in your RV, don’t ignite any flame or spark. Evacuate immediately, turn off the outside propane knob, and call a professional. 

Check for Leaks Regularly

You should check for propane leaks every time you use your Buddy Heater and every time you change the propane canister. You can detect propane leaks by filling a spray bottle with soapy water and spraying it on your propane connections. If you see bubbles forming around a connection, that means you have a leak. You can also smell around the heater for propane, but be sure to double-check with the soapy water trick. 

Should You Avoid a Mr. Buddy Heater? 

We don’t think you should avoid a Mr. Buddy Heater. These are awesome and powerful heating devices that you can use safely. If the idea of using a Mr. Buddy Heater freaks you out, there are other options.

But rest assured that as long as you use a carbon monoxide detector, supervise your heater, check for leaks, and keep it away from flammable objects, you can enjoy a cozy and warm camper no matter what the weather. Have you ever used a Mr. Buddy Heater?

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Cynthia Olson

Thursday 16th of September 2021

One more SERIOUS safety point with Mr. Buddy heaters, DO NOT cheap out and buy a generic or off-brand adapter and hose, ONLY use a Mr. Buddy adapter and hose to connect to a larger propane tank! We bought an adapter and hose from one of the big box home improvement/hardware stores. During our first use, I suddenly smelled propane but before I could shut off the Mr. Buddy, I was face to face with a flame 2 feet high shooting out of the area where the hose connects to the heater. Fortunately, I was right by the door and we were in open desert so I was able to lift the whole thing by the tank and fling it out the door (onto bare sand) before anything else in the rig caught fire. I don't know if Mr. Buddy uses a non-standard connection or if the adapter was faulty but the Mr. Buddy instructions clearly state to only use their adapter. Lesson learned.

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