Much of the heat that is generated by heaters within an RV is lost through the windows. Some of the best ideas included putting weatherstripping around the edge of a piece of "Lexan" or plexi-glass and simply installing "mirror mounts" to make it easy to swivel them open...slide in the "storm window" and swivel them back. This would definitely help block some of the heat loss, (though I'm not sure whether it would be better on the outside or the inside of the camper). I'm also not sure how badly this would create or stimulate mold/mildew. Another idea was to use heat shrink film on the inside, applied with a hair dryer...it was said that it did a great job and the only negative was it took a little elbow-grease and alcohol to get the sticky off the window when getting them ready to open for spring.
Another popular idea is stuffing the roof vents with insulation and an attractive "cover" could be made to snap onto the edges of the roof vent frame to hold the insulation in place and keep the place looking sharp.
Kerosene heaters widely used in Japan and in the olden days here have several problems that make me want to avoid them...
Catalytic heaters using propane I've heard good things about, though they do require periodic maintenance of the orifices and purging/cleaning out of your propane tank because what makes them so efficient...involves tiny little passages of propane that tend to clog.
Typically in a 30ft. travel trailer I have been able to get by "ok" by getting use to it being around 50 degrees instead of the 65-70 most houses are kept at. That isn't a hard adjustment. I remember in high mountain living as a boy when I would come in so very cold that to warm my hands up, the process began by running cold water out of the tap..which seemed so warm it was painful, then gradually adding warm water. Adapting is a feature God built into our design. That plus, wear a sweater or jacket...save the nudism for warmer seasons. An electric blanket is in my book, as essential as food. I'd gladly live on pinto's and rice as long as it took to save the money for an electric blanket. I also use two 1500 watt space heaters..one in each end of the camper with the middle partition closed (yes I could pull them both to the bedroom area but then the bathroom would be freezing and likely the plumbing as well).
So my experiment was this...if I fired up the central heating unit...how long would a propane tank (not the 20 pound BBQ size but the 30-35 pound (guestimation) last if I just set my thermostat on 65 and used both space heaters. The answer? A $22 fill-up on the first...ran empty during the night on the 5th. But there was one flaw in the plan...one of my ceramic heaters shorted out when i mistakenly left it set on high and THEN plugged it in, instead of it being off when i plugged it in. So this thwarted my experiment just a little. I left the central heating unit (thermostat controlled) "on" the entire time. And I don't have the skirting, I don't have the roof vents blocked, I don't have the storm windows...yet. So my heating cost was basically $5 a day.
I'm headed back to the propane place today to refill, and picking up an oil-filled radiator like heater, and picking up some insulation for the roof vents. Really have too many projects and other expenses right now to go for the underpinning and storm windows at this time...besides I have fleece "throws" covering the windows inside and really don't feel too much cold air coming in them...(though i do feel a significant amount of cold air transferred through the door...even though it seems water tight, it isn't air tight).
Campers have to be kept light weight so there isn't much chance of good R-value in the walls...at least economically speaking. Maybe some of that high dollar ceramic coating could be painted inside and out but the last time I bought some of that it was about $100 a gallon delivered. Besides...my older brother reminded me that functionality and attractiveness of modifications shouldn't leave out the "oasis" appeal of warm tones, plants, etc...
This is the completion of my 5th month in this small space living and I absolutely love it. There are articles all over the internet on ideas and advice by "full-timers" from which I've gleaned a lot of wise advice of things to do and things not to do. This past week I've begun modifying the "office" area...removed one of those horridly uncomfortable kitchen booths and replaced it with an office chair. Made a sink cover to convert my double sink to a single whenever I need to double my counter space. (Without that panel I have a 12" wide counter space..now I have 28).
So this week while I continue creating this awesome office work station, including hopefully adding some very pretty and moisture/temperature blocking curtains on this dumbly over sized window (functional by both temperature control and protecting my new lcd monitor-tv combo that should arrive this next week) and contributing to the beauty and enhancing the "oh wow it is so refreshing to walk in the door" feeling.
Unless it gets below 55 degrees in here, the new experiment involves moderate but not ridiculously frugal use of the central heat..mainly just to take the chill off in the mornings...and using the oil radiator heater and the 1500 watt fan forced heater. If things go smoothly I may even be able to find the curtains and mount them. (Yet since the decorating "theme" I'm looking for hasn't fully evolved in my mind yet so the curtain selection may be time consuming and head scratching).
The experiment was pretty valid for outside temperatures ranging from around 25 up to 45 because during the week I used no propane on the stove, and though i did try to use the hot water heater...it has some problems and is slated for modification to electric or outright replacement. So the propane expense was 96% central heating. (I even soap tested the fittings to make sure when I hooked it up there was no leaking around the tank fittings).
In the future hopefully I'll be able to buy a "lot" in a rural community that allows campers and have a large propane tank set so I can buy the whole winter's worth during the summer before the evil people jack the prices for winter. That plus the underpinning (and I'm considering enclosing a little extra boxed in area with that insulation board to use my 35000 btu free standing propane heater to actually "heat" the air under the camper)..but alas..time, money, money, money, time, eventually though...I do love these challenges.
I have vivid memories of my childhood toilet sitting time where much pondering was done...on how a person could live just fine in a space the size of the spacious bathroom we had. Minuscule space living has fascinated and attracted me as far back as I can remember. But this is my beginning year, and I'm loving it. Daylight is wasting so I'm off to the propane place, hopeful they are open, then on to pick up my replacement heater...and curtain shopping.