The furnace is often the least used appliance in an RV, but when you need it you'd like to be able to depend on it. When running properly, furnaces are relatively maintenance free and are very easy to operate. But when your furnace just doesn't seem to be working...well, that's what this page is about.
Unless your furnace is extremely old there is nothing for you to do other than turn on the thermostat on the wall and set the temp you require.
Some thermostats operate the furnace and roof AC on one control. The furnace only requires you to have propane and a good 12V battery. It is also common to see ducting in the ceiling and on the floor. The ceiling is for the AC only and the floor ducts are for the furnace.
When you turn on the thermostat for heat there may be a 20 second delay before the furnace motor comes on. Then another 20 seconds before the system lights on propane and heat from the ducts soon to follow.
If the furnace hasn't been used for a few months or more you can expect a strong musky burning smell for the first few times the furnace is used. I've seen in most all new RVs a light amount of smoke which sets off the smoke alarm. This is expected and nothing to get alarmed about.
It is a good idea to run the furnace when your RV is new to eliminate the new burn smell and eliminate the light smoke in your unit. Open the windows and run the furnace for a while and it will burn off the dust and soon burn clean. Also, if you have had your RV stored for a few months, you may want to run the furnace to burn off the musky smell before you leave on a camping trip.
Make sure you don't have anything blocking the furnace exhaust outside. Remember a storage compartment door (or entry door) can sometimes open and cover the exhaust, so be sure and check yours before you use it.
If a few minutes after your furnace motor comes on you still have no heat or the motor shuts off on its own, you could have a propane problem (is your propane turned on?) or you have a failure of an ignition component. Turn off the thermostat and try again after 5 seconds. If the furnace doesn't light after a second try, light a burner on your stove top to be sure you have propane. Turn on a few ceiling lights and they should not go dim when the motor comes on. If after trying a second time to run the furnace you get no heat, I suggest calling a qualified tech. Do not attempt opening a furnace yourself.
Enjoy your RV and don't be scared to use the furnace, it has many safety back-up features and is as safe as any appliance in your RV could be.
NOTE: If you have wasps in your area look into getting wire exhaust covers for the intake and exhaust holes on your furnace. It will prevent the wasps from nesting inside the furnace when you have it stored.
If you ever experience low or dead batteries while camping and your RV is full of family freezing you can, in an emergency, start the RV to get the power you need to run the furnace. Or if you are in a trailer, start the tow vehicle and the charge wire in the plug will provide power to operate the furnace and warm up the trailer. Do this only in an emergency and correct the battery problem as soon as possible.
Please read the section on batteries and be sure you understand just how long it takes to charge batteries before you go on a trip, and how to keep them charged while you're camping. Good luck, and happy RVing!
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