Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.
A well serviced Furnace is a safe furnace
If your RV Furnace is one of the standard models of Propane furnaces used in the majority of the campers on the roads today, you know that their designs are simple and yet quite reliable.
There are a number of things every RV owner can and should do to make sure that they, not only have heat in their RV, but also that it is operating efficiently and safely.
These furnace designs contains a heating section where it burns propane gas and exhausts the fumes safely to the outside of your RV.
This heating section is attached to the air duct system of your RV. This section blows the internal air of the RV past the heated chamber and then sends this heated air out the furnace ducts placed throughout the cabin of your RV, providing comfortably heated air throughout the camper.
RV Furnace exterior access door
The RV Temperature Controller manages the Furnace function
The internal temperature of the RV is controlled by a thermostat mounted on the inside wall of the RV which uses one or more temperature sensors usually mounted on the wall of the RV to indicate the inside temperature.
You should know that there are single zone and dual zone Heating/Cooling systems in RV's, and this is usually dependent on the amount of area to be managed.
With a dual zone Furnace/Air Conditioner control system, there will be two of the temperature sensors, one centrally placed in each zone, that senses the inside temperature of that zone and with this reading, the controller then manipulates the furnace to maintain the area's temperature to the setting on the controller for that zone.
Bt using only one zone (bedroom at night or living area in the day) you can reduce the workload on the furnace and at the same time reduce the amount of propane used.
The furnace is in reality a safe and reliable unit used in RV's
Dometic 5-button Comfort Control Center for RV
Preventive Maintenance can save you Money
But, as simple as it’s function might be, you should check out your RV furnace at least annually.
And of course, this should definitely be done before you go on a trip during cold weather.
As I said, your RV furnace is a very reliable device, if it is maintained properly, but if it is left unserviced it will eventually stop operating properly, or it could even become a danger to you and your RV.
Here are a few of the things you, the RV owner, can do to check out your RV furnace before you take it on a trip. In fact, you should perform most of these checks on a regular basis, yourself.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Even though it's not a part of yor RV furnace, the very first thing you should do is inspect and test your Carbon Monoxide detectors installed inside your RV.
This device detects elevated levels of Carbon Monoxide (which is odorless by the way) that can come from a broken furnace (especially ones with a propane or exhaust leak. When a certain level of Carbon Monoxide is reached in your RV, the detector gives an audible alarm to the people in the RV.
These detectors are designed to be functional for at least five or six years, so if yours are older than this, you should replace the old unit, just to assure you have a good functional Carbon Monoxide detector in your RV.
Of course, most of these units have a self-test button for the RV owner to use to check if it is functional.
RV Carbon Monoxide & Propane Detector
Exterior Furnace Access
Situated on the outside of your RV is the furnace access door and vent.
When you remove this cover you will se the Furnace itself. It is typically a self-contained unit designed to work without much attached to the exterior. This allows for a safer design that when it does malfunction, it will typically not do so in a way that poses any danger to the RV or its owners.
And, when your RV furnace does have a major problem, the unit can be safely replaced by a new uone, again without there being many exterior things for the RV owner to connect, or adjust.
Your furnace gets its air for combustion of the propane gas through this access vent and it blows the burned exhaust gases out an exhaust pipe under the RV.
CAUTION: When the furnace is being used, this exhaust area can become very hot. Keep all flammable materials (and yourself) away from this area while at your campsite.
If your RV has been in storage for a while, you should remove the cover and check the furnace compartment as well as the inside of your furnace exhaust for any blockages caused by such as insect nests or any trash that might have worked its way into the furnace compartment, as these things can interfere with good air flow and exhaust.
Check the furnace exhaust area for any signs of soot. The presence of soot is a sign of poor combustion and could mean you need to get your furnace serviced by a professional.
Furnace Interior heated Air System
Your interior furnace air system is designed to circulate your interior air, into the furnace, heat it and then send it to the interior heat distribution vents.
This system should also be checked out regularly .
There is usually a large return air vent, typically situated in the kitchen area of your RV.
You should always make sure this vent is not blocked by anything that would impede the air flow to the furnace.
You should clean the vent cover regularly with a vacuum to assure you have good air flow into the furnace.
You can go a step further by occasionally (annually?) removing the vent cover and using a vacuum to get rid of any built up dust and lint that may have built up inside the furnace air vent area.
Check all of the heat distribution vents in your RV, which are usually situated along the floor or on the walls right at the floor. Make sure they are clean and that they are clear of debris without anything blocking them.
Too often, RV owners will arbitrarily place personal objects on the floor which can block the furnace vents. You should check regularly that all of the furnace vents are not blocked and air can flow into the RV without obstruction.
Test the furnace by turning on the gas to the furnace, and then setting the furnace controls to Heat. Then adjust the the thermostat control to a desired temperature, slightly higher than the existing temperature in the RV.
The furnace should fire then start up and run within a few seconds and you should feel heat coming from all of the interior vents within a minute or so.
NOTE: These furnaces have a number of built-in safety controls that make sure that the Pilot flame as well as the ignition and metering of the propane gas are all done properly and safely.
If your furnace does not operate or if you smell propane gas, or if anything strange occurs when your propane furnace runs, shut it down and get it serviced by a strained professional.
BTW - The furnace manufacturers suggest having an RV furnace inspected and cleaned every few years by a professional to assure it is operating properly.
by Don Bobbitt, August, 2015
RV Furnace Preventive Maintenance
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Judy Specht from California on January 24, 2016:
As usual a good maintenance reminder for our travel trailers. Thanks.
Richard Francis Fleck from Denver, Colorado on January 22, 2016:
A very informative and useful hub!