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The RV Furnace is the main reason why RVers can still travel with their rigs during winter. It keeps them warm and comfy even on the coldest days. But if you’re a newbie or planning to start RVing, you might be asking how this works?

RV Furnace is a forced-air system that is powered by propane and electricity. It operates in a 12 volts DC power and can run from a battery, generator, or from 110 using your RV’s converter when it is plugged into electricity. Most RV furnaces are a Direct Spark Forced Air Furnace that has a sealed combustion chamber that’s vented outside. 

You can see RVs that have two vents for the intakes and the exhaust while some have one vent for the exhaust then have a mesh grill for the intake.

Some RVers choose to stay at home and let their rigs sit in their garage or driveway during winter since they are not aware that their RVs have a furnace and some just don’t know how to use them. 

That’s why we’re here to help and give you all the information you need to know about it. We will also answer the questions you might have about furnaces. 

How does RV Furnace work?

Close up of portable gasoline generator providing power for fifth wheel rv trailer in campground
sshepard via Canva.com

Before you can get comfortable using your RV furnace, you have to know how it works first. So let’s talk about it.

Furnaces have propane that uses flame and some electricity to create hot air. The propane is the one that creates the heat and the electricity runs the fan and the blower motor.

Once the propane is done creating the heat, the fan will start to circulate the room air all over the hot furnace chamber. Then, the blower motor will start to release the hot air inside your rigs in the areas where the ducts are placed.

By the way, don’t cover the ducts and the exhaust vents in your RVs as this can cause your furnace to overheat.

How to run an RV Furnace?

There are two ways to run an RV furnace. There’s a manual light and an automatic or self-light furnace. All manual light furnaces are the same so you just have to remember the same steps all the time. Whereas for the automatic light furnaces, it will only change based on which type of thermostat you’re using. It can either be digital or analog.

Let’s start with the manual light furnace:

  • First, have your lighter ready then, turn on your propane
  • Next, go to your control panel and turn your knob to pilot.
  • After that, push and hold the knob and with your lighter lit and ready, put it into the opening of the pilot light.
  • After 30 seconds release the knob and wait for the pilot light to lit up completely.
  • Once you can already see that the pilot light is completely lit, turn the knob to an on position then you can start setting the temperature.

There may be some cases that you will not be able to successfully light up the propane but you don’t need to worry, all you have to do is to repeat these steps until it becomes successful. If after doing it a few times you still can’t light it up, then you might want to check if your propane still has gas. If the gas isn’t the problem then have it checked by a service technician.

Now, unlike the manual light furnace, automatic furnaces are easier to operate and less of a hassle. Here are the steps that you can follow:

  • First, turn on your propane tank.
  • Then, set your furnace’s temperature on your thermostat.
  • Next, you’ll start to hear the fan blowing and it will be followed by a click sound.  
  • Once it’s done, you’ll start to feel the hot air. Then, after a few minutes, you can start changing your desired temperature on the thermostat

Just a reminder though, always make sure your rig has proper ventilation when you turn on your furnace. Like, having your window slightly opened. 

Does an RV furnace need electricity?

Yes, RV furnaces need electricity to run. Although gas furnaces can still create heat with propane, you still need electricity to use a blower motor that circulates the heat into your rigs. 

There are three ways to produce electricity to run your furnace. You can use a battery, generator, or 110. 

Normally, a furnace will draw about 8 amps of power per hour and consumes 500 to 1500 watts. Furthermore, the consumption of a furnace depends on how big is the area of your RV that you want to get warm. Therefore, if you only need to warm a smaller area in your RV, then the consumption would be lower and vice versa.

Running RV furnace in a battery, generator, and 110

Now that you know how many volts the RV needs and how much power it consumes, let’s see how you can run it in a battery, generator, and 110.

Battery

If you’re going to run your furnace on a battery, you need to make sure that it is fully charged. With this, your furnace can run for 12 hours at 200amps power. It may vary though based on how often you are going to use it but you have to make sure that you will not draw down your battery by less than 50% because this can break your furnace or your battery permanently.

Generator

If you’ll only use your generator on the furnace then 2000 watts would be enough since the furnace only consumes 500-1500 watts. However, if you plan to use another appliance with it then you will need more.  

110

If you want to use a shore of residential electricity to have your furnace running, it will not be a problem at all. The only thing you need to make sure of is that you have a good quality converter and your propane is properly running.

Important related questions

How to find the thermostat?

The thermostat is located inside your rigs. It is a small piece of equipment that you can see and it can either be an analog or a digital box (just like the one you’re using at home). You can easily find it since you’re also using it to control your RV’s cooling system. 

How to find the furnace?

The furnace can be found in a different location in your RV. Its location depends on the make and model of your RV. Most of the time, you’ll see a furnace exhaust outside your rigs and the furnace is on the other side of that exterior wall. Some RVers can see their furnace under their couch, under the refrigerator, or next to their water cabinet so you can try checking those places too.

How to know if your furnace is running?

You can tell when your furnace is working once you hear the fan blowing and you start to feel the warm air. Moreover, on a propane furnace, you should see a bright blue flame to confirm that it is working fine. If you see a yellowish flame, then this might be creating carbon monoxide since it’s not getting enough oxygen. 

Other than that, if your furnace is already turned on but your RV is not getting warm even after a few minutes, you can try resetting it first.  Turn it off and then after 10 seconds, you can turn it back on. 

If the same thing happens, then there’s a problem with your furnace and you need to have it checked and repaired.

Can you run your RV furnace without electricity?

Absolutely. RV furnaces can still be used with a 12 volts battery or a generator. You just have to make sure that your batteries are fully charged because you’ll have a problem if your batteries get drained. You can also plug your rig and have your generator running.

Can you pull a travel trailer with the furnace on?

Yes, you can. Some RVers are doing this to make sure that their trailer’s pipe won’t freeze while on the road. However, this is something that isn’t advisable for RVers to do since it’s really dangerous. Having your propane on while driving can cause fire and explosion. Anyway, it can only take a few minutes to heat your trailer when you arrive at the campsite so there’s no need to turn on your propane while driving.

Final thoughts in running RV Furnace

Before you start your most awaited winter trip there are a few things that you have to check to make sure that you’ll stay warm and cozy most especially on cold nights.

First, you need to make sure that your furnace is working fine. You can try testing it first before leaving your house and avoid any issues in the middle of the road. Then, make sure you have enough power supplies to support your propane to run your furnace. Either a battery, generator, or a 110, make sure that you have the right source of power for your furnace.

Most importantly, make sure that your propane is topped up and has enough gasoline to avoid any issues keeping your furnace blowing warm air. 

Running an RV furnace can be intimidating at first so you might just not use it at all. Especially if you are not into the technical side of your rigs. But once you start to learn and understand how it works, it will be as easy as walking in the park. 

We hope that we helped you and we have answered the questions you have about running an RV furnace. You can now enjoy RVing not just anytime and anywhere, but also in any weather. 

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    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  We travel with kids and extended family.  I take the kids by myself sometimes because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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