RV’s, just like a home, have all of the conveniences of a house. Some of those systems don’t get used very often and when you need them, they can give you problems. The RV furnace is one of those problems. In addition, adding space heaters to an RV could cause a fire. So it is important to keep the furnace in working order.
Some of the issues RV owners experience with their RV furnaces include a funny smell when operating, or no heat, or issues with the thermostats.
As far as normal operation is concerned getting heat going in your RV usually requires nothing more than turning on the thermostat on the wall and setting the temp you want.
Some types of RV thermostats control the furnace and roof AC unit all on one panel. The RV furnace only needs propane and a good 12V battery to work. 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.
Sometimes when you turn on the thermostat for heat there may be up to a 20 second delay before the furnace motor comes on, and then another 20 seconds before the system lights on propane and heat from the ducts soon to follow.
Funny smells from your RV furnace
You might experience an odd musky or burning odor when first firing up the furnace, especially if the furnace hasn’t been used for a few months or more. You might even experience this burning smell for the first few times the furnace is used. Brand new RVs might even emit a light amount of smoke that 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.
Also if you have had your RV in a collision repair shop like ours, you might get the burning smell after getting the RV back. It is not possible to keep all the dust out of every crevice during the repair. So when you fire up the RV furnace for the first time, it could burn off that body shop dust. Again, this is not an issue that you should be concerned with.
If the smell persists or simply doesn’t go away, make sure that 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.
What To Do If You Have No Heat
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. Double check that the propane is actually turned on. Check 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.
If you live in the south or in an area where wasps and dirt daubers are, you should get 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.
Dead battery issues
If you ever experience low or dead batteries while camping 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.
Still troubleshooting with your furnace? Share with us the specifics of what’s wrong, including as much information as you can, and we might be able to help you out.