How Does an RV Furnace Work? Secrets You Will Never Know About RV Furnance

RV camping is possible in cold weather if you have equipped your camper with an RV furnace. Not sure how does an RV furnace work? Read on to find out.

Usually, people let their RV rest in a garage in the winter months. It does make sense if winters are just not your thing and you do not enjoy activities specific to cold weather. But those who have tried spending quality time at a winter resort or a hill station, won’t want to let their RV sit idle for the whole winter season.

Luckily, it is possible to enjoy camping in an RV when the weather is cold. You can easily get yourself a high-efficiency RV furnace to stay warm and cosy in your trailer even at the coldest of locations.

Do RV Furnaces Run on Electricity?       

how does an RV furnace work

Usually, all RVs have an in-built heating system that commonly runs on propane. If you are curious about the working of your RV furnace, it runs on gas; however, it might use electricity for ignition. Apart from that, you can also have a heater that runs on electricity, included in your vehicle’s HVAC system. 

Although traditional RV furnaces are gas driven, RVers are increasingly choosing to replace the propane-run with heating systems fueled by alternative energy sources — or add an extra electric furnace for back up. 

The most common alternative to a gas furnace is an electric furnace or a portable heater. Electric furnaces are eco-friendly and efficient. It can be cheaper to use electricity run RV furnace as compared to burning propane, but it also depends upon the circumstance of your campsite. At times there is free electricity provided at some sites. It is also possible for RV sites to charge you on a per-day basis with the price increasing each day incrementally. In that case, you will have to do some quick math to compare the pricing.

Moreover, electricity-based suburban RV furnace is usually specialized to warm an area, similar to a fan; the only difference is that it vents hot air and not cool. These would let you a specific area instead of consuming more fuel to warm up an entire camper.

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Some Disadvantages 

Their design is usually box-shaped, which is easily portable as compared to the duct shaped propane RV furnace. Like the advantages, there are certain cons as well to these. While the electric heaters do come with built-in protection against tip-overs or overheating. However, there is still a possibility of that happening. So, if you are not careful, there is a risk of fire accident which never happens with an RV furnace that runs on propane. You might also not like the noise produce by electric furnaces depending upon which model you own, but it’s not like propane furnaces are silent. It is best to check out user reviews to be sure you’re getting the best alternative to your gas-run RV furnace. Camco 57331 Olympian Wave-3 3000 BTU LP Gas Catalytic Heater is the best gas run RV furnace. 

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How long will RV Furnace Run on Propane?

how does an RV furnace work

The size of your propane-based RV furnace determines how much propane will be required to warm up your trailer for how many hours. Bigger furnaces will consume more propane.

The burn rate of one-gallon propane is approximately ninety thousand to one hundred thousand BTUs per hour. Suppose you have RV furnace suburban of average size, it will consume around one-third gallon if it runs nonstop for an hour. According to this calculation, in average-sized propane, one-gallon fuel shall last for three hours nonstop usage.

Read More: How to Hook Up Satellite TV in RV      

How do I Start my RV Furnace?

First thing you have to do is make sure the camper is plugged in if you have electronic ignition. The next thing you want to do is to make sure your propane is on, and there is enough fuel in the tank. Then get inside your camper, and on the control panel of your heater, turn the thermostat on and adjust the temperature to your liking. You will be able to hear the sound of heat coming on. The furnace will maintain the desired camper temperature by kicking the heat on and off by itself.      

Does RV Furnace Runoff Propane or Electric?

The majority of RV furnaces are propane-based, but they also need electricity. The heat is produced by burning propane, and the electricity is used to move the fan. The mechanism of forced air is easy to understand. There is a thermostat, a circuit board, a blower motor, a safety limit controlling switch and ducting. There are vents for air intake as well as exhaust purpose.

When you set the thermostat higher than the trailer temperature, the blower motor will activate, and the heater will switch on. The burning of propane will produce hot air, and this hot air will blow through the ducts inside the RV.         

How long will RV Furnace Run Battery?

The blower fan of the RV furnace operates on batteries. Majority of the furnaces use 8 amperes of power. It is best to obtain power from solar or generator based energy for charging the batteries if you are not connected to campsite power. ATOM Portable Solar Generator is one of the best solar generators on the market.

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Most RVs have a twelve-volt battery that powers multiple electronics. Although it won’t run the TV or AC in the trailer or any other 120-volt electronic device. It runs the blower fan and helps you plug in your mobile or laptops charger or wifi adapter etc.  

When you are not connected to a site power, the 12 v battery will run the furnace’s blower fan to let you stay warm in the RV, while being off-grid. 

Facts about Batteries 

Suppose your RV has two 12 volts 100-ampere hour batteries, giving off 200-ampere hours. It is best not to draw down more than fifty per cent of the capacity of lead-acid 100 amp-hour capacity batteries. The blower fan typically uses 8-ampere hours. If you are not drawing the battery energy for any other use, your heater can run nonstop for around twelve and a half hours. 

This might look like a small duration, but your heater will never stay on all the time. Suppose, it operates for twenty minutes per hour to warm up your cabin; it shall last for more than thirty-seven hours between run time and standby time per hour.       

This figure might not be a hundred per cent true as you might set the thermostat back during the night, or turn the furnace off while going out of the camper.   

Another scenario can be that you turn out your furnace for eight hours every night. Your blower fan will have the same run time with a twenty minutes stand by time per hour. This way, your trailer will consume around a hundred and five-ampere hours for five days. This shows how the seemingly small battery duration can extend to a great extent. Because of so many variables such as the outdoor temperature, you desire cabin temperature, how many amperes does your motor draw, RV size, RV insulation, etc. it is virtually impossible to determine how long the batteries will last.

It is best to have a back up to charge the batteries on the go. The backup can be a generator or solar. Do not draw down your batteries more than fifty per cent, or you will cause permanent damage.                       

Frequently Asked Questions 

How long will RV furnace run battery?

Your RV furnace will run without being plugged to electricity if you have appropriate batteries. Two batteries of a hundred-ampere hour giving off 12 V current provide two hundred ampere-hours. If your blower fan uses 8-ampere hours and you have not connected any other electronic device drawing power from the batteries. The heater fan can run continuously for more than twelve hours. This figure can vary because of the furnace stand by time, inside and outside temperature, etc. For safety, get the batteries with you. Optima Batteries 8016-103 D34M BlueTop Starting and Deep Cycle Marine Battery is one of the best batteries on the market.

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Does RV furnace use a lot of propane?

How much propane any RV furnace use depends on the size of the furnace’s propane tank. There are two makes in which propane tanks are manufactured. ASME tanks and DOT cylinders. Both kinds come in three common sizes for use in the RVs. The sizes are 20 pounds, 30 pounds and 40 pounds. For longer duration trips, you can use bigger tank sizes which are one hundred pounds, two hundred and fifty pounds, and five hundred pounds. However, so big tanks are not meant to be carried around.

Thirty-pound tanks are the typical average size. In this tank, one-third gallon of propane can typically last for one hour of nonstop use. This means one gallon shall last for three continuous hours.

What happens when RV furnace runs out of propane?

With the use of propane, the tank pressure will drop continuously. Once the pressure reaches the minimum level, the pressure regulator will turn off the flow. 

It is best not to let the propane tank get empty because this can result in the formation of airlocks in the lines and it can be really difficult to bleed out these airlocks especially in cold weather, which is the time when you use the RV furnace. 

The blower fan will keep running if propane runs out, in most of the RV furnaces. It is a good idea to buy a cheap extra tank of let’s say thirty pounds to hook up to the furnace. This way, you can take it with you to a fuel station to get it refilled in another vehicle.        

Does my RV furnace have a pilot light?

Almost all RV furnaces use electricity for ignition to turn on, so a pilot light is not required. Just make sure that you have turned on the main propane valve of your RV furnace. RV furnace can be switched on using the thermostat.     

Are RV furnaces safe?

Like all appliances, if you maintain your RV furnace properly, it is safe. Safety is your top priority, and to stay safe; you need to make sure that each monitoring system is in good shape and working alright. Check the batteries and the smoke detector functionality, the propane detector functionality and the working of carbon mono oxide detector.       

Is it dangerous to run out of propane?

Do not worry there is no risk of the tank blasting when propane runs out. However, if you leave the propane tank empty, moisture and air can enter inside and will cause rust build up in the tank—rust inside the tank permanent damage. Using a rusty tank is dangerous as rust can mask the odour of propane, which makes it hard to detect leaks and any other fault in the tank.        

Can run out of propane damage water heater?

You will have to pay an extra fee to the propane company RV furnace repair if your tank runs out of propane.  

Why is my furnace not working in my RV?

Furnace RV troubleshooting is somewhat similar to domestic RV furnace troubleshooting. If the furnace is turned on but not giving off any heat, get out of the vehicle and check if the propane valve is on or not. If that doesn’t work and still no heat comes off the furnace, light a stove burner. This way you’ll know that the propane is coming to the burner or not.

If the pilot of the stove doesn’t light up, find out if there is propane left in your tank or not. Another tip for troubleshooting the furnace RV is to check its thermocouple. At times spiders form their webs or insects make their nests in the thermocouple. It is positioning also needs to be correct for the furnace to work, alright. If you notice that your thermocouple has got worn off or damaged, take it out and get a new one of the same kind to replace it. 


It is best to maintain your RV furnace to keep it in optimal condition. An RV heater is a forced-air heater. What this means is that when the air in your RV falls below the temperature on the thermostat, hot air is forced through the vents and into the living space.

That hot air is created using a flame fed by propane and forced out of the vents in your rig by a blower fan. Having a backup heater is also a great way. Camping in winter is possible! Hope after reading this article you know how does an RV furnace work.  Read about traveling with RVhere.

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