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MattGlamperGear
Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthorneUpdated: September 1, 2023

Have you ever felt the chill on a frosty night in your RV, wondering where your furnace is located? Countless RV owners have experienced this unpleasant sensation, finding themselves at a loss when trying to locate and manage their RV furnaces. Without it, your recreational vehicle can feel like an icebox! An RV furnace is pivotal, providing the necessary warmth in your camper to keep you comfortable during your outdoor escapades.

Our primary aim is to guide you in understanding the functionality of your RV furnace, finding its location, and arming you with essential information that will enable you to effortlessly maintain, troubleshoot and access your furnace components. So, let’s jump into the world of RV furnaces – get comfortable, and let’s go!

Understanding the function of an RV furnace.

Are you new to the RV lifestyle? If so, you might still grapple with the various appliances and systems that make up these mobile abodes. There are many things to learn, but one item you’ll want to grasp early on is the RV furnace – especially if you plan on taking your RV out during the colder months.

The RV furnace functions like a regular household heater, running on propane and generating warm air circulating throughout your RV. You can adjust the furnace’s temperature using a thermostat like at home. The furnace will draw in cool air from a cold-air return vent before heating it via a burner and directing the warm air through your RV’s ductwork.

One thing to keep top of mind is that your RV furnace is only meant to operate while you’re not in motion and you have a power source. If you try to run it while boondocking or off-grid camping, you’ll quickly drain your battery – potentially risk your safety. It’s a good idea to research alternative heat sources, like portable indoor gas heaters if you plan off-grid adventures. 

Determining the location of your RV furnace.

When it comes to your RV furnace, its location is crucial information to know. However, where your RV furnace is located can vary by RV model and make.

In most RVs, travel trailers, and fifth wheels the furnace will be located near the back of the camper.  They’re usually fairly low making it easier to access if you need to do maintenance.  On our Dutchmen Kodiak travel trailer, for example, the furnace is located at the back-most end of the camper below a drawer. 

Sometimes, the furnace can be found at the bottom of a storage area or cabinet. Sometimes, the furnace could be under a bench seat or closet. So, where exactly is your furnace hiding? You may need to get down and crawl under your RV to locate a large metal box with a vent hose. Another option is to check the owner’s manual for the location.

Don’t know where to start? There are some telltale signs you can look out for. Check for a vented grill on the interior wall indicating a furnace behind it. You can also check the exterior of the camper for a panel that has an exhaust pipe coming out from it. Once you find that panel, you can either access your RV’s furnace from outside, or go inside and find the corresponding panel to access the furnace from the inside.

Old School RV Furnace Vent

You might think locating your RV’s furnace is minor, but it’s crucial for regular maintenance and repairs. Knowing its location allows you to easily gain access and carry out routine inspections. Regular cleaning and maintenance can prevent potential hazards, so ensure you know your RV’s furnace location. During the summer months when you’re not using your travel trailer’s furnace you’ll find that mice love nesting in the fan of the furnace. You have to know where it is to get those critters out of there.

Essentials for accessing and maintenance of your RV furnace.

Taking care of your RV furnace ensures a comfortable and seamless trip. However, maintaining it is quite a task, especially if you’re new to it. But that’s quite alright. We’ve got you covered with these maintenance essentials to keep your furnace running smoothly.

Before jumping into maintenance, let’s prioritize safety. Your safety comes first, always! So, before proceeding, ensure your furnace, gas valve, and propane tanks are off. Better yet, disconnect the battery and unplug from shore power. Once you’ve done that, you’re good to go. You don’t want an accidental spark to land you in the hospital.

Start by removing the furnace cover and checking the air filter. A dirty or clogged filter can reduce your furnace’s efficiency, consuming more propane or electricity. If the filter needs replacement, do so, and while you’re at it, clean the vents and ducts to eliminate any dust or debris. Many travel trailer furnaces don’t have a standard type of furnace filter like you would on your home. Instead, the filter is often times the actual furnace cover. If this is the case, clean it well with mild soap and water.

Now that you’ve located your RV furnace and you’re inside your furnace area, inspect it closely for any signs of wear or corrosion. Check for gas or water leaks, damaged wires, or loose connections. Tighten any loose connections and dust the burner and fan. The best thing to clean the area is use a ShopVac and vacuum the entire compartment.

This is also a good time to check the HVAC blower. The blower is cylindrical and has a motor that powers the fan. It is responsible for circulating the air throughout the HVAC system. It is recommended to inspect the blower for any signs of wear and tear or damage. The blower is also where you would generally find mice hanging out. Checking and maintaining the blower will ensure that the airflow is not hindered and that the HVAC system is operating efficiently. By keeping it clean, it should keep the noise to a minimum as well.

Don’t underestimate the power of maintenance. Following these essential steps minimize potential problems and keeps your RV furnace in top condition.

Common RV furnace problems and troubleshooting solutions

RV furnaces are known to be godsend equipment during the biting cold season, but they might not always perform as expected. Inadequate maintenance can lead to furnace problems that could ruin a perfectly good camping trip. Nonetheless, identifying the common issues and fixing them quickly can make all the difference in ensuring you have a comfortable and uninterrupted adventure.

RV furnace not starting.

A common issue with RV furnaces is the failure to ignite. When the furnace’s gas valve shuts down before ignition, it could be due to a dirty ignition orifice or a blocked sail switch. Checking if the propane tanks are refilled and ensuring the furnace has an adequate power supply could also mitigate this problem.

Sometimes, the culprit could be a malfunctioning circuit board or thermostat, which would also prevent the furnace from turning on. You can typically rule out RV furnace electrical components if you hear the clicking sound as it’s trying to start. If you hear that, then the problem is most likely a gas problem.

Camper furnace starts but doesn’t blow air.

Sometimes the furnace will start and you’ll hear the burning working. However, you won’t feel warm air coming out of the vents. 

In this case, the problem is most likely the blower.  If you check and the blower isn’t spinning, make sure no debris is in there. 90% of the time the problem with an RV furnace blower not working is debris (or a mouse) inside. You’ll want to clean it out thoroughly and apply some lubrication to the bearings of the fan.  We typically spray just a tiny bit of PB blaster to the bearings and that gets it going quickly.

A bit of lubrication may also make your furnace a tad more quieter as well.

Gross smells coming from your RV furnace.

Musty odors emanating from the furnace are also typical complaints from RV owners. Such smells are usually caused by a dirty burner assembly, which accumulates debris, spider webs, or other blockages. A handy trick would be using compressed air, vinegar, and water to clean the assembly or burners. Putting well-fitting screen guards over the vents could also help prevent debris from getting stuck in the furnace.

Knowing how to identify common issues and apply the right troubleshooting techniques will save you precious time and allow you to get back on the road with a working furnace and no further delays.

Factors to consider when replacing your RV’s furnace.

When replacing your RV furnace, you need to carefully think it through. Several aspects require consideration before you make a purchase decision.

First, you need to determine the size of your RV. Your furnace should match your RV’s heating needs. A small RV will have different furnace requirements than a larger one. Opting for a too-small furnace will not do the job well, while a large furnace creates more fuel costs.

Note that a typical RV furnace has a capacity of 30,000 BTUs per hour. It will consume roughly 0.33 gallons of propane if used nonstop for an hour. As a result, on average, a 30,000 BTU/hour furnace will use one gallon of propane every three hours. So if you go too big, you’ll burn through more propane, but too small, you won’t be warm.

Now that you know your RV’s heating needs, think about the type of furnace you want. Do you prefer a gas, electric, or hybrid furnace? Gas furnaces are ideal for boondocking and camping trips where electricity is not always available. The absence of exhaust makes electric furnaces a safer option and energy-efficient. A hybrid furnace employs the best of both worlds by leveraging gas for extra warmth while mainly using electricity.

The furnace, installation, and maintenance cost is a significant factors to consider. High-efficiency furnaces entail a higher upfront cost. But, they save you considerable amounts in the long term. Installation and maintenance costs may vary, depending on the furnace and your environment’s layout. Pick a furnace with a warranty to evade potentially expensive repairs in the future. Most warranties by the major manufacturers last 3-5 years.

With these pointers in your mind, you’ll make the right furnace choice and keep your RV cozy for years to come. However, by simply maintaining your camper’s furnace it should last a solid 15-20 years before it needs to be replaced.

Stay warm in your RV!

Hopefully this provided valuable insights into your RV furnace and its whereabouts. Locating and upkeeping your furnace can be quite a task. However, some knowledge backed by useful tools can make it a piece of cake.

Remember, inspecting your furnace regularly for any signs of wear and tear is crucial. Don’t hesitate to contact a professional if you encounter any uncertainties. Your furnace’s maintenance is necessary for a cozy and secure RV experience, mainly when the temperature drops.

With the right tools and a sprinkle of know-how, you’re already on your way to a well-functioning RV furnace. 

MattGlamperGear

Matt Johnson


Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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