How Does A Camper Furnace Work? 7 Facts You Should Know!

What is Camper Furnace?

How Does A Camper Furnace Work

Propane is pumped into the system to power a camper furnace.

  •  This triggers an electrical signal that begins a sequence of processes to bring warm air into your living space. An ignitor creates a spark to ignite the propane, and a fan drives fresh outside air into an intake port. 
  • The propane is then burned with the fresh air in a combustion chamber
  • Hot air flows over heated piping and is pushed out from vents throughout the RV, keeping it warm.

RV furnaces are fuel-efficient and can be automated. However, proper airflow must be maintained when starting the system, and too much propane can cause damage.

 Maintenance is important, including cleaning the air intake, burners, and exhaust vent, and checking for propane leaks.

I once encountered a situation while winter camping where two space heaters shut off suddenly due to a malfunctioning circuit board or bearing failure.

 It is always wise to consult a technician or repairman if you suspect a problem with your furnace.

How A Camper Furnace Works.

To learn how your camper furnace works, think of it as a combination of several different components. To fully understand how things operate, I will take you through each one by one. 

First, we’ll cover the components of a camper furnace system, followed by the propane tank and supply. Then we’ll dive into the blower fan and motor, circuit board and sail switch, igniter or pilot light, burner assembly, combustion chamber, hot air and cold air return, exhaust vent, and outside air intake, and finally, the thermostat control panel.

Components of a Camper Furnace System.

A camper furnace system has various components which work together to keep you toasty on camping trips.

 This includes:

  • A furnace unit.
  • Propane tank.
  • Ductwork.
  • Thermostat.
  • Air filter.

Some furnaces need electricity to start, while others have pilot lights that ignite fuel right away. Plus, modern furnaces have safety features like auto shut-off switches if the gas levels go too high.

In ancient times, candle-lit tents or fire pits kept campers warm. Nowadays, camper furnaces are more efficient and safer. Making sure you’re safe and having fun is what these improvements are all about.

 So, don’t worry about running out of propane; just make sure your campfire stories don’t suck!

Propane tank and supply.

When it comes to heating a camper, the propane tank and supply are essential

  • A standard tank contains 20 pounds of fuel and can last up to 10 days for an average RV furnace. 
  • The fuel travels through pipes into the regulator, where pressure is reduced
  • The piping system is placed outside or inside the camper to provide enough fuel. Also, regulators shut down when temperatures drop too low

Pro Tip: Always consult a professional or refer to the manufacturer’s guide before working with propane tanks.

 Finally, the blower fan and motor help campers stay warm and cozy while enjoying the outdoors.

Blower fan and motor.

The blower fan and motor are essential for a camper furnace. The blower circulates air and the motor supplies power to operate it. To make sure your heater runs correctly and lasts, a routine inspection by a specialist is necessary.

My family and I were going camping and the temperature was dropping. So, we had a technician inspect our camper furnace. Thanks to his quality work, we stayed warm during our outing. 

Don’t forget, the circuit board and sail switch won’t turn evil… for now!

Circuit Board and Sail Switch.

Camper furnaces have various components that work together to create a cozy atmosphere. One of the main parts is the circuit board and sail switch. The circuit board controls the furnace, while the sail switch detects any airflow issues.

The circuit board is triggered when the thermostat senses a temperature change. Then, it sends an electrical signal to ignite the propane gas. The air passes over the heat exchanger and circulates throughout the camper. If there’s a blockage, it triggers the sail switch and shuts off the furnace until the obstruction is cleared.

It’s important to understand how the furnace works. Regular maintenance can prevent unexpected breakdowns and ensure your camper is always ready for a comfortable camping trip. 

Plus, the igniter or pilot light lets you have a mini-inferno inside your camper!

Igniter or Pilot Light.

The Igniter or Pilot Light is responsible for starting the camper furnace. It doesn’t need matches or lighters; it uses electrical signals. Let’s take a closer look at its components. 

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Thermocouple: Detects heat from a pilot light and creates voltage.
  • Gas valve: Controls gas flow to the burner.
  • Ignition: Generates spark to ignite gas inside combustion.
  • Burner: Converts gas to heat with combustion.

The igniter’s safety feature is special. If there’s no flame when fuel flows, the thermocouple won’t allow gas in. This helps avoid hazardous situations and the build-up of unlit gas.

To keep your igniter running properly, keep it clean and free of dust. This ensures reliable ignition and protects essential parts like thermocouples and ignition modules. 

Enjoy warmth and comfort for camping with the fiery love affair between the burner assembly and combustion chamber!

Burner Assembly and Combustion Chamber.

The Burner Assembly and Combustion Chamber are key components of a camper furnace. The assembly heats the chamber, which then ignites propane or natural gas to create heat energy. A well-made burner assembly is necessary for the fuel to burn efficiently, leading to less waste and lower costs. Plus, it ensures a more even distribution of heat in the camper.

To keep your burner assembly running smoothly, regular cleaning and inspection by a professional is essential. Also, make sure proper air intake and exhaust vent clearance are maintained to avoid hazardous carbon monoxide levels or other issues.

In conclusion, understanding how the Burner Assembly and Combustion Chamber work together is a must for an effective camper furnace. Investing in regular maintenance prevents pricey repairs while ensuring your safety inside your RV. 

The hot and cold air returns, like a quarrelsome couple, must be monitored to keep the furnace running optimally.

Hot Air and Cold Air Return.

Hot air and cold air returns are essential for a camper furnace. They make sure warm and cool air flows correctly. The hot air duct system lets heated air into the living space. The cold air system circulates air already inside the vehicle.

Here’s what each component does:

  • Blower Motor: Draws in cool air.
  • Heat Exchanger: Warms the cool airstream.
  • Equalizer Duct: Keeps correct temperature in the unit.
  • Outlet Ducts: Distribute warm, filtered air into the living area.

To keep the furnace running smoothly, regular maintenance is key. Get rid of dust and debris from ducts with compressed air. Also, replace filters on time so air can flow freely.

One time I had trouble starting the camper furnace in really cold weather. Then I realized the filters were clogged. So, I changed them and started regularly checking them. This made the furnace work well, no matter the outdoor conditions.

Why let nature bring in fresh air when your camper furnace can do it for you? #LazyCampingGoals

Exhaust Vent and Outside Air Intake.

Exhaust vents and outside air intake are essential for a safe and efficient camper furnace.

 The table below gives details:

Exhaust VentOutside Air Intake
On the side or roof.Near or on the furnace.
Vents hot air and gases to outside.Get fresh air from outside.
Must be installed as per manufacturer specs. for safetyKeep the area around it clear of debris.

If you smell strange fumes from your furnace, switch it off and check the exhaust vent for blockages. 

Also, inspect your furnace before use. Clean or change the air filter regularly for the proper functioning of the furnace. This will ensure sufficient airflow into the unit. 

By taking these precautions, you can have a cozy and safe camping experience with a well-functioning camper furnace. 

Who needs a companion for warmth when you have a thermostat control panel?

Thermostat control panel.

The thermostat control panel is vital for a camper furnace. It talks to the furnace’s circuit board, which controls propane flow and combustion. It usually has basic settings like on/off and temp adjustments with a dial or digital display. Modern thermostats offer extra features like programmable schedules, fan control; even WiFi for remote use via a mobile app.

Proper setup of the thermostat is needed to get efficient furnace performance and avoid safety hazards from gas leaks and faulty equipment. Some models have separate switches or buttons for fan speed, ignition, and power supply. These work with the thermostat control panel to give reliable heating in different conditions.

It’s interesting to know that thermostats have been around since ancient Greece. Warren S. Johnson patented the first modern thermostat in 1883 with a bimetallic strip that reacted to temp changes by opening/closing electrical contacts. Now we have advanced digital thermostats; amazing progress!

Taking care of your camper furnace needs attention like a baby; except it won’t wake you up in the middle of the night!

Camper Furnace Use And Maintenance.

To ensure your camper furnace is running efficiently throughout your trip, knowing how to properly use and maintain it is crucial. 

In this section, I’ll provide tips and tricks on how to turn on your furnace, how much propane and battery power is required, and how long it can run on the battery. 

Safety when using your propane furnace is also important, so we’ll cover safe use guidelines.

 Lastly, we’ll talk about furnace maintenance and care to keep your RV heater running smoothly.

How to turn on the furnace.

To get your camper furnace going, just follow these four steps:

  1. Make sure your RV is on a flat surface.
  2. Go to the thermostat and set it to ‘heat’.
  3. Choose your preferred temperature with the up and down arrows.
  4. Wait a few moments until the furnace ignites and warm air flows from the vents!

Also, take care of your furnace. Clean the filters often and get them checked by professionals.

Pro Tip: Be alert for signs that something’s wrong; like weird noises or smells. This means you need to get it checked out ASAP.

Playing camper furnace chicken? See how long you can get before refilling your propane!

How much propane and battery power furnace require?

Furnace usage is key when camping. It’s essential to know the propane and battery power needs of your furnace.

The table below gives estimates for common models:

ModelPropane UsageBattery Power Usage
Suburban NT-16SEQ0.4-0.9 lbs10-12 amps
Atwood AFSD201210.14-1.2 lbs3.4 amps
Dometic DFSD131210.5-1 lbs8 amps

Actual consumption may differ due to temperature, altitude, and weather. Regular maintenance can help reduce propane and battery usage. Proper insulation and energy-efficient appliances can also reduce the load on the furnace.

My friend learned the hard way; he forgot to switch off the furnace when leaving for a hike and returned to find his battery drained. Research beforehand to avoid such mishaps! 

Keep your battery charged and you’ll have a warm night.

How long the furnace can run on the battery?

A camper furnace powered by a battery can be a convenient and practical solution for outdoor enthusiasts. But, the length of time it runs depends on things like weather, insulation, and battery capacity. Generally, batteries last 6-10 hours before needing a recharge. Monitor battery levels to prevent sudden shutdowns.

To make the most of your furnace’s battery life, keep up regular maintenance.

  •  Clean or change filters every few months. 
  • Inspect it at least once yearly by a pro. 
  • Clear exhaust pipe blockages often. 
  • Dirty filters cause weak airflow, leading to inefficient heating and more battery pressure. 
  • With proper upkeep, your furnace will last longer and use less energy.

Don’t take a chance in cold weather; keeping your camper furnace in order is an adventurer’s priority. Check battery levels frequently and plan maintenance appointments for optimal furnace performance. With the right care, your furnace will heat up those chilly nights spent off-road or beneath twinkling stars.

 Remember, never use your propane furnace wearing polyester; it’s like a plastic suit in a flame!

Safe Use of Propane Furnace.

As an owner, it’s essential to know how to use your propane furnace safely. Before each camping trip, inspect the furnace. Check all gas connections are tight & free of leaks. When using it, open a window or roof vent for ventilation. Keep any flammable items away and never leave them unattended.

Turn off the propane supply when not in use. Don’t use portable heaters inside. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the valve & extinguish any flames. Ventilate & seek help if needed.

Altitude can affect the performance of some furnaces. Consult the manual for instructions on adjusting it at higher elevations. For added safety, invest in carbon monoxide detectors.

Pro Tip: Proper maintenance of your camper furnace will keep you warm even on cold days.

Maintenance and care.

Good camper furnace care is a must for comfy outdoor living. Do maintenance to keep it running well and avoid breakdowns on your trips.

  • Clean it, check the air filter, and look at the ducts and registers.
  • Clean the blower assembly, scrub the heat exchanger, and inspect for leaks. Make sure to unplug power sources before cleaning.
  • Change dirty air filters to ensure ideal airflow. Dirty filters will reduce efficiency or damage the system. Inspect regularly as dust can accumulate fast.
  • Check ducts and registers for clogs or foreign materials. This lets heat disperse throughout your RV.

Before each camping trip, use your time at home to inspect your furnace. Taking care of these details ahead of time prevents any surprises on your journeys. 

So why snuggle with your significant other when you can snuggle with your well-maintained camper furnace?

Issues And Problems With Camper Furnace.

To deal with possible complications in your camper furnace while on the road, you have to know how to troubleshoot and fix them. 

In this segment on issues and problems with camper furnaces; in particular, the heating system; we will be covering various critical sub-sections such as fixing heating issues, fan and blower problems, troubleshooting pilot light or igniter issues, detecting LP gas regulators and leaks, understanding safety limit switches and detectors, addressing cold weather furnace problems, and handling hydronic heating system issues.

Heating Issues.

Camper furnaces are key for a comfy camping trip, but heating problems are common. 

  • Clogged vents or grubby burners can lead to inadequate heat output.
  •  Plus, blocked ducts can cause uneven heat.
  •  Malfunctioning wiring and thermostats can also cause issues.

 Not maintaining your furnace can create safety risks. To avoid these, clean your unit regularly and get it serviced yearly. 

Pro Tip: For extra safety, keep a carbon monoxide detector in your camper.

Fan and Blower Problems.

In a camper furnace, the fan and blower are key to proper ventilation and heating. However, there can be problems. 

  • Lubrication or wear and tear can cause the motor to fail.
  •  The fan belt may also get loose or damaged.

To fix, check wiring and connections. Clean the fan blades and fins to remove any buildup. Change worn-out belts if needed.

Air filter cleanliness is also vital. A clogged filter reduces airflow and strains the blower motor. So, clean or replace your filter regularly.

We had a blower malfunction during our camping trip. The thermostat was faulty, meaning the blower couldn’t run continuously, despite needing to heat space. We had to replace the thermostat quickly.

Keep your Camper furnace working by performing periodic maintenance checks and making repairs when needed

And remember: rubbing two sticks together only works in the movies!

Pilot Light or Igniter not working.

Frustratingly, when your RV furnace won’t work, it may be due to the pilot light or igniter not working properly. This could leave you cold and uncomfortable; so what can you do? 

Here are a few steps to help troubleshoot:

  1. Check for power. Is the furnace switched on and has power?
  2. Clean the pilot light. Is it clogged or dirty? Try using a small brush.
  3. Reset the igniter. Turn off the power and back on again.
  4. Replace parts if needed. Get a pro to help.

Remember, if you’re inexperienced with RV furnaces, it can be better to get help from a professional. Different models may need manual or electronic ignition systems; check your owner’s manual or contact a technician for advice.

An RVer once had a blocked gas line which led to no heating in freezing conditions. After several DIY attempts failed, they called in a pro who fixed the issue and enabled a comfy journey. 

Gas leaks? More like gas SNEAKS, am I right?

LP Gas Regulators and Leaks.

LP Gas regulators can cause problems for campers on trips. Malfunctioning regulators can lead to leaks, which can be hazardous; explosions, or fires!

The following are some key points to remember:

  • LP gas regulator: Regulates propane gas from the storage tank to camper appliances. Malfunctioning causes inconsistent flame and affects furnace performance.
  • Leaks: Gas lines, fittings, or tank connections may be the cause of accidents. So, inspect for any leaks regularly.
  • Fixes: Identifying and fixing leaks quickly is a priority. Check pressure readings or switch out aging regulators.

Remember: Before your trip, check that all furnaces (including LP Gas regulators) are in good condition. Maintain them properly for efficient functioning.

Pro Tip: Double-check with safety limit switches and detectors; your camper furnace has trust issues!

Safety Limit Switches and Detectors.

In the camper furnace world, safety limit switches and detectors are must-haves. They make sure your furnace is running well and safely, without any danger to the users or the vehicle.

Check out the components below:

  • High Limit Switch: Shut off the furnace if the temperature goes too high.
  • Sail Switch: Check that there’s airflow before turning on the furnace.
  • Flame Sensor: Detects if there’s a flame in the combustion chamber.
  • Pressure Switch: Ensures proper ventilation for safe operation.

Proper maintenance of these components is super important, as failure can lead to bad things like gas leaks or fires.

Keep these safety features in check and your furnace will be ready to go when the cold weather strikes. 

As RV Share says, “Neglecting routine maintenance on your RV propane system — especially when it comes to leak detection — can have catastrophic consequences“.

Bottom line: Never neglect the maintenance of these essential furnace parts; user safety should always come first!

Cold Weather Furnace Problems.

Camper furnaces are essential in cold weather. But problems may arise. An overloaded furnace? Air not circulating. Dirty filter? Inadequate heating. Malfunctioning thermostat? Won’t turn on/off.

What to do?

  • Switch to a smaller furnace.
  • Re-balance the system.
  • Clean/replace filters.
  • Check the thermostat function.

Stay warm this winter with hydronic heating! Hot water pipes running through your RV; that’s cozy!

Hydronic Heating Systems.

Hydronic heating systems are increasingly popular for camper furnaces. They use hot water to transfer heat, making them more efficient and quiet than standard forced-air furnaces. However, installation can be costly and complex due to plumbing, pumps, and valves.

Regular maintenance is a must: winterizing and cleaning the heat exchanger, monitoring water levels, and addressing leaks ASAP.

Pro Tip: Consider hiring a pro to install and maintain your hydronic heating system for the best performance. 

Costing more than a campfire cuddle-up? Consider it!

Cost And Efficiency Of Camper Furnace. 

To understand the cost and efficiency of your camper furnace with BTU rating and efficiency, propane usage and cost, electricity use and ampere-hours, and maintaining proper airflow and ventilation. 

Each of these subsections serves as a solution to optimize the performance of your RV furnace, save propane, and electricity, and maximize its potential to keep you warm and cozy during your trip.

BTU Rating and Efficiency.

The table displays three types of camper furnaces along with their specifications;

  1.  Suburban NT-16SQ with a 16,000 BTU rating and 81% efficiency.
  2. Atwood AFMD20 with a 20,000 BTU rating and 85% efficiency.
  3. Truma VarioHeat Eco with an 11,000/18,000 BTU rating and 90% efficiency.

The Truma VarioHeat Eco has the highest efficiency rating even though it has a lower BTU output range. This suggests it generates more heat with less energy consumed. 

Both BTU rating and efficiency should be taken into account when choosing a camper furnace. Moreover, installation and maintenance are important factors that influence overall efficiency.

It is advised to consult with an expert before making a purchase. Don’t let inefficient heating ruin your camping adventure! Make sure to select a camper furnace that provides optimal comfort and warmth on cold nights. 

Propane may be expensive, but you can at least ensure warmth with a camper furnace.

Propane Usage and Cost.

Propane in your camper furnace can make a huge difference in usage and cost. Know the details to decide the best option. 

Here’s how propane use and cost can vary.

  • Type of Furnace: Direct Vent Furnace.
  • Heat Output: 16,000 – 25,000 BTUs per hour.
  • Propane Usage: 0.4 – 0.5 gallons per hour.
  • Cost Per Gallon of Propane: $3 – $5.
  • Hourly Cost: $1.20 – $2.50.

Costs depend on the frequency and size of your camper too. Plan and budget for propane ahead of time!

Maintaining and cleaning your furnace can help save money. Cleaning or repairs can keep it running smoothly.

Be prepared and avoid unwanted expenses. Minimize propane costs and maximize your camper’s comfort.

When it comes to your camping experience, prep is key!

Electricity Use and Ampere Hours.

When camping, electricity consumption is essential. Knowing the Ampere Hours required can help plan power usage. 

Here’s a table about electricity use and Ampere Hours for camp furnaces:

Furnace TypeWattsAmpsAmpere Hours/Hour

Electric furnaces consume more power than propane ones. This may require extra power sources or solar panels, increasing camping costs states that, on average, residential energy consumption decreases by 1% per degree Fahrenheit lowered in winter. Using this with a propane furnace can reduce power consumption.

Maintaining Proper Airflow and Ventilation.

Proper airflow and ventilation are essential for your camper furnace’s efficiency and longevity. Without it, your furnace might not evenly distribute heat, resulting in cold spots, moisture, and damage. 

  • Check ducts and registers for blockages, clean filters, and keep objects away from vents.
  • In high-altitude environments or extreme weather conditions, consider extra ventilation or draft vents to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Inspect the camper’s HVAC and appliances once per year before winter.

Address issues as soon as possible for lasting savings. Regular maintenance can extend device lifespans. No matter how powerful the camping stove or heater is, without upkeep, they won’t last. 

To keep warm, cuddle up with a pile of cash.

Alternatives To Camper Furnace. 

To keep warm in your RV while dry camping, you may want to consider some alternatives to Camper Furnace with propane heat. Space heaters and portable air furnaces are other options that you can use at your convenience. Another option is a Diesel Heater which can save you a lot of propane. The Hydronic Heating System used in domestic heating work via hot water will also work well in your RV.

Space heaters and Portable Air Furnaces.

Bring your camping up to the next level with portable air furnaces and space heaters

The table below shows the differences between the two.

Parameters Portable Air FurnacesSpace Heaters
SizeCompact and tallSmall and tabletop size
Best for tent sizeLarger tents up to 400 sq ftSmaller spaces up to 150 sq ft
Power SourcePropane gas or electricityMostly electricity

Portable air furnaces are great for larger tents up to 400 sq ft while space heaters work best for smaller spaces up to 150 sq ft. Portable air furnaces use propane gas or electricity while space heaters mostly use electricity.

If you’re looking for convenience, go for portable air furnaces as they can provide ample heat throughout the night. But, if you want to save electricity and use it in small spaces, opt for a space heater. 

Don’t let FOMO get you; get ready now with these handy alternatives! If you want a solution with minimal maintenance costs, try out a diesel heater!

Diesel Heaters.

Diesel heaters are worth considering if you’re looking to warm up your camper! 

  • They are highly efficient, using diesel fuel instead of electricity or propane. 
  • Plus, they come with thermostat control and hot water systems.
  •  Installation is usually straightforward with help from instructional videos and online guides.

However, diesel heaters may not be suitable for high-altitude camping due to low oxygen levels. Plus, they make some noise when running. 

So, if you’re going to try one out, make sure to:

  1. Choose a quality unit from a reliable manufacturer.
  2. Get the installation done correctly; no leaks or safety hazards!
  3. Keep spare parts (like fuel filters) on hand.

So, if you want an efficient and reliable way to stay cozy in your RV, diesel heaters are worth considering! 

Say goodbye to shivering, and hello to warm nights on the road!

Hydronic Heating Systems.

Hydronic heating systems are an efficient alternative to camper furnaces. Hot water is pumped throughout the RV for warmth. 

Consider the following table for the info!

NameTypeFuel TypeEfficiency
Aquahot BoilerDieselUp to 94%
HurricaneHeaterPropaneUp to 98%
WebastoHeaterDieselUp to 90%

These systems can also provide hot water. They operate silently and provide consistent heat distribution. Get a system that is compatible with radiant floor heating for extra benefit.

Remember:  Hydronic heating systems take up more space than traditional furnace systems.

Frequently Asked Questions. 

Q1: What types of fuel are commonly used in camper furnaces?

A: Camper furnaces typically use propane or diesel as fuel sources. Propane is the most common choice due to its widespread availability and relatively clean combustion.

Q2: How does the camper furnace generate heat?

A: The furnace contains a burner assembly that mixes the fuel (propane or diesel) with air. This mixture is then ignited by a spark or electric igniter, creating a controlled flame. The burner produces heat, which is used to warm the air inside the furnace.

Q3: What happens to the heated air inside the furnace?

A: Once the air inside the furnace is heated, it is forced through a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger transfers the heat from the combustion process to the air, raising its temperature.

Q4: How is the heated air distributed throughout the camper?

A: The furnace is equipped with a blower motor or fan that pushes the heated air through a series of ducts and vents. These ducts and vents are strategically placed throughout the camper to ensure the even distribution of warm air.

Q5: Is there any safety mechanism in place to prevent carbon monoxide buildup?

A: Yes, camper furnaces are equipped with safety features to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) buildup. They typically include a sealed combustion chamber that separates the combustion process from the interior air, preventing CO from entering the living space. Additionally, modern furnaces have CO detectors and automatic shutdown systems in case of a malfunction.

Q6: How is the temperature controlled in a camper furnace?

A: Camper furnaces have a thermostat that allows the user to set the desired temperature. Once the thermostat detects that the ambient temperature has fallen below the set level, it signals the furnace to ignite and start heating. Once the desired temperature is reached, the furnace will automatically shut off until it’s needed again.


Knowing how an RV propane furnace works is important for winter camping. Propane from tanks heats the air, which is blown by a blower motor. A sail switch sends electricity to the control board, lighting the pilot light. Propane then burns in the combustion chamber, creating hot air. Keeping the RV furnace in top shape is key. Check safety limit switches, burner parts, battery level switches, LP regulators, and exhaust vents for pet hair. Also, have a carbon monoxide detector in the sleeping area.

A tip from technicians: To run the furnace off house batteries, use shore power for at least two hours a day to recharge. Keep the filters clean or replace them often for proper airflow.