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Troubleshooting: RV Furnace Runs and Then Shuts Off

Furnaces are unique appliances within a household or RV. A furnace manages to intake gas and use it to create liveable heat. With their relatively complex setup, things can go wrong – or be perceived as wrong.

Having your heat shut on and off can be a bad start when the air outside gets a bit chili. There’s something comforting about the sound of your heat turning on that tells you that your RV is functioning right and keeping you warm.

Your RV furnace can turn on and off for a variety of reasons. The furnace might have internal issues or could be experiencing communication problems. We’ll dive into more detail about potential issues.

Your thermostat and your furnace

What is a thermostat?

Your thermostat serves a pretty important function within your RV’s furnace system. The thermostat has sensors that measure the temperature within the area around the thermostat. 

What the thermostat does with that information is up to you. Let’s assume in this case you have the thermostat set to 68 degrees and want warm air – so you set it that way. If the temperature drops below 68 degrees, the thermostat signals to the furnace to turn on and provide heat. 

Once the thermostat has sensed that the air temperature around it has reached above 68 degrees, the thermostat tells the furnace to stop.

Could shutting on and off be correct?

Possibly. If your RV is well insulated and the temperature inside rises quickly, the RV furnace might run for a short period and then turn off. 

This is to simply say that if your RV reaches the temperature you requested on your thermostat, the furnace should shut off. Reaching the right temperature indicates the thermostat and furnace are working – if it’s too cold still, consider turning the temperature up instead.

Another reason why your furnace is shutting on and off could be because the furnace is undersized for the RV, or it’s really cold out. An RV will lose heat faster when the temperature is very cold, causing cycles to repeat often – which seems like shutting on and off.

A furnace too small for the RV will need to run longer to heat the RV and will likely have to restart soon after it finishes with a cycle. These problems are remedied by insulating the RV or getting a larger furnace for the RV.

Miscommunicating thermostat

The thermostat might also be having communication issues. One good way to test if a thermostat is working properly is to try a temperature gauge or a separate thermometer. Have that separate temperature gauge measure the real tempearture of the house and see if the furnace is turning off early.

Thermostats do wear out and for any number of reasons, send signals at the wrong time. They can shut off prematurely and then wait to signal and start the process of heating again.

If your thermostat is battery powered, look for any indicators that the battery is low.

You can also replace thermostats pretty easily.

The best way to replace your thermostat is to either have a service tech do it, or remove the thermostat from the wall and take a picture of how it is wired. Thermostats can have several wires for communication.

Also, be sure to completely read the instructions for a thermostat before beginning to install. Knowing where to plug things in before just plugging them in makes the whole process much smooter.

Problems within the Furnace

Pilot Light

Whether you have a high efficiency furnace that lights only when in use, or an older furnace with a constant flame, it’s possible that your furnace’s heat might just stop. 

Among ways to correct this are to ensure that the port for the pilot light is clean. A pilot light with debris and soot can have a hard time staying light.

Check your furnace vents

The RV furnace has intake vents that bring in air from the outside to heat, as well as output vents. Ensure that the exterior vent behind the furnace is not clogged.

A furnace vent can get clogged with debris, dust, or even animals. Animals seeking warmth certainly appreciate a good place to hide from chilly weather. Be sure to wear gloves when doing this. You never know what you might find.

The biggest issue with furnace vents is potential overheating. If your furnace can’t breath, it can readily overheat and just shut off before it has the chance to heat your RV.

Gas Supply

Your furnace might be shutting off because of issues with the gas supply. This is a bit less likely, but ensure that your supply of propane is turned completely on and is not obstructed. 

If your furnace just isn’t blowing warm air at all, the issue could be that your gas supply is turned off entirely, which would result in the furnace turning off and on.

Basic maintenance that can help

Before firing up your furnace for the cold season where you are, check the above lost including the exhaust and intake vents and the pilot light. Checking problems ahead can lead to less frustration like your furnace not working properly when you really need it. Intake vent problems also pose potential safety issues and should be checked once per year.

Conclusion

Your RV furnace provides vital heat for your RV. When it shuts off abrupt during the course of a winter, it can create problems and uneven heat in the RV. Use our suggestions as basic maintenance first and then recovering your furnaces abilities later too, of course.

Most of the above can be done with a simple screwdriver as you’ll likely only need to take a vent cover off. Otherwise, gloves and a trash bag might be helpfu for cleaning our dirty vents. Some instruction reading and knowledge of wires will certainly help in the event of inspecting and replacing your thermostat.

We wish you a warm RV!

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