How Does An RV Furnace Work? (Simplified!)

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Key Takeaways
● RV furnaces are powered by propane or natural gas and work by burning fuel to create heat.
● The main components of an RV furnace include the blower motor, burners, air filter, thermostat and more.
● Proper maintenance of an RV furnace is essential to ensure optimal performance and help avoid any potential issues.

An RV furnace is an essential item to have when camping in cold weather. But how does it work? And what should you do if it stops working?

An RV furnace works by burning fuel, usually propane or natural gas, and using a blower motor to circulate the warm air throughout the RV.

The main components of an RV furnace include the burners, the exhaust system and venting system, the blower motor, the air filter, the thermostat and more.

This blog post will take a deeper look at how an RV furnace works and provide some tips on troubleshooting and repairing them. 

So if you’re wondering how your RV furnace works or have had problems with it, read on for more information!

RV Furnace Basics

RV Furnace Basics

Like a home furnace, an RV propane burns fuel to produce hot air. The difference is that it’s SMALLER and designed for use in an RV or other recreational vehicle. Fuel can be propane or diesel, depending on the setup of your unit.

The RV propane space heaters draw in air, mix it with the fuel and spark an igniter to create a combustion reaction. This produces HEAT, sent through ducts throughout your RV to keep it warm (this is also called a forced air heater).

This is all REGULATED by a thermostat, which controls when RV propane furnaces turn on and off as needed to maintain an even temperature within the RV.

What Components Makeup An RV Furnace?

What Components Makeup An RV Furnace

An RV furnace has several components that work together to provide heat in your recreational vehicle. Here are the different parts that make up an RV furnace:

Fuel Line and Regulator

The fuel line and regulator are responsible for delivering the CORRECT amount of fuel to the furnace. The fuel line connects to a regulated supply of fuel, such as a propane tank, depending on the type of RV furnace you have.

The regulator controls the flow rate to match what is required for combustion. It also monitors the PRESSURE so it remains steady and the fuel flow is consistent.

Gas Valve

The gas valve controls the FLOW of fuel to the burners. It switches on and off in response to signals from the thermostat and controls the fuel supply accordingly.

Pro Tip: lp gas regulators and valves should regularly be inspected for LEAKS and damage.

Ignition Control Module

The ignition control module controls the timing of when fuel and air are MIXED and ignited to create combustion in the furnace

It monitors the temperature and pressure within the RV and then sends a signal to ignite the mixture at just the right moment.

This helps ensure that the furnace runs EFFICIENTLY, with no oversupply of fuel or too much air being used up. It also prevents dangerous situations by ensuring proper timing for each ignition cycle.

The ignition control module is usually a small BOX that houses a circuit board containing wiring and other components. It is powered by electricity from the RV’s main battery or an auxiliary power source.

The module also relays DATA back to the thermostat, which then adjusts the furnace‘s output based on the needed heat [1]. This helps to ensure that your RV remains comfortable at all times.

Burner Assembly

The burner assembly is the part of the furnace that creates heat. It is composed of a fuel nozzle, spark igniter and air intake.

The burner assembly also houses a flame ACCESSORY that monitors the presence of a flame within the furnace. This helps ensure no fuel leakage or other dangerous situations are happening inside the RV.

Blower Motor

The blower motor is responsible for SENDING the hot air produced by the furnace throughout the RV. It uses a fan to push air through the ducts and out of vents in each room.

The blower motor can be powered by electricity or run off 12-volt DC power from your RV’s battery system [2].

Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger is the furnace part that TRANSFERS the heat from combustion to the air in your RV. It comprises metal tubes, fins and other components that help exchange heat between fuel and air efficiently.

This helps ensure that as much heat as possible is transferred from the combustion process into your RV, keeping it warm and comfortable.

Air Filter

The air filter helps keep DUST and other airborne particles from entering your RV’s furnace. It is usually a replaceable part that can be easily changed or cleaned as needed to maintain the proper functioning of your furnace.


The thermostat is the CONTROL center of your RV furnace [3]. It is responsible for regulating when the furnace turns on and off and how much heat it produces to maintain a comfortable temperature inside your RV.

It monitors the temperature within the RV and then sends signals to other components to adjust the amount of heat produced. This helps ensure that your RV remains comfortable, no matter the temperature.

Ventilation System

The ventilation system of your RV propane furnace is responsible for removing EXHAUST fumes produced by combustion. It consists of ducts and vents designed to direct the exhaust outside your RV, away from you and your family.

This helps ensure that no dangerous fumes or gases enter the cabin space and that your RV stays safe and comfortable.

Pro Tip: Regularly check your furnace’s components and replace worn-out parts.

How Does A Furnace Burn Fuel To Create Heat?

How Does A Furnace Burn Fuel To Create Heat

An RV propane furnace work through a series of simple steps. See the steps below:

Step 1: Fuel Supply

The furnace RECEIVES fuel from a supply line, such as propane or natural gas. This fuel is then sent to the burner assembly, where it will be ignited.

Step 2: Ignition

The spark igniter inside the burner assembly produces a small SPARK which ignites the fuel. This creates a small flame that will burn the fuel and create heat.

Step 3: Combustion

The burning of the fuel releases energy in the form of HEAT, which the heat exchanger transfers to the air around it. This heated air then moves through the ducts and out into your RV.

Step 4: Temperature Control

The thermostat monitors the RV’s temperature and ADJUSTS the fuel supplied to the burner assembly accordingly. This helps ensure that your RV stays warm and comfortable at all times.

Step 5: Exhaust Ventilation

Finally, the furnace‘s ventilation system removes any exhaust fumes created in the combustion process and directs them outside the RV. This helps ensure that no dangerous fumes or gases enter the cabin space and keeps your family SAFE.

Pro Tip: Use a CO2 detector to protect your RV from harmful gases.

Safety Considerations For RV Furnaces

Safety Considerations For RV Furnaces

Given the potential hazards of using an RV propane heater, you must take all necessary safety precautions. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Check For Leaks

Before using your RV’s electric heaters, it is important to check for any gas leaks. Make sure all connections are tight and secure and use a soapy water solution on any visible joints or pipes to detect if there are any unseen leaks.

If you find any, make sure to take the necessary steps to fix them BEFORE turning on your furnace.

Never Overload The Furnace

It is also important to never overload your RV’s furnace. This can cause it to overheat and, in some cases, even start a fire.

Make sure you only use the recommended AMOUNT of fuel for your furnace and monitor its operation frequently. If you notice any strange smells or smoke, turn the furnace off immediately and inspect it for potential problems.


It is also important to ensure that your furnace‘s ventilation system is working properly. Ensure that all the exhaust vents and ducts are clear and free from debris, as this can RESTRICT airflow and cause the furnace to overheat.

Test Regularly

Furthermore, it is essential to TEST your RV’s furnace regularly. This will help you identify any potential problems before they become severe and helps ensure that your furnace continues to work properly.

Invest In A Carbon Monoxide Detector

Finally, installing a carbon monoxide detector inside your RV is highly recommended. 

This device will ALERT you if there are any dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the air and helps protect you and your family from potential hazards.

Pro Tip: Read your furnace’s instruction manual before operating it.

Maintaining Your RV Furnace For Optimal Performance

Maintaining Your RV Furnace For Optimal Performance

Maintaining your RV propane furnace is essential to ensure optimal performance and safe operation. You can do this by following these steps:

  • Clean the propane heater regularly by vacuuming any dust or dirt that accumulates in and around it.
  • Check all connections for a propane leak, crack or damage.
  • Make sure that air intake vents and ducts are clear of debris to ensure proper airflow.
  • Ensure that the thermostat is adjusted correctly and that it is working properly.
  • Regularly check the furnace‘s fuel lines to ensure they are in good condition and free from buildup.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use A Different Type Of Fuel In My RV Furnace?

No, the fuel your propane RV furnace is designed to use must be followed. Attempting to use a different fuel type may damage or even cause a fire. Only use propane, natural gas, or the manufacturer’s recommended fuel.

How Much Propane Does An RV Furnace Use?

The amount of propane a furnace uses depends on the size of your RV and how often you use the furnace. Generally speaking, an average-sized RV will use around ½ gallon of propane every 24 hours.

What Do I Do If There’s A Propane Smell In My RV?

If you detect a propane smell in your RV, immediately turn off the furnace and all appliances. Open windows and doors to help ventilate the area and get fresh air inside.

Check for any visible signs of a leak or malfunctioning components. If you cannot identify the source, contact a professional for assistance.



Burning fuel to generate heat is the basis for how an RV heater works. By understanding the different parts of the furnace and how they work together, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience using this type of appliance.

Follow proper maintenance procedures to keep your furnace running efficiently and effectively. Should any problems arise, sources are available to help you troubleshoot and resolve them.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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