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Many people keep their recreational vehicles (RVs) stored in the garage during the cold months. If you are not one of them and love camping even in the chilling days of the year, an RV furnace is a camper appliance that you need the most. You must be wondering how does an RV furnace work? Learning its functions and mechanisms will help you get the best out of this appliance and make it easier to find the causes if it troubles any time.

How Does an RV Furnace Work?

Does RV furnace run off propane or electric? Both.

There are two types of RV furnaces: electric and propane-powered. We’ve discussed the workings of both types so you can decide which one will be more suitable for you.

How Does an RV Propane Furnace Work?

In simple words, a propane furnace is a forced-air system that uses propane as well as some electricity to function. Propane generates heat and the electricity powers up the fan for heat circulation.

A standard propane furnace consists of a blower motor, a thermostat, a safety limit switch, a circuit board, and some vents for air intake and exhaust.

When the thermostat reaches a heating temperature higher than that of the RV, the blower motor becomes automatically active. The heater also starts working as the propane gas burns to generate hot air. Then, the air blows through ducts, thanks to the electricity-run blower fan.

how does an rv propane furnace work
A furnace run on propane.

These furnaces are long-lasting and easy to repair. Since it heats the basement area along with the rig, there are fewer chances of frozen tanks and RV pipes located in the basement.

If you look into the opposite side of the coin, running a propane furnace is costly as it consumes a lot of gas. It also causes heavy noise while running and results in discomfort. You also have to clean the vents regularly. Otherwise, the heater will not work after a time.

How Long Can the Furnace Run on Propane?

Is it clear how does an RV furnace work when it runs on propane? If yes, you might be interested to know the propane consumption rate too.

The amount of propane fuel depends on the size and capacity of the furnace. A large furnace will consume more gas than a smaller one. If you run an average-size RV furnace for one hour at a stretch, it will consume one-third of a gallon. Going at the same rate, a gallon can run it for three hours.

The Workings of an Electric RV Furnace

If you are looking for an environment-friendly solution, you must consider getting an electric furnace for your RV. It is different from a propane furnace in terms of its ability to perform at the highest efficiency. Since an electric trailer furnace provides heat in a particular area, you do not have to waste energy by warming the whole space.

The most common type of electric furnace is Electric Box Furnace. It comes in the shape of a small box that contains a ceramic heating element and a fan. While the heating element generates the heat you need with the help of electricity, the fan circulates the heat outwards. Because of its shape and size, it is conveniently portable.

With an electric furnace, you will get 100% efficiency. Most of the electric furnaces use 500 to 1,500 watts. Remember that choosing a furnace that consumes lesser wattage means it will take more time to heat even a small area. Ultimately, it will end up consuming more energy to warm up an entire RV.

You can also go for an electric wall furnace that is an alternative to the ducted propane system. It can warm the RV by circulating heat throughout by multiple vents. Before choosing this variety, contact the manufacturer to check if there is enough room in your RV to install an electric wall furnace.

Does My RV Furnace Run on Electric?

How does an RV furnace work when it runs on electricity? You already know that. So, how do you find out whether the furnace in your RV needs electrical power or not?

You may have this question in mind whether the furnace needs electricity or not. The answer is yes. Even a propane furnace needs some electrical power to function. Electricity helps to turn on the furnace machine, regulates fuel consumption of a propane furnace, and allows heat pumping and heat reduction.

Forget about running any RV furnace if there is no electricity. In the case of electric furnaces, some can drive electricity directly from the RV sockets, while others may fetch power from a generator or battery. Nevertheless, electric supply is compulsory for the functioning of an electric furnace.

travel trailer furnace operation
An electric RV heater.

If you are looking for an affordable furnace for your travel trailer, electric furnaces are often the cheaper alternative than a propane-run furnace. But, depending on the regulations of the RV camping site, the figures may change. Some RV sites charge for power supply at a daily incremental rate. Hence, before investing in an electric furnace, check the power charge rules of the camping sites where you will stay.

How to Ensure Safety for a Furnace

Before opting for a heating device, you may want to know if it is safe to use RV heaters. Like every other appliance, a furnace is safe to use if you maintain it regularly. To ensure safety for any type of furnace, follow these measures:
A motorhome furnace performs in stressful and extreme weather conditions. Therefore, it is imperative to inspect the system at regular intervals. Check if the monitoring system and the batteries are working accurately.

Another significant safety measure is to inspect the functionality of the smoke detector and the propane detector. Also, do not forget to check the carbon monoxide detector.

If you are planning to install an RV furnace, don’t forget to purchase a fire extinguisher too. It will come handy if any fire is caused by the heating system.


How does an RV furnace work when it runs on propane or electricity? We hope the detailed explanation has cleared your confusion regarding the travel trailer furnace operation. You can now easily decide between propane and electric furnaces.

About Chris Coleman

Chris Coleman is an interesting travel blogger and outdoor photographer with a great sense of humor. He owns an RV Accessories shop in New York City so he has the knowledge necessary to provide thorough reviews and give advice on how to choose the right products for RV travel. He puts all that RV knowledge and experience to good use in his sharing posts. Besides product buying guides/reviews, Chris also writes informative articles, how-to articles and RV camping guides in his own interesting viewpoint. Chris’s blog is one of the most reliable information sources for RV campers no matter if you're an expert or a determined beginner.

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