Furnace Replacement for Bigfoot 17 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-28-2017, 09:37 AM   #1
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Furnace Replacement for Bigfoot 17

I think it's that time...the fan is noisy, but because of replacement costs, I've been living with it.

But...when I fired it up for the first time this fall, it took a while to light...but finally did.

I've noticed at night a couple times it sort of "booms", like the propane wasn't lighting, then did light after a bit too much gas was in the system. But I could be hearing something else. I just know it's been having difficulty lighting.

Before we get onto the usual stuff: I have plenty of propane, all my other propane appliances are working, my battery has plenty of charge, the thermostat is kicking on, the fan blows at full speed. Just no heat. It ran for probably an hour last night, blowing cold air, before I realized I'd better get out of bed and shut it off. As of the time I left for work this morning, I couldn't get any heat out of it.

Anyway...I'm willing to do a bit of electrical trouble shooting...but if it comes to replacing the board, I'd rather pay for a new heater than over $100 for a new board on a 26 year old heater with a squeaky fan.

The furnace is an Atwood hydro flame, everest star 79/80 series. Electronic ignition. I found one thread where trainjunkie replaced his with the direct replacement model...but looking at those, they're anywhere from $600 to $1,200. A 16K BTU Suburban is under $400.

Anyone replace their furnace in the Bigfoot? I saw another thread with a non-fan model, but it won't fit my camper...they had I think center bath models.

I'm going to dig into dimensions and measure, but I'm obviously hoping someone out there has replaced their furnace and can just spoon-feed me the info!
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Old 09-28-2017, 12:14 PM   #2
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So the Suburban heater is: 1 1/2" less tall. 1 3/8" wider. 2" deeper than stock. I'm guessing there's room to play with in the depth. I'll probably have to cut the opening a little wider. Hopefully the face plate will cover up the 1.5" of extra space on the height..?

So I'm guessing it can be done without much issue.

Anyone have any insight into why a comparable Suburban heater is in the $360 range, while the Atwood is at least $600?
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Old 09-28-2017, 03:43 PM   #3
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Maybe the difference is because the Attwood is rated to work at higher altitude than most heaters want to work at. Maybe check the power consumption between the two.
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Old 09-28-2017, 04:15 PM   #4
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I did see that Atwood has the claim of being on Everest, and some marine expeditions.

Atwood (12k): amp draw of 2.9A 12V DC

Suburban (16k): Amp. Draw: 2.7

Could be that Atwood is just the Mercedes of furnaces...I don't know. I only see one model they make for non-ducted furnaces. Where Suburban makes a bunch.

I dunno...
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Old 09-28-2017, 04:25 PM   #5
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We were getting ready to replace our 1988 Atwood for the same reason, but I decided to hold off due to the direct-replacement price. We don't camp in the cold that much, so we've been using a milk house heater from Farm & Fleet. Then I decided to try again to get the Atwood going. Instead of a few gentle taps on the gas valve to un stick it (suggested by many), I gave the valve about 12 solid knocks with a long handle screwdriver and a hammer. Lo and behold, it has now run fine for 3 consecutive colder nights in Michigan with just that original knocking. I guess I'll keep knocking on it as long as that works. We will need it again tomorrow night, so we'll see how it goes. Keeping my fingers crossed!
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Old 09-28-2017, 06:19 PM   #6
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Like the old car starter trick! I like it. I'll try it tonight. If it gets me through till I can replace it, that would be nice...
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Old 09-28-2017, 06:40 PM   #7
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Well I fried something while I was messing around with connections this morning. Won't even start running the fan now. The fuse is good.

I do see one reason why people wouldn't want to switch to Suburban in their Bigfoot...pretty sure I'll need to cut another hole or modify the hole in the shell for the exhaust. Suburban has a bit of a different orientation than Atwood. I found one on Ebay for $199 though! At that price...a little fiberglass work is probably worth it, don't you think?
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Old 09-28-2017, 10:23 PM   #8
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I'm interested in this topic but have nothing constructive to add. Therefore, I'll jump right in.

Would it be feasible to replace the furnace with an Olympic Wave 3 heater mounted in the same place?
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Old 09-29-2017, 06:54 AM   #9
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Be sure to check all the fuses/breakers in the panel and converter. We had a lack of power to some systems because of a blown 30 amp fuse deep inside the converter.

Regarding the Wave heater...we had one in our UHaul VT and it worked fine if you sat in front of it. It heats objects directly in front of the unit but doesn't distribute heat well. I think it would have to be perfectly aligned to heat the length of the interior.
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Old 09-29-2017, 09:10 AM   #10
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Yeah I definitely want a heater with a blower motor, even though it takes battery power. My trailer is big enough that I think the blower is key.

Everything on the same fuse as the heater still works fine. And before I saw a spark, the heater was trying to ignite. Just tried a few times then gave up and went into safe mode or shut down or whatever the manual refers to it as.

I haven't identified the part I was looking at when I pulled the wire and saw a spark, but I'm sure I just fried that little piece of electronics.

I'm hesitant to buy the Suburban and have to cut my shell in one place and patch the old hole in the other...but I don't see any time in the next few years when I'll be able to justify the $600+ for a new Atwood...so it looks like Suburban it is!
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Old 09-30-2017, 01:12 PM   #11
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Prices seem to have gone up overnight on Suburbans...still the cheapest thing out there, but with the shell modifications and winter just around the corner...I'm leaning towards rehabbing my furnace. I may just pull it and replace the circuit board, sail switch and look into queiting the blower. Will probably add up to the cost of a new suburban but without the cutting and patching. We'll see. I'll only be on the camper for a few more weeks.

I can just have the furnace out and hopefully figure out how to test the electronics. Haven't been able to work it out yet from online sources...
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Old 09-30-2017, 06:24 PM   #12
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Have you called any RV salvage yards about a good, later model used Atwood? I got lucky and found the 18K Atwood Everest for $450.00 when Chuck still had fiberglasstraveltrailersrv.com but man, prices sure have climbed since then. At the time though I located a couple used ones at salvage places. The price difference then wasn't enough for me to take the risk. But it might be now.
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Old 10-01-2017, 09:14 AM   #13
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I haven't looked into that yet. I guess I figure these furnaces tend to fail for common reasons. So unless I know that a used one has already had things replaced, I'd be better off just fixing the one I've got.

The online info and manual info on testing as usual assume a higher familiarity with electronics and testing procedures than I have, so they haven't been much help. They're too loose with terminology and don't explain enough to get an amateur through the process. But even if I just throw parts at it like sail switch, circuit board, maybe even a new motor, I'm still under $400.

I don't know, but it's annoying!

I think my trailer is just at that age where things are needing replacement.

Good to see you're still around!
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Old 10-01-2017, 10:24 AM   #14
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I would have that furnace checked it might be bad it might not be. I suspect your pilot control is going out and easy cheap fix by the way. I would start there before buying new! just my 2c.
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