Furnace procedure - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-10-2011, 07:41 PM   #1
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Furnace procedure

I'm completely new to RVs and as we are approaching our first fall/winter with our 1981 Bigfoot I'm thinking I should learn how to use the furnace. I have never attempted to use the furnace or the hot water heater.

As far as I can tell, the large access panel outside the trailer is used to light the pilot for the hot water heater, but I can't find anything for the furnace.

Is there a single pilot for the two systems? If so, do I have to make sure the hot water tank is full before using the furnace?

Any help would be greatly appreciated before I start fiddling with it - I don't want to blow up my Bigfoot!

Thanks!
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Old 09-10-2011, 08:27 PM   #2
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First, the hot water heater and furnace are two separate systems. When you fire up the water heater, make sure the water system is full including the water heater and the temperature setting is at it's lowest setting.

As for the furnace, you may (should) have access to the front of it, there should be an access door near the bottom, now, something to note, it may not have a pilot light but use electronic ignition, wouldn't hurt to have peel either way to be sure and to make sure everything is all nice and clean before you fire it up.
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Old 09-10-2011, 08:33 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaidah View Post
I'm completely new to RVs and as we are approaching our first fall/winter with our 1981 Bigfoot I'm thinking I should learn how to use the furnace. I have never attempted to use the furnace or the hot water heater.

As far as I can tell, the large access panel outside the trailer is used to light the pilot for the hot water heater, but I can't find anything for the furnace.

Is there a single pilot for the two systems? If so, do I have to make sure the hot water tank is full before using the furnace?

Any help would be greatly appreciated before I start fiddling with it - I don't want to blow up my Bigfoot!

Thanks!
You don't say which furnace you have, but if it is typical then it has no pilot light, It fires electronically and all you have to do is to make sure the propane is on and 12V is available. Then just turn up the thermostat and let it do it's thing! when you want to shut it off then turn the thermostat down until you feel it click.
This is a Scamp video but likely the same furnace...
http://www.scamptrailers.com/Portals...AndCooling.swf

This is the procedure for the hot water tank...
http://www.scamptrailers.com/Portals...terSystems.swf

These videos are worth watching , but they may take 30seconds or more to load..Hope this helps
It is likely that these will look and act like the ones you have, but 30 years can be a long time so if you can get the brand and model number from each, you may be able to find and download an owners manual.
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Old 09-11-2011, 07:45 PM   #4
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Thanks very much for the tips and videos!
I'm really not sure which model of furnace we've got but I'll give it a good cleaning and try to fire it up next weekend. I can't believe it's that simple!

If you don't hear from me in a week, it's because I spent an evening roasting marshmallows over my burning trailer
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:31 PM   #5
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Hope you find its an instant on one like mine. The first time I used my trailer when it was cold I was laying in bed looking at the temp switch for the furnace and thinking that I should have read the manual on how to light the furnace..... wasnt until later in the day after I had a cold morning in the trailer that I read the manual and found out I did not need to do anything but turn the temp switch up while I was laying in the warm bed - no need to light a pilot light from outside.
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Old 09-11-2011, 11:23 PM   #6
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Before trying to light either unit, first light the stove to get the air out of the propane system. When you have a good steady flame at the stove burner shut it off and go ahead with lighting the other unit or units.
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Old 09-12-2011, 01:20 AM   #7
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Shaidah,

The procedure that Herb mentioned is a good practice to use when ever your trailer has sat for any length of time with the propane turned off.
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Old 09-12-2011, 08:03 AM   #8
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I just helped out some people with their "new" Bigfoot furnace. It had a thermostat but it also had a toggle switch down below by the burner and a push button igniter. You need to remove the front grill on the furnace to gain access.

I didn't take notes as to the model # or film the procedure but for the initial lighting of the pilot I believe the toggle switch had to be on and the igniter pushed to get the pilot flame started. After the pilot was going it was simply a matter of tuning the thermostat to get the main burner to ignite and get the fan blowing. Not sure but yours may be similar.
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Old 09-12-2011, 09:10 AM   #9
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Shaidah,

In my 85 Bigfoot, our furnace has a push button ignitor. Here's some general steps, as your furnace may be a bit stubborn to light.

1. as Herb mentioned, light the stove burner to ensure there is a good flow of propane
2. on the wall thermostat, there is an "ON/OFF" switch. Turn this to ON
3. turn the thermostat to max. After a pause, the furnace fan should come on. Let it blow for a couple of minutes, then turn the thermostat down. This helps draw stale air/dust out of the furnace
4. remove the cover form the furnace. On the lower left hand corner, there is an OFF/PILOT/ON knob which you have to depress to turn. Turn it to PILOT
5. above and to the right of this knob, is an ignitor you have to press in (click type). Ours has a square end on it. Give it a couple of clicks to make sure it's working
6. the general procedure is to depress the gas valve knob (the OFF/PILOT/ON one) and hold it in and press the ignitor until you see the pilot light burning.

NOW - here's the hard part - on ours you have to peek through a tiny little hole down from and to the right of the ignitor button, then looking through, line up two holes to see the pilot light. This is best done in dim lighting. It is pretty tough. If your pilot is lit, keep holding in the gas valve for 15-20 seconds, and when you let go, it should stay lit. If it doesn, trun the knob to ON and Bob's your uncle.

If your pilot is being stubborn (as mine was last time I lit it - it light the first time, but didn't stay on, and then steadfastly refused to light again). Turn the thermostat up once more and let the fan run and move some air through it. Try lighting the pilot light with the fan running - generally this is a bit too turbulent to get it lit, but in my case, the pilot lit and stayed lit with the fan running. Otherwise, let the fan run for a couple of minutes, shut it off and try re-lighting the pilot.

Depending on the state of affairs of your furnace, it may be easier or harder than this! Once you have successfully lit the pilot, turn the gas valve knob to ON and turned the thermostat up to fire the furnace, stand back and enjoy the erathy scent of burning dust, because man do they stink if they haven't been running in a while!
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Old 09-12-2011, 10:15 AM   #10
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furnace fan

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Originally Posted by KeithA View Post
Shaidah,

In my 85 Bigfoot, our furnace has a push button ignitor. Here's some general steps, as your furnace may be a bit stubborn to light.

1. as Herb mentioned, light the stove burner to ensure there is a good flow of propane
2. on the wall thermostat, there is an "ON/OFF" switch. Turn this to ON
3. turn the thermostat to max. After a pause, the furnace fan should come on. Let it blow for a couple of minutes, then turn the thermostat down. This helps draw stale air/dust out of the furnace
4. remove the cover form the furnace. On the lower left hand corner, there is an OFF/PILOT/ON knob which you have to depress to turn. Turn it to PILOT
5. above and to the right of this knob, is an ignitor you have to press in (click type). Ours has a square end on it. Give it a couple of clicks to make sure it's working
6. the general procedure is to depress the gas valve knob (the OFF/PILOT/ON one) and hold it in and press the ignitor until you see the pilot light burning.

NOW - here's the hard part - on ours you have to peek through a tiny little hole down from and to the right of the ignitor button, then looking through, line up two holes to see the pilot light. This is best done in dim lighting. It is pretty tough. If your pilot is lit, keep holding in the gas valve for 15-20 seconds, and when you let go, it should stay lit. If it doesn, trun the knob to ON and Bob's your uncle.

If your pilot is being stubborn (as mine was last time I lit it - it light the first time, but didn't stay on, and then steadfastly refused to light again). Turn the thermostat up once more and let the fan run and move some air through it. Try lighting the pilot light with the fan running - generally this is a bit too turbulent to get it lit, but in my case, the pilot lit and stayed lit with the fan running. Otherwise, let the fan run for a couple of minutes, shut it off and try re-lighting the pilot.

Depending on the state of affairs of your furnace, it may be easier or harder than this! Once you have successfully lit the pilot, turn the gas valve knob to ON and turned the thermostat up to fire the furnace, stand back and enjoy the erathy scent of burning dust, because man do they stink if they haven't been running in a while!
It's possible the furnace has a purge cycle . The fan clears the fire chamber to assure it's not full of gas when ignition is applied. Upon flame failure (loss of pilot) the furnace locksout and must repurge everytime.
This safety procedure is normal for industrial boiler, heaters and furnaces with pilotless ignition. I had a refinery heater explode on me once, the pilot valve leaked , the fire chamber filled with gas and someone had screwed with the purge cycle ,when I hit ignition BOOM !!! . New industrial boilers have 2 pilot and main gas valves in series and have 3 or 4 proof of purge devices for safety.

Thanks Steve Dunham
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:44 PM   #11
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Shaidah,
I have a Hydro Flame furnace in my 1980 Bigfoot 15B17G. Keith A described the process for lighting very well. I would add that the brown grate that covers the furnace is removed by lifting straight up and you should find all the instructions on a tag on the front.
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:52 PM   #12
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Shaidah,
I have a Hydro Flame furnace in my 1980 Bigfoot 15B17G. Keith A described the process for lighting very well. I would add that the brown grate that covers the furnace is removed by lifting straight up and you should find all the instructions on a tag on the front.
Thanks very much for all the great tips and instructions.
I haven't had a chance to get in there and poke around but I know there is a brown grate that I though was screwed in place (thus leading me to believe there was access to the furnace elsewhere). I'll investigate further while camping this weekend... sounds like rain is on the way so I'll need an "inside activity" anyway.
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Old 09-13-2011, 09:10 PM   #13
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I have the 1991 17 foot unit with the Hydro Flame furnace.

Operating Instructions
Automatic " Direct Spark " Ignition Models

#1 Set thermostat on "off" position

#2 Turn thermostat on " off" position. ( If furnace is so equipped ). Wait 5 minutes.
( Gas valve is located behind louver panel door. To remove, pull forward and lift off.

#3 Set thermostat to "on" position and adjust to desired setting.

#4 Allow 15 to 30 seconds for burner to ignite.

# 5 If burner does not light, set thermostat on "off" position wait 60 seconds then
re-set thermostat to "on" position.

#6 If ignition is not after 3 tries, go to complete shut down and determine cause.

Sequence Of Normal Operation


#1 When the thermostat calls for heat, a delay of 15 to 30 seconds will elapse before the time delay relay energizes the fan motor.

#2 When the fan motor reaches approximately 75% of the normal RPM ( within 1 to 2 seconds) the sail switch , in response to the air flow, will engage allowing
current flow to the gas valve, through the direct ignition module.

#3 The gas valve will open and allow gas to flow to the main burner, where it is ignited by the direct spark ignition system.

#4 If the thermostat is satisfied or turned down, the gas valve will close and the flame on the main burner will go out. The blower will continue to run for a
short period of time, and will then shut off. The purpose of this is to remove most of the remaining gases and heat from the heat exchanger.
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Old 09-19-2011, 10:12 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Herb Sutton View Post
Before trying to light either unit, first light the stove to get the air out of the propane system. When you have a good steady flame at the stove burner shut it off and go ahead with lighting the other unit or units.
I just used my furnace for the first time, and had to do this. However, I had to do this three times over the weekend. Is that normal? Saturday night, the temps dipped close to freezing, and the furnace wouldn't fire up, although the stove did. It seemed like the propane was a little low but not out. Would cold (but not freezing) temps affect performance (a furnace isn't much good if it does!)? Should it run until propane tank is empty or will it stop before that?

Is air somehow getting into the system? If so, what would likely need to be replaced?
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Old 09-19-2011, 04:18 PM   #15
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Under normal conditions it should stay on until the propane runs out. Dont know but I suppose if the propane was *real* low there may not have been enough pressure for the furnace to stay on. Very high temps and very low temps will impact how well propane burns, as will altitude. If the furnace is running correctly and its close to freezing it will impact the pressure but not enough on its own for you to even notice or for it to shut down - it has to be a *lot* colder than that before you start having serious problems with burning propane. I use propane a lot at well below freezing. In high altitude there is also less pressure, so if you where at very high altitude and had low tank pressure to start with that combo might give you problems before the cold does.

Dan what brand of furnace do you have in your Scamp? I never need to light the pilot on mine - it has an electric start so I just turn the temp up on the switch in the trailer and it turns its self on and off during the night.
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Old 09-19-2011, 04:57 PM   #16
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Well, it was at elevation, maybe 8500'. When it wouldn't light up, and I ran the stove, the stove's flame did have some yellow.

I don't remember the brand, will check when I get home (and look at the manual if it's in the document bank). It doesn't have a pilot, it has the electric start. It was switching on and off, but in the middle of the night it wouldn't ignite. The fan was blowing cold air and I could hear the "click-click" of it trying to ignite. It's possible that had I left it, eventually it would have, and it's possible the had I let the stove go a little longer, it would have, I don't know.

The regulator does look kind of beat up, is it possible that it's letting air into the line? Maybe when it gets cold and things contract a little?
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Old 09-19-2011, 09:18 PM   #17
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Thats getting up there but I ran all my propane stuff this summer at that elevation and higher for a couple of weeks without much of a problem - fridge struggled a bit more than normal to stay cool but the temps where also pretty high during the day. Not the best of conditions for the old fridge - running a small fan in it helped.

Have you tried the furnace since on a full tank? If the furnance kicks in as it should - then you know its a pressure issue due to being high and on a low tank - in which case Im not sure but it may still help in the future to replace the regulator. If it does not kick in as it should on a full tank then perhaps the electric start has an issue or it could still be the regulator not allowing enough gas through. If the stove isnt burning a nice blue flame then that would indicate that you have some cleaning to do on the stove burners or there isnt enough pressure for a clean burn - which again may be the regulator - not sure what else it might be or if its possible for the lines suppling gas to both the stove and the furnance to get dirty or clogged somehow - a kink in the line maybe? Hope someone with more knowledge than I can address that.
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Old 09-19-2011, 09:21 PM   #18
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I just went out there and looked for a model name/number, didn't see any. Hmmm...

I did, however, try to fire it up (on the same "low" tank, but I'm now at 5500' elevation and it's ~70 degrees). Ran the stove for a minute or two, then turned the furnace on and it fired right up. So what's that all about?
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Old 09-19-2011, 09:38 PM   #19
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Its probable a Suburban furnace - check the Document center here for a manual for it. It may be a pressure issue and your regulator may not be working properly or adjusted properly or you have a small leak, so that when you get into higher elevations (and colder weather although I suspect the elevation impacted it more than the cold) the pressure drops just enough to stop the furnance from getting enough gas to kick in. I would have the gas pressure and leak tested and adjusted.
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Old 09-19-2011, 10:25 PM   #20
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Good news! I didn't blow up my Bigfoot!

The furnace lighting protocol was exactly as you guys described it. Fire up the stove, turn on the thermostat, crank up the heat.

When I bought the trailer, the guy who sold it to me said he never tried to use the furnace. I interpreted this as code for "the furnace doesn't work, but don't blame me". I was thrilled when that sucker fired up on the first try!

Now for some winter camping!!!!!

Many thanks again for all the tips!
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