UPDATED: RV Furnace will not work in cold weather

By | 26 March 2016

 

My RV furnace will not work in cold weather. If the outside temperature goes below freezing during the night, the furnace shuts down, and I wake up in a cold trailer. This is the latest problem with this furnace. As far as I can tell there’s nothing left to replace. I need your help to solve this.

UPDATED 17 January 2017

My RV furnace will not work in cold weather … except if it is very cold or above freezing. We are spending the winter in British Columbia this year instead of going South – for a few big reasons none of which have anything to do with dollar exchange rates or presidential election results. Regardless, it has been cold – continuously cold – this winter. It has been below freezing without relief for several weeks. What is interesting is that the furnace works flawlessly when the temperature is below minus-5 Celsius (23 F) or when the temperature is above 0 C (32 F). The high-limit switch was replaced (again) last October. Nothing else has changed.

Background

My travel trailer is a 2014 Outdoors RV Timber Ridge 250RDS. The furnace is a Suburban.

In December 2014, the furnace quit in Pendleton OR while returning to BC from Ajo AZ.

See RV furnace problem :

Diagnosis – oil contaminated propane.

Additional – electronic card tested OK, batteries tested OK but low charge, converter/charger tested OK.

Solution – new regulator/changeover, and pigtails. Remove and clean furnace.

In January 2015, the furnace quit again. I didn’t write about it.

Diagnosis – electronic card failure

Solution – replace card

In January 2016, the furnace quit again.

See travel trailer furnace quit again

Diagnosis – high limit switch intermittent failure, on/off switch failure, in-line fuse failure, electronic card failure

Solution – replace high limit switch, replace on/off switch, replace fuse, replace card.

[the card had failed two days short of a year]

At about the same time, I discovered that one of my 6-volt batteries had failed. Installed a new one.

A few days later, furnace is intermittent. Must switch off then on at the thermostat to start. Then, may run properly for several hours, cycling off and on under the control of the thermostat – i.e., normal operation.

Since we are now on our way south to Arizona, I delayed repair until our return at the end of February.

Diagnosis – possible thermostat failure

Solution – ordered a thermostat – will install myself when it arrives

At the end of February 2016 now back in BCthe handle on my black tank valve came off with the valve fully open. Since the valve is located between the floors, I went to my preferred service centre and at the same time had them install the new thermostat that had arrived in the mail.

Two days later, with the furnace still operating intermittently, I returned to the service centre.

Diagnosis – on/off switch (installed in January) had failed, insufficient propane due to oil contamination.

Solution – change switch, change regulator/changeover, clean and check pigtails, remove furnace to check on the bench. Furnace performed perfectly on the bench and was reinstalled. Furnace performed perfectly.

[while the furnace was on the bench, I load-tested the battery that had not been replaced – it failed the test – and I installed a second new matching 6-volt battery]

The next day, when I awoke in the morning, the furnace was not working. I reset it by switching off then on and after a few such cycles it began to work normally. However, this pattern was repeated every day: failure during the wee hours, manual cycle, normal operation during the day and into the evening.

Then the light went on …

The pattern suddenly became clear: whenever the outside temperature fell below freezing (during the wee hours of the night) the furnace would quit, but as long as the outside temperature was above freezing (during the day) the furnace would operate normally.

From mid-day 18 March 2016 until the wee hours of 26 March 2016, the furnace operated flawlessly.

During this period, the outside temperature was never below freezing.

At 0500 26 March 2016, I awoke to a cold trailer.

Outside air temperature was minus-1 degree C (below freezing).

I re-cycled the furnace by switching off then on at the thermostat.

I repeated this intervention three times until the furnace continued normal operation.

Normal operation coincided with the outside air temperature rising above freezing.

I need your help …

If anyone has any suggestions or solutions to this problem – my RV furnace will not work in cold weather – please comment below.

Thank you, one and all, for your help.

Addendum 28 March 2016:

This article was posted on 26 March. I sent a link to Airxcel-Suburban Division and received an e-mail reply on the first working day. My service centre and the Suburban Tech Support Group will be putting their heads together to try and solve this problem.

Let me be very clear: I am totally pleased with the efforts of my service centre manager and technicians. Whatever is happening is well outside the norm. I am also very pleased with the prompt reply from Airxcel-Suburban.

The problem now is that the outside temperature is likely to remain above freezing until the fall. As long as the temperature is above freezing, the furnace works flawlessly. That might delay diagnosis.

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