How To Manually Light RV Furnace And Water Heater

Manually lighting an RV furnace and water heater might be advisable if you’re using fairly old models. Manual ignition can also be a likely way to bring cozy heat into the RV if these appliances malfunction. But how can you manually light the furnace and water heater in your RV? We researched for your convenience, and here’s what we found.

Before proceeding to light your RV’s furnace and water heater by yourself, make sure to check the owner’s manual first. That way, you’ll know if you need to use unique procedures to ignite those devices properly. Moving forward, the general steps to light a gas RV furnace are:

1. Set the thermostat to ‘auto’ and select ‘heat mode.’ 2. Turn the furnace’s pilot light control valve to the first setting. 3. Push and maintain pressure on the valve while lighting the pilot light through the striker.

As for the RV’s water heater, lighting it may need the following instructions:

1. Push the adjustment knob and maintain pressure on it as you switch it to the ‘pilot’ setting. 2. Light the pilot light with a lighter. 3. Continue to push the knob until you think that the flame is burning consistently. 4. Turn the adjustment knob to the on position.

Take note that you need to follow the steps correctly for the flame to keep burning. Continue reading as we tackle more about the details of lighting an RV furnace and water heater manually. We'll also discuss other important matters like certain safety measures about RV furnace usage.

An RV parked and set up ready for camping, How To Manually Light RV Furnace And Water Heater


Are Water Heaters and Furnaces The Same Thing?

Water heaters supply homes with warm or hot water. On the other hand, furnaces provide comfortable temperatures by heating the air. Therefore, these appliances aren’t the same. But some models can work as furnaces and water heaters, reducing the need for extra space.

An RV parked under the bright and clear night sky with millions of stars visible

How To Manually Light RV Furnace?

Take note that the precise steps to manually light an RV furnace often depend on the model you possess. Consult your owner’s manual or ask the product’s manufacturer if your furnace may require additional procedures to operate it.

The following guide should help you get a glimpse of how to light a gas RV furnace manually:

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Switch the RV’s thermostat to its 'auto' mode. Then, turn the heating system to the ‘heat mode.’ Next, increase the thermostat’s heat to its maximum setting manually. Again, the steps to switch to these modes are dissimilar among models.
  2. Remove the cover encasing the furnace.
  3. Turn the pilot light’s control valve to the first setting, which may have a red marker to indicate the position.
  4. Push and hold the valve while pressing the striker five times. Maintain pressure on the valve for a few more seconds before releasing slowly.
  5. Turn the control valve to the left, igniting the furnace. Repeat steps 3 and 4 if the furnace fails to ignite the first time.
  6. Return the cover to the furnace and the thermostat should adjust to the necessary settings automatically.

Make sure to leave your RV’s doors, windows, and other ventilation open while you’re doing this task to prevent heat from building up inside the vehicle. Also, ensure that nothing is obstructing the furnace’s exhaust vent.

You can also watch the video below to see a visual depiction of the steps mentioned above:

If the RV furnace doesn’t ignite even after following the steps above, you can read our post to guide you through the troubleshooting and repair.

How To Manually Light RV Water Heater?

Some water heaters for RVs, especially fairly old models, don’t have automatic start features. Alternatively, the system may have this feature, but it’s malfunctioning. If you encounter these issues, igniting the water heater’s pilot light manually can be an ideal solution.

Before proceeding with this task, ensure that the freshwater connection is on in your RV for this operation. But you may not need to switch to this functionality if your vehicle is using the city's water connection. Also, if you're boondocking, make certain that your water pump is on and functioning properly.

Moreover, it’s important to bleed the air out of the water pump. Doing so will avoid potential damages to the water tank. You also need to ignite your propane tank, which you can manually ignite by following the steps mentioned in the previous section.

You also need a lighter for this job. After doing the prep work, you can now begin the steps to light your RV’s water heater:

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Remove the casing covering the water heater if there’s any.
  2. Push down on the adjustment knob and move it to the ‘pilot’ setting.
  3. Maintain pressure on the knob while lighting the pilot light with the lighter.
  4. Once you see a small flame, continue pressing the knob for another minute before releasing it slowly.
  5. Switch the adjustment knob to the on position.

Manually lighting a water heater pilot light in an RV can be easier if you use an extension lighter. Using a traditional lighter can make it more challenging than intended, particularly if other components are surrounding the pilot light’s location.

Check out these lighters on Amazon.

Watch this video to see the steps mentioned above if you want to see the process in action:

You might also be pondering about replacing your RV water heater to enjoy convenient features. If so, read our post to estimate the overhead.

Can You Run An RV Furnace Without Electricity?

Gas RV furnaces don’t require electricity to provide heat. Although, you need to connect these models to propane tanks for them to function accordingly. On the other hand, electric RV furnaces need to run on a power source for them to run. These units may connect to RV batteries or generators.

Keep in mind that some propane furnace models also run on electricity to start and maintain their flames. Electricity can also help regulate fuel consumption in certain RV gas furnaces.

Can You Run An RV Furnace While Driving?

An RV parked near a lake with a gorgeous and breathtaking view

It’s generally safe to leave the RV furnace running while driving, as mentioned by members of different RV communities. Be wary as you may run into the pilot lighting shutting off while on the road because of wind going into the RV’s main heating unit. That issue won’t be apparent if the furnace is inside an enclosed container.

You also need to turn off the pilot light from the furnace when you’re fueling up your RV at a gas station. Otherwise, the vehicle becomes a safety hazard since combustible liquids are nearby.

How Efficient Are RV Furnaces?

RV furnaces are often efficient at providing comfortable heating. But using a propane-powered furnace will supply comfy temperatures to only about two hours before depleting the gas in the tank.

With an electric RV furnace, you might be able to enjoy comfortable temperatures for about six hours in the vehicle. That’s to say, if the heating unit is only using 50% of its maximum power output and electricity usage from other connected devices isn’t significant.

How Long Does It Take For A 6 Gallon RV Water Heater To Heat Up?

It should take about a little over 30 minutes for a six-gallon RV water heater connected to a propane tank to warm water. Using an electric water heater may provide different results based on the specific model. Take note that some electric water-heating units might be slower in heating water than gas-powered variants.

Should You Leave RV Hot Water Heater On All The Time?

It's okay to leave your RV's water heater on for extended periods. But you still need to pay close attention to certain concerns. For example, keeping an electric water heater on all the time may increase energy usage for the RV’s battery or generator.

How Long Does A Hot Water Heater Last In An RV?

An RV water heater’s lifespan may last for more than a decade, provided the RV owner cares for it properly. Some RV community members say that their water heaters are over 20 years old and still going strong.

How Often Should I Drain My RV Water Heater?

RV and rig owners should flush their vehicles’ water heaters at least twice a year. However, the frequency may increase if you use your RV water heater more frequently than usual. Failure to remove the excess water may introduce issues like corrosion in the plumbing.

Final Words

An RV parked and set up ready for camping

Lighting an RV furnace and water heater manually requires you to follow accurate steps. For instance, depressing the adjustment knob in an RV water heater after lighting the pilot light will help keep the flame burning. But if the pilot light fails to ignite or goes out quickly, you may need to seek professional services to repair these heating systems.

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