Category Archives: User Reports

Your RV Furnace May Be Headed for a Premature Death

Suburban RV Furnace
Here you can see what my Suburban RV furnace looks like. There are three knockouts on the front for attaching 4″ round ducts and two on each side. The two on the left side have been made to look knocked out in this stock photo. There is a large rectangular vent on the bottom which is the only one Arctic Fox used when building my RV. I knocked out one on the left side to add the duct I did. Special collars attach to the furnace to which the ducting is then attached.

There is an insidious hidden problem with the installations of many RV furnaces putting them on a collision course with a premature death. Yours could be one of them. Mine was.

I discovered a problem with my RV furnace, a problem I know for a fact that other people have had, and one that may go undiscovered until it’s too late. Actually, the problem has to do with the ducting, specifically a failure to sufficiently duct the furnace at the RV factory or in some cases ducting that has become damaged or clogged for one reason or another. This problem was causing my furnace burner cycle on and off excessively, sending it toward an early grave, or at least a premature repair and one that should not be unnecessary.

Valterra RV Vent
I found these registers on Amazon. They rotate and have dampers which is why I chose them over other round vents of the same size.

It appears my RV was “under-ducted” to coin a phrase, that Arctic Fox did not install  sufficient ducting so that the furnace could properly expel the hot air it makes. I don’t see why everyone else with the same make and model RV as mine wouldn’t be experiencing the same problem and I know for a fact that other makes and models have had the issue as well. The insidious thing about all this is that you may have the problem and never know it. You may even wind up paying for repeated repairs to your furnace that should not have been necessary, and still never know what caused the problems.

I noticed that when I would turn on my RV furnace the fan would start to run first, then, a few seconds later I could hear the gas burner turn on. That’s as it should be. You may have to be close to your furnace and listen to it carefully in order to hear the burner ignite and burn. What should happen after that is that when the RV reaches the temperature you’ve set on the thermostat the burner should shut off and the fan should keep running another minute or two until the furnace has had a chance to cool down somewhat. Then the fan should shut off.

Deflecto Duct
This Deflecto Supurr-Flex Aluminum Dryer Vent Duct is UL Listed and rated up to 258º F. Some other ducting I looked at was rated much lower and could have presented problems. This stuff isn’t any more costly than other ducting I looked at.

That’s not what was happening in my RV. Instead, after running a few minutes, and before the RV had reached the temperature set on the thermostat, I could hear the burner shut off. The fan would keep running. Then in a minute or so the burner would start up again. This cycle would repeat every few minutes–burner on, burner off, burner on, burner off, all the while the fan kept running.

Here is what was happening: the fan and burner would start as they should, but because there wasn’t adequate ducting for the furnace to expel the heated air into the RV the heat would back up in the furnace and the burner would overheat. This tripped a safety mechanism, the high temperature limit switch, that would shut off the burner until the fan cooled the burner down to a safe temperature when the burner would then reignite. The furnace was working perfectly but the safety mechanism, the high temperature limit switch that shuts of the burner when it overheats isn’t designed and built for frequent cycling. It was headed for a premature death. Insufficient ducting was restricting the hot air flow out of the furnace causing the safety mechanism to repeatedly activate, sending my furnace hurtling toward the repair shop prematurely.

Suburban RV Furnace Vent Collar
When a 4″ knockout is removed from the Suburban RV furnace this vent collar firs into the hole and give you a neck over which the ducting slips and is clamped to with a hose clamp.

My furnace was almost certainly behaving like this for a long time before I ever noticed it. Probably since the RV was brand new. Why would I suspect anything was wrong? After all, when it got cold in the RV and I turned on the heat the furnace would in fact heat the RV, but I never noticed the on-again-off-again cycling of the burner because the fan kept running all the while, or if I did notice the burner turning on and off I never thought anything of it. As far as I knew everything seemed to be working just fine… but it wasn’t. 

When my RV furnace comes on the fan starts running and then the burner ignites. If things are working as they should the burner will stay lit until the RV reaches the temperature set on the thermostat. Then the burner will shut off and a minute or two later when the furnace has cooled off a little the fan will also shut off. When the burner cycles on and off repeatedly every few minutes it’s a sign that something is wrong. There is a good chance there is a blocked vent or duct, or the manufacturer of the RV did not build in sufficient ducting to allow the furnace to properly breathe. Don’t think your RV manufacturer is above that!

Hose Clamps
I ordered these from Amazon. I wasn’t sure if I would be installing one duct or two so I ordered four clamps.

To confirm the on-again-off-again activity of my furnace burner I put my digital meat thermometer’s probe over the floor register of the heating system nearest the furnace. When the temperature rose to about 175º I could hear the high temp limit switch trip and the burner shut off. I watched the thermometer fall to about 140º and I could hear the switch activate, the burner ignite, and I watched the thermometer rise back to about 175º. This cycle repeated over and over until the RV finally reached the temperature set on the thermostat and the burner then fan finally shut off. That ain’t supposed to happen. The burner shouldn’t cycle on and off repeatedly. It should go on once and stay lit until the RV comes to temp and then it should shut off. Once on, once off. That’s all.

I spoke with a tech at Suburban, the maker of my furnace. After explaining the repeated cycling of the furnace burner and the high and low temperatures it was bouncing back and forth between I was told my furnace safety mechanism was working as it should. I was also told that the on-again-off-again action of the burner likely pointed to a restriction in the ducting and that under-ducting by RV manufacturers was a problem Suburban had encountered before. 

RV Furnace
The furnace in my RV sits underneath the refrigerator. That doesn’t strike me as the best spot because the furnace gets warm when the fridge is trying to keep things cold. You’d think it would be smarter to separate the two. Anyway, in this photo you can see the new vent I installed to the left of the furnace and the aluminum ducting I used/

I understand that my Suburban SF-35FQ furnace has the equivalent of 11 outlets: seven 4″ round outlets on the sides and one large rectangular outlet on the bottom that counts as four round ones. The specs for my furnace say that a minimum of four of the outlets must be used so that the furnace can properly aspirate but the tech told me using more than four is better. In my RV the manufacturer used only the rectangular outlet on the bottom of the furnace which would count as four round ones and this would meet the minimum requirement, but, they also put some 90º bends in the ducting which creates resistance in the airflow within the ducting and it appears that it effectively reduced the airflow to below the minimum requirement thereby causing my furnace to overheat and the safety mechanism to cycle the burner on and off excessively. The installation manual says “Avoid making any sharp turns in the duct system. Sharp turns will increase the static pressure in the plenum area and could cause the furnace to cycle.” That seems to be exactly what was going on in my RV. It would seem my RV was under-ducted at the factory. Thank you Arctic Fox. 

You could be having this same problem and it could be going on unbeknownst to you. It’s an under-the-radar kind of thing. I don’t say this so as to create a panic, but it would be worth paying attention to your furnace. You could test it by letting it run for 20 or 30 minutes while listening carefully to see if you can hear the burner turning on and off. If it does not it’s likely fine at least in regard to an overheating burner, that is, assuming your high temperature limit mechanism is functioning properly. If your burner does cycle on and off repeatedly then you may have a blockage in the ducting or your RV manufacturer may have failed to provide sufficient ducting for your furnace. Restrictions in the ducting, by the way, can be caused by insects, critter nests, damaged ducting or the build-up of crud over time. Your furnace would be more likely to experience the problem I have outlined on a warmer day when the air it breathes into its combustion chamber isn’t as cold as it might otherwise be. When it is breathing colder air this works against the burner overheating.

I solved the frequent cycling of my RV furnace by adding another duct. I removed one of the 4″ knockouts on the left side of the furnace and ran some flexible ducting to a register nearby. I can feel a strong airflow coming out of the new register and I tested my heater by letting it run 20-30 minutes and it didn’t cycle on and off at all. Not once. Problem solved.

Should you undertake a similar repair make sure to follow the furnace manufacturer’s instructions or hire it done by a qualified shop or individual. (Good luck with that!) Also be certain the ducting you get is up to the task. Not all of the flexible ducting on the market is suitable for the temperatures encountered in a heating system such as those you find in RVs.

Vent hole cut for new register
I used my Black and Decker RTX rotary tool set to 30,000 RPM and a cutting bit to cut out a circle for the new register. First, in order to minimize any wood splintering I covered the area with painter’s tape which I new would peel off easily. I then drew a circle on the tape with a pencil compass.

Cutting the hole into which the new register would fit took a bit of figuring. I didn’t want to try to use a keyhole saw because I thought it would be too hard to control and may splinter the surface of the soft luan wood. I couldn’t remove the panel I was cutting into so that ruled out a coping saw. I might have been able to use a 4″ hole saw but that might have splintered the surface and would have been an expense. As it turned out there is a bit that looks like an ordinary drill bit but it’s made to be used like a router bit. (See my reply to John in the Comments section for more information about cutting bits.) You drill a hole into the surface you are cutting with the tip of the bit then move your drill sideways using the side of the bit to cut. I already had  Black and Decker RTX rotary tool like a Dremel tool and it came with one of those bits.

Black & Decker RTX Rotary Tool
I’ve had one of these Black & Decker RTX rotary tools for years. I haven’t used it all that much but they come in very handy at times such as it did for cutting the 4″ round hole I needed when installing a new heating register in the luan paneling of my RV.

Below is a list of the things I used to install the new duct and register The links have my Amazon Affiliate code embedded so if you buy any of these things through the links I provide I may receive a small commission. These items appear in the photos above. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Deflecto Supurr-Flex Aluminum Dryer Vent Duct, Flexible, Fire-Resistant, 4 Inches Dia. x 8 Feet, Silver (F0408B/4) which is UL Listed and rated to 265º.

I attached the vent duct using these hose clamps: 4″ Adjustable 304 Stainless Steel Duct Clamps Hose Clamp Pipe Clamp Air Ducting Clamp Worm Drive Hose Clamps (4Pcs)

The vent I used was a Valterra A10-3353VP Rotating/Dampered Heating and A/C Register-4″ ID x 5-3/8″ OD, Black which I chose because it fit the space, has dampers, the color and it rotates.

My furnace required this vent collar in order to attach a 4″ round duct. Your furnace may be different.

Black & Decker RTX Rotary Tool

Scotch Blue Exterior Painter’s Tape
There are many kinds of painter’s tape for different applications. I used this stuff because I had some on hand.


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RVing America – Taking Your Bicycles Along

When we finally had things sorted out… Our bikes ride with us on the back of the RV. The only thing I wish were different is that our folding roof ladder won’t fold all the way down when the bikes are on the carrier. I let the lower section rest on the bikes and use the rear cap of the RV to get a foothold. I’d rather not be stepping on the fiberglass because eventually it will begin to show marks, but it is what it is. Maybe another mod can remedy this.

This article is about setting things up to RV with bicycles on board. There may be more involved than you would at first think.

We’ve all seen cars, trucks and RVs traveling down the road with bicycles on the back. The bikes are generally either hanging from or resting upon a bicycle carrier. It should be easy enough to set things up in order to bring our bikes along with your RV, right? Umm… maybe not! RVers may have more things to consider than somebody throwing their bikes on the back of their car for an afternoon outing. [READ MORE…]

Smokin’

The ingredients in this small bottle of Wright’s Liquid Smoke? Water and hickory smoke. That’s it. The all natural stuff makes for quick and delicious smoky flavor in your favorite foods. A little bottle doesn’t cost very much and because it is concentrated it lasts and lasts.

Not long ago I wrote a post about a kitchen gadget called a Chef’n which is a small, hand operated vegetable chopper that we use around the RV kitchen and our home kitchen as well. As I wrote in the opening remarks of that post it was a departure from the kinds of things about which I usually write. The same can be said about this article too because when it comes to most things that have to do with cooking I’m a dumbass.

I do know a thing or two, however, and today I’m writing about something I never thought I would: smoke flavoring. There’s not a whole lot to know about it, but when Diane, my wonderful partner confessed she hadn’t heard of it I figured there may be others in the same boat.

Smoke flavoring, or liquid smoke, if you don’t know, is a seasoning that imparts that delicious, smoky, BBQ flavor to foods. Amazingly, it’s not a gimmick. The stuff is made by burning wood chips, often hickory, applewood or mesquite, and running the smoke through a condenser. As the hot smoke runs through a pipe that is chilled it cools which causes moisture in the smoke to form as water droplets on the inside of the pipe. These water droplets are full of the smoke flavor and are drained from the condenser, concentrated and packaged for sale. The stuff I use is Wright’s Liquid Smoke, hickory flavor.

Besides the fact that it does an amazing job of imparting that delicious smoky flavor, easily, there is no junk to be found in the stuff that I use–nothing artificial, no preservatives. Here are the ingredients as stated on the bottle: “water, natural, hickory smoke concentrate”. That’s all.

I’ve been using liquid smoke for years and love it. Wright’s is super concentrated. Just a few drops is enough to give a delicious smoky flavor to a large pot of soup or a half dozen hamburgers. The stuff seems to keep really well too. The fact that it is so concentrated and has a long shelf life means that the smallest, 3.5 oz. bottle usually hangs around in my fridge for years. And it isn’t expensive!

There are hundreds of recipes that use liquid smoke. AllRecipes.com alone has 290! I like to use it in my lentil soup. (This is a really great recipe from Jane Brody, BTW. Easy too. Everybody to whom I’ve served it has raved about it and you probably will as well.) Using liquid smoke in soups, for example, allows you to create a smoky flavor in foods that you otherwise might not be able to. How would you BBQ soup, for example?

Whether or not you’re on the road in your RV or hanging around in your sticks and bricks home, when you’ve a hankerin’ for something smoky tasting and can’t manage the BBQ, a little liquid smoke may be just the ticket.

“It slices, it dices…”

The Chef'n VeggiChop is had powered. It's surprising how fast it chops things up.
The Chef’n VeggiChop is hand powered. It’s surprising how fast it chops things up. This shot gives you an idea of its size.

I’m hardly the kind of person from whom you’d expect a review of a kitchen gadget–usually I write about things like solar panels, batteries, GPS units, motorcycle clothing and the like–but this review is in fact about a kitchen gadget which hints at the influence a certain wonderful woman has had over my life 🙂

Now, to be truthful, most people would be and should be alarmed should I write about preparing food. Why? Just taste my cooking… and I use the word cooking very, very loosely. Fear not, however, because I cannot take credit for this review. It was written by Diane after using the Chef’n for many months. While I am the chief bottle washer in the RV my lovely companion, Diane, is the head cook, always making delicious and healthy meals for the two of us. Thank you, Diane!

Diane has used the Chef’n many times. I think it fair to say she recommends it because it does a good job, is small, lightweight, uses no batteries or electricity, and doubles as a storage container: all things which are plusses when operating in the cramped quarters of an RV sometimes without a ready supply of household electricity and where the weight of things can really matter. Available for under $20 it’s also inexpensive.

Now, to be honest, not everything I touch in the kitchen turns to mud. Although there may be some debate about it, I do declare that I’m pretty darn good when it comes to making a peanut butter sandwich. There is one other dish I can do a bang up job with, and that’s lentil soup. For that I use the Chef’n to chop up the carrots and onions which it does quickly and easily saving me quite a bit of slicing and dicing, not to mention all those tears.

The four parts of the VeggiChop.
The four parts of the Chef’n VeggiChop.

PRODUCT REVIEW
by Diane

Chef’n VeggiChop Hand-Powered Food Chopper

THE CLAIM:
Chop large pieces of fruit, vegetables, boneless meats, herbs, nuts, and even ice without electricity; perfect for pesto, hummus, salsa, guacamole.

WHY YOU MAY WANT THIS:
Small, lightweight, no batteries or electricity, doubles as a storage container, works well.

THE FACTS:
Performance:
The product description on Amazon is accurate in that it REALLY does chop food. As its name implies, it is designed to chop, not puree. It’s absolutely wonderful for things like onions, carrots and egg salad. I was able to make cauliflower rice (but not mash), my hummus and guacamole came out more grainy than creamy, and soft fruits and tomatoes had more texture than blender smooth. That being said, I didn’t mind the compromise because I could boondock and have my hummus too!

Ease of Use:
It is not too tough on the hand as far as gripping the handle, but pulling out the cord does take some back and forth arm movement that requires average mobility. It has only a 3 cup capacity, so it’s good for about 2 servings depending on your recipe, but I didn’t find any problem in making things in several batches for a larger crowd. I even made my regular double pie crust recipe in it! I just had to divide the recipe and reload the Chef’n a couple times and then combine the batches. In fact, this gadget is so quick and easy to use, I often opt to use it even when I have a full-sized blender/food processor available!

Nice Features:
•Comes in 3 colors: red, black or green
•Non-slip ring on the bottom keeps it stable
•Storage lid

Tips:
Adding ingredients – The top of the blade mechanism has a recessed hexagon for connecting to the lid. It can collect finer ingredients like flour and prevent the lid pin from engaging properly. Put a finger over the hexagon when pouring into the chopper.
Cleaning and Storage – Take care hand washing the very sharp blades! Make sure the chopper is completely dry before storing it to discourage mold, especially if you are on the road. The care instructions do caution not to submerge the top because the cord is enclosed and won’t be able to dry out, but otherwise it’s even dishwasher safe. (The Chef’n VeggiChopper is available here.)

I also really like this sturdy multi-use dish brush with a useful suction handle to keep fingers safe when cleaning the blades.

[Editor’s note: the article titles “It slices, it dices…” is taken from a very old TV commercial which as I recalled has many times been parodied and as such is intended to be humorous. The Chef’n chops.]

Too Much of a Good Thing – Electricity

EMS Remote IMG_5169_1200
This remote display panel supplied with the Progressive Industries EMS-HW50C alerts you to any errors, voltage for each leg as well as current draw for each leg. A bypass switch on the left allows you to easily use generators that don’t work with the EMS or to bypass the EMS for other reasons.

When we bought our new RV it was for us a sizable expenditure. Such being the case we considered things we could do in order to protect it. A good polymer treatment for the paint was one thing. Another was a Progressive Industries 50 amp hard-wired electrical management system (EMS) in order to protect the electronics from, among other things, power surges, high and low voltages sometimes encountered at campgrounds. Progressive makes a number of EMS systems, some intended to hang on the power pedestal and some to be hard-wired into the RV.

Another measure of protection we purchased was a 50 amp voltage regulator, a Hughes Autoformer. This device can boost campground voltage when it falls dangerously low allowing you to safely use equipment that might otherwise be damaged by the low voltage. They also make a 30 amp model. [READ MORE…]

DIY 1000 Watt Inverter Installation

110 volt outlet and remote on/off switch installed.
The red 110 volt outlet dedicated to the inverter and inverter remote on/off switch installed.

In my previous RV I only had 110 volt household current when I was plugged into shore power at a campground, when I ran my disturbingly noisy generator, or when I turned on my inverter to power the single, dedicated outlet I had installed along with it. This last method involved running extension cords from that outlet to other points inside (or outside) the RV where I wanted or needed household current–inconvenient and a tripping hazard.

Upon getting a new RV my plan had always been to have an inverter installed that would supply power to all of the RV’s existing 110 volt outlets so that power would be available throughout it without needing to run extension cords–a more convenient and aesthetically pleasing arrangement that would also eliminate the hazard of tripping over extension cords.

When I started looking at all that was involved in wiring an inverter into the RV’s electrical system it soon became apparent to me that it was outside my wheelhouse of skills. So, I decided to have that done professionally later on, but until I could hire it done I was comfortable doing a more simple trip-over-the-extension-cord style hookup that would at least provide us with some AC until the professional installation could be performed. [READ MORE…]

Good Sam. Bad Actor?

This is the reimbursement check I received from Good Sam in its original envelope showing a postmark date more than 2 weeks after I was told it was mailed. My address has been redacted.

This is a short saga (the oxymoron is intentional) of my recent experience with Good Sam Roadside Assistance.

I have Good Sam Roadside Assistance for my 5th wheel. Recently while backing my RV into my parking spot where I store the rig I got myself into a jam and couldn’t move forward or backward without a high probability of damaging my RV or the one next to mine. Don’t ask…

I called Good Sam for some suggestions or help. The agent I spoke with asked me some questions, one of which may have been key to deciding whether or not they would help me. He asked if there was any risk of damaging my vehicle or another and I said yes. After all, that is why I called them. When I answered that question I was thinking about towing it forward or backward with my pickup truck, not having it dragged sideways by a tow truck with a winch. I’m not used to thinking in those terms. Why would I be? I didn’t know that could be done.

I was told there was nothing they could do if there was risk to my vehicle or another. The conversation ended. Flustered and frustrated, dead in the water so to speak, blocking traffic at the storage facility, in desperation I called an independent tow company. A tow truck was dispatched and about 10 minutes after it arrived my RV had been dragged sideways, without risk of damage to neighboring vehicles and I was able to move again. I was handed a bill for $281.

After thinking about it over the next few days it seemed to me Good Sam should have dispatched a tow truck and handled this on their dime. After all, wasn’t that what I was paying them for? I called them and asked if the kind of tow operation used to rescue my rig (something called a “winch out” I learned by reading the invoice) was covered under my policy. I was told yes, it was and that the agent I spoke with on the night of the problem didn’t ask enough questions to properly determine the correct course of action.

I was informed I could file a request for reimbursement online and I did. After doing so an email arrived  on Nov. 28 saying I would hear from Good Sam in 5 days. I didn’t.

On Dec. 23 I called Good Sam to follow up on the situation. I was told that a reimbursement check had been mailed on Dec. 4 and that it could take 3 weeks to arrive. 3 weeks? I asked. Why would it take 3 weeks. I was told it was sent 4th class mail. What? How much money could they save sending a letter to me with something less than 1st class postage? How much is a stamp nowadays? 50¢?

I’d never heard of 4th class mail so I decided to do a little checking. What I found is that there is such a thing for items over 8 ounces, but not for a letter. Was the agent with whom I spoke misinformed? Lying to me?

The check arrived a couple days after I spoke with the agent and it was postmarked Dec. 22, not Dec. 4, although it was dated Dec. 4. It was sent first class mail not 4th class as I had been told.

I was originally denied service to which I was entitled. Had I not had the wherewithal to look further into the situation I would have been stuck with a bill for $281. How many people I wonder are told by Good Sam they aren’t covered for something when they should be and wind up paying out of their own pockets for something they shouldn’t have to?

Next, I was promised a response in 5 days which I didn’t get. After that I was misinformed about when my check had been sent and the mail service used.

In my estimation, nothing about my experience with Good Sam in this instance except for the eventual reimbursement went right–Good Sam fumbled the ball at every possible opportunity. That’s my opinion anyway. What do you think? Is Good Sam a bad actor?


Coming soon, a report of my DIY installation of an AIMS 1000 Watt Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter.


This blog takes an enormous amount of time and energy to build and maintain . If you have found something useful or entertaining please use this Amazon.com link when you shop at Amazon. Doing so will cost you no more and in some cases I may receive a small commission. Your support in the form of using my Amazon.com link or making a PayPal Donation will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.