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Old 12-10-2016, 08:28 AM   #1
Spr
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Propane Heater issues....please help

First off I would like to say thank you to all the avid posters on this forum. Throughout my researching, and recent purchase of a 2010 E350 SMB this site has proven to be invaluable.
The recent cold weather has allowed me to get some good use and familiarity from the Suburban propane system, however I seem to be running into multiple hurdles with the system as a whole. I will bullet point each area of concern with hopes to get insight, thoughts, and possible fixes. Also, just as an FYI, The rest of the van has been fantastic, and we couldn’t be happier with it.

As a quick back story, the person that owned the van before me barely drove it, and to the best of my knowledge only used the heater a couple times. The van was beautifully maintained, garaged and well cared for. It even smelled new the first time I used it (the van and propane heater :-). Here is a synopsis of my story. If you don’t want to read it I will post direct questions below it.

Propane tank:
· -The guy we bought the van from had the tank filled ˝ way for our trip home. We ended up not needing the heat, but when I got the van home and put in the garage I noticed a heavy propane smell the next day. With an obvious leak I took it to Camping World (my nearest RV service center) and had the tank dropped, drained, and resealed. $400 dollars later I was on my way. They ran the heater, said it smelled new and should be in great shape and ready to go.

LP Detector (please note I pulled the fuse at each instance)
  • · The first night home we slept in a rest stop. Without the heat system or propane turned on the LP detector kept going off. (this could have been the leak, but I doubt it because of the following issues)
  • · I talked to SMB, they indicated the house battery might be going bad. I had the AGM 4D tested at camping world and they said it was in good shape.
  • · I brought the van in for an oil change, While at the dealership the LP detector kept going off (leak fixed at this point)
  • · I brought the van in to upgrade the alarm system and it kept going off (leak fixed at this point)
  • · On our recent camping trip the LP detector went on again while on shore power and the heater system running (no propane smell anywhere)
  • I’m assuming the detector is hyper sensitive and is going bad. I ordered a new one, and hope this fixes the issue. Any thoughts would be appreciated
Heat with no shore power
  • · Works great, I turn on the thermostat and boom. Fires right up. What a great system
  • · On our recent trip the heat stopped working about 5 hours into the night. Is this normal? Shouldn’t this system easily run all night if not more?
  • · The CO detector woke us up indicating low battery which was verified by the heater not lighting
Heat with shore power
  • · At 4am when the heat stopped I plugged into shore power and turned the heat back on
  • · The system was noticeably louder with a rattle coming from the driver’s side middle roughly where the propane tank is mounted (the heater is on the passenger side in the rear)
  • · This rattle noise continued even when the fan wasn’t running. I know it was tied to the heat someway because I switched the heat to off on the thermostat and the noise stopped right away
Just Weird
  • · Before the camping trip (in about 30 degree weather) while the van was in the driveway turned off I noticed the exhaust fan started to run. I checked and the thermostat was off, the van was off, the propane was off. I could also hear the igniter flickering trying to turn on the system
  • · The Thermostat has a min setting of 45 degrees and the van was colder than 45 inside. Thinking the “off” switch could be broken I tried changing the thermostat to a LUX brand (they rate down to the mill watts and supposedly can work with a 12v system). It installed easily, but it wouldn’t activate the fan. Because we were leaving for a couple night trip I switched back to the Robertshaw thermostat and pulled the fuse until I was ready to use the heat.

Direct questions:
1. Is the LP detector hyper sensitive where it even goes off in the shop? Should I just replace it
2. Approximately how long should the Suburban heater run on full AGM 4D battery power with normal 12v usage at night?
3. Is the Suburban heater or propane area louder on shore power? If not what could the rumbling and rattling noise be? Also, when the heat is on, and while plugged in the loud rattle noise is also there even when the blower isn’t running. As soon as the heat is turned to “off” at the thermostat the noise goes away
4. Is there any reason at all for the exhaust to run and igniter to spark when all systems are off? Why would this happen?

Thanks in advance for any insight.
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Old 12-10-2016, 09:02 AM   #2
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I'm no expert, but here's my (slightly) educated guesses:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spr View Post
Is the LP detector hyper sensitive where it even goes off in the shop? Should I just replace it
They will go off excessively when they get old and die. I'd probably replace it, if for nothing else but piece of mind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spr View Post
Approximately how long should the Suburban heater run on full AGM 4D battery power with normal 12v usage at night?
All night, no problem. I suspect your house battery is toast, or you have a bad connection which isn't allowing it to charge properly, which has probably led to your house battery being toast.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spr View Post
Is the Suburban heater or propane area louder on shore power? If not what could the rumbling and rattling noise be? Also, when the heat is on, and while plugged in the loud rattle noise is also there even when the blower isn’t running. As soon as the heat is turned to “off” at the thermostat the noise goes away
Hmmm. Odd. If your house battery is weak, the blower might not be running full power.. as soon as you plug in, you get full power and blower spins up making more noise. Not sure what the rattling might be, but could just be a loose screw or something near the furnace.

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Originally Posted by Spr View Post
Is there any reason at all for the exhaust to run and igniter to spark when all systems are off? Why would this happen?
No. This is an odd one. I don't get it.

If I was you, I'd take a close look at house battery and connections, then clean the furnace and take a look at that. And test the furnace with just twisting the two thermostat wires together (which removes the thermostat from troubleshooting).
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Old 12-10-2016, 09:58 AM   #3
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[QUOTE4. Is there any reason at all for the exhaust to run and igniter to spark when all systems are off? Why would this happen?QUOTE]

I completely agree with everything RPA posted above. As for your heater trying to light when it's off, I suspect it's not really off. On my Robert Shaw thermostat, there is a little switch at the bottom that is quite hard to move to the off position. I had a similar experience only to discover that the switch was really on when I thought it was off. As Robb recommended, simply disconnecting the wires should eliminate that variable. If it still try's to start with the wires off, the issue may be in the control board of the heater.
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Old 12-10-2016, 10:23 AM   #4
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I concur with all said above. The only thing I will add is that--given that you said that the rumbling and rattling noise was coming from the driver's side middle, and not from the heater location at the passenger rear--I have to wonder what is rumbling and rattling. If it is rumbling and rattling that far away from the heater, my first guess is that it is not the heater.

Thus:
Question 1. Is the sound coming from within the van or from outside the van? When the rumble is rumbling, crawl around outside the van and hunt for the noise. If it is located outside the van, keep putting your hands on things until you find whatever is vibrating--or until some piece of equipment calls out, "unhand me, you fool!"

If the sound is coming from inside the van:
What kind of furniture do you have in the vicinity of the sound? A fridge? A gaucho? A cabinet? What kinds of things are hiding inside that gaucho or cabinet? An inverter or other electrical equipment, by any chance? Inverters and other electrical items can have fans that can be noisy at times. Open things up, identify what equipment is located in the area of the noise, and chase it from there.

A final, somewhat on-topic note: wasps, mud daubers, and other friendly creatures love the Suburban furnace vents, as they are cozy, dry, warm places to nest. Make a habit of checking your vents when you do your walk-arounds, to ensure that they remain free of inhabitants. Some people install protective screens:
Mud Dauber Furnace Screen - $13.99

https://www.amazon.com/JCJ-M-300-fur.../dp/B00076WQBS

Good luck!
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Old 12-10-2016, 11:00 AM   #5
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Thanks all for the suggestions and advice.
My switch is pretty easy to move, and I can feel a click when it moves to the off position.
Now that its nice and cold where I'm at I will test it again with removing the the thermostat wires.
I was inclined to think faulty thermostat because now that the weather is colder than the 45 degree min I figured something had to be calling for heat (meaning the switch wasn't really "off"). Great suggestion to see if it does it when the thermostat isn't part of the equation.
Regarding the sound it is an outside sound that I can clearly hear inside the van. I have a RB 50 and the sound is coming from below the fridge and sink area. I will crawl around some more and see if I can pinpoint it. Its really strange that it only happens when the heat switch is on.

Glider. Thank you for the links and suggestions. I have actually checked the exhaust lines and they appear to be clear. You brought up another question I had about the inverter
- I have the RB 50, I'm assuming the inverter is the fan noise I hear from under the passenger side of the gaucho. Is it normal to hear this run occasionally right when you plug into shore power?
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Old 12-10-2016, 11:06 AM   #6
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[QUOTE=the inverter is the fan noise I hear from under the passenger side of the gaucho. Is it normal to hear this run occasionally right when you plug into shore power?[/QUOTE]

If it's also a battery charger and your batteries are depleted, the cooling fan will run as the inverter heats up. That's normal.
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Old 12-10-2016, 11:29 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spr View Post
- I have the RB 50, I'm assuming the inverter is the fan noise I hear from under the passenger side of the gaucho. Is it normal to hear this run occasionally right when you plug into shore power?
Yes, that is completely normal. Inverters and converters have internal fans to maintain their temp when plugged in to shore power.

You've got some weird issues. I think you have more than one for sure. I hate to throw money at an issue rather than have it properly diagnosed but I would do this.

Get a new, reliable smoke detector
Get a new, reliable LP detector
Get a new thermostat
Get a digital battery meter and monitor your actual battery charge. When plugged in to shore power or with the van running you should be at 13.4 give or take .5 volts. When sitting with charged batteries you should be around 12.8. Below 12.0 and you're killing your batteries and anything connected to them will act funny.

After all this, I would be skeptical of the furnace itself but you can probably rule it out with the wire tying trick suggested above. It's really a pretty simple device. Also, if you can't figure out that odd noise coming from midship driver's side I would take it to a good RV shop and find out what the heck that is. That is strange. I might try somewhere different than CW where you went before just to get a fresh perspective. Service centers that see the same, unusual problem or problem customer generally just figure you're either crazy or impossible to please, or both.

Good luck!

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Old 12-10-2016, 11:58 AM   #8
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Thanks 86Scotty.
A new LP detector, thermostat, smoke detector are all on the way.

Regarding the battery, I have a solar panel with the digital display above the fridge. At full charge I sit around 12.8. When plugged in it has been as high as 14.4 when charging.
The night we ran out of battery power it was down to 7.8ish

I will check the noise shortly and if I can identify the rattle I will send you pics of what it rattling. The good thing is CW is not aware of the rattle. They did not service the furnace its self, and only tested from battery power when I had the leak. This will be a new service and new problem for them to take money from me :-)
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Old 12-10-2016, 11:58 AM   #9
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Re: noise - is your fridge AC/DC/Propane or just AC/DC?

When plugged in to shore power the battery charger is going to kick in. If your 4D is toast, the charger might ramp to the level that the inverter/charger fan will kick on.

Where are located? Your profile does not list location.
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Old 12-10-2016, 11:59 AM   #10
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On the topic of thermostat, any thermostat should do as long as it is rated down to 12v right?
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