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Old 09-21-2008, 06:44 PM   #1
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Hot air furnace

We have a 2004 Sportsmobile with the propane fueled hot air furnace. I filled the tank in May, just before our 3 week trip to Utah and Colorado. When filled, the guage registered about 3/4 full. We used it quite a bit on our trip as it was a cold spring in the Rockies. It got down to 1/2 full according to the guage. Last night we were in the Sierras and it got down to 30 degrees. I turned the thermostat to 80 degrees to warm the van up. When warm, I turned it off. In the night I reached over and turned it back up to 80. The fan came on but I never heard the burner kick on. After a bit, the fan turned off. I waited a bit and tried it again. Same thing. This morning I checked the guage and it still registered 1/2 full. Do you think I have a bad guage or a problem with the igniter? I will fill the tank to see if it works, but wondering if anyone has run into this. Thanks. oclv
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Old 09-21-2008, 08:01 PM   #2
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My furnace does the same thing thing at high altitude only. I asked SMB west about it and there answer was yeh they do that. So when I need the heater the most, in the snow at high altitude it may or may not ignite.
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Old 09-21-2008, 08:16 PM   #3
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Same experience for me at higher altitudes. Very inconvenient.

The folks at Suburban (furnace manufacturer) claim that is not normal, but I've been too lazy to take it to an authorized service center to have it looked at yet.

Phil
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Old 09-21-2008, 08:16 PM   #4
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So how high is "high altitude" been for you guys where it won't work?

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Originally Posted by calclimber
My furnace does the same thing thing at high altitude only. I asked SMB west about it and there answer was yeh they do that. So when I need the heater the most, in the snow at high altitude it may or may not ignite.
Yeah that kind of defeats the purpose. We have the propane heater as well. I'll have to see this winter how ours works out in the snow.
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Old 09-21-2008, 09:39 PM   #5
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We were in the mountains near Kirkwood, but not all that high. I don't think we were much over 9,000 feet. If it is the igniter, is there a way to light the burner manually? Hopefully I will find out that I have a bad propane guage and once I fill it all will be well again. oclv
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Old 09-22-2008, 12:00 AM   #6
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furnace

Hello,

The usual culprit for the furnace not operating at high elevations is air in the system. If the furnace performs well at lower elevations, then you can almost bet you have air in the tank that needs to be purged.

The opening of the vapor tube is high in the tank. Since propane is heavier than air, the propane settles below any air remaining in the tank, and the air, which expands as you increase in elevation, is what the furnace is trying to ignite. To add confusion to this condition, you'll find that the propane stove and propane water heater usually operate okay at the higher elevations. They are not as temperamental as the furnace, which has many safety features preventing it from operating unless everything is as it should be.

To purge the air out of the LP Gas cylinder, make sure you are outdoors and away from any flame or spark producing item. Open the "Purge Valve" which is a small (about 5/8" diameter) brass valve above the main "on-off" valve. If there is air in the cylinder, the propane odor will not be as strong as if it were pure propane. I've seen it take up to 30 minutes to purge most of the air out of the tank (this was at 250' elevation, if you perform the purge at higher elevation it will purge quicker). You can also have a qualified LP Gas filling station purge your cylinder. You will have to run the furnace through several cycles before it will start after purging the air.

While this worked for almost every customer who reported this condition, there are a few other issues that occured. Confirm that there is nothing blocking the return air grill or path. The sail switch inside the furnace will not allow the gas solenoid valve to open if there is insufficient air flow. One way to determine if the gas solenoid valve is opening during start-up is to smell at the exterior vent after turning thermostat "on". If you don't have any LP Gas odor, you probably have an air flow issue. If you do have an LP Gas odor, you could have an ignitor problem (no manual overide), or it could still be an issue with air in the system (did I mention purging ALL the air out of the system!).

Let me know if you still have problems after purging the air out of the cylinder, I'll be glad to offer more detailed help.

John K.
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Old 09-22-2008, 08:28 AM   #7
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Thanks for the reply, I will try your suggestion. What you say about other propane appliances working fine is the case with me. Out of five winter trips to Mammoth the heater only worked twice and those times were intermittent. Its frustrating laying there in bed resetting the thermostat and listening to the igniter praying for it to ignite the main burner before the third attempt and then the default shut down.
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Old 09-22-2008, 09:17 AM   #8
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John - Is it safe to assume I should top off my tank prior to trying your purging method, or should I be OK with a partially filled tank?

Craig - I'm glad to know I'm not the only one sitting there on cold nights counting the heater ignition cycles and feeling defeated when it hasn't lit after the third try. My water heater fires every time though.

Thanks -
Phil
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Old 09-22-2008, 02:32 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the feedback. I take it no one thinks my guage is at fault and that my tank is actually empty? oclv
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Old 09-22-2008, 06:38 PM   #10
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Eurovans had the same problem with refrigerators when the early Winnebago campers came out. They corrected it in newer models and sent all the dealers a "high altitude" kit for the older ones. I am not sure what was in it. I do know that on the originals, the refrigerator had one opening to the outside. With the high altitude kit a second opening was installed below the first and right where the igniter would light the flame.

Also, my old heater would do that if I was low on power. The fan must require more to start it going and that is why I would hear the thermostat click but the fan never started. The stove ran fine.

I don't understand the purge but I am no expert either. The tank should never have air in it, should it? That is why as it is filled the purge valve is opened until propane comes out. Just the same I am copying those purge directions.

Regards,

Keith
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