How to Light a Pop-Up Camper Furnace

by John Cagney Nash
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Propane, colloquially called liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, is a colorless hydrocarbon. Although nontoxic and almost odorless, propane can expel oxygen from an atmosphere or explode. For these reasons ethyl mercaptan is added to give it the familiar "rotten eggs" smell. It is used in a camper to power water and space heaters, and for convection ovens and stove-top burners. Pop-up campers are trailers with soft-sided tops that extend up from a rigid "base box," with sleeping areas at both ends. Some pop-up campers feature propane furnaces for space heating, which must be lit in a strict sequence.

Step 1

Consult the manufacturer's literature or look on the case of the furnace, or on the inside of the front panel or on the fascia, for a sticker giving the operation instructions. Always read the instructions specific to your furnace model.

Step 2

Ensure the control devices are correctly switched. There will be a control panel, often with an on/off switch and a slider or digital control like a regular thermostat. Move the switch to the "on" position. If a second switch exists with "furnace" and "air conditioner" options, move the switch to the furnace position. Move the slider control to its hottest position.

Step 3

Listen for the furnace's air-mover fan to begin running, which it will usually do between half a minute and minute after the thermostat is switched on. The fan will run for a prescribed period to vent any propane which may have leaked into the combustion chamber, thereby reducing the risk of uncontrolled ignition (explosion). If the pilot light is burning, it will take between a further half a minute and a minute for the furnace to ignite.

Step 4

Check to see if your pilot light is burning if the furnace does not ignite. Typically the furnace will have a pilot light failsafe called a thermocouple. This device prevents the main flow of propane to the burners if the pilot light is not burning, and has not been burning for a prescribed period of time, usually from half a minute to a minute.

Step 5

Wait for a prescribed period, typically between two and five minutes, for the pilot light safety mechanism to reset. During this period check that the thermocouple, a bi-metal probe, is correctly situated. It must not be touching the pilot light jet but must be situated so as to be in the tip of the flame when the pilot light is burning, a distance of approximately 1 inch from the pilot light jet. Also check that the propane supply is switched on at the tank regulator.

Step 6

Use a grill lighter with a long nose to ignite the pilot. These are available from any camping outlet, home improvement warehouse or large household store. Ignite the lighter and hold its flame to the pilot tip. Depress a pilot light override button which should be clearly labeled, and hold the button down while lighting the pilot. Hold the button down for a further 30 seconds.

Step 7

Release the pilot light override button. The pilot light should remain burning, and the thermocouple will heat up. Run through the ignition procedures again, and the furnace should fire up.

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