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Is It Dangerous To Run Your RV Furnace While Driving?

Cold-weather RV travel offers a unique experience but also poses challenges, especially when it comes to keeping warm. We have RV’s in all seasons and weather conditions and have had to figure out how to stay warm. While the cabin usually stays cozy, passengers in the coach may struggle with cold temperatures. So, is it feasible to run your RV furnace while driving? Let’s delve into the details.

The Best RV Winter Setup: How to RV in Winter and the Gear That Will Keep You Cozy Warm!

Why Would You Need to Run Your Furnace While Driving? 

RV owners often find it hard to maintain a comfortable temperature for everyone on board, particularly those not in the cabin. Running the RV furnace can be a viable solution to keep the entire space warm as its usually a higher BTU output. This is especially crucial for fifth wheels and travel trailers that may house temperature-sensitive pets or plants. Moreover, running the furnace can prevent pipes from freezing and save you from arriving at a frigid destination.

RV towing in the snow.
We have driven in winter conditions more than once with our RV’s

Can You Run Your RV Furnace While Driving?

The consensus is that it’s generally safe and possible to run your RV furnace while driving. Most RV furnaces operate on propane and 12-volt DC power, supplied by the RV house batteries. When driving, your engine’s alternator keeps these batteries charged, ensuring sufficient power for the furnace. However, running the furnace requires leaving the propane on, which has its own set of considerations.

Other considerations include if your RV has slides that cover heat outlets when they come in. You might be sending a lot of heat where it won’t disseminate properly. Check the interior of your RV to see if you’ll block heat ducts by taking in your slides. These might be cases when driving with a working furnace isn’t a good idea.

Pro Tip: Want to know more about RV furnaces in general? We put together The Beginner’s Guide to RV Furnaces.

RVing in mountain snow
When up in the snow we have had to run the furnace while driving to stay warm.

Is It Safe to Run Your RV Furnace While Driving? 

RVers have run their furnaces while driving for years with typically no ill effects. Just be aware that because they usually operate on propane, you’ll need to turn them off when stopped for refueling, going through tunnels, or even over some bridges.

Running propane while driving has some inherent risks. Many people do it to keep their propane RV fridges or other propane appliances running. But in the event that a propane line is damaged from shifting or being in an accident, there is a chance of ignition and a raging fuel source for fire. We highly recommend using a Gas Stop Device as we mention in our propane regulators article if used while driving for this reason.

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You’ll also need to keep a close eye on the furnace pilot flame (if you have one) to ensure it doesn’t get blown out by winds as you travel. If your furnace pilot flame doesn’t stay lit, you may be leaking propane into your unit. Be sure to check your RV carbon monoxide detector‘s batteries and expiration so you’re alerted to any exhaust leakage. Running a furnace while driving increases the likelihood of exhaust entering the coach due to differential pressures while driving.

→ Your RV carbon monoxide detector is one of the most important safety devices in your RV. Learn how to identify when you need to replace it here.

How to Safely Run Your RV Furnace While Driving

If you decide to run your furnace, set it to the lowest necessary setting to minimize run time. Close off areas that don’t require heating and plan your route to avoid restricted areas. Make frequent stops to check the furnace, especially if you’re in a towable RV where the heated space can’t be monitored while driving.

Pro Tip: Keep warm in winter with our ultimate guide on How to RV in Winter.

RV Furnace Exhaust Vent
Keep your RV nice and toasty by keeping your RV furnace running while on the road.

What Are the Alternatives to Running Your RV Furnace? 

If you’re not comfortable with the idea of leaving your propane on and traveling with your RV furnace running, there are some alternatives and extra steps you can take.

Many RVers travel during the peak heat of the day, so sunshine can pour in the windows and provide radiant heat. Alternatively, you can use Reflectix in your RV’s windows to trap warm air inside better if there is no sun.

Passengers in motorhomes may wear more layers of clothing to deal with uncomfortable temperatures. Blankets on laps also help, and even heated blankets (DC powered or leave on RV inverter) can do wonders to keep the chill away.

You can also plan for shorter travel days, so you aren’t exposed to the cold for as long. Frequent stops where you can turn on the furnace while stationary can also be enough to keep pipes from freezing in the RV’s basement and take the chill off for the next leg of your journey.

If you have an onboard RV generator that can run while driving, you could run it and a heat pump that runs on electricity. However, these do not operate below certain temperatures.

Similarly, you could then run an electric heater off your generator; just ensure it will not tip over. While many have auto shut-off sensors, you still don’t want anything knocking around in your RV while driving. Note: We do not advise this alternative in towable RVs where they cannot be monitored but it should work fine to help warm non-cab passengers of a motorhome.

Do not use portable propane heaters, as they require venting for the exhaust, which would require a window open. This would likely make it colder in your RV than before and defeat the purpose. Plus, it could easily tip over during travel.

RV 101® - RV Furnace Operation & Preventive Maintenance

Is Driving with Your RV Furnace on Worth the Risk?

You’ll have to make the final decision on this debate. There has always been a two-sided argument over the use of propane while driving. Some say they’d never do it and some say they’ve never had a problem. If you’ve taken the necessary safety precautions, you may find it a useful option for your own RV travel.

Where do you fall in this debate? Drop a comment below!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Ray Davis

Saturday 23rd of September 2023

It certainly does say it all when you are driving down the road with a gas valve open and a huge wind to fan the flames, that it is not a prudent choice for me. "I've never had a problem," is not reassurance enough for me to deal with the inconvenience of a refrigerator getting warm or a rig getting chilly versus the possible alternative. A gas stop device is certainly a consideration, but for me, I need not worry about the gas valve malfunctioning. If it were a water valve...........no problem.

Marc Stauffer

Friday 22nd of October 2021

I have run the fridge and the heater without issues while traveling. That being said, I do have a gas stop device on my tank and check things frequently through the day. And since I'm in no hurry, a cup of coffee in a warm trailer makes for a pleasant experience. Eventually, a wall mount cadet electric heater and a compressor fridge will replace the need for the propane to be on........but not the need for enjoying that occasional cup of coffee while traveling!