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Old 10-15-2021, 09:10 AM   #1
EllsworthToohey
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Basement heat

If I understand correctly, the propane furnace that heats the RV above floor level is also supposed to blow heat into the confines of the underbelly to keep water lines and waste tanks from freezing. How does this really work? By that I mean, 1st yes or no on my assumption, but more importantly, how does it operate. Is there a thermostat or temp sensors in the underbelly to signal when its needs heat or is it constant when the living area above floor is being heated? I know where my furnace is, but have not traced out any ductwork to see where basement heat comes from. Just one of the many mysteries for new owners of old used RV's.

2nd, the HEAT switch on the tank & battery monitor panel - does this have to be on for the furnace to work to heat the living area. Or does this switch open up a heat duct just below the floors? Winter is coming and I will hopefully be living full time in my 3670RL by the 1st Floridian Freeze. And yes we DO get some pretty deep freezes here on occasion.

3rd How propane hungry is the Furnace? Just has my (2) 30lb bottles recertified for 5 more years. I plan to use shore power for cooking and fridge etc. Propane will be almost exclusively for heating.
 
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Old 10-15-2021, 09:29 AM   #2
rames14
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Welcome to the world of knowledge that is the MOC. First, you have two different heating functions in your basement. First is the easiest. Whenever your propane furnace is running, you have ducts into the basement that keeps the underbelly and basement heated. The second is the tank heaters. They are electric heating pads glued to the bottom of your tanks. Remember, if you are running the heat pump, it is NOT heating the basement. The furnace and the heating pads are two different systems. As for worrying about freezing, we have found over the last 17 years that as long as it gets above freezing at some point in the day, we haven’t had any issues. Good luck.
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Old 10-15-2021, 09:35 AM   #3
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As for your third question, it all depends on temperature and where you set your thermostat. Right now we are above freezing, connected to shore power and using fireplace, Dyson heater in bedroom and the fireplace. Water heater is on electric as well as fridge. If you are set about 68 degrees, temps in the 20’s, you may go through a tank every couple of days. I recommend buying Mopeka sensors so you can track your usage the way you use your unit.
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Old 10-15-2021, 09:45 AM   #4
Daryles
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I can answer some of that based on my model 2019 3130re.
1. Your underbelly is heated from the furnace. There is a duct that comes off the furnace and goes down to your grey and black tanks. When I opened my basement walls to check things out I found this duct just laying on top of the floor. I redirected it to in-between the grey and black tank so it actually provides heat to them and the valves.

2. The "Tank Heater" switches turn on the tank heaters mounted to the bottom of each tank. The switch lights up when turned on BUT the tank heaters have a built in thermostat. On at 45⁰F off at 65⁰F. The fuse for them is the red inline fuse in the corner above the hydraulic pump motor in the forward battery compartment. This fuse also goes to the hydraulic Leveling system control panel.

3. Furnace propane consumption. We were stopped overnight in Percival Springs IL in an ice storm. It got down to 22⁰F and it was blowing. The camp host warned us it was coming when we checked in. After dinner we pulled in all our slides and went to bed. The furnace ran all night. Our ducts are not blocked by having the slides in. We had full tanks. By morning the drivers side was completely iced over with about 1/2" of ice. We went through 2/3 of a 30 gal tank. I have Mopeka propane tank monitors. Excellent for keeping an eye on your propane tanks.
We did have issues in the beginning with lighting the furnace off, but that's another story.

Sorry first picture is upside-down
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Old 10-15-2021, 10:00 AM   #5
EllsworthToohey
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Nice. Great responses. I will look more into the ductwork into underbelly. I am kinda stunned that a 30lb bottle will only last a few days! That sounds expensive @ $28 per fill.

Here is the big take away though, all of you have mentioned individual heat pads attached to the underside of the tanks. I have no such heaters on my tank and my '06 3670RL has the Arctic Package so it might be that all my tanks have been replaced at some point and the heat pads not replaced as if they might have been permanently fixed to original tanks??? Mysteries abound in RV land. I bet live aboard boaters suffer these same mysteries when they buy used.

So to be clear, the HEAT switch on the tank level monitor would activate the electric heat pads fixed to the tanks? The Heat switch has nothing to do with the propane furnace? I have my belly opened up as far as the axles forward, so will double check all the visible tanks (except fresh - I'll tackle THAT after I complete the issues I have with the Galley tank (another topic)
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Old 10-15-2021, 10:37 AM   #6
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If you have a heat switch the trailer likely had or has tank heaters. They are low temp electrical heating pads affixed to the tanks. As close as the tanks are to the floor of the trailer, freezing tanks will be a rarity even without tank heaters. You will have more issues with fw hoses and sewer hoses than tanks. We use the fireplace heater and one freestanding heater when its cold. The gas furnace is merely a supplement when we need to up the temp.
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Old 10-15-2021, 09:58 PM   #7
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EllsworthToohey,
The heat switch on the tank & monitor panel is most likely to turn & fire the propane for the water heater.
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Old 10-16-2021, 05:11 AM   #8
RMcNeal
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Water heater was my guess too. Also, I wouldn't leave the belly open during winter. You won't have any heat down there at all. I've been in -7 degree temps for a few days and ran electric heat in the basement and inside the rig. Only used 20% of 1 30 lb tank for 2 weeks. I bought remote temp sensors on Amazon and put one in the garage, one in the basement and one outside. That way I can tell if I need to run furnace.
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Old 10-16-2021, 08:34 AM   #9
rames14
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Ellsworth, once you added year and model it helps to know what you have. From 2006 to now Montana’s have changed a lot. Yours definitely doesn’t have the heating pads or the heat pump. You also don’t have many of the other features of the new Montana’s. You may want to add your unit information to a signature at the bottom (see mine below). There are instructions in the sections above to do that.

Now that I know you have a 2006, your unit has the lines run close to the Frame, so they are prone to freezing in cold weather. You still have some heat in the basement, but not to the level of the newer Montana’s. You have a dual powered water heater - electric and/or propane. Your switch on the tank monitor is the propane operation. There is also a rocker switch in your water heater panel outside that needs to be on to use electric. Hope this helps.
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Old 10-16-2021, 08:54 AM   #10
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Others have answered question 1 and 2 and they are correct above.

Regarding question 3?

We use our Montana 375FL (41 feet long - 4 slides) most of the year at home in the driveway and when traveling. This year we were fortunate to take the work-from-home mandate on the road. But even when home, we still work and hang out in the camper, sleep and eat in it, basically 24x7x365 and we live in central Indiana where freezing weather can start as early as November 1 and last until April 1.

Even in freezing weather we use our Montana ..... UNTIL the weather gets cold enough we are running through 1 - 30 pound tank of propane ever 2 days for heat. And that happens when the outside temperatures reach about 20 degrees above zero.

We also winterize when home, even though we use the camper in freezing weather. We "dry camp" and keep a port-a-potty in the bathroom for "night visits" and then take it into the house and flush it there. At home, we also have a septic tank with a very easy removable cap. I can also dump it directly in there too.

But to answer your question about propane usage, you can expect to run through a 30 pound tank every 48 hours when the daytime temperatures reach about 20 degrees.

When that happens, we move back into the house and get all bumbed out!

About the heat going under the floor? About 50% of your heat goes under the floor, but the thermostat is inside the living area. The ducts under the floor come directly off the furnace and run to different places under the floor and are just open ended ducts. They are smaller in diameter than the ones running to the living area of the camper.

Another thing, the chloroplast under your Montana (the underbelly), is absolutely NOT sealed. The wind can easily blow through the cracks and seams and where the J-panel wraps around from the side of the camper to the under side. It took a couple years to figure out why so much air was blowing back UP through the furnace return located on the stairs going to the upper level in the fifth wheel. Once I sealed the chloroplast seams (I used Liquid Nails, about 20 tubes of it), we don't have that cold draft blowing across the lower level floor any more....... also .... the propane usage improved too. There's a lot of cold air that comes through those cracks and seams. I strongly suggest getting some kind of caulking sealer and seal up the bottom. It will make a 100% difference on the cold drafts that come through the furnace return.
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Old 10-16-2021, 09:12 AM   #11
rames14
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Dutchman, the 2006 didn’t have that much heat going to the basement, but propane usage was similar. We have had a 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2021 Montana and propane usage was about the same. If you use fireplace and an electric heater above 32 degrees, you can use less.
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Old 10-16-2021, 09:22 AM   #12
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rames14...

We do use electric heat as much as possible, fireplace and ceramic heaters. But even with that, there is a point they cannot and do not keep up any more. Not to mention what it does to the electric bill?

Everything above 32 degrees, with the electric heat, we can go much longer on propane. But when it reaches about 20, it's just too much. Oh ... the furnace WILL keep the camper nice and warm! it does a fantastic job. But it also does a fantastic job of burning through the propane at those temperatures.
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Old 10-16-2021, 11:18 AM   #13
Montana Man
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Montana Man View Post
If you have a heat switch the trailer likely had or has tank heaters. They are low temp electrical heating pads affixed to the tanks. As close as the tanks are to the floor of the trailer, freezing tanks will be a rarity even without tank heaters. You will have more issues with fw hoses and sewer hoses than tanks. We use the fireplace heater and one freestanding heater when its cold. The gas furnace is merely a supplement when we need to up the temp.
Others are correct. That heat switch is more likely the water heater gas on/off switch.
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Old 10-16-2021, 11:29 AM   #14
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Just we careful about using electric heaters and the fireplace. It will keep the living area warm, but then the furnace doesn't run and the basement will get cold (and freeze). I think some (most?) people using heaters have one in the basement too to keep it from freezing.
I live in AZ and leave during the summer and store it for 9 months so I don't worry about freezing!!
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Old 10-16-2021, 06:55 PM   #15
rames14
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Agreed. In 2019 our DEF froze up at -12 coming through Rock Springs, Wy. We spent the night at a KOA with furnace, heater and fireplace going. When we’re home, we are in our house. All the toys are in there.
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Old 10-20-2021, 03:29 PM   #16
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1 gal of propane contains 91330 BTU. My RV furnace is a 40,000 BTU unit, so that means that after 2h15 of continuous run time, I will have used a gallon. A 30 lb propane tank contains 7 gallons of propane, so should give you 15h45 minutes of continuous operation. Thankfully, depending on outside temp, the burner will cycle on and off. But the point is that the numbers quoted above are in the right ballpark.
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Old 10-20-2021, 04:48 PM   #17
Badd857
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Basement heat

Agree with Montana Man. If plugged in we use fireplace and good space Heater(s). Rarely used the furnace and when used it was for a “boost” usually in the am. We put a shop light with a 60 watt incandescent bulb in the basement that keeps the frost off of things down there. We left tank heaters (Blue switches in ours) on for insurance but I agree they may not be necessary. This was our experience living in Idaho for a year while house was being built. 2018 3130RE. 😎
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Old 10-21-2021, 08:46 AM   #18
c2itcliff
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Cheap Heat

There is a product out there that upgrades your propane furnace to dual fuel (gas/electric). Google “cheapheat”. It’s recommended to pro installed unless you are skilled DIY. Saves propane while on FHU keeps underbelly from freezing.
https://www.rvcomfortsystems.com/add-on-system
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Old 10-21-2021, 10:33 AM   #19
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Hi,
We wintered in Colorado while building a house. While it wasn't a Montana, and possibly colder than your experience will be, there might be some worthwhile info here:
https://smallhomebigyard.wordpress.c...019/?order=asc

Good Luck!
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