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Old 02-12-2012, 05:33 PM   #1
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1977 31' Sovereign
Florence , South Carolina
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Suburban Airstream Heater

We found in our weekend trip that our Suburban furnace in our 1977 Airstream Sovereign did not light, which made for a very chilly night. Is it cost effective to get this furnace fixed or is there a replacement?

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Old 02-12-2012, 05:45 PM   #2
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1974 31' Sovereign
Ottawa , ON
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They get plugged up by mud daubers, the burner nozzles can get blocked, the main combustion chamber can rust out, and several other things.

Think of it this way: what would you do if the furnace in your home was 35 years old? You would replace it in a flash, right? I know that a trailer's furnace rarely sees as much use, but age speaks loudly with these units.

All that to say, you will find there are lots of things you can do to get it to work for a while longer, but it might be time to consider investing in a brand new one.

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Old 02-12-2012, 06:04 PM   #3
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A brand new NT30SP can be had for $500ish. The benefits of a new one are spark ignition, a warranty, and of course the fact that it should actually work. Check to see if you can get the old one out without dismantling half your interior before you buy a replacement, though (yes I'm bitter about that).

It's not necessarily a direct replacement, you may have to tweak the ducts and the gas line a bit, and depending on which model was in your trailer originally you may need a platform under the new one to line up the combustion-air intake and exhaust. The new cases are about 12"x12"

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Old 02-12-2012, 06:52 PM   #4
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I'm in a tired Silver Streak till a bit later this year. But it has a brand-new furnace (on a long list of "new") and that I never have to give it a thought is peace of mind. Kicks on & off as it will and worth what was paid for it. You won't regret it. Expect that all appliances past 15-years of age probably ought to be replaced or very carefully overhauled/rebuilt.
1990 35' Silver Streak Sterling; 9k GVWR.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:36 AM   #5
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The furnace in the B190 was pretty flaky for us - when I first got it, it would squeal loudly. A service tech replaced the motor, and that fixed it for a while, but it started squealing again. Then I replaced the motor and fan blades, and that stopped the squealing, and all was well.

...for about three cycles. Then it simply wouldn't light (just imagine how upset I was - I was enjoying the quiet warmth, happy with myself that I'd fixed it, when suddenly it stopped working for a completely different reason...). Took it to another shop, and they 'fixed' it, but it never was quite right - you'd hear the gas valve open, and you'd hear it trying to light, but perhaps a third of the time it just wouldn't catch. That led to some very cold nights when the furnace kicked on, failed to light, and then sat there and ran until I climbed out of bed (note, it's a bunk, so that's not as simple of a task as it might seem), manually shut it off, and restarted it and hoped it lit that time. At 2 or 3 a.m. The furnace became my nemesis in the B190.

All told, I spent about as much in repairs as I would've for a new furnace. And if you add in the frustration level of having the furnace not working, it's a lousy deal. And we do regularly camp in cold weather so this was a major issue for us. Looking back, I'm surprised at how patient I was with it.

We always carried an electric heater with us in the B190, which worked fairly well but was constantly in the way and just didn't give you that "warm, comfy" feeling the furnace did - the furnace is much better at heating the entire camper than one of those small electric heaters is.

On the other hand, our trailer's furnace works absolutely perfectly. It lights every time, it runs quietly, and it keeps the camper warm. The electric heater is in there just in case, but it's stored under the couch and hasn't come out. I still get a touch nervous when the furnace kicks on ("Is it going to light??"), but that's from my experience in the B190 rather than anything this furnace has done - it's been completely reliable. I noticed that the propane line going to it is kinked, but it still works perfectly.

We did the Christmas trip in the camper this year, and we took it to Disney in January, plus we had a weekend of cool weather camping, and we've had ZERO problems with the furnace. I even kept it running at home for about three weeks (albeit at a low setting) to avoid having to re-winterize the trailer between Christmas and our Disney trip, and it worked perfectly. What a relief.

If you're going to camp in cool or cold weather, spend the money on a new furnace. It's well worth it!
1995 Airstream Classic 30' Excella 1000
2014 Ram 2500 Crew Cab with Cummins 6.7L Diesel

Sold but not forgotten: 1991 Airstream B190
Sold: 2006 F-250 6.0L Powerstroke Supercab
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Old 02-15-2012, 07:49 AM   #6
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The 70's Suburban furnaces can be described with one word.... deathtraps. Bottom line,replace it.
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Old 02-15-2012, 10:09 AM   #7
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South of the river , Minnesota
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There were recalls on Suburban furnaces during some years, so that's one thing to check. If yours is affected by the recall it isn't safe.

Replacement is probably the best approach with any forced-air furnace over 20 years old. The older panel ray heaters are worth saving since there isn't a replacement product available.
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Old 03-04-2012, 07:21 PM   #8
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Hobe Sound , Florida
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Can anyone tell me where to turn off power to the furnace? We have 06 Classic. Furnace is blowing cold air and won't turn off with thermostat. There is no breaker switch for furnace.
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Old 03-04-2012, 07:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jenturnr View Post
Can anyone tell me where to turn off power to the furnace? We have 06 Classic. Furnace is blowing cold air and won't turn off with thermostat. There is no breaker switch for furnace.
Is there no shut-off switch below the thermostat?
"A settled wisdom, plus the itch to be elsewhere"
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Old 03-05-2012, 05:18 AM   #10
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Hobe Sound , Florida
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We found the switch on the unit itself. The thermostat on/off switch did not kill the power. We will have it checked later. Thankfully it's only 48 - in South Florida!

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