I've got what I believe is a Suburban SW6P water heater inside my older Northern Lite.
It's the kind where you have to go outside and light the pilot light with a lighter...
Because of that inconvenience, and the fact that I figure it *probably* burns a lot of propane, I pretty-much never use it. If I want to do dishes, I boil hot water on the stove.
Last night someone was telling me that if I leave it lit, it's quite efficient...
I suspect he may have been thinking about a slightly more intelligent style water heater, but figured I'd ask here instead...
Any rough estimates how much propane I'd burn through if I left it lit for a week or so?
I have one similar, left it going for a week, with using the stove, and had the refridgerator running for 600 miles travel, all on propane, and the tank was still over half full when we returned home.
They are actually quite efficient.
The amount of propane burned by the pilot is negligible, and once the pilot is lit the amount of propane used to actually heat water can't be any more than any of the modern electronically-ignited units.
Even if the water heater is the most inefficient, smoke-belching thing ever made, does it really matter? How much are you using the camper in a year? If you go through an extra tank of propane in a year by using the water heater, it's only $10-$20. Eat hamburgers instead of filet mignon one night, and you break even.
My biggest issue is that the pilot would never stay lit on mine for more than a couple of hours. That was fine because I only ever used it for hot showers, but I forgot to turn off the water heater when I got home yesterday... Of course I said to heck with it, the pilot probably went out some time Sunday morning. I'll turn it off when I leave for work today.
That stupid water heater pilot was STILL BURNING when I left for work this morning!!! It's never burned that long, ever!
2002 Chevy 3500 DRW 8.1L/Allison
2000 Palomino B1500
...and the reason why I need a DRW to haul a Palomino:
2004 United 7x14 tandem axle enclosed toy trailer
2011 PJ 8x20 7-ton deckover equipment trailer
Thanks for the replies, guys, I'll light it up and let it run and see how the fuel consumption compares...
mkirsch -- actually, I'm averaging just under 6 months/year in the TC, so a significant increase in propane is something I think about, especially when my only need for it is to do dishes (which, as I said, can be done quite easily boiling water on the stove...)
I have an Atwood with the same system. When I pull into a place the first thing I do is light the pilot so I have hot water when I want it. Showers, not many, cooking washing my hands. I go for weeks at a time and small amount of LP it uses doesn't matter to me. One thing is that when you pack up leave your spot be sure to turn it off. My w/h is just above my fuel door.
I have the exact same model water heater, with the temp turned up and the pilot on 24/7, it takes me roughly 4 months to burn through a 100lb bottle of propane (This is in the summer months when the furnace is not on, and the only other propane consumer is my range).
So, doing just a quick bit of math, that makes it close to a month of constant use to run down a 20lb bottle.
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I turn the pilot on when I get to the campsite, let it heat up as needed till morning and shut off the pilot for the day. I can say that once hot the amount of propane for the pilot is minimal and I have never seen a huge usage in the propane from trips that I didn't do this.
I would say that you may use a 1/32th more using the hot water tank than the kettle idea as the difference would be mainly the pilot. I do like the turning on the tap and having the hot water for washing up.
2002 GMC 2500HD 4x4 4 Door
1992 Northern Lite 9'- 6" Camper
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With it set to pilot only, it'll slow the heat loss, but not completely stop it.
Personally, I just light the pilot and leave it in the "ON" position till it's time to break camp. It'll take a very long time before the water heater cools enough again to cycle, so there's no propane savings really to leaving it locked out vs in the on/run mode.
Keep it simple, get there, light the water heater, leave it on till it's time to go.