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Topic: Water Heater on/off switch in the system itself

Posted By: Kimbearly on 05/13/10 07:52pm

Hello,

I can not figure this one out. We just bought a new fifth wheel and it did not come with directions for the water heater. On the inside of the RV is a switch to run the propane to heat the water. When we turn it on it heats our water using the gas. I noticed an On/Off switch in the water heater system itself (outside). It is small and it has a little pin in it keeping it in the off position. What is this for? Does pushing it to on make the water heater run by electricity and not by gas? Thanks for your help.

The age old question is - do you keep your water heater on all the time with the gas, or an hour before you want to use it? We left it on all night and had nice hot water in the morning, but it sure did use a lot of propane. Mind you it was 30 degrees outside. Maybe that had something to do with it.


MaMa Bear to Christopher and Nicholas

Partner in crime to Michael

2010 Keystone Mountaineer towed by a GMC 2500 HD Diesel. We like to call her Betty.



Posted By: BB_TX on 05/13/10 07:59pm

That switch is to run the water heater on electric. I always turn both on. That does two things for me. It gives better recovery rate making a hot shower last longer. And the electric keeps the water hot and prevents the propane from turning on/off during the night and making the associated propane noise.


Posted By: Kimbearly on 05/13/10 08:04pm

Thank you for writing. So you always leave your water heater on? Does it use a a lot of electricity to run? We have a seasonal site and pay for electricity. I can not believe though how much gas it used just for an overnight.


Posted By: Glaron on 05/13/10 08:08pm

Our RV dealer suggested (and we do it this way) to leave the outside switch (which is for electric) turned ON.

Then from inside the rig (without going outside) you can simply flip your electric water heater circuit breaker (there should be a separate one for the heater) to easily switch from electric to gas as your want.

Gas will heat your tank quicker to get it up to temp if you are in a hurry. When in RV parks we always use electric only ... as the parks electric usually does not cost you more, unless on a seasonal site ... and save my gas. Electric doesn't cost me much anyway ... I have a 10 gallon heater.


Posted By: Nolann on 05/13/10 09:45pm

Kimbearly you said you can't believe how much gas you used ... how much did you use ... i can run mine for a week with 2 showers every day, doing dishs etc on a 20# tank and still have gas in my tank

Nolan


Posted By: cpaulsen on 05/14/10 04:27am

I have just run water heater all week along with occasional stove/oven use and have used very little propane. I run mine on electric and turn the propane on when stopping for the night.It usually fires up right away and then never hear it again since the electric keeps it hot.


cpaulsen


Posted By: a_flyfisher on 05/14/10 04:39am

We rarely use our hot water heater on propane, but if we did I think we'd get a month or so on a tank of gas. The only reason you'd want to use both propane and electric at the same time is when you want the hot water to recover more quickly - for example, if you have a couple people that need to take showers at about the same time. Electric heat is also much quieter - it can be a bit annoying to hear your neighbors' propane water heater running at times!

Our trailer has an inside as well as an outside (on the tank) switch to turn the electric on and off. You've got to make absolutely certain that there is water in the tank before turning the electric on. Otherwise, you'll burn up your heating element FAST.


a_flyfisher


Posted By: Kimbearly on 05/14/10 05:30am

Thank you all so much. When we started using the water heater our propane level (by what a gauge said that you attach to a propane tank) went from the middle of the green to the middle of the yellow. I find this a bit much - don't you? Did it use more to keep it warm because it was 39 during the evening? We did make sure that we had water in the tank. For us, we usually have 2 people taking a shower in the morning. So what do we do? Turn on the water heater an hour before showers, or leave on all the time with the electric and gas combo?


Posted By: schrecker96 on 05/14/10 05:35am

We would always turn our off an on to run on electric from the outside switch in our Sprinter. Our dealer warned us not to leave it on unless we were using it incase there is no hot water in the tank you can burn it up.


The few times we ran it on gas, we turned both on.


2010 Jayco Eagle 313RKS


Posted By: lat471 on 05/14/10 06:04am

Used a lot of gas I'm not sure how you would no how much gas the water heater might use. If your worried about gas wait to you fire the furnace. Even then you should last a week or more. I have 30lb tanks and run the frig, and water heater and only get a tank filled every few months.


07 Cameo F35FD3
The Black Cloud



Posted By: Dennis Bham on 05/14/10 06:14am

We have 30A service. Our water heater pulls 14 Amps. Our single air conditioner pulls 14 Amps. The microwave pulls 13 Amps. Other items in the trailer pull a lot less. Obviously, we can't have all 3 major loads on at the same time. I think your Mountaineer is probably a 30 Amp trailer, so you need to keep that in mind when deciding when to run the water heater on AC.


'08 Chevy 2500HD Duramax 4x4, Crew Cab, Std Bed e/w 18K Superglide
'08 Cougar 292RKS, e/w 16" Sendel wheels & BFG Commercial TA tires
PressurePro TPMS



Posted By: Kimbearly on 05/14/10 06:34am

Our RV is 50 but our site is 30. I am not sure either why we used so much propane. Is it the adapter that I attached onto the tank to tell me how much gas is in the tank? I am wondering if that made gas leak out - hmmmmm. It was also a new camper, so why was our tank on half green when I thought it would of been on full green? I never thought about running the water heater and AC at the same time and how it could trip the circuit breaker.

So: Do I use the water heater with gas and put the electric switch on about an hour before we take showers or just use the gas only an hour before showers so the water has time to heat up? I do not know how some of you can run for months with a tank. I do not think we would make it 3 days! Now that I am thinking, it was cold and we had the heater on all day and night.


Posted By: WellShooter2 on 05/14/10 06:37am

We noticed the same thing. If you leave the gas switch on it will consume an enormous amount. We now just switch it on 30 minutes before a shower and shut it off at night. I have never switched on the electric. I will do that if we are staying a week or more at a site.


2008 2500HD D/A
2008 Keystone Challenger



Posted By: Rossey on 05/14/10 06:51am

I have a Cardinal with 50amp service, and always camp @ RV parks with full hookups.I spliced a 20 amp wall switch (with red "on" indicator light) into the feed wire leading to the hot water tank (10 gal.) and installed it in our kitchen area so that I wouldn't have to use the outside switch,or use the circuit breaker to turn on and off. I NEVER use propane to heat water while camping and we always have plenty of hot water. Why use propane when camping at a RV park offering full hookups?.........I use their electricity. Same goes for cooking.....have a hot plate for boiling water, etc. Heating the 5er?.........we use a ceramic heater and or our electric fireplace....... works for us.


Posted By: Pipeman on 05/14/10 06:52am

I'm curious to know what you mean by "a lot of propane". We dry camp quite a bit and sometimes it gets down to freezing. The hot water tank may come on 2 to 3 times during the night. The furnace is also cycling during the night. Now don't get me wrong when I ask this but is your furnace also running or do you have an alternate means of heating your trailer? If your furnace is running, along with the water heater that could account for " a lot of propane", if both are cycling a lot because of cold weather. If you use the electric side of the water heater, just be aware that you don't want to be hooked up to electric and have your water heater empty because you would burn out the heating element in the water heater. When we are in a camp ground we take advantage of the electricity. Just 3 cents worth. Good luck.


Pipeman
Ontario, Canada
Full Member
35 year Fire Fighter(retired)
VE3PJF


Posted By: Kimbearly on 05/14/10 08:12am

At our seasonal site we have to pay for electric each month. With our first RV last year (Coachman) we had a gas and electric switch inside the camper for the water heater. I only used electric and our bill for the month was close to $100.00, where everyone else was paying maybe $40. The woman at the office said it was because we were using electric each time to heat up our water and I was leaving it on pretty much most of the day.

Our heater was running a lot during the night because our littlest one put the furnace up to 78. Needless to say we were very toasty. My husband noticed what happened about 4 in the morning because he was burning up. I guess that would account for the sucking of propane - being that our heating was running most of the night and the water heater was on.

If we decide to use the electric, how do you keep water in the water heater? Do I turn the switch outside to on and still keep water running into the heater? I am guessing that I always need water in the water heater.

I really appreciate all of your help. This is our second year of camping and we are still getting the "hang" of it.


Posted By: BB_TX on 05/14/10 08:39am

Kimbearly wrote:


If we decide to use the electric, how do you keep water in the water heater? Do I turn the switch outside to on and still keep water running into the heater? I am guessing that I always need water in the water heater.

Whenever you first hook up to water, open a hot water faucet and let the water run until no air comes out, maybe a couple minutes. That will make sure the water heater is full. If it is already full, no air will ever come out.
Once full, the water heater will stay full unless you disconnect and drain the water heater.


Posted By: VirtualGarage on 05/14/10 09:06am

We never leave the hot water on unless we're planning on using it. It seems wasteful to do otherwise--kind of like idling a car when you're out shopping for groceries. It doesn't take that long to heat (30 min?) and even when we turn it off in the evening when we're done, the water stays pretty warm for a long time.


2007 GMC Yukon XL Denali ~ 2010 Keystone Premier 31BHPR ~ Sold: 2009 Tango 289BH
ProPride 3P Hitch ~ RV Modifications ~ Gear & Accessories ~ Road Trip 2010



Posted By: Rossey on 05/14/10 09:52am

Kimbearly wrote:

At our seasonal site we have to pay for electric each month. With our first RV last year (Coachman) we had a gas and electric switch inside the camper for the water heater. I only used electric and our bill for the month was close to $100.00, where everyone else was paying maybe $40. The woman at the office said it was because we were using electric each time to heat up our water and I was leaving it on pretty much most of the day.

Our heater was running a lot during the night because our littlest one put the furnace up to 78. Needless to say we were very toasty. My husband noticed what happened about 4 in the morning because he was burning up. I guess that would account for the sucking of propane - being that our heating was running most of the night and the water heater was on.

If we decide to use the electric, how do you keep water in the water heater? Do I turn the switch outside to on and still keep water running into the heater? I am guessing that I always need water in the water heater.

I really appreciate all of your help. This is our second year of camping and we are still getting the "hang" of it.


As long as you have your fresh water tank pump on OR "city water" hose turned on you don't do anything.........water will flow into the hot water tank as needed.


Posted By: CactusJohn on 05/15/10 07:40am

The only time I turn off the water heater’s electric switch is when I drain the tank to check the anode rod or to sanitize the fresh water system. I never use propane if I have an electric hookup. My tank is 10 gallons and that is plenty for back-to-back showers for the two of us.

BTW, when I first got my 5er, I called the water heater’s manufacturer, Suburban, and asked about that cotter key that was on the outside switch. They said they install that to protect the unit during installation by the RV manufacturer. They found that the manufacturer would sometimes inadvertently turn on the switch before the water heater’s tank was full of water, which would later result in a burned out heating element when the RV was plugged into shore power. They said the cotter key should be discarded by the consumer once the tank is full.


2014 Grand Design Reflection 303RLS 5er
2012 F250 Lariat SuperCab, 6.7L PSD
PullRight SuperGlide




Posted By: a_flyfisher on 05/15/10 08:24am

Rossey wrote:

As long as you have your fresh water tank pump on OR "city water" hose turned on you don't do anything.........water will flow into the hot water tank as needed.


I don't want to get too technical here, but what you say is right assuming that the trailer does not have a water heater bypass (used to winterize the trailer) with the valves closed to keep water out of the water heater.

If the trailer has been winterized, before using it in the spring you'd have to open these valves to get water into the water heater.


Posted By: Brian in MO on 05/15/10 09:45am

This is just my 2 cents but you said you also had the furnace on all day and night. I know when our furnace runs it really sucks the propane (maybe 3-4 days on 30lbs), when just running the water heater I can go 2-3 weeks. I also leave the water heater on all the time (gas and elec.) I really think your furnace is what used so much gas.


Posted By: RAS43 on 05/15/10 12:31pm

Kimberly,
This may not include your trailer but with the last 3-4 brands I have owned I was able to control the water heater from inside the unit. Meaning we could choose to run it on electric or propane. This usually involved two switches. Since you already found the propane switch you should look for a switch for the elctric portion. Some are included on a switch that also controls the microwave. In my experience the switch outside with the cotter pin is a safety switch that would be turned off and pinned to prevent the water heater from working if the water heater tank was drained. That is what I was told with the last 3 trailers I have had.
Since your trailer is new you need to talk to the dealer about instructions for the water heater as they should have been included.
As for running time I am somewhat conservative so I only run mine on propane if dry camping and when needed as it does heat up quickly. If we have hookups I leave it on all the time unless we are paying extra for electric, then I turn it off at night. Hope that helps.


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