Water Heater Question for RV Newbie

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melehr

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May 23, 2006
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7
All,
  I'm new to RVing.  My wife and purchased a 2005 Dutchmen 29' Travel Trailer.  I'm having problems with the water heater (most likely user error).  I filled the fresh water tank for the first time (since I've owned it).  Turned the pump on and let it prime.  The pressure switch kicked out.  I proceeded to turn the breaker on for the water heater, but it doesn't appear to be doing anything.  The control switch (near the sink) for gas and electric are both set to the "on" position, but the light isn't lighting up in the center (amber power indicator light).  I've waited 20 minutes, and it doesn't appear to be getting warm.  There are 2 lines near the water heater (red and black).  Both have separate valves (in parallel position to line).  There is also a valve between the 2 lines connecting them. 
  I'm assuming the water heater tank is full.  When I pull the pressure relief valves by the water heater, I can hear water flowing.  Any ideas on my water heater?  I thnk the fuse is good for the heater.  I appreciate any insight you may have.  Thank you very much!

Take care,
Jeremiah
 

Jeff

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Jerimiah:

When you pull the pressure releif valve water should squirt out. If it isn't the water heater bypass valves may be bypassing water or the heater needs to be purged. I would suggest holding the relleif valve open until water comes out and then leave the HOT water facets open for a few minutes and make sure no air is spitting out of the facets.

On our hot water heater bypass system one valve must be closed to force the water through the heater.
 

Shayne

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Jan 22, 2006
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Jeff is dead on the money.  Got to have flowing water before it will come out heated.
 

Ned

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If you open the relief valve until water comes out, you will lose the air head that is necessary for the water heater.  The correct procedure is to drain the water heater, close the relief valve, turn on the water (making sure the bypass valve, if present, is set correctly), turn on a hot water faucet until the air in the lines is purged and water is flowing.  Repeat for each hot water faucet if necessary.  This will give a proper head of air in the hot water tank that will compress as the water is heated and prevent the relief valve from opening when it shouldn't.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Following up on the bypass valve question, if you indeed switched on the eletric heater element when there is no water in the tank, chances are it burned out the heater element. It doesn't like running without water to dissipate the heat.

What kind of water heater does your Dutchman have?  Some of them are gas only while others can operate on gas or electric. And some gas heaters have a manual pilot light, though most these days are DSI - Direct Spark Inition.  Diagnosis will be different depending on type and brand. Generally the small rocker switch with an adjacent light is to activate gas operation and the light indicates that the gas flame has successfully lit.  The light should come on as it atemt to ignite but will go out if it does not succeed.    The Electric mode of operation is generally turned on with something that looks like a standard light switch.  You can run both modes at once but it is not necessary unless you need really fast heating.
 

melehr

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Joined
May 23, 2006
Posts
7
Thank you very much for your input.  I've got a bad feeling about this.  I assumed filling the fresh water tank would fill the water heater as well.  Not thinking about the valves (bypass) on the water heater.  I bet I burned the darn thing out.  What a way to start the summer, and our first camping trip!  It makes sense now.  When I turned on the "hot" water side on the faucet, it came out cold.  This must have been due to the bypass valve being engaged.  Water wasn't going to the hot water heater.  I wonder if the optional insurance I purchase with this thing will cover it.  If not, here's another one to chalk up...

I'll keep you posted.

Jeremiah
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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It's kind of late to ask about this, but where did you buy the RV and didn't anybody show you the in's and out's of the various systems?  Some of this stuff is not at all obvious if you have nothing but "house" experience behind you.

Unfortunately water heater bypass mechanisms aren't standardized, so its hard to say "this valve should be on and that one off", but looking at the routing of the ppes should give you a clue about which lets water into the tank and which allows it to bypass the tank and flow direct to the output side. Basically, you open the valve to the tank and close the one that allows the bypass and that causes water to flow through the tank.  It's independent of your fresh water tank, since the same water lines & water heater serve the RV whether using onboard (tank) water or citywater supply. The bypass mechanism is there to help in winterizing the rig if it is stored in a cold climate.

Replacing a heater element should not be a big deal EXCEPT that its usually on the back side of the tank and may not be readily accessible. But if you can see & get at the bypass valves, chances are you can get at the heater element too.

If the electric element is burned out, the heater should still work on propane (assuming it is a dual source model). Have you identified the switch for gas operation? Get some water into that tank and then see if the gas burner lights.

If in doubt about whether there is water in the tank, open the relief valve and let the tank fill until water comes out. Remember, if the rv is connected to city water (or the pump is on) there will be pressure there and water will squirt out, so be careful! You can open a faucet to let the pressure off first, then shut off the pump (or city water) and cautiously open the valve. Then gradually apply more water from pump or city supply and see if water flows from the relief valve. Once you know you have water, let it drain from the relief until no more comes out (to create the air head) and then close the valve and try gas operation.  Questions???
 

melehr

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May 23, 2006
Posts
7
After all of your suggestions, I determined the inlet and outlet valves were closed going to the tank.  The bypass valve was open.  After closing the bypass valve and opening the inlet and outlet valves, the tank filled.  It is heating on the propane side now.  I plugged it in to 110V last night, so I'll be able to determine if the electric side is working.  My tank is easy to get to (under a bunk in the back), so hopefully it won't cost me too much.

The RV establishment I purchased this from did give me an orientation.  I just forgot this step.  I guess you could say I'm a little green.  I really appreciate all of your suggestions.  May each of you have a safe and great holiday weekend.

Take care,
Jeremiah
 

Shayne

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Jan 22, 2006
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Think nothing of the forgetting parts of the orientation, at my age I forget most things I've been doing for years and those I do remember I'm unable to complete. That's why this is such a great forum, sooner or later someone gets your attention and corrects our ways. ? Glad it's working and hope you didn't damage anything. ?I'm sure things will only get better from here on. ?ny problems, just let them rip. ? Good Luck
 

melehr

Member
Joined
May 23, 2006
Posts
7
The final follow-up on this posting.  Had a great weekend with our camper.  The water heater worked just fine on propane and electricity.  Thank goodness!  I appreciate all of your comments.  Our 3 young children really enjoyed this.  We're preparing for a trip out west to the Rockies in July.  We can't wait!

Happy RVing to all of you this summer.

Take care,
Jeremiah
 
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