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Old 05-13-2014, 07:50 AM   #1
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Water Heater

The water heater on my 2008 390TS does not work on electric. Works fine on propane and that's how I've used it since I got it a year and a half ago. Mostly because I'm a newbie and I didn't really understand how it worked. Now that I've got a little more experience, it's obvious that the electric heating element isn't working.

It could be that the electric element was fried when I got it or I did something stupid along the way. I've never looked at the circuit breakers. How likely is it that I just need to check the breaker? Is the water heater on its own breaker? From conversations here, the breaker panel is under the bed?
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Old 05-13-2014, 08:05 AM   #2
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If you have the Suburban brand water heater---These threads may help, and they have links to other threads that may also:

No Hot Water 2011 V-Lite 21WRS

http://www.forestriverforums.com/for...sue-59872.html
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Old 05-13-2014, 08:06 AM   #3
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Your water heater might have a rocker switch for electric on the unit itself besides the one you have inside. You have to take off the small door and look. It's purpose is to prevent people from turning the water heater on electric if there is no water in the tank which will burn out the element.
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Old 05-13-2014, 09:05 AM   #4
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Yes, it's a suburban with the rocker switch in the outside panel.
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Old 05-13-2014, 09:11 AM   #5
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The rocker switch to enable the water heater to run on electric is outside under the cover for the water heater. If you still do not get hot water when that switch is turned on, your heating element is probably shot. Very easy to replace. You can pick one up at Home Depot or Lowes. There is a black, plastic cover that needs to be removed to get access to the element. You would also need to remove the gas feed to the burner. The heating element is under the black cover. Should be able to get a replacement element for around $20. Take the old one with you when you go for the replacement so that you get one that is the same size. I believe it was about 1500 watts. You may also want to pick up the wrench to make removing the element easier.
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:27 AM   #6
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Daniel, your may also have a breaker in the panel. Both 5'ers that I owned before my current coach had breakers in the electrical panel. They were the small 1/2 breaker type.
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:44 AM   #7
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You could just have a bad switch. Before you buy a new one take the 2 wires off, and with a ohm meter if the element is good it will read between 10 and 11 ohms. Zero ohms bad element. To check for electric measure at the element should have 110v. to check your high and low limit. measure between the limit first lower then upper and the element should get 110v. If you are not getting power at the lower limit, you have a bad switch or breaker. It should be a white neutral and black hot. The white neutral at the element should work for all testing. The switch is hot coming in and hot going out to the limits then to the element itself.
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Old 05-13-2014, 12:04 PM   #8
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Also those switches are notorious for "freezing" up. If the switch is not clicking when you move it from on to off, try some electriclean and work the switch from on to off several times.
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Old 05-13-2014, 12:04 PM   #9
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Also, before you spend any money, check the thermostat on the electric side. You can get to it from the outside. With an ohm meter it should show a short when it is cold. Mine went out when it was still in warranty but they wanted me to take it to an "authorized" repair shop 60 miles away. I already did the detective work and so I just ordered one on line for a whole lot cheaper than hauling the whole trailer to some dealer. It wasn't real easy to replace since it was behind the burner tube and some other things, but since I'm retired it was still easier than hauling it somewhere and I had the time to do it.
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Old 05-13-2014, 12:13 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the advice! The motorhome is at a campground for the next 6 weeks so I'm not going to dive too deep while camping because I would be in big trouble if I made the hot water go away while we are camping. I'll check the breaker and perhaps any other tests where I don't have to dismantle anything until I get the rig back home at the end of June.
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Old 05-21-2014, 03:25 PM   #11
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Just changed out my electric element on my suburban water heater. Not a difficult job after reading some posts on here and watching a You Tube Video on how to do it and also test out the element. Here is a picture of the element: Click image for larger version

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ID:	52950. You can see where it failed. I got the tool to take it out from Lowes, in the appliance section. I also picked up a 1500W/120V universal element for $8.70. The wrench was $6.54. Not bad! Took the element out and found that the one in there was a 1440W/120V. Click image for larger version

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ID:	52951Click image for larger version

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ID:	52952 Not being sure how to proceed, I went to the local RV Dealer and picked up a 1440W/120V Suburban Electric Element - cost $30.86 - 3 times plus the cost of the one at Lowes. To save someone else who maybe replacing there element in the future, should I have gone ahead and used the cheaper element, or replaced it with the one it was designed for, which is what I did? Thanks for your input! Craig
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Old 05-21-2014, 03:31 PM   #12
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Craig,
I used the 1500 w element. I thought that the slightly higher watts of the element would help heat the water quicker. It worked just fine.
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Old 05-21-2014, 08:38 PM   #13
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I should add a note of caution if anyone is planning on installing a new electric element in their hot water heater. The element is relatively easy to replace. The problem I ran into which I did not expect was after I drained the hot water tank, I found water on my kitchen floor. It had been raining and I was under the awning working. When I put the awning in, there was a considerable amount of water that came down the side of the coach, so I figured that to be the source. More water appeared. After investigating I found the water was coming from the bottom area under the hot water tank. Thinking I might have knocked something loose trying to get the element out, I checked all the fitting, etc., not the source. I finally figured out that the caulking on the outside, inside the hot water door, bottom area had been compromised and was letting the water that was draining out of the tank flow under the tank (I hope that makes sense - if you take off the cover door to the hot water tank, you will see caulking on the bottom of the little shelf there). So the caution is to ensure that there is a caulking seal on the bottom lip. Hope that is not too confusing. Craig
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Old 05-21-2014, 09:43 PM   #14
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I finally figured out that the caulking on the outside, inside the hot water door, bottom area had been compromised and was letting the water that was draining out of the tank flow under the tank (I hope that makes sense - if you take off the cover door to the hot water tank, you will see caulking on the bottom of the little shelf there). So the caution is to ensure that there is a caulking seal on the bottom lip. Hope that is not too confusing. Craig
Same thing happened to me when I replaced mine last summer. Water all over the kitchen floor.

I removed the old element, stuck a broom stick in the hole to see how long of a replacement element I could install.

AFAIK, that is the only thing to worry about; just make sure the length is no more than will fit in the tank; maybe stand an inch or so off the back wall of the heater. More wattage will just heat the water quicker.

Plus make sure the one you buy is for 110V. Many (most?) of them are for 220V (again, AFAIK)

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Old 05-21-2014, 10:03 PM   #15
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More wattage will just heat the water quicker.
I don't think you would have any problems with a 1500 watt element...... but....You don't want to go TOO much larger wattage (if they make such a monster), because of the wiring and amps.

The stock electric heating element is 1440 watts, because that is the max amps the 14 gauge wire used in them is SAFELY rated for.

Remember that watts = voltage X amps ...or 1440 watts = 120 volts X 12 amps.

Higher wattage draws more amps thru the wire.

Here is the attorney tags from Suburban for the element/wire.... and the wire.

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Old 05-21-2014, 10:09 PM   #16
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I don't think you would have any problems with a 1500 watt element...... but....You don't want to go TOO much larger wattage (if they make such a monster), because of the wiring and amps.
You are right...... my bad.

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Old 05-21-2014, 10:19 PM   #17
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That may explain why the circuit breaker is a 15 amp breaker on the hot water system in my unit. If I did my math correctly, a 1500W/120V element would draw 12.5 amps, where by a 1440W/120V element would draw 12.0 amps, as you noted.
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:27 PM   #18
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That may explain why the circuit breaker is a 15 amp breaker on the hot water system in my unit. If I did my math correctly, a 1500W/120V element would draw 12.5 amps, where by a 1440W/120V element would draw 12.0 amps, as you noted.
Correct....... but the amps can change with fluctuating voltage in reactive loads (like motors, pumps, a/c, etc). Electrical wiring has a built-in safety margin at 80%.

EDIT: I forgot a heater element is a resistive load and thus the watts will drop when the voltage drops. Editing post to take out erroneous info.

When you are at campgrounds that have less than optimal 120 volts (say 110 volts), then your electric heating element will take longer to heat as it will have less watts.

I don't really think anyone should overload with using a 1500 watt element. If they do make higher wattage elements than that (I haven't checked), then you may run into problems.

Just pointing out the math.
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:33 PM   #19
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And thus 80% of 15 amps is 12.0 amps - Thanks
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:42 PM   #20
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And thus 80% of 15 amps is 12.0 amps - Thanks
You're welcome..... and I am envious of your visited states map.
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