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Old 08-07-2017, 08:18 AM   #1
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Electric Water Heater Issue

I was thinking the other day the the RV was finally in total working order but I knew that was probably not going to last. Last night before bed my wife went to get a shower and the water was cold. Just so happens earlier in the day we where both standing in the kitchen when a burning smell came upon us. I did a quick check of the RV and though maybe it was from outside and came in through the window but now with he failed water heater that would now have seemed to have been the origin of the smell. For now at least we can seem to get hot water using propane. Any one have have the electric water heater fail and what was the issue? I may not be able to troubleshoot it for a day or two but I'd at least like to have some ideas on where to start.

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Old 08-07-2017, 08:27 AM   #2
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If you smelled it inside the RV, I would check the wiring at the heater inside since that's how its fed power. Lucky if a loose connection that melted. I would turn off the breaker just to be safe if it hasn't already tripped.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:36 AM   #3
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As Deuce mentioned, I'd be checking the wiring at the water heater and the wiring to the water heater.

If you smelled something inside the camper it's probably not the water heater element.
The element is enclosed inside the tank.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:52 AM   #4
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I would start trouble shooting at the water heater electrical element on the front of the water heater. First I would look to see in the breaker box if the breaker for the water heater (WH) has tripped. If not I would turn off the breaker for the WH. I would then remove the cover or whatever to be able to access the WH element and its wiring. Then I would take a multi-meter and make sure the element had no power. Then I would put the multi-meter in resistance scale and read the element. If the meter reads no continuity the electrical element in the WH will have to be replaced. If you read some lower level of resistance then the WH element is OK.

Then I would start looking at the incoming AC wiring. This would require getting access to the rear side of the WH as that is where the electrical wiring connects to the WH.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:57 AM   #5
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Suburban or Atwood? If its a Suburban, start out side at the heater itself. Suburban in their infinate stupidity has a lot of sharp edges and then run the wires past those sharp edges.. also check the 120VAC hi limit switch pack.
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Old 08-07-2017, 12:23 PM   #6
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The VERY FIRST thing Id do is check the circuit breaker in your control panel to see if the breaker is tripped. If not, the second thing Id do is turn that breaker OFF.

Then you can go looking for the cause of the burnt smell and not be in danger of touching that is grounded to a bare wire and receive a nasty surprise.
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Old 08-07-2017, 12:59 PM   #7
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Lots of good suggestions as a starting point. I will be checking the breaker when I get back and then some of the wiring when it stops raining.
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Old 08-07-2017, 04:38 PM   #8
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Electric storage water heater issues

We have a five-year old Cedar Creek 'Cottage', technically classified as a destination trailer, and we have it permanently located at a nearby private campground. It is on a small lake (four spring-fed depleted gravel pits in the place) and the the water supply is well-water, which is high in iron and sulfur.
For the first few years, we would drain the heater when the water became 'odoriferous', but we burned out two electrodes in the past 16 months as a consequence of the water supply, and I installed a pre-filter and On-The-Go water softener.
Water consumption is much more tolerable these days as a consequence.
If your electric water heater has stopped producing hot water, the heating element has probably burned out. FWIW, it cost me $225 to have a plumber replace each one.
Check your water supply to the RV; most campgrounds use well water, so either research RV water softener units of plan to replace your water heater's heating element more frequently.
The initial expense for the water filter and water softener (I have two separate units between the campground spigot and our intake fitting) is the major expense, but replacement filter cartridges and regular table salt (for the water softener) is minimal. Good luck!
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Old 08-07-2017, 09:34 PM   #9
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Had a similar issue when TT was almost new. Turned out to be an issue with the wire connection to the heater breaker. The screw connection was loose and as a result created a very hot "connection" that melted the end of the screw, burned the breaker and burned back the insulation on the wire about 4 inches. Replaced the breaker (actually double breaker for two circuits) and a portion of the wire with no problem since. While you're at it, make sure all breaker connections are tight.
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Old 08-08-2017, 10:18 AM   #10
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I had the same issue with our Sunseeker. It turned out to be the electric connection under the bed that had melted. Luckily the connection was in a metal junction box so no damage occurred other than our water heater wouldn't work on electric. Good luck with finding the problem.
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Old 08-08-2017, 10:24 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thetinhouse View Post
. FWIW, it cost me $225 to have a plumber replace each one.

The Tin House
You might search you tube for videos on replacing the elements as it a fairly simple job and a new element is about $16.00
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Old 08-08-2017, 10:33 AM   #12
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I had the same issue with our Sunseeker. It turned out to be the electric connection under the bed that had melted. Luckily the connection was in a metal junction box so no damage occurred other than our water heater wouldn't work on electric. Good luck with finding the problem.
The breaker was not tripped but I will have to give the wiring, including under the bed, a good look later today.
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Old 08-09-2017, 08:11 AM   #13
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I finally had a chance to check out some of the wiring and everything looked good at the breaker and outside however when I opened the panel in front of the water heater this is what I found. Apparently the plastic panel that protects the anode wiring had come dislodged and I thought maybe some of the wiring had gotten damaged or a connection came loose and created a short. However, everything looked fine so I'm thinking that at this point maybe it is the anode that went bad? Next step will be to check for power at the anode.

PS – If you look closely you can see that someone had put a piece of clear tape over the panel presumably to keep it closed. It seems that did not work so well……
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Old 08-09-2017, 08:47 AM   #14
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Uh Oh...Just checked some youtube videos and apparently my water heater may be a Attwood unit? Apparently the easy way to tell is where the vent if located. Attwood is on the left and Suburban on the right. which does may not have an anode? Time to check my documentation.

If that is the case, I wonder what i need to be checking at this point?
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Old 08-09-2017, 09:03 AM   #15
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Boy are you confused! Anode does not have any power to it. Both of the pictures appear to be of the back of the unit. So now you also have me confused. If this is a FR trailer, then you have a Suburban water heater. Electric element is on the front bottom middle. Electric switch bottom left. Above the switch near the top left you will see a rubber cover with what appears to be two buttons. One for the 12 volt side, one for the 120 volt side high temp switch pack. Take the covers off that and the electric heating element, and using a volt meter start checking. Be sure you have cold water in the tank or you will cook the heating element in about 30 seconds.
BTW the metal box in your picture is likely nothing more than a junction box for the 120 volt power to the water heater.
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Old 08-09-2017, 09:58 AM   #16
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X2^^^^^^^^^^^^^ What he said
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Old 08-09-2017, 10:08 AM   #17
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Just because you have a FR camper does not mean you have a Suburban water heater.
FR uses both Atwood and Suburban.

Atwoods do not have an anode because the tank is aluminum.
On tanks with an anode, there is no power to it.
The power goes to the heating element, not the anode.

You should be able to tell which unit you have as both have stickers under the outside cover stating what brand it is. I'm pretty sure it is an Atwood.

EDIT:
BTW... most Atwood water heater elements are on the rear of the unit inside the black box shown in your photos. It is controlled by a relay.



EDIT # 2:
Here is a link to a service manual...
ATWOOD Service Manual.
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Old 08-09-2017, 10:10 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by donniedu View Post
Boy are you confused! Anode does not have any power to it. Both of the pictures appear to be of the back of the unit. So now you also have me confused. If this is a FR trailer, then you have a Suburban water heater. Electric element is on the front bottom middle. Electric switch bottom left. Above the switch near the top left you will see a rubber cover with what appears to be two buttons. One for the 12 volt side, one for the 120 volt side high temp switch pack. Take the covers off that and the electric heating element, and using a volt meter start checking. Be sure you have cold water in the tank or you will cook the heating element in about 30 seconds.
BTW the metal box in your picture is likely nothing more than a junction box for the 120 volt power to the water heater.
It's not so much that I'm confused, its more than I'm on a working vacation , left my documentation home and both time and internet access have been tough to come by. If people can bear with my less than perfect set of facts, then this will still be beneficial to me. I.e. When I finally get home, then I might be able to drill down right to the problem and fix it quickly.
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Old 08-09-2017, 10:33 AM   #19
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Here is a schematic for the Atwood.
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Old 08-09-2017, 11:54 AM   #20
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Just because you have a FR camper does not mean you have a Suburban water heater.
FR uses both Atwood and Suburban.

Atwoods do not have an anode because the tank is aluminum.
On tanks with an anode, there is no power to it.
The power goes to the heating element, not the anode.

You should be able to tell which unit you have as both have stickers under the outside cover stating what brand it is. I'm pretty sure it is an Atwood.

EDIT:
BTW... most Atwood water heater elements are on the rear of the unit inside the black box shown in your photos. It is controlled by a relay.



EDIT # 2:
Here is a link to a service manual...
ATWOOD Service Manual.
Thanks for the info 5P, this should be helpful when I can get back in there and do some additional work.
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