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Old 05-28-2019, 07:08 AM   #1
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Water Heater Not Working

2018 Georgetown GT5

I know this has been asked many times so I apologize for the repeat. When I winterized my camper, I bypassed and drained the two water heaters. When i dewinterized my camper, I returned everything back to normal.

My problem started this weekend. Turned on my water heaters via electric but the water would not get hot. Verified that bypass valves were correct. Ended up using propane for the weekend.

During my troubleshooting, I realized that I did not turn off the water heaters via the small switch on the water heaters. I assumed that when I had the water heaters off via the control panel that there was no power to the water heaters.

(1) Is it possible that I burned out the heating elements in both water heaters?
(2) Do the small switch on the water heater actually need to be turned off even though the water heater has been turned off via the control panel in the camper?
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Old 05-28-2019, 07:22 AM   #2
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Yes, and yes. If you had no water in the heaters you most certainly burned out the elements. The small switch needs to off to cut power to the electric elements.
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Old 05-28-2019, 07:27 AM   #3
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It sure does sound like your heating elements have burnt out. They will burn out very quickly if there is no water. The good news is new elements are inexpensive and easy the replace.

It would seem that if you have a separate switch on your panel for the electric element it would cut the power in the off position but stranger things have happened.
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Old 05-28-2019, 08:15 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by hduncan View Post
(2) Do the small switch on the water heater actually need to be turned off even though the water heater has been turned off via the control panel in the camper?
In my experience, no it doesn't. I leave the small switch on the WH on all the time. It's been in the on position literally since I bought the trailer.

We only use the switch on the inside to turn it on/off.
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Old 05-28-2019, 08:26 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by hduncan View Post
2018 Georgetown GT5
During my troubleshooting, I realized that I did not turn off the water heaters via the small switch on the water heaters. I assumed that when I had the water heaters off via the control panel that there was no power to the water heaters.

(1) Is it possible that I burned out the heating elements in both water heaters?
(2) Do the small switch on the water heater actually need to be turned off even though the water heater has been turned off via the control panel in the camper?
1. Yes it is possible

2. It depends on whether you have the Suburban SWDE or SWDEL model.

Both models have an outside switch to the electric heating element, and both models have an inside switch that controls only the propane heating method.

However the SWDEL model DOES have another inside switch to the electric heating element (in addition to the outside switch). Both have to be turned ON for the electric heating element to work. However with the SWDEL model, you can leave the outside switch on and use the inside switch only for the electric heating element to control the ON/OFF function. Just remember that the SWDEL model will have TWO inside switches, that one controls the propane heating method, and the other inside switch controls the electric heating element. The SWDEL model will have in total 3 switches to the water heater (TWO for the electric heating element, and ONE of the propane side)

You will encounter many members on these forums who have either the SWDE (no inside switch to the electric heating element) or possibly the SWDEL model (which does have an inside switch to the electric heating element)...and they do not realize there are two different models that FR uses, and give advice based on their model, not realizing there is another model that could be in use.

Both the SWDE and SWDEL models are explained here:

Suburban's electric switch and much more

Do you know which model you have?
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Old 05-28-2019, 08:30 AM   #6
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In my experience, no it doesn't. I leave the small switch on the WH on all the time. It's been in the on position literally since I bought the trailer.

We only use the switch on the inside to turn it on/off.
Funny how different people operate..... I leave the small switch in the WH off all the time. Its been OFF literally since I bought the trailer.

OK... I dont have the second inside switch. My inside switch controls only the Gas. Propane is all I use to heat hot water and I only turn it on when I know I am about to take shower. After finished, I leave it on 10 minutes... turn it off... and it will keep water hot all day for other uses. The gas is much quicker than electric (my understanding) . Also, I am boondocking a lot so require generator ON if I should use elec hot water.

Heard too many stories about burned heater elements due to no water in heater and accidently leaving the switch ON. "Use Gas only for HW" came as a rec from a friend who had years experience. Uses very little gas. Sure I'll use the elec WH some day but for 3 years now... Never been ON.
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Old 05-28-2019, 03:46 PM   #7
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Once again.....wmtire is 1000% correct and includes great details in his response.

Iíve never met the man, and if Iím lucky, I never will.....

...but damn he knows his stuff....when heís not out riding his bike.
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Old 05-28-2019, 03:56 PM   #8
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Funny how different people operate..... I leave the small switch in the WH off all the time. Its been OFF literally since I bought the trailer.

OK... I dont have the second inside switch. My inside switch controls only the Gas. Propane is all I use to heat hot water and I only turn it on when I know I am about to take shower. After finished, I leave it on 10 minutes... turn it off... and it will keep water hot all day for other uses. The gas is much quicker than electric (my understanding) . Also, I am boondocking a lot so require generator ON if I should use elec hot water.

Heard too many stories about burned heater elements due to no water in heater and accidently leaving the switch ON. "Use Gas only for HW" came as a rec from a friend who had years experience. Uses very little gas. Sure I'll use the elec WH some day but for 3 years now... Never been ON.
We have the switches for both gas and electric inside. Just makes sense for us to leave the outside switch on.

We turn both on when we want hot water but like you, only turn it on when we know we are going to need it.

There's not much of a chance of having it on with no water since we typically fill it up in April and don't drain it until October. Maybe drain it once or twice throughout the season to check the anode.
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Old 05-28-2019, 04:12 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hduncan View Post
2018 Georgetown GT5

I know this has been asked many times so I apologize for the repeat. When I winterized my camper, I bypassed and drained the two water heaters. When i dewinterized my camper, I returned everything back to normal.

My problem started this weekend. Turned on my water heaters via electric but the water would not get hot. Verified that bypass valves were correct. Ended up using propane for the weekend.

During my troubleshooting, I realized that I did not turn off the water heaters via the small switch on the water heaters. I assumed that when I had the water heaters off via the control panel that there was no power to the water heaters.

(1) Is it possible that I burned out the heating elements in both water heaters?
(2) Do the small switch on the water heater actually need to be turned off even though the water heater has been turned off via the control panel in the camper?
As wmtire mentioned, it depends on your water heater model.

If you have a control panel with the 2nd ELECTRIC control switch for the WH then no, there can not be any 120v getting to the element when that switch is off. The INSIDE switch controls a relay that is first in line to the element. (see attached schematic)

If your control panel only has a switch for the propane side of the water heater then the OUTSIDE switch is the only thing that controls the 120v to the element and shutting off the INSIDE switch for the propane DOES NOT cut off the 120v.

Many folks with only the outside switch use the breaker in the distribution box to control the power.
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Old 05-28-2019, 05:57 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by gbaldwin View Post
The gas is much quicker than electric (my understanding) . Also, I am boondocking a lot so require generator ON if I should use elec hot water.
Yes, when using one method or the other alone, gas is quicker to heat a tank of hot water. However when BOTH are used at the same time you have a far quicker recovery time if you have people waiting in line to shower.

If you are boondocking you don't have to run the generator just to have hot water if you've left the heater mounted electric switch on. The gas heater will just carry the load.

Main benefit of the electric heater is conservation of Propane. If electricity is available many use it for heating, cooking, and water heating just so they don't have to worry about filling propane tanks.
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