Originally Posted by Geri
I noticed that turning on the water heater always ignited the burner. On return I called the dealer and he told me of a hidden switch that need to be turned on. I found it, assumed that that was the problem, and promptly stored the RV for the winter. Now with Spring, we've set off on a cross-country trip and - still the same problem with the switch in either position. Any ideas on something that I'm still not on to, or do I have to seek a warranty repair - a most disruptive addition to my trip.
As stated, your water heater can run off of propane or electricity (it has an electric heating element inside the tank), or both at the same time. They are two different systems, independent of one another.
When you turn on the switch in the inside of your trailer, you are turning on the DSI/propane function of your water heater, and since the water is cold, it is going to immediately turn the propane burners on and heat the water up till it gets to it's preset temperature....then will automatically turn off. This on/off switch is doing exactly what it's supposed to do. As long as you leave the inside switch on, everytime the water temperature inside the heater drops enough, the burners will light up and heat the water again. Works like your water heater at home. If you don't want your water heater to run off of propane, then just leave the switch off inside the trailer, or turn it off after you heat a tank of water. Also turn it off, when breaking camp.
The outside switch on the front of the water heater is to turn on the electrical heating element inside the tank...which only works off 120 volt electricity and you have to be plugged into shore power for this part to work. You ALWAYS have to have water inside the tank before turning this switch on or you instantly burn up the water heaters electric heating element. You can then only run the water heater off of propane till you replace the heating element. Sometimes when this heating element is burned out, it will trip breakers inside your camper. Keep the switch turned off when breaking/setting up camp and only turn it on when there is water in the tank. I have a feeling you may have already burned out the heating element, so keep this switch in the off position till you get where you can check it out.
The mistake that many campers make is to leave the outside heating element switch turned on when unplugging from shore power, and then drain the tank. As soon as you hook up to shore power again (like at home), since you have left the switch turned on, the heating element comes on and immediately burns itself out without any water in the tank.
The reason you have these two different modes of water heating available depends on your camping situation. If you are at a campground with full electrical hookups, you can always just use the electrical heating element side of things.
Now if you are boondocking, or somewhere with no electrical...you can still have hot water using the propane side.
Even with electricity, you could still use the propane with the heating element (both switches turned to on) and get hot water faster if you are using a lot quickly. You could also just use the propane side (propane switch turned on, heating element switch turned off), and save some electrical amps for other things. The electrical heating element does use a few amps, and will sometimes throw your campers breaker when using the heating element and air-conditioner, and/or other things at the same time....if your camper is of the 30 amp variety.
If you don't need hot water (using campground showers, etc.), just keep the inside and outside switches turned off.