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Old 08-08-2015, 10:20 AM   #1
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water heater question

I have a water heater that i can manually switch from electric to propane. Is it normal for the heater to switch to propane when being used excessively even when I have it set to electric?
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Old 08-08-2015, 10:23 AM   #2
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Yes normal, actually both electric and propane at same time will heat water faster......
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Old 08-08-2015, 10:33 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by brianf40 View Post
I have a water heater that i can manually switch from electric to propane. Is it normal for the heater to switch to propane when being used excessively even when I have it set to electric?
If you are asking if it's normal for the "heater" itself to switch (like automatically)..then no, that's not how it operates. There is nothing automatic, as the switches are all user operated/

If you have the Suburban water heater, you have TWO on/off switches that control two different heating sources (propane and electric heating element). If you have the switch turned on for the electric heating element (usually outside on the face of the heater for the Suburban brand)...and the propane does come on, then you probably also have the inside dsi/propane switch on too (which is not needed to be turned on if you just want to use the electric heating element exclusively).

Both sources have their own switches, as well as thermostats that will turn their respective power source on, when the water is lowered to a certain temp.

You can most certainly turn both switches on, and use both at the same time.......or just turn on the inside DSI/propane switch to use propane and not electric......or keep the DSI switch OFF and turn on the outside electric heating element switch to use only electric....or turn BOTH switches on to utilize propane and electric....or BOTH switches turned off, turning off both heating sources.

This FAQ may help:

Suburban's electric switch and much more
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Old 08-08-2015, 10:39 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by wmtire View Post
If you are asking if it's normal for the "heater" itself to switch (like automatically)..then no, that's not how it operates. There is nothing automatic, as the switches are all user operated/

If you have the Suburban water heater, you have TWO on/off switches that control two different heating sources (propane and electric heating element). If you have the switch turned on for the electric heating element (usually outside on the face of the heater for the Suburban brand)...and the propane does come on, then you probably also have the inside dsi/propane switch on too (which is not needed to be turned on if you just want to use the electric heating element).

Both sources have their own switches, as well as thermostats that will turn their respective power source on, when the water is lowered to a certain temp.

You can most certainly turn both switches on, and use both at the same time.......or just turn on the inside DSI/propane switch to use propane and not electric......or keep the DSI switch OFF and turn on the outside electric heating element switch to use only electric....or turn BOTH switches on to utilize propane and electric....or BOTH switches turned off, turning off both heating sources.

This FAQ may help:

Suburban's electric switch and much more
Agree 100%
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Old 08-08-2015, 10:52 AM   #5
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Brian, I should have also pointed out something else, when you said "excessively". If you do have both the dsi/propane switch and the electric heating element switch BOTH turned on.....and do start using an excessive amount of water, then yes the propane will kick on trying to heat up the cold water going into the water heater (this is called recovery) even if you do have the electric heating element on.

The propane heats water faster than the electric heating element. Remember I said previously, both sides have their own thermostats, so when the thermostats sense the water temp is too low, then they turn on their respective heating sources....if you have the main switches turned on.

Many campers, when using excessive hot water, do physically turn on both heating sources to aid in the faster recovery time as fonzie pointed out.

You can leave the propane switch off, and use the electric heating element exclusively...... but the recovery time will take a lot longer when using excessive amounts of hot water.

EDIT: I don't have the Suburban specs handy, but here are the recovery specs for the Atwood water heaters, so you can read the different recovery rates per propane only, electric heating element only, and both turned on together.

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