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Old 01-16-2013, 09:38 PM   #1
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Tank Heater Question

I have just experienced 3 nights of temperatures below 20 degress. I turned the tank heaters on but I still ended up with a frozen gray water gate valve that wouldn't budge until today. Even then the drain pipe was frozen. It did drain finally when the day time temperature got up above 40. The black tank valve can be opened but nothing comes out so it is frozen. Something tells me these tank heaters do little if anything unless turned on well in advance of decreasing temperatures or mine are not working. The light is on but I can not tell by feeling the pipes if they are one. Any thoughts?
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:06 PM   #2
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Understanding how the system works is critical to getting the results you anticipate.

1) They are 12 volt heaters. If you are on battery, 3 or 4 heating pads can deplete your single OEM battery overnight. They require 13.5 VDC to operate efficiently (shore power or generator). They draw 78 Watts of power and at 13.5 volts DC draw 5.8 amps each pad. Lower voltages increase amps to maintain wattage.

2) They "heat" anytime the tank heater switch is "on" (red light on) AND the tank surface temperature is colder than 45F or 5C. It will then heat the plastic until the plastic reaches 67F or 20C and then shut off until the tank cools to 45F again. It will cycle on and off on each tank as long as the temp gets below 45F when the system is on.

3) The TANKS (Black, gray and fresh) have square pads. In SOME (not all) models EXPOSED elbows have an elbow heater. If the elbow is inside the belly it does NOT have a separate heater.

If the tank is empty, the heaters are VERY inefficient as the heat is very localized and the valves can freeze if "wet" but not covered in water. The valves get no heat at all except as transmitted through the water in the tank.

Hope this helps.
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:20 PM   #3
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my switches did have lights on them to indicate power was to them. those lights haven't worked in yrs. in my case, i don't know if the problem is a light or no supply. here, i don't need them so they haven't been a priority.

with that, i wondering if u r indicating power to the heaters?
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:25 PM   #4
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Our black tank is pretty full because we had family over during the holidays.
We had cold temps and I turned on the tank heaters.
Fresh = empty
galley = empty
grey = empty
Black = I don't have a dump drain at the house and I don't have the nerve to pull the valve handle!! LOL!!
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:26 PM   #5
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My "arctic option" had heat tape factory applied from the tank to the valve.
They also had a separate switch than the tank heater pads.


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Old 01-16-2013, 10:27 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimh View Post
my switches did have lights on them to indicate power was to them. those lights haven't worked in yrs. in my case, i don't know if the problem is a light or no supply. here, i don't need them so they haven't been a priority.

with that, i wondering if u r indicating power to the heaters?
Good point. No light means blown fuse or bad circuit. These fuses may be located BEHIND the power center in a green or black pigtail fuse holder.
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:39 PM   #7
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We've done okay with our tank heaters in temps down to the mid to low 20s. But if the temps stay below freezing long enough, things start freezing up (like a water line to the sink if the sink cabinet drawer isn't left open to the room heat). I don't think the tank heaters alone are more than a delay in the inevitable for temps as low as you have seen.

The user manual says to turn the tank heaters on when temps fall through 45 degrees and are anticipated to get below freezing.
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danno2u View Post
We've done okay with our tank heaters in temps down to the mid to low 20s. But if the temps stay below freezing long enough, things start freezing up (like a water line to the sink if the sink cabinet drawer isn't left open to the room heat). I don't think the tank heaters alone are more than a delay in the inevitable for temps as low as you have seen.

The user manual says to turn the tank heaters on when temps fall through 45 degrees and are anticipated to get below freezing.
I also open all cabinet doors to allow cabin air to get into the basement (front storage) of the 5th wheel. I also put a fan on the floor to blow heated air into the kitchen cabinet (where 90% of the plumbing is located.)
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Old 01-16-2013, 10:52 PM   #9
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I'm on shore power so batteries are not an issue. Do the pads put out enough power to be able to feel any heat if you touch the exposed pipes near the valves?

I have access to the shower house here in the camp ground. If all else fails I am heading further south Friday morning so things should thaw so I can get the black tank emptied this weekend.
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:29 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kz08h5 View Post
Do the pads put out enough power to be able to feel any heat if you touch the exposed pipes near the valves?
No. They only heat the water in the tank. Your sewer pipes should contain no water since the valves are supposed to be closed.
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