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Old 04-14-2014, 09:56 AM   #1
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WH empty with LP burner on

I have a similar problem. 6 gal. Suburban water heater, electronic ignition, heater drained, propane on. My grand daughters were playing in the camper and accidentally turned the propane WH switch on. I did not notice it until the next morning as I walked by I heard the igniter sparking and the burner firing up. I guess that this has been going off and on all night. Might I have some damage from this running without water in it?
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Old 04-14-2014, 12:43 PM   #2
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as I walked by I heard the igniter sparking and the burner firing up. I guess that this has been going off and on all night. Might I have some damage from this running without water in it?
Short answer is Yes. Maybe. Do you feel lucky? With no water in the
tank the burner tube will get VERY hot before the tank itself is heated enough
to "satisfy" the LP thermostat. Since you heard it still trying I guess the
hi limit has not tripped.
Your burner tube might be damaged or not.

You can try connecting to city water and un-winterize your WH by
replacing the drain plug/anode (if it's out now).
Switch the valves from winter mode to summer mode.
Open a hot water faucet and let out the air to fill the HW tank.
Watch the tank from the burner side and see if it's leaking.
No leaks- maybe you're ok.
Flip the LP back on and see if it lights and heats normally.

Of course you know now that you should not let kids play in your RV
unless LP and electric are OFF!! Even then they probably need some supervision.....

Good Luck!
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Old 04-14-2014, 12:45 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cabranch47 View Post
I have a similar problem. 6 gal. Suburban water heater, electronic ignition, heater drained, propane on. My grand daughters were playing in the camper and accidentally turned the propane WH switch on. I did not notice it until the next morning as I walked by I heard the igniter sparking and the burner firing up. I guess that this has been going off and on all night. Might I have some damage from this running without water in it?
I wouldn't think so. As long as the electric element wasn't on you should be fine. The gas flame would just heat the tank (obviously much faster than if were full of water) to the temp set by the thermostat and then shut off. Hopefully you escaped with nothing more than lighter propane tanks.
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:31 AM   #4
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Well I filled WH and flushed it out several times. At first the water was brown like tea. After several flushings it cleared up and looks good. Electric and propane heating modes working fine. I guess I got lucky, no apparent damage, maybe some scorched debris in the tank had discolored the water. The morning I opened the WH cabinet in the inside it was pretty warm. Lucky, I guess that it could possibly have started a fire if something had malfunctioned. Lesson learned.
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Old 04-15-2014, 01:14 PM   #5
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Great news!
Glad there wasn't any permanent damage. That's one of those learned lessons that stay with you.
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Old 04-15-2014, 02:38 PM   #6
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Thanks for the follow up. Often folks post a problem and we try to give
advice and never hear from them again.
We like to know the "rest of the story".

Glad you're OK.
Let the camping season begin!
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Old 04-15-2014, 02:53 PM   #7
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Now that it has a happen ending- mind me hijacking and asking how you tested the electric heating vs. propane heating? I've got a bit of a theory that my electric element may be burnt up, I just don't know how to test it...
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Old 04-15-2014, 03:33 PM   #8
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Now that it has a happen ending- mind me hijacking and asking how you tested the electric heating vs. propane heating? I've got a bit of a theory that my electric element may be burnt up, I just don't know how to test it...
Turn the propane off, run the hot water out of the water heater and turn the electric side on. If you don't get hot water in about 20 minutes, the element is toast!
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Old 04-15-2014, 03:50 PM   #9
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Ok. That was my simple plan- thanks Coot.
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Old 04-15-2014, 03:50 PM   #10
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Doug, page 20 of the service manual may help you, including the ohms for a good element.

http://dutchmen.com/image/data/docum...ice_Manual.pdf

It could possibly have other problems besides the element (hi-limit tstat, switch)
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