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Old 01-04-2019, 05:50 PM   #1
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Water Heater

I was in Flagstaff last week and it was very cold, 21 overnight temp. First night I was in an RV park with full hook ups. I switched the little hidden switch in the outside WH heater compartment ( I think it was in ON position)(and turned on Tank Heat) and had hot water all night. No problem.
Next day I went mobile, returned the switch in compartment , and camped off the grid in Mojave Nat'l Park. At that point I got a fault indicator on the panel when I tried to use WH on generator.
Did I freeze the regulator? Ive been home in Long Beach for two days and it still shows a fault when I try and turn on WH while on generator.
AM I doing something wrong?
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Old 01-04-2019, 06:09 PM   #2
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DSI/FLT is Direct Spark Ignition Fault. That's for when Propane doesn't light after 3 tries. IF it lights, then the DSI light goes out. That light has zero/nada/nothing to do with the electric hot water element which is ON/OFF, one or 'tother.
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Old 01-04-2019, 06:16 PM   #3
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This thread will help explain how to operate your Suburban water heaters electric and propane heating sides.

Suburban's electric switch and much more

Also the tank heater you described, is most likely to your holding tanks, not your water heater.
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Old 01-04-2019, 06:19 PM   #4
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you also don't have to physically turn 'off' the 'little switch' for the electric element of the Water Heater since it would only be available when you are plugged into Shore POwer, or are using the generator, anyway... some will only turn it off when they've winterized and drained their water heater tank.

otherwise it will work off of propane when you are 'off grid', if you have propane, of course, and if you have enough battery level to provide the 'spark' to the igniter...

you mentioned 'tank heat'... are you referring to that as the 'water heater', or are you just mentioning that you also turned on your waste/fresh water tank heater?
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Old 01-04-2019, 07:00 PM   #5
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I recommend you always turn off the electric switch on the WH at the end of each outing. It is correct that if you go off grid, it will use the propane when turned on regardless of the position of the switch. The downside of leaving it on is if you drain the WH and then connect to shore power at home to clean or stock the element will burn out.
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Old 01-05-2019, 10:59 AM   #6
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lived in huntington beach for over 40 years so i'll try to help. long beach is just up the road.

read the post that wmtire sent. you are mixing up three different concepts.

the switch labelled tank heat is most probably for your tank heaters (fresh, black, gray) and has absolutely nothing to do with the water heater. so let's eliminate from the discussion.

the water heater operates off two independent heating sources, electric or propane. obviously the electric hating element requires 120 volt power from either shore power or a generator. the switch to turn the electric heating element is the little 'hidden' switch on the face of the water heater that you mentioned.

the fault light that you mention is a failure to ignite indicator. it will come on when you turn the water heater on to run on gas and it does not ignite. normally the switch used to turn the gas on for the water heater is right next to the fault indicator light on the inside control panel. this switch does not operate nor require the generator or any 120 volt power. the gas side of the water heater is totally powered by the 12 volt batteries. so being hooked up to shore power or having the generator on will have no effect on the gas side of the water heater.

from what you say it appears the electric side of the heater is working ok. all it needs is 120 volt power and the 'hidden' switch to be turned on.

the fault indicator says the propane burner in the water heater is not igniting. as mentioned are the propane tanks open? do the stove burners work? if they do this would indicate that you have propane going through the lines and into the water heater. the propane igniter needs good 12 volt power to provide the spark. are the batteries fully charged? there have been many posts about insects (spiders) getting into the water heater igniter tube and building a nest that blocks the propane flow. i don't know if this is the case. but an inspection of the igniter tube may be needed. there have also been reports of the water heater control board failing. i believe that this control board is only used to control the propane ignition process and is not used for the electric side, but i am not sure of this.

hope this helps. i know it can feel intimidating but the good news is that these water heaters are pretty simple and generally easily corrected.
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Old 01-06-2019, 09:20 PM   #7
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I have propane and stove and frig are working . i willcheck next trip/this week and play with the WH heater switch and see what happens. Thank you for all the great intel!
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Old 01-06-2019, 09:46 PM   #8
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I make it a point to turn the outside switch off whenever I'm rolling, just as a safety measure.
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Old 01-25-2019, 10:20 AM   #9
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Just returned from a week in Lone Pine with LOTS of wind, two days of snow, then two days of rain. It finally cleared but was cool and windy. Im still getting a fault indicator light when i turn on the water heater switch on the panel. So for some reason propane is not igniting.
Does the WH automatically switch to from gas to electric (running generator) if gas wont ignite? With the fault light on, i ran generator a long time and it did not seem to warm the water at all. So it should have heated up on electric, right?
I also used the "tank heat' switch to prevent holding tanks to freeze, but even then using cold water faucet the water was very cold. I did not hink the tank heat would heat holding tanks (fresh, black, grey) to Hot but thought I could detect a difference. But obviously not.
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Old 01-25-2019, 10:27 AM   #10
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if you are plugged in, or on the generator, then YES, the ELEC water heater element should be heating your tank water, IF.... the Elec water heater switch is ON, and the water heater BREAKER is not tripped in your circuit panel, and/or the Generator's own breakers are not tripped, AND the water heater is not 'bypassed' in your wet bay.
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