Originally Posted by JBusbin
I am new to the camping world and have a question that has been answered over and over, I'm sure! We bought our new 2017 Cherokee 274DBH in February. The first two times we took it out, we had no issues with the electric water heater. When we packed up camp the second trip, I forgot to turn the outside heater switch to the off position (I did remember the first time). So, when we setup the 3rd time, the switch was already in the on position for electric. My son tried to take a shower and of course no hot water came on. Then I realized I never turned on the heater switch inside the camper. I turned that on. When he got out of the shower, he said it still wasn't hot. I know you can burn up the element if there's no water in the tank when you start it. What I can't wrap my head around is that there was obviously water in the tank the first two times we camped because it was in electric mode and we had hot water. So what was different the 3rd time, even though the outside switch was never turned off (and my son ran the hot water faucet in the shower before I turned the inside heater switch on)?
OK Joanna, as with all troubleshooting, even though you are keenly aware of what all you have attempted/done, we have to go thru steps to eliminate and/or isolate things. This is why we have to ask a LOT of questions....so please bear with us.
As noted in your quoted posted above in red, you seemed to have now learned the inside switch is only for the propane/dsi side of your water heater. You can turn it on along with the outside switch to the electric heating element and gain the fastest heated water utilizing both heating sources.....or you can use it by itself. The inside switch has no bearing on the outside electric heating element.
However, you need to understand that the propane burner side of your water heater and the electric heating element side each have their own independent thermostat which turns on/off their respective side when the water reaches a preset temp (usually around 135 degrees)
Say for example you were setting up camp and turned on ONLY the electric heating element. Well it starts trying to raise the water temp to 135 degrees. If it accomplished this, then it's thermostat turns it off and keeps it off until I think the water temp dips to around 110, then it comes back on and starts the cycle again.
Now if you turn on the inside switch to the propane, then if the water is under 130 degrees it will also light the burner and heat the water till it gets to 135 degrees, then IT"s own thermostat will shut the propane burner down.
The reason you may have never heard the propane burner come on previously is because the electric heating element had already heated the water, thus there was no need for the burner to come on since the water was already 135 degrees.
This time it did come on, due possibly to the electric heating element not working, or it hadn't had time to properly heat the water up.
Now for the part in blue about the water not being hot according to your son. Your water heater is most likely 6 gallons, maybe 10. The first thing you will learn is to take what are called Navy Showers with such a small water heater tank. You cannot take long showers like at home with your 30 gallon or bigger tank. You want to wet yourself, then turn off the water with the button on the handheld shower wand. Now soap up and shampoo your hair. Turn the nozzle back on and rinse off. Turn off everything at the taps now (not the handheld wand)
With a small water heater tank, you don't take long showers, as this depletes the hot water faster then the electric heating element and/or propane burner can replenish it (this is what is called recovery rate). The next person getting in the shower may need to wait a little for hot water recovery depending on how much was used.
Also remember that all water going down the drain is also filling up your grey holding tank so you don't want to use no more than necessary.
OK, now that we have that out of the way (and you may have already been aware of it), let's get down to other things.
Are you or anyone in your immediate family handy with a multimeter?