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Old 01-30-2009, 08:36 AM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: West Virginia
Posts: 9
Problems with Suburban Hot Water Heater

I currently have an 09 Flagstaff V-lite 30WRLS travel trailer that has a 6 gallon SW6DE Suburban Hot Water Heater. The owners manual for the water heater covers 4 different models but not the one I have. My questions/problems are as follows:

There are 2 on-off switches for this heater. One behind the heater grill on the outside of the camper and one in the bedroom next to a big red reset light. Basically what do these control? So far it seems that the one on the outside of the camper controls nothing. The one in the bedroom seems to control the functioning of the heater, i.e., when the gas to the heater goes out for any reason the reset light goes on and everything seems to stop. If the gas is on and you turn this switch off, the gas to the unit stops, the reset light comes on, and the system is turned off.

Now for the big question. I was always under the assumption that the hot water heater heated with the electric element when you were plugged into park electric service and gas was used upon the absensce of park service. This does not seem to be the case with this unit. When the gas is out for some time the water cools off which means the electric element is not working. Please note that when this happens, both the above mentioned switches plus the breaker switch are all on.

I recently replaced the element but it is still doing the same thing.

Any help would be appreciated!

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Old 01-30-2009, 09:21 AM   #2
Head Rambler
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Southwest Alabama
Posts: 3,309
The switch on the outside behind the access panel is for the electric element. Once you turn it on it takes several minutes for it to heat the water. It's silent so you can't tell it's working by listening. The switch inside the RV is for the propane side. You can run both on at the same time but we don't unless we want it to recover fast.

There is a high temp cutoff on the heater that would keep the electric element from working if it's tripped. I don't know whether it's resettable on your model. If you're handy with a multimeter you can test it. It should be located behind a small cover inside the access door.

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Old 01-30-2009, 09:26 AM   #3
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 86
(edit--looks like I was typing at the same time as Bama, LOL--lot's of duplicate info)

The switch on the heater itself (behind the grille) controls the electric heater. The inside switch is the gas burner.

It's recommended to turn on both when using shore power--the electric should do most of the work, with the gas jumping in when a boost is needed (many showers, etc).

Before using the electric side, you must be sure the water heater is full, or the element will burn out quickly.

You said you installed a new element--was the old one bad, or did you change it just to see what happens? You may want to check for power at the water heater with a multimeter to be sure you're getting power at the element.

Here's a link to a manual for yours:


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Old 01-30-2009, 06:12 PM   #4
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i just keep my switch located outside behind the access cover , locked in the off position with a cotter pin. it doesnt heat quickly as gas and i know if the heater is turned on without water accidentally it will burn it up. its worked ok like this for us. the only probleme we had was the scrs went bad and overheated water and they had to be replaced under warranty.

the location of the on/off and light on ours is on the front face of the sink cabinet about 24 inches above floor, a really easy spot for kids to swithc on and off, i need to cover it to protect. i already made a simple cover for the switches for slide that are located next to the light switches, just cut some cardboard, simple , quick.

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Old 01-30-2009, 07:22 PM   #5
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It was not until about a year after purchasing my 8317SS that I found out that I had that switch on the outside under the grill.

After ensuring that water is present in the tank so that I did not burn out the element I tried it and it did not work. Rather than take the 1hr trip to and from Camping World I had a friend come over with his volt meter and after a bit of playing around we found that the wire was not connected to the breaker. (We turned off all the power disconneted the battery and shore power before pulling the breaker)

Connected the wire and now we have electrically heated water when needed.

Hope this is helps.

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Old 01-31-2009, 07:27 AM   #6
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 5,652
As mentioned several times above, the switch on the outside controls the
electric heater element BUT you also have a 120v circuit breaker in your
power center that feeds AC power to the outside switch.
The breaker must be on AND the outside switch must be on to get electric
hot water heat.

If both are on, I agree it's time to get out the ole meter and test for voltage
at the outside switch/heater connections.

Good luck!
Let us know what you find.
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Old 02-01-2009, 08:37 AM   #7
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: West Virginia
Posts: 9
Thanks for all the input. I haven't had time recently to mess with it. When I do I'll get back to you all with what I find.
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Old 02-01-2009, 09:30 AM   #8
Grape Escape
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Southern Ontario
Posts: 774
We run our water heater exclusively on 110v when available. No problems whatsoever and we don't hear burner come on in camper as we used to due to heater being under the bed. With such a small heater electric seems to warm it just as fast
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Old 02-01-2009, 09:41 PM   #9
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Location: Enumclaw, WA
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We ALWAYS leave the electric switch on, turning this off is just a big waste of propane which cost a lot more. When you are paying for electricity in a park why would you ever turn this off? The electric element heats our 10 gal tank just fine and provides enough hot water for washing hands and doing dishes without ever using propane. When we take a shower I turn on the propane switch so the water heater will recover faster and turn it off as soon as we are done. My only gripe is that they didn't spend the extra $5 on wire to remote the electric switch from outside to the panel inside next to the propane switch. That is why I have run the wire for it and intend on doing it myself soon.

As for the "on/off" light inside, this is incorrect... The light is a "fault" light and will light just momentarily when you turn on the propane switch then go out as the propane system lights up. If it fails to light then the system "locks out" and turns off the propane valve and turns on the light to let you know there is a problem. Turn off the switch for at least 10 seconds to reset the circuit board then turn back on again to retry the lighting sequence. If the system is working normally this light will not be on constantly.
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Old 02-01-2009, 10:11 PM   #10
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We never use the propane unless we're dry camping and then we turn it on and off as needed for hot water. The electric meets our needs otherwise.


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