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Old 01-30-2009, 09:36 AM   #1
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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, 10:21 AM   #2
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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, 10:26 AM   #3
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(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:

http://bryantrv.com/docs2/docs/operating/swinstall.pdf

Joe
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Old 01-30-2009, 07:12 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.

hope you enjoy your camper, there are always something to do on them
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Old 01-30-2009, 08:22 PM   #5
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Smile

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.

--Rob
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Old 01-31-2009, 08:27 AM   #6
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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, 09:37 AM   #7
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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, 10:30 AM   #8
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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, 10:41 PM   #9
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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, 11:11 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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Old 02-02-2009, 05:03 AM   #11
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Save the propane, the electric is part of your site fee.
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Old 02-02-2009, 07:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NWJeeper View Post
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. .
Don't you have a 120v circuit breaker for the water heater?
Is your breaker panel hard to get at?

I typically leave my outside electric switch on but I shut off the inside
breaker when we don't want/need the hot water heater to heat.
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Old 02-02-2009, 05:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KyDan View Post
Don't you have a 120v circuit breaker for the water heater?
Is your breaker panel hard to get at?

I typically leave my outside electric switch on but I shut off the inside
breaker when we don't want/need the hot water heater to heat.
Yeah I do, but I don't want to bend over to do it...LOL...How pathetic huh?

With all the push button leveling, push a button put the slides out, push a button and the awning comes out, I just want a convienient button on the wall to turn the electric side on. I had one laying in the drawer that is red and lights up when on, I have already run some 12ga wire down into a compartment for the switch I just have to do it.
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Old 02-03-2009, 08:21 AM   #14
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If I understand what you are going to do.......
you are going to put a switch inside that turns the electric heater
on in your water heater.
I guess you will put it in series with the one outside in the heater compartment?
Just wanted to remind you that is 120vAC and any switch lighted or not needs
to be for that application.

My apologies for butting in if you already know this but I'd hate for someone
to go to radio shack or Autozone and get a lighted automotive switch and hook it
in like you say. It would likely go bang as soon as it was energized.
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Old 02-03-2009, 09:10 AM   #15
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I have been reading all of this, and I have to admit I'm a little puzzled. When we are camping, everytime I hit the water heater switch inside the trailer I hear the gas turn on. I was thinking this was always the case. The switch on the outside has always been on since we've had the TT. Right now the switch is off since I just emptied the water heater. What is the best way to find out wether the electric element is working or not.
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Old 02-03-2009, 09:11 AM   #16
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Well, everything is working OK now. I wish that I could be specific and tell you all exactly what I did to make it work, but I can't. After some experimenting and reading,(thanks to Joe Falco for the link to the manual for my unit), I believe that the following occurred.

At some point the electric element faulted out on high temperature. Since the gas burner never let it get below 100 degrees, it would not reset. It was only when I dumped the tank and replaced the electric element then refilled the tank that the water was under 100 degrees and accepted the reset. If this proves not to be the case I will get back to you all but for now the gas switch is off, and the water is being heated just fine with the electric element.

Thanks again for all the help.
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Old 02-03-2009, 10:34 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rafcar View Post
The switch on the outside has always been on since we've had the TT. Right now the switch is off since I just emptied the water heater. What is the best way to find out wether the electric element is working or not.
The best way to tell if it's working is to fill the water heater, hook to shore power, make sure the breaker inside the power center is on, turn the switch outside behind the access panel on and wait about 20 to 30 minutes to see if the water is getting hot.

You can test the element with an ohm meter by turning off all power (unhooking the power source) and placing the leads across the element terminals. It should read about 10 ohms. You can test the high temp cutout the same way but it should read zero ohms across it. Did I mention that you HAVE TO TURN OFF ALL POWER!
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:34 AM   #18
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I never knew you could heat up the water electrically. Nobody at the dealer ever told me this, I don't think. Anyway, thanks for the help, I just need to find out which of the breakers is the one for the water heater. So I guess this means that if the water heater breaker and outside switch are on, the water heater element will automatically come on when we hook up to shore power, correct?
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:40 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KyDan View Post
If I understand what you are going to do.......
you are going to put a switch inside that turns the electric heater
on in your water heater.
I guess you will put it in series with the one outside in the heater compartment?
Just wanted to remind you that is 120vAC and any switch lighted or not needs
to be for that application.

My apologies for butting in if you already know this but I'd hate for someone
to go to radio shack or Autozone and get a lighted automotive switch and hook it
in like you say. It would likely go bang as soon as it was energized.
Happy Camping!
KyDan
I actually plan on unpluging the switch at the water heater and conecting my remote wires to the switch wires there. In effect remoting the switch to the cabinet inside the rig. I could just use the existing switch but a lighted one to let you know it is still on is nice. Yes I do know to use a 120V switch. I did the same thing on our old motorhome and it was real nice to have especially when you are at a park with 30amp power running the A/C and you have to turn off something to use the mircrowave. It was just easier to flip the electric element off on the water heater with the switch being right there.

You are correct though to assume that not all people reading this thread in the future might know there is a difference to the switchs and just by a 12v one which won't do the job. Thanks for pointing it out.
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Old 02-03-2009, 12:08 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rafcar View Post
I just need to find out which of the breakers is the one for the water heater. So I guess this means that if the water heater breaker and outside switch are on, the water heater element will automatically come on when we hook up to shore power, correct?
In a word-- yep!

The electric heater switch outside in the water heater access door
is often hidden behind a pipe so look carefully if you don't see it right
off. On a brand new unit there may be a safety wire or clip in the switch
that you will have to remove in order to turn the switch on.
We hope the circuit breaker inside your fuse box/power center
for the water heater is labeled!!

You do need to remember to switch off the electric heater when you are
not using the trailer. Any time the water pump is off and you are not on
city water, the water heater electric and gas should be OFF.

This is just one of the reasons we use check lists for what to bring
and what to check when we are leaving.
I once tried to move my trailer with a leveling jack down.
It bends the heck out of the jack when you do that!
I've seen folks drive off with the TV antenna up.
Make up your own check list and print copies and use it every time.

Happy Camping!
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