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Old 10-18-2017, 10:32 AM   #1
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Weird water heater problem

We left Thursday of last week for a five day local trip to be with other camping friends. When I set up Thursday early afternoon I went through the some routine as usual to get everything plugged in, set up, etc. After I had hooked up the water hose and made sure that I had free running water at all (hot, cold, bath, sinks) faucets I turned the electric water heating element on. Some hours later I went to run some hot water at the kitchen sink and had only cold water from both sides. I checked and had the same at the tub/shower, bath sink, and outside kitchen sink. I made sure that the electric switch had been placed to ON and the light of the switch was ON. I then made sure the gas bottle was on, I had a flame at the stove then turned the gas switch to ON, the light of the switch came on. A couple of hours later--NO warm water at all. Very confusing but bedtime. The next morning I started a troubleshooting plan and turned the electric and gas to the water heater OFF. I visually checked the water heater area for anything that looked "not right" but found no problem. I then turned the electric to the water heater back on, the light of the switch came on so I went out to check voltage at the element. Danged! I had a good 110vAC at the element and could hear that sort of hissing sound as if the element was heating. An hour or so later I had good hot water. Just to check it I turned OFF the electric to the water heater and switched on the gas with the little red light of the gas switch lighting up. BUT--I went outside and heard nor seen any sign the the gas burner had lit. I looked over everything at the water heater and could see nothing wrong. I went back and turned on the electric switch, the little red light lit up, and about two seconds later I heard the has burner of the water heater fire up. I went outside and confirmed that indeed the gas burner had fired up. Confusing to me at that time. I went back in and turned the electric switch to OFF and the gas burner went off after maybe five seconds. Then I waited for maybe five minutes and turned the electric switch back ON and the gas burner fired up again. So--does anyone know for sure that the gas burner system depends on the electric circuit to the water heater for the gas to operate?
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Old 10-18-2017, 10:38 AM   #2
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Wow... that was a hard read with no paragraphs.

To answer the question I think you asked... no, the electric switch does not have to be on for the gas to work. They are separate systems -BUT- can be used in conjunction.

You can use the electric side only.
You can use the gas side only.
Or, you can use them both together for quicker recovery.

Are you sure you understand what switches you have for the water heater and what they control?
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Old 10-18-2017, 11:27 AM   #3
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Any chance the water was already hot when you tuned the LP on the second time? This would cause the LP not to operate. You could run enough water to lower temperature and try again. Bad connection maybe?

I assume you have a Suburban WH maybe SW6DE ?? ... maybe this will help.

http://docs.renegaderv.com/Suburban/...2005-18-11.pdf
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Old 10-18-2017, 06:41 PM   #4
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I think he is turning on and off the inside switch. On a suburban water heater, the inside switch controles the gas only. Out side under the heater cover is an on/off switch for the electric heating element. That's how mine works. Any of the other type water heaters, beats me! That's how I understand what you typed. Had to read it three times to think I understood!
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Old 10-18-2017, 09:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A32Deuce View Post
I think he is turning on and off the inside switch. On a suburban water heater, the inside switch controles the gas only. Out side under the heater cover is an on/off switch for the electric heating element. That's how mine works. Any of the other type water heaters, beats me! That's how I understand what you typed. Had to read it three times to think I understood!
That's what I was thinking. The inside switch at the control panel on my rockwood, wildcat (and old jayco) turns on gas wh. Electric power switch is outside on the water heater and is accessed by removing the wh cover.
Not sure what you were doing but Hope you figure it out.
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Old 10-19-2017, 12:09 PM   #6
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Since suburban water heaters don't have a lighted electric switch and they don't usually have the electric switch inside the RV, I assumed (I know!) that it was an Atwood heater. Assuming (again with the assume!) that the heater has worked properly before and hasn't been worked on lately, my first thought was that the wrong switch was flipped and there was no propane to the heater.
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Old 10-19-2017, 12:20 PM   #7
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Assumptions can always get you in trouble.

Suburban does INDEED make a water heater that has an inside gas AND electric switch. It's a SWDEL model. Both switches could also be lit, depending on the panel used by Forest River.

The SWDEL model is explained in post #4 here which also shows both illuminated switches.

http://www.forestriverforums.com/for...ml#post1193446

Forest River has started using more and more of these SWDEL Suburban water heaters in their RV's, so we need to tailor the advice/suggestions to take this model into consideration. The panel shown in the pic below is from Turbs trailer....who does have the Suburban SWDEL water heater in his.





The OP could also have an Atwood brand too. We just don't know
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Old 10-19-2017, 12:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bama Rambler View Post
Since suburban water heaters don't have a lighted electric switch and they don't usually have the electric switch inside the RV, I assumed (I know!) that it was an Atwood heater. Assuming (again with the assume!) that the heater has worked properly before and hasn't been worked on lately, my first thought was that the wrong switch was flipped and there was no propane to the heater.
I agree Bama... we are assuming too much, which is why I asked the question whether the OP understood his switches and knew how they worked in post # 2.

He indicated he turned on the electric switch (and the switch light came on) but didn't really specify if it was inside or outside. They 'can' be both places on a Suburban. Mine has two electric switches. One in the panel (right next to the DSI propane switch) and also the second (more common) on the outside so it can be confusing.

Lets hope we hear from the OP to clear some things up.
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Old 10-19-2017, 12:24 PM   #9
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SW_DEL models have an inside 12VDC switch that energizes a 12 volt relay at the water heater that supplies 110VAC to the outside switch and then to the heating element.

Wiring diagram on left side of page 6 shows the 12VDC side and the diagram on the right side shows the 110VAC side.
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Old 10-19-2017, 12:45 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by rockfordroo View Post
SW_DEL models have an inside 12VDC switch that energizes a 12 volt relay at the water heater that supplies 110VAC to the outside switch and then to the heating element.

Wiring diagram on left side of page 6 shows the 12VDC side and the diagram on the right side shows the 110VAC side.
You are correct rockfordroo... which adds even more confusion to the mix.
You have to have 12v to make the 120v side work... but not 120v to make the propane side work. (which is what the OP asked... I think)
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:38 AM   #11
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Your WH has two means of heating water which may be used individually or simultaneously (which heats the water more quickly)

1. Electric element. There are two switches which must BOTH be on for the electric to work:
A. Circuit breaker in electric panel
B. Small black switch on the outside of the WH behind the access cover

2. Gas Burner. Two things must be turned on for it to work on gas.
A. The gas bottle must be turned on (obvious but some people forget)
B. The switch inside the camper. Usually red and usually located next to or near your water pump switch and Tank Capacity/Battery meter. The electricity is used to power the igniter for the gas burner and the gas solenoid to provide the gas to the burner.
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Old 10-21-2017, 10:08 AM   #12
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I had a similar, gas only, no start on my Suburban SW6DEL last week on my 2018 Rockwood 2304KS. Electric was fine. It worked fine at 6500' elevation for the first half of the trip, but failed to ignite on the second half of the trip.

After the usual visual inspection, I determine that I could light it with a propane grill lighter and it worked fine for the full cycle. Next cycle, no start, able to manually light again.

When I listened to the ignition process, I heard and smelled the L.P. come on, then the DSI spark. The spark sounded weak and sporadic.

Called the dealer for a warranty visit, and was told that it was the igniter module, and they had replaced a LOT of them. Several units in stock! Problem most likely solved.
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Old 10-21-2017, 10:35 AM   #13
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Yesterday (Fri.) I decided to test this water heater. Upon inspecting the water heater I did not find a switch at the water heater location. I keep my TT hooked up electrically so I hooked up the water, ran water from ALL faucets then switched ON the electric to the water heater. After piddling around in the yard for about an hour I went in to test the heat of the water, nice and hot. I turned OFF the electric switch and ran water until it ran cool. I then turned ON the gas switch and went outside to listen for the gas to ignite. Nothing happened. I went back in and switched the electric ON and within three seconds I heard the gas burner for the water heater come on. I let this run for maybe a minute then turned the electric switch back to OFF. The gas immediately shut down. I went through this procedure twice yesterday and have come to the conclusion that the electric switch must be ON for the gas burner of the water heater to operate. This is an Atwood heater. Photos of heater and control unit should be attached.
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Old 10-21-2017, 10:57 AM   #14
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Thurman:

I've never had an Atwood, but in the attached Atwood manual, page 25, they show the wiring diagram. It shows 12VDC going to a "remote switch." I would ASSUME that it is really TWO remote switches (each called "single pole, single throw" -SPST), because normally, if it were one switch, it would have a "dotted line" connection between the two angled lines to show that both move together ("double pole, single throw" - DPST). On the other hand, if they are separate switches, SPST, I would have expected it to say "REMOTE SWITCHES" instead of "REMOTE SWITCH."

So I see 3 possibilites:
1. There is only one DPST switch and it turns on both gas and electric (and if there's no 110VAC available, only the gas will heat the water - kind of like AUTO on your fridge).
2. There is only one SPST switch, but they wired both the gas and the electric to it's ouput.
3. You have some other kind of mis-wiring.

Good luck.

UPDATE: I just realized that you had provided a pic of your control panel (forgot you did when I went to look for the Atwood manual). It shows TWO switches. There is a DSI light between them. So one is for your electric element and one is for your gas. (i.e., you have 2 SPST switches and the wiring diagram should have said "REMOTE SWITCHES"). So now you need to figure out which switch is gas and which is electric. Normally the red DSI light should light up when the gas switch is turned on, until the gas lights. Then the DSI light will go out. So turn on each switch separately and whichever one gives you the DSI light for a few seconds will be the gas switch.
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Old 10-21-2017, 11:31 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnfort View Post
I had a similar, gas only, no start on my Suburban SW6DEL last week on my 2018 Rockwood 2304KS. Electric was fine. It worked fine at 6500' elevation for the first half of the trip, but failed to ignite on the second half of the trip.

After the usual visual inspection, I determine that I could light it with a propane grill lighter and it worked fine for the full cycle. Next cycle, no start, able to manually light again.

When I listened to the ignition process, I heard and smelled the L.P. come on, then the DSI spark. The spark sounded weak and sporadic.

Called the dealer for a warranty visit, and was told that it was the igniter module, and they had replaced a LOT of them. Several units in stock! Problem most likely solved.
Necessity is the Mother of All Inventions!

GREAT workaround til you could get it repaired. Beat the heck out of cold showers, didn't it!
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Old 10-21-2017, 12:11 PM   #16
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Or worse yet, no showers!
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Old 10-21-2017, 12:53 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thurman View Post
Yesterday (Fri.) I decided to test this water heater. Upon inspecting the water heater I did not find a switch at the water heater location. I keep my TT hooked up electrically so I hooked up the water, ran water from ALL faucets then switched ON the electric to the water heater. After piddling around in the yard for about an hour I went in to test the heat of the water, nice and hot. I turned OFF the electric switch and ran water until it ran cool. I then turned ON the gas switch and went outside to listen for the gas to ignite. Nothing happened. I went back in and switched the electric ON and within three seconds I heard the gas burner for the water heater come on. I let this run for maybe a minute then turned the electric switch back to OFF. The gas immediately shut down. I went through this procedure twice yesterday and have come to the conclusion that the electric switch must be ON for the gas burner of the water heater to operate. This is an Atwood heater. Photos of heater and control unit should be attached.
If you can read a diagram there is one there at the bottom of your heater access. Your water heater is not wired correctly if the steps you say you take are correct.
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Old 10-21-2017, 07:21 PM   #18
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In my SOB I had the same heater and control panel. I could turn on the electric only, gas only or both at the same time. Your panel is not wired correctly.
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