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Old 08-10-2022, 08:53 AM   #1
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Do the water heater tanks need to be drained after each trip?

Hello all,

New 22 GeorgeTown 36B5 owner, while out camping last week a buddy said I needed to drain the two water heaters after every trip. Is this the case? Also is it as simple as turning off the propane, disconnecting the water source and turning on the faucet.

Thanks for your insight.
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Old 08-10-2022, 08:57 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by JAbolafia View Post
Hello all,

New 22 GeorgeTown 36B5 owner, while out camping last week a buddy said I needed to drain the two water heaters after every trip. Is this the case? Also is it as simple as turning off the propane, disconnecting the water source and turning on the faucet.

Thanks for your insight.
depends on when your next trip will be - I always drain mine just so I don't have water sitting in a tank for any extended time - if you are planning on another trip in a couple weeks you should be find
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Old 08-10-2022, 09:00 AM   #3
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Thanks, I have a trip planned for next weekend, so it will sit for exactly two weeks. Do I just open the hot water sink valves to drain it? Or do I need to do something at the actual water heater outside?
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Old 08-10-2022, 09:04 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by JAbolafia View Post
Hello all,

New 22 GeorgeTown 36B5 owner, while out camping last week a buddy said I needed to drain the two water heaters after every trip. Is this the case? Also is it as simple as turning off the propane, disconnecting the water source and turning on the faucet.

Thanks for your insight.
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Thanks, I have a trip planned for next weekend, so it will sit for exactly two weeks. Do I just open the hot water sink valves to drain it? Or do I need to do something at the actual water heater outside?
You can either drain from the sink, keeping the hot water switch off or drain from the tank if needed. The sink method might not get all the water out of the tank but you should be fine.
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Old 08-10-2022, 09:04 AM   #5
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We drain ours also especially if it is going to be 2 weeks or more before the next trip. In our case I pull the anode rod which doubles as our drain plug. You mention opening the faucet. I do not believe that will empty your water heater. There should be a drain plug on your heater unit. Just make sure to do it when the water is cool.
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Old 08-10-2022, 09:13 AM   #6
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I don't like water sitting, esp if the quality of the water treatment is in question (eg, you fill up at a park at a distance that has cloudy well water vs filling with treated city water), so it's *drain all water* (Tanks, too) after trips for me.

There's something to be said for the 'I leave my tanks full' crowd, but a month between trips can grow some funky stuff throughout your fresh water system. Better IMHO to reduce the medium as best as one can.
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Old 08-10-2022, 09:24 AM   #7
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I fill in the spring and drain in the fall, never an issue. I almost never use any water except from home. If I got some questionable water I would flush well when back at home
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Old 08-10-2022, 09:35 AM   #8
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There's something to be said for the 'I leave my tanks full' crowd, but a month between trips can grow some funky stuff throughout your fresh water system. Better IMHO to reduce the medium as best as one can.
I am far from an expert but I suspect things would grow quicker in a damp area with plenty of air then in a closed area full of water with no air.
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Old 08-10-2022, 09:41 AM   #9
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I fill in the spring and drain in the fall, never an issue. I almost never use any water except from home. If I got some questionable water I would flush well when back at home
X2
We've never drained between trips during season in any R/V I've had in the past 40 years.
Ours sometimes sets a month+.

To each their own.
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Old 08-10-2022, 10:00 AM   #10
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Whether to drain the water heater tank(s) or not depends on the water used in the motorhome, storage conditions, length of time between trips.

Example, we most often fill with water from home from a well that has no chemical treatments. The water is clear and tastes great. However, there is a bacteria common in well water that thrives in the conditions in a water heater tank. It is harmless, but will eventually give the water a strong sulfur smell. It is worse in warm weather. Therefore, we drain our Dometic/Atwood heater usually after every campout. I have a stainless steel ball valve and a detachable extension hose on the water heater tank drain to make the process very easy.

What method or need is for you depends on water heater model, RV usage, and water source. Some posters may mention an anode rod at the drain, which I don’t have, but the presence of an anode rod depends on the water heater model.

For all we know you have tankless water heaters and all these comments do not even apply, but I looked up the specs for your 36B5 and it says you have (2) six gallon water heater tanks. In the case of 6 gallon tanks, simply opening a faucet will not drain the tank(s); you have to drain at the tank drain plug, and possibly open a high faucet to allow air to replace the water.

A final word: if you do drain a water heater tank, do not turn on the electric water heater element (if you have one) with an empty tank, or it will very likely burn out the element.

I also drain the fresh water tank after each camping outing.
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Old 08-10-2022, 10:13 AM   #11
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I never drain the water heater except when winterizing. The risk is way too high for me that I'll forget I have the electric water heater turned on OR that the water heater is empty. If the electric water heater is turned on with the heater empty you will burn out the heating element almost instantaneously.

That being said, I will sanitize the entire water system if we've been parked for more than two months and we have not flowed any water (at home, for example). I do not want Legionella or other bacteria getting a foothold and then we stick our face under the shower head.

Legionella can grow in water temps between roughly 68 F and 115 F and cannot survive above 140 F. That means it can grow in the cold water lines as well.

Unless you completely remove all water from the hot and cold system with air pressure, for example, you will still have stagnant water in the lines where bad stuff can grow.

To me, draining 6 gallons of water out of a system that can hold up to 82 gallons of water (ours) is rather futile unless it's being done for a specific purpose such as flushing the inside of the water heater with a wand and/or changing the anode rod.

If we're at a site for several weeks, such as during the winter, once a month I'll turn the City Water off and run on tank water until it's almost empty. Then I'll pour a small amount of bleach into the fresh water hose and refill the fresh tank to 2/3rds.

We use an inline hose filter to remove sediment from the campground water. Unfortunately those also remove chlorine and I want some chlorine in my fresh tank. We have a built-in water filter that also removes chlorine as it comes out of the tank.

FWIW,

Ray
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Old 08-10-2022, 10:22 AM   #12
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I am far from an expert but I suspect things would grow quicker in a damp area with plenty of air then in a closed area full of water with no air.
It's as simple as aerobic vs anaerobic bacteria, let alone other water-based life (like algae). Also, check to see how your water filter looks and smells after a complete season (having been immersed the entire time). Sometimes it's not pretty.

Water quality varies tremendously depending on the source. Lowlying land near water, salt or fresh, (eg, Michigan, Florida) can have specific bacteria and mineral impact that throws quite a smell AND is ideal for growing things. Water near nitrogen sources (especially here in the farmland) is a fantastic growth medium, and is responsible for record algae blooms.

A recent trip to Wisconsin provided water at the RV park that was cloudy yellow from the source (pic below), and this is coming from right next to the second largest freshwater resource in the world. One trip through our Brita did wonders for it, but I didn't like putting that stuff in my tank.

If your methods work for you, then they work for you, and I'm not saying that anyone else is wrong. This is just how I do it (and am not an expert by ANY stretch of the imagination either, though have a passing familiarity with the subject working with water treatment and water infrastructure industries for more than two decades). I like my tanks clean and dry, and my water as pure as I can get it. I'll even (happily) do the sanitization route mid-season. The less water in the system, the less chance of contamination, and the less you have to deal with/remediate.

Just my .02, your mileage may vary. Hope this helps.
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Old 08-10-2022, 11:28 AM   #13
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Never saw the need to drain anything between trips, even before we retired. If I ever get concerned about water quality I sanitize and flush.
And for those that think you can get all the water out of tanks and lines, it is usually impossible. My fresh tank will hold several gallons in the belly below the drain. Water heater tanks will also hold residual water unless you really work at getting it all out.
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Old 08-10-2022, 12:03 PM   #14
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We fill our water heater in the spring and drain it in the fall also. I guess we have be doing it this way for over 35 years.

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Old 08-10-2022, 12:39 PM   #15
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Likewise when referring to my water heater which gets hot enough in normal use to sanitize itself -- I'm not drinking this water either. Freshwater tank will get drained if the water in it is somehow suspect which is rare.

Makes no difference if this is a motorhome or popup camper or something in between. Water is water.

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Old 08-11-2022, 07:44 AM   #16
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I only drain and flush my water heater once a year in the spring when I change the anode rod.
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Old 08-11-2022, 08:12 AM   #17
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I never even thought to drain it between trips... Though we don't usually go for more than a few weeks between trips during camping season. I drain it once a year - when winterizing. I do sanitize my lines twice per year - before I winterize, and when I de-winterize. We also strictly do not drink any water that comes from the tanks.
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Old 08-11-2022, 08:57 AM   #18
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And for those that think you can get all the water out of tanks and lines, it is usually impossible.
Truly impossible. However – despite not being completely dry – you can actually get a surprisingly complete amount of water out of the system just using the drains (including the low points)... depending on your setup, that is.

As an example, my fresh tank is rated to 54 gallons. After a full dump of the fresh tank, I can use my flowmeter to see that the fresh tank takes 54.3 gallons to completely fill again. I'll call that "effectively empty." Low point drains (and an open faucet) address the majority of any remaining water that's in the lines, which gravity/siphon function clears very effectively. Granted, there's still more in there, but now it's a lot easier to deal with (and any bad stuff will be a lot more dilute when the system is either sanitized or filled for use).

As NMWildcat pointed out, it's the bottom of the hot water heater that's impossible to get entirely empty/dry, though a quart of questionable water is a lot easier to deal with (i.e. dilute and/or sanitize/treat) than 6 gallons of it.

The accomplishable goal isn't a completely dry system (though that would be nice), just to dramatically reduce the amount of bad stuff/growth medium available AND make any sanitization efforts more effective.

Despite what some might claim, water is NOT just water. Do any kind of traveling and pay attention to what's available at the RV parks you visit and you'll quickly learn how wrongheaded this is. Iron content alone in well water is completely all over the place (just look for that teltale orange stain in the bathrooms). And have you ever heard of an E Coli outbreak, or read that a boil order was being enforced? Travel to a country with non-potable water and ignore the signs and you'll be taught the important lesson about water quality. While the H2O itself is fine, it's the rest of the stuff that accompanies the H2O that's the problem. Heck, do a site search on 'sulphur' and see how many responses comes up just on this site alone.

Now, I like to run with empty tanks – and fill with what's available on or near site –*so I may be more sensitive to the water quality on site in different places. But it also means that I pay more attention, too. RV Life seems to say it's important.

You guys do what you want - and clearly whatever you are doing is working for you. But don't lull yourself into a falsehood thinking that "water is water" when it's clearly and demonstratively not.

Just my .02. Your mileage may vary.
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Old 08-15-2022, 06:28 PM   #19
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I am far from an expert but I suspect things would grow quicker in a damp area with plenty of air then in a closed area full of water with no air.
Concur. I would not leave water in the heater for more than four weeks or so, just so you don’t get any extensive corrosion in the tank itself. But, from a water quality perspective, 2 to 4 weeks is quite fine. As soon as you pull into the next campsite, fire the heater back up - I expect any nasty bugs that may find their way in your water will be killed in a matter of minutes (temp setting dependent).

Unless you like a good glass of piping hot water with that sandwich, I suspect the only thing you are using that water for is washing hands, etc… Whatever you use it for, it would not take long for that water to be cycled out with “fresh” water - especially how small most tanks are.
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Old 08-15-2022, 06:40 PM   #20
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I have a similar unit to yours but is 2017 364ts
It has 2 water heaters two water pumps and uses propane or electric.
I don't drain except when winterizing because of having two of everything
It is a big hassle. But we don't drink the water also don't brush teeth with it either.
I can tell you when I took first big trip when it was new I burned ip heating element
By turning on electric water heater first. After I thought I had water in both hot water tanks.
Never again. I now use overflow valve to be sure water is in there. I also start with propane and when both water tanks are putting out great hot water, I switch to electric if available.
28,000 miles and 5 years no problem.
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