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Old 06-14-2023, 03:07 PM   #1
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Electric side of water heater not working

I've searched the various forums and pages and can't find the answer to my issue. We have a Suburban water heater SW12DE in our 2016 Cedar Creek 38CK. The propane side of my hot water heater works fine. I can't get the 120v side to work. I've checked everything I can think of. Ohm'ed the element, the thermal switches, the power switch on the heater, they all check out OK. I have no power to the element with the switch off (of course) and no power with the switch on. The breaker inside has power coming from it. The only switch on the inside panel is to turn on the propane side. There is a red lighted switch on the inside panel that's labeled tank heater but I'm presuming that is for the heaters on the holding tanks. Am I missing something? Any suggestions on what to try? It would be great if I am missing something simple. I cannot find any other switches inside the RV that would seem to turn it on (in a previous RV we had a switch in the bathroom for the water heater).

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Old 06-14-2023, 03:15 PM   #2
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These water heater circuits are really simple and 5 minutes with a multimeter and this schematic will tell you where the problem is. And yes the red lighted switch labeled Tank heaters is for the holding tank heating pads, not the water heater.

The 120v comes from the breaker in the power distribution box to either an outlet near the water heater (that the water heater is plugged into) or the wire from the breaker goes to a junction box and the water heater is hard wired.
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Old 06-14-2023, 03:15 PM   #3
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How are you checking for 120 volt power at the black switch on the front of the tank. I have a reason for asking this.

The thermostats under the rubber cover on the tank......the thermostat assembly on the left side controls the electric element. The assembly has a regular thermostat and a hi limit thermostat. To check voltage on these, you have to make sure power is going thru BOTH tstats which are connected together via a fusible link.

I also assume you are checking to see if the electric element is working when the water is cool inside the tank. If the gas has already heated the water, then the electric will not come on and vice versa.
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Old 06-14-2023, 03:17 PM   #4
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I don't have the same unit as you but I do have a similar switch panel. Fortunatly mine are lighted when they are in the on position. I have a switch that is intermittent meaninig that I turn it on and it doesn't light and the element doesn't get hot. If I turn it off and then back on it works fine as long as the switch lights up. Maybe something similar. I know mine switch is going to fail but I always have propane.
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Old 06-14-2023, 03:22 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Sunseeker16 View Post
I don't have the same unit as you but I do have a similar switch panel. Fortunatly mine are lighted when they are in the on position. I have a switch that is intermittent meaninig that I turn it on and it doesn't light and the element doesn't get hot. If I turn it off and then back on it works fine as long as the switch lights up. Maybe something similar. I know mine switch is going to fail but I always have propane.
The OP has a model water heater that DOES NOT have a switch in the control panel for the 120v side of their water heater. Only the switch (non-illuminated) mounted on the outside of the water heater controls the 120v side on a SW12DE.
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Old 06-14-2023, 03:41 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by 5picker View Post
The OP has a model water heater that DOES NOT have a switch in the control panel for the 120v side of their water heater. Only the switch (non-illuminated) mounted on the outside of the water heater controls the 120v side on a SW12DE.
Whoops, missed that.
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Old 06-14-2023, 03:50 PM   #7
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One more thing, did you disconnect one or more wires at the element when you checked the Ohms there? You must do that......then you are looking at the 10 OHMS range for a good element.
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Old 06-14-2023, 03:56 PM   #8
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Turn your power off and pop that black switch out with a small screwdriver bet the back is burnt. Amazon has the switch.
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Old 07-11-2023, 01:16 PM   #9
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PROBLEM SOLVED: I haven't followed up on this for a while because I just this morning figured this out. Long story short, after checking, rechecking everything I know and you good folks suggested, finally tracked my problem down to the water heater (electric/120v side) was never plugged in at the factory..... The back of the water heater was behind a wall and not easy to get to, thus I hadn't seen this before today. Previous owner (very nice guy) told me he always ran it on both propane and electric. Talked with him after solving this and he never realized he was only running on propane. Thanks for al of you input to this though, I appreciate it!!
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Old 07-11-2023, 01:49 PM   #10
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Posts #2 & 3 asked the OP to test/how they were testing the 120v side of the water heater.

The resolve shows how important having and knowing how to use a multimeter is when diagnosing electrical issues.

Sure, the plug was way back behind the water heater and hard to access but 5 minutes (or less) with a meter checking the circuitry would have alerted the OP there was no power at all.
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Old 07-11-2023, 01:56 PM   #11
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Yep, numerous suggestions to check the 120v AC power.
Hard to believe that the previous owner didn't know the WH was unplugged for 8 years. You would have thought that they would have noticed the propane loss.

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Old 07-11-2023, 02:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Sp View Post
PROBLEM SOLVED: I haven't followed up on this for a while because I just this morning figured this out. Long story short, after checking, rechecking everything I know and you good folks suggested, finally tracked my problem down to the water heater (electric/120v side) was never plugged in at the factory..... The back of the water heater was behind a wall and not easy to get to, thus I hadn't seen this before today. Previous owner (very nice guy) told me he always ran it on both propane and electric. Talked with him after solving this and he never realized he was only running on propane. Thanks for al of you input to this though, I appreciate it!!
Thanks for sharing the solution to the problem. The original owner assumed that the water heater was plugged in and tested before delivery. Unless the original owner had run out of propane he probably wouldn't have known that it wouldn't run on electric. Thanks again for sharing the solution.

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Old 07-11-2023, 02:27 PM   #13
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Thanks for sharing the results to the problem. Later RJD
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Old 07-11-2023, 04:25 PM   #14
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5picker & bikendan; Thanks for basically calling me an idiot.

I did check everything with my multimeter and found no power. I erroneously presumed that it was plugged in since the previous owner had told me he had used electric for it for the past 8 years.
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Old 07-11-2023, 04:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
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5picker & bikendan; Thanks for basically calling me an idiot.

I did check everything with my multimeter and found no power. I erroneously presumed that it was plugged in since the previous owner had told me he had used electric for it for the past 8 years.
Never called you an idiot.
I apologize that I missed this sentence-"Ohm'ed the element".
So I didn't realize that you HAD used a multimeter, by this sentence.



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Old 07-11-2023, 04:44 PM   #16
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bikendan, I thought that I had talked about checking everything with my multimeter or maybe I presumed folks would figure that out after I talked about checking the ohms on the element and such. No worries, maybe I jumped on my response too quick with a short fuse.

I see you are a retired FF/EMT. I'm a retired Flight Paramedic and volunteer FF/Paramedic.
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Old 07-11-2023, 05:42 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Sp View Post
5picker & bikendan; Thanks for basically calling me an idiot.

I did check everything with my multimeter and found no power. I erroneously presumed that it was plugged in since the previous owner had told me he had used electric for it for the past 8 years.
I never called you an idiot either and was simply pointing out the importance of checking the basics for EVERYONE.

Folks get wrapped up in replacing parts before checking the basics and your scenario is a perfect example of how basic the solution was.

I'm glad you found it and shared the solution.
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