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Old 05-25-2022, 08:52 AM   #1
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CO/LP alarm problems

Since a big wind storm yesterday, I'm having CO/LP alarm issues related to the gas water heater. It's located on the wall of the floor cabinet housing the water heater. I took delivery on the new trailer in November 2019.

The problem arose when the water heater tried to operate in the wind. It was on the windward side of the trailer and was being blown out constantly. We shut it off.

Later, when the wind returned to normal, we turned it back on. It lit normally but later triggered a CO alarm. (The red CO light was solid. The LP light was not lit.) We turned it off and aired out the trailer, including opening the interior cabinet door housing the water heater and fanning the face of the alarm. The alarm went off and stayed off.

We used the water heater again later yesterday evening (being alert to problems) and it operated normally without alarm. We turned it off when going to bed. This AM I turned it on again. The wind speed is low, only a slight breeze. The heater ignited normally but now we got a CO alarm again.

I'll check all the propane connections but I don't think that's a cause of the problem. We don't smell propane and the burner lights as expected.

What are my trouble-shooting steps to address the CO issue?
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Old 05-25-2022, 08:55 AM   #2
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First, what kind of alarm sound are you getting? Is it a chirping sound or a 'blast you out of the rig' type alarm?
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Old 05-25-2022, 09:10 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Reverse_snowbird View Post
First, what kind of alarm sound are you getting? Is it a chirping sound or a 'blast you out of the rig' type alarm?
Blasting constant alarm with the CO light red and the propane light not on.
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Old 05-25-2022, 09:51 AM   #4
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Blasting constant alarm with the CO light red and the propane light not on.
Have you checked your 'house' batteries? Ours will go off when the house batteries are low... no idea why.

It's possible that the storm shorted out something in the propane alarm. You could try to replace it (keep the receipt in case that's not the problem). My thinking is this... the co light is on and not the propane light. If it's propane, I think that light should be on. If it were truly co, you'd probably be dead because co accumulates at the ceiling first and by the time it got to the floor, you'd be sick or worse.

Then you might try turning off the propane and see if you get the alarm.

Those are the easy things. If it's not one of those and you can't smell propane, you might need to get a professional to check for propane leaks.
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Old 05-25-2022, 10:48 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by chriscowles View Post
Since a big wind storm yesterday, I'm having CO/LP alarm issues related to the gas water heater. It's located on the wall of the floor cabinet housing the water heater. I took delivery on the new trailer in November 2019.

The problem arose when the water heater tried to operate in the wind. It was on the windward side of the trailer and was being blown out constantly. We shut it off.

Later, when the wind returned to normal, we turned it back on. It lit normally but later triggered a CO alarm. (The red CO light was solid. The LP light was not lit.) We turned it off and aired out the trailer, including opening the interior cabinet door housing the water heater and fanning the face of the alarm. The alarm went off and stayed off.

We used the water heater again later yesterday evening (being alert to problems) and it operated normally without alarm. We turned it off when going to bed. This AM I turned it on again. The wind speed is low, only a slight breeze. The heater ignited normally but now we got a CO alarm again.

I'll check all the propane connections but I don't think that's a cause of the problem. We don't smell propane and the burner lights as expected.

What are my trouble-shooting steps to address the CO issue?
I believe you are correct that it's not LP as you'd definitely be able to smell it. That said, it's always a good idea to check the fittings with a soap solution.
First, you might need to manually reset the carbon monoxide sensor after it has set off the alarm. Read the instructions to see if it needs to be manually reset.
I'd verify the co percentage with a different detector. Place the detector near the wall mounted co detector and turn the water heater on and stand outside the camper.
Extremely inexpensive co detectors are available at a marine supply store and at your local airport's fixed base operator (FBO). It's a 2" X 2" card with an orange dot. The orange dot turns black in the presence of carbon monoxide.
My opinion is that either the co/LP sensor is defective or the water heater exhaust is being drawn into the camper by a slight negative air pressure in the camper; roof vents open, a window either slightly open or a window gasket not sealing, and possibly a defective/cracked burner. But I ran wood through a machine for 30 years so what do I know?
I highly recommend the card co detector for camper, boat and small airplanes. Go to sportys.com and search "carbon monoxide detector". They're $4.95 and I've used these for 30+ years.
Slight headaches, vision changes, lethargy and nausea are early symptoms of co poisoning. Any of that going on?
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Old 05-25-2022, 02:08 PM   #6
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I believe you are correct that it's not LP as you'd definitely be able to smell it. That said, it's always a good idea to check the fittings with a soap solution.
First, you might need to manually reset the carbon monoxide sensor after it has set off the alarm. Read the instructions to see if it needs to be manually reset.
I'd verify the co percentage with a different detector. Place the detector near the wall mounted co detector and turn the water heater on and stand outside the camper.
Extremely inexpensive co detectors are available at a marine supply store and at your local airport's fixed base operator (FBO). It's a 2" X 2" card with an orange dot. The orange dot turns black in the presence of carbon monoxide.
My opinion is that either the co/LP sensor is defective or the water heater exhaust is being drawn into the camper by a slight negative air pressure in the camper; roof vents open, a window either slightly open or a window gasket not sealing, and possibly a defective/cracked burner. But I ran wood through a machine for 30 years so what do I know?
I highly recommend the card co detector for camper, boat and small airplanes. Go to sportys.com and search "carbon monoxide detector". They're $4.95 and I've used these for 30+ years.
Slight headaches, vision changes, lethargy and nausea are early symptoms of co poisoning. Any of that going on?
I like the cheap backup detector approach. We have no CO symptoms and the trailer is very well ventilated with high winds and the windows cracked. I suspect the combustion chamber or burner was somehow compromised by the high winds and frequent blowouts.

I have shore power for the next 5 nights. Tonight's a 1-night stay passing through so I won't do anything with it, but the next is 4 nights, so I'll have time to investigate. I hope to resolve the problem before I leave the because our next step is an NFS site with no facilities.
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Old 05-25-2022, 02:16 PM   #7
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I hope to resolve the problem before I leave the because our next step is an NFS site with no facilities.
Many of us have bought an ac operated propane detectors (put near the floor) and a separate battery operated co/fire detectors (put near the ceiling). It's an extra layer of protection that we feel is worth the cost. We had to temporarily disconnect the propane detector in both our tt and our classC when they malfunctioned and the lack of an alarm made us uncomfortable. In our case, it was the battery.
Of course, if you're going off grid, you might need a standalone battery backup to power the separate propane detector.
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Old 05-25-2022, 08:25 PM   #8
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Many of us have bought an ac operated propane detectors (put near the floor) and a separate battery operated co/fire detectors (put near the ceiling). It's an extra layer of protection that we feel is worth the cost. We had to temporarily disconnect the propane detector in both our tt and our class C when they malfunctioned and the lack of an alarm made us uncomfortable. In our case, it was the battery.
Of course, if you're going off grid, you might need a standalone battery backup to power the separate propane detector.
I camp without shore power often enough that I want a 12V LP detector. Do they exist as stand-alone, without the CO alarm?

I do think the alarms were real. The coincidence between high winds, frequent water heater blowouts and alarms is too great to conclude it's malfunctioning, without ruling out a propane water heater problem.
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Old 05-25-2022, 09:02 PM   #9
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I just replaced mine, dropped a paper towel that had antifreeze on the open door of the refrigerator and it blanked the LP/CO sensor didn’t think anything about it. Noticed on warm days the sensor going off before getting the antifreeze out so just thought it was the antifreeze doing it, wrong went on vacation it went off from dish soap, shaving cream, body wash anything that had a sent. I think once it smells something it don’t like it’s on the hunt any little sent will make it go off. I do know if it’s blinking red it’s CO if it stays red it’s LP.
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Old 05-25-2022, 09:49 PM   #10
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... I do know if it’s blinking red it’s CO if it stays red it’s LP.
My instructions that came with my SafeTAlert alarm are the opposite. The round indicator is normally green. If solid red, it's CO; if flashing red, it's LP.

There's also a separate rectangular light that's usually not lit. The label next to it says propane. That's confusing because I don't know if the instructions mean the round indicator light when referring to the "flashing red" for the propane alarm, or the rectangular indicator. The latter has a label describing an alternating red/green for malfunction, and red/red/green/green for EOL.

I still assume it's not an alarm malfunction until I prove otherwise. I'll work on that over the next few days.

A project for my return is to replace the CO/LP alarm with a 12V LP alarm, and replace the battery-operated smoke alarm with a talking smoke/CO combo alarm. That will eliminate confusion as to source of the alert. Why FR doesn't do that, I don't know. It can't be materially different in cost than the present approach.
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Old 05-25-2022, 09:56 PM   #11
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A project for my return is to replace the CO/LP alarm with a 12V LP alarm, and replace the battery-operated smoke alarm with a talking smoke/CO combo alarm. That will eliminate confusion as to source of the alert. Why FR doesn't do that, I don't know. It can't be materially different in cost than the present approach.
This LP alarm seems to be a better match to replace the SafeTAlert CO/LP alarm in my trailer. It's the same dimension, the labeling is far more clear, and it's cheaper.

https://smile.amazon.com/PANGAEA-Pro.../dp/B09BLKS42D

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Old 05-25-2022, 10:06 PM   #12
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Wow that’s weird mine is model RVLP/CO-2 on the front it states power-green co-red flash LP-red on. Hope you get it worked out it’s definitely aggravating.
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Old 05-25-2022, 11:41 PM   #13
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I do think the alarms were real. The coincidence between high winds, frequent water heater blowouts and alarms is too great to conclude it's malfunctioning, without ruling out a propane water heater problem.
It's very possible that the alarm was real and I'm not suggesting you shouldn't track that down if it continues.

If memory serves, CO is produced when the propane is not burning properly. People have that problem in homes when the furnace isn't working properly and gives off CO. You might want to leave a window cracked and turn off that water heater unless you need it. It seems like that propane/co detector is located in just the right spot near the water heater.
I'm reluctant to tell you to troubleshoot the water heater propane settings unless you have the manual and the ability to test it. Might be time to call in a pro.
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Old 05-26-2022, 01:03 AM   #14
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Until I ascertain the source of the problem, we're not using the propane burner on the water heater. We have shore power and can use the electric heating element.
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Old 05-26-2022, 07:59 PM   #15
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Until I ascertain the source of the problem, we're not using the propane burner on the water heater. We have shore power and can use the electric heating element.
Excellent. Safe travels.
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Old 05-27-2022, 01:02 PM   #16
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On inspection, the only thing I see that might contribute to combustion products getting inside the trailer is the grommet around the gas line being in less than perfect condition. The amount of dust on all exposed edges makes me think it's been that way a long time and would not result to a new problem.

First, where can I get a new grommet?

Second, and probably more practical, there is black sealant of some kind on the back side, but it doesn't seal it completely. I suspect it was to minimize chafing of the gas line more than to seal it off like the grommet.

What can I use there? Any basic silicone? It seems separated enough from the combustion chamber that heat isn't a consideration. If it were, the gas line itself would be at risk.
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Old 05-27-2022, 01:05 PM   #17
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... First, where can I get a new grommet? ...
Never mind ... found it, and I can have it delivered to a drop off location on my route.

Amazon: Suburban 070989 Grommet https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B009FBEKHE
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Old 05-27-2022, 03:18 PM   #18
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I am happy to report this issue is resolved. I am confident that both the alarm and the water heater are working normally.

I partially disassembled the heater and cleaned out a bit of debris in the combustion chamber but there is no evidence of defect. I tested the gas hose connection with soapy water and saw nothing.

The problem is the wind in NM. I tested the burner and heard the DSI struggling to reignite the burner as it repeatedly got blown out. In the intervals when it blew out it was releasing raw propane. The LP alarm is close to an open window right next to the water heater.

There's not much I can do to prevent that. I just hope CO isn't as windy so I can have hot water at Junction Creek NFS campground outside Durango.

All that said, I have a new LP alarm on order from Amazon and will pick up a CO/smoke alarm at Home Depot en route to Durango. With those separated I won't have to try to figure out which poison gas is going to kill me. (I can't buy the CO/smoke alarm at Amazon because they won't ship it to a drop off location, it being rated as hazardous due to the Americium in the ionization detector.)
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Old 06-07-2022, 06:51 PM   #19
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... I'm having CO/LP alarm issues related to the gas water heater. It's located on the wall of the floor cabinet housing the water heater. I took delivery on the new trailer in November 2019.

The problem arose when the water heater tried to operate in the wind. It was on the windward side of the trailer and was being blown out constantly. We shut it off. ...
New info, posted erroneously in the wrong thread:

I'm still working on this. It has changed from an alarm problem to a water heater burner problem.

Even with no wind, the burner periodically goes through episodes of extinguishing and reigniting frequently. The DSI works fine but the frequent extinguishing is not something I've experienced in years of trailer camping.

There is no evidence of a leak, anywhere. All other gas appliances work normally. The water heater burner tube (venturi?) is clear.

Is altitude an issue? I know it can be with ICEs, like a generator, but I don't know if that applies to propane appliances. It doesn't seem to affect my furnace, refrigerator or stoves.

If the size of the jet doesn't matter, what's my next step? Clean it out with a wire? Replace the regulator? That's an easy part swap.
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Old 06-07-2022, 07:06 PM   #20
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Actually, altitude can be a problem but it doesn't sound like any of the other appliances are having problems. What altitude are you camping at?

It could be a regulator problem. If the flow isn't consistent, the flame could go out. Probably the stove would be the best way to judge if the flame is consistent.

Other than that, I don't know enough about propane water heaters to guide you to a solution.
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