NO (OR LUKEWARM) HOT WATER -Please read first
As spring time approaches, one of the most common asked questions that new recreational vehicle owners, as well as seasoned veterans who sometimes forget ask, is "why don't I have hot water"...or "why do I only have a little hot water before it turns cold?"
This occurrence is usually caused by the bypass/crossover valves being set incorrect for normal use. The bypass valves are closed during the winterization process, so that the water heater is bypassed and can be drained of any water that could freeze. The crossover valve (which connects the cold water line to the hot water line) is then opened which allows antifreeze to be placed into both the cold and hot water lines via the RV's water pump.
Bypassing the water heater tank also keeps you from filling up the tank with RV antifreeze, which could vary from 6-16 gallons depending on tank size.
Some RV's will have a wet bay/plumbing station (pics below) that has additional winterization valves there that also have to be changed in order to draw antifreeze into the system...or have the actual bypass valve located there.
What happens during springtime, is that members who weren't shown this when they bought their RV, or just forget the proper dewinterization procedures, then will not have ANY hot water coming out of their hot water taps if the bypass valve is still closed (it will only be cold water from the crossover), or will have the cold water still mixing into the hot water line if the crossover valve is still incorrect....which results in only having a very short period of hot water coming from the tank until the cold water is drawn in from the crossover line, causing the water to turn cold quickly.
Many times these bypass/crossover valves are going to be located behind the water heater itself. You may have to remove a false panel, cabinet drawer, bed bottom, etc etc to gain access to these valves. Some motorhomes have an access underneath the motorhome at the water heater, that you unscrew a disk to gain access to the valves.
You may have only one, or two, but possibly three valves to adjust for normal usage. The easiest way is to locate your water heater on the outside of the RV and then go inside and figure out how to access the rear of it.
Once you do gain access, you want to make sure that the cold water inlet line valve (if equipped) is open going in to the water heater. The hot water outlet valve (if equipped) is open coming out of the water heater....but most importantly, the crossover valve is fully CLOSED between the cold water line and hot water line.
Since the crossover valve and the lines it's on are usually running vertical, as opposed to the hot and cold water lines going to the water heater which are horizontal....it's real easy to mistake the position of the crossover valve. You may think you closed it but it's actually open. The handle must run perpendicular to the line, for it to be closed on a three valve set like below.
Here is a schematic that may help:
Plumbing Station/wet bay (styles may vary)
The winterizations valves and total number of, differ between RV's.
You can have only one (which uses internal backflow preventers to keep water only flowing one way).
You can have three, which has manual valves to shut off cold water into the tank, and water from backflowing into the tank via the hot water line, once you open up the crossover valve.
You can also have two valves, like below. You just have the cold water inlet and crossover line using one valve...and then the hot water outlet line on another valve.
On this type system, when the valve handle is parallel with the line, then it's open. The pic shows the cold water inlet (blue)line as open and water flowing into the tank. Since the line is open, the crossover(bypass) red line is closed, so no water can flow thru it.
The top valve is open, so water can flow out of the tank once it's heated (red lines).
To bypass this system in the winter to add antifreeze, you just change the position of the bottom valve so water can not enter the tank and goes to the crossover line (into hot water line). Now since cold water is going into the hot water line, it would backfill the tank unless you ALSO close off the top hot water line outlet valve.
In the pic edit below. The first sentence for each valve is how you want it for normal use. The second sentence is for winterization and the hot water tank bypassed so you can add antifreeze to the cold and hot water lines...all explained in the first post of this thread above.
Here is the 3 valve set up again, with an actual pic of how you want the valves to be set for normal usage when you are camping.
Please note that the bottom blue cold water line inlet valve is open (handle is parallel with the line).... the top red hot water line outlet valve is also open (handle is parallel with the line)...........but most important is that the middle crossover valve going between the blue and red line is CLOSED (handle is perpendicular to the line)
More Forest River products are coming with this type of 2 valve system, shown in the pic below. If you have this type, then you want both of the valve handles facing the tank for normal usage, as shown in the pic below:
(thanks muletrain for the pic)
To bypass the tank, you turn both valves so they are inline with the grey/white hose that connects the cold and hot water line together. When you turn both of the valves, water (or antifreeze) cannot enter the tank.
This is an example of a 1 valve system, that utilizes a backflow (aka one-way check) valve in the hot water outlet line. In this type, you would want the valve handle parallel with the blue (cold water inlet) line to the water tank, to allow water into the tank, for normal usage.
(thanks Selby for the pic)
To bypass the tank, you would turn the handle to where it is parallel with the red vertical bypass line.
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