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Old 10-14-2013, 05:49 PM   #1
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Default Water Heater function and troubleshooting

I am a new fun finder camper owner. I am so glad I found this forum, I have learned so much already! Our camper is 5 years old and we bought it used.

Last time out, we had no hot water. I think what's happened if I understand some of the other posts, is I mistakenly turned on the switch in the water heater compartment before I turned on the water flow. So I probably burned up the heating element??? So if I did, does that mean I need a whole new water heater? Is that something I could replace myself? I've replace mine in the house a couple of times, but this is completely different with all the valves, etc. Will the water heater still work if I use the gas mode? After I filled the tank, sometime after that I found that the breaker had blown. We were on our way home, so I don't know if it still works or not.

So another question, the switch that's connected to the red light inside, is that just for gas operation? I thought it was to turn on the electric circuit, but now am wondering if I had that wrong all along.

And finally, do I need to light a pilot light if using gas mode, or does it self ignite? I know how a water heater works at home, but this electric/gas combo has me stumped. Sorry for so many questions in my first post. Any help is very much appreciated. You folks have a great forum here!

Dale
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Old 10-15-2013, 06:03 AM   #2
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I'll try to answer them in order

If you, indeed, turned on the electric element with an empty tank, you probably did burn up the electric element. Only takes a second or two of "dry" usage to fry the element. That being said, the switch for the electric element is on the water heater itself, buried behind most of the wires and LP piping. A small rocker switch, that when new, would have had a small pin through a hole in the switch to keep from accidentally turning it on and frying the element - they make it hard to turn it on for the sole purpose of protection of the element, that's why there isn't a switch inside for it. Would only take a child, or adult for that matter, to do a "Gee, what does this switch do?" and burn it up. If you ever do burn it up, it can be easily replaced by any semi-competent DIY type. Just like a home unit, screws, gasket, wire connection and pull it out. Place the new one in the same hole with the gaskets, tighten down and reconnect the wiring. The water heater will still work, even with a burnt out electric element; fact of the matter is, I've never even used the electric element on the last several trailers I've owned. The gas does just as well, more efficient and if you don't leave it running all the time, very economical. The blown breaker, if it was a 110v volt breaker is what controls the element (electric). A lot folks will turn the little rocker switch on and then use the inside breaker to turn the element on and off - that may be why it was turned off. Check the little white switch on the WH and if it is already on, then the previous owner probably used the breaker as the "ON / OFF" switch.

The switch with the red light is to control the gas portion of the WH. When you turn it on, the red light should light up. That indicates that the system is attempting to light the burner. When you hear the "whooosh" of the burner lighting, that light should go out. If it comes back on, then the unit failed to ignite, failed to stay lit, or some other issue is making the unit inoperable on LP (is the gas on? has the line been purged of air?)

You said that your rig is 5 years old...a 2008 model? If so, without knowing the model, I would say that it is self-igniting (DSI). By 2008 CruiserRV had installed DSI units in their trailers as a standard "option" for most all the models.

You can run it electric only; takes forever to heat a tank full of water, you can run it on LP; much quicker and most energy efficient and you can even run the unit using both simultaneously for the quickest "recovery time" for re-heating the water after a long shower.



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Old 10-15-2013, 06:54 AM   #3
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Don - outstanding reply, thank you so much. So I should have provided a little more detail. The camper is a 2009, but I don't have the model with me right now, but I can get it. And yes, the switch I turned on is a little black rocker switch buried inside the access panel to the WH and had a pin in it until I pulled it out. I wondered why it was in there, now I know! I will fill it tonight and try the gas option and see what happens. Last time out, I turned on the switch inside with the red light and it would come on, go off, come on, go off, and then come on and stay on. I thought that meant it was working, but reading your post, sounds like it might mean there is a problem. I didn't have the gas on because I thought when I turned on the rocker switch outside and then the red lighted switch inside I was turning on the electric (my misunderstanding). Well, I'll see what it does in gas mode and if it works, I'll decide if it's worth fixing the electric mode. Boy, you sure learn alot in the first few months of owning one of these. I will likely be starting a separate thread on popping GFIs in my garage when I plugin unless I can find a thread that will help me with my issue. I've done a ton of troubleshooting on that and it's baffling. Thanks again for the help Don, you are awesome!
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Old 10-15-2013, 10:04 AM   #4
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The red light finally staying was to tell you there was a problem and it was "giving up"...need to have the gas turned on! It will help, when you turn on the gas and go to test it, to fire up one of the burners on your stove top; when you get that lit, that means that most of the air in the LP lines has been bled out and your WH and refrigerator will start quicker and more reliably.

Yep, lots to learn and this forum has oodles of fine folks that have the ideas and knowledge you might need to get started with a lot less fumbling and stumbling. None of it is really rocket science and if you can get a good start, it is a wonderful hobby and lifestyle; lots of incredible sights and experiences await you out "on the road".



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Old 10-15-2013, 05:06 PM   #5
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Default A couple more thoughts

Don, you hit that question out of the park -- way to go!! I just have a couple more thoughts. First, once you get the water heater running on propane, don't be surprised if it takes quite a while for the water to heat up -- maybe 20 minutes or more. That is normal, I have discovered.

Second, we run our water heater for showering and then turn it off soon afterward. Otherwise, there is a good chance that it will wake you up around 3 am when it re-ignites, especially if you are camping in cold weather.

Third, not all of the new Fun Finders have both electric and gas water heaters. Ours is just propane, I think, and it is a 2012 X-139. (Or maybe I have overlooked something?! That is entirely possible.)
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Old 10-16-2013, 07:21 AM   #6
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Don - filled the tank last night, turned on the propane and turned on the switch inside and the WH worked like a champ. Thank You!!! I put the pin back in the rocker switch and turned off the breaker to the electric and plan to leave it that way. I'll consider replacing the electric element at a later date, but I'm back in business for now, ready to winterize here in Nebraska. Thanks again. I'll have another thread about popping GFIs later. Hope you can weigh in on that as well.
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Old 10-16-2013, 08:50 AM   #7
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Glad to hear you are back in "hot water", in this context, that's a good thing!

Profdant139 is right. I turn my WH on for about 10 minutes in the mornings when I/we get up and then turn it off. It will stay "hot" for the entire day in most temperatures you're likely to be camping in. When we start cooking for dinner, we turn it on again for about 10 minutes and then turn it back off. Again, it will stay hot for the washing of dishes and getting ready for bed. If the water is very cold (the first day and if the weather is cool) it may take 20 minutes to get hot, but, after that, the water retains enough residual warmth that it is only 10 minutes or so to get it hot again. If you take a shower (uses the most water), then you'll have to fire it up again to replenish the large amount that you used. You will get the "rhythm" of your usage and can determine an "on / off" sequence that keeps you in hot water without a lot of on and off cycles and the sequence will save you from a lot of unnecessary propane use.

Profdant139 - I would poke and prod around on your water heater (behind the access panel from outside). I may be mistaken, but, IIRC, DSI water heaters without electric are few and far between. I've never seen or owned a DSI (Suburban) that didn't have an electric element...but, who knows, the manufacturers are always looking to save a buck You may also be able to tell from your panel box...if you have a 110v circuit breaker labeled "Water Heater", you have an electric element; the element is 110v and the propane half is 12v. No electric element, no 110v circuit breaker.



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Old 07-17-2015, 10:41 AM   #8
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So I tried to light my HW tank while it was empty too (yes I know better). I don't think mine has the electric option at least I have never used it. I filled the tank, breaker is good but when I try to light it the red light does not come on anymore. Is the element only for the electric? What else have I burned up to cause this?

thanks
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Old 07-17-2015, 04:21 PM   #9
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Default More Water Heater Questions for Another Newbie!

We were so happy to see all these questions and answers. We wondered what the switch was for on the back panel of the water heater and now we know. Here is our question that we don't know.

How do you fill the hot water heater with water. I turned on my hot water spicket on the faucett and there was water, so I figured it just filled automatically. The water was not hot, so we need to find out why it was not hot. We are still learning also. Any help would be so appreciated! Thank You!!!!!
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Old 07-17-2015, 08:18 PM   #10
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With water in the on board fresh water tank or feeding water to your camper from a hose ... turn on the hot water faucets and get a steady stream of water (the air is purged out) ~ then your water heater is filled with cold water and you can turn on the water heater to heat the water.

And in my opinion, it's a COLD water heater
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Old 07-17-2015, 09:59 PM   #11
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Is the water heater still bypassed. To winterize there is a valve on the back of WH that you turn to bypass unit. With it bypassed all you will get is cold water. Won't stay running on gas if tank is empty on most units, turn on electric with empty tank and it burns up.
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