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Old 08-19-2018, 02:38 PM   #1
scottkeen
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Is my hot water heater gas/electric or gas only?

My 2011 347THT Montana Mountaineer has a Suburban SW10 DE hot water heater.

I can't tell if runs off propane or electricity, or propane only. The label (see pic) says "For Use With Propane Gas"

What is the ON/OFF switch outside on the hot water heater itself for?

What is the ON/OFF switch inside the RV on the control panel for?

I've just turned both switches ON and after a couple tries, the propane ignites and I get hot water and haven't thought about what each switch is for or if I have electric heating or not.

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Old 08-19-2018, 02:54 PM   #2
Carl n Susan
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The switch outside in the heater itself is for the electric element. If you only have one switch inside the RV then it is for the propane side. There should be a tiny red LED on the right of the switch which goes out once the propane burner lights.

It is perfectly fine to run both at the same time. It works well for back to back showers.
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:01 PM   #3
scottkeen
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Originally Posted by carl n susan View Post
The switch outside in the heater itself is for the electric element. If you only have one switch inside the RV then it is for the propane side. There should be a tiny red LED on the right of the switch which goes out once the propane burner lights.

It is perfectly fine to run both at the same time. It works well for back to back showers.
Thanks for the reply! Yes the inside (control panel) switch has a LED light that goes on-and-off.

So, just to make sure I understand the operation of the switches...

To use ELECTRIC only -- Turn the outside (on water heater) switch ON. Leave the inside (control panel) switch OFF.

To use PROPANE only -- Turn the inside (control panel) switch ON. Leave the outside (on water heater) switch OFF.

To use both ELECTRIC and PROPANE -- Turn both switches ON.

Do I have this right?
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:11 PM   #4
Carl n Susan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottkeen View Post
Do I have this right?
Yes you do!

Earlier models only have one switch inside. Newer models have two switches inside, one for electric and the other for propane.
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:11 PM   #5
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Jim that information you gave him may not be correct. A Suburban water heater is normally a dual water heater-- both gas and electric. Some of the not so new/older Montana's had a dual toggle switch inside and not two switches as mine does which is a 2013. On the single toggle switch you toggled up for gas and down for electric. If it sat in the middle it was neutral and did not heat the water. That is the way my old unit was. The outside switch is for electric only and it must be on IF you want to heat the water with the electric element that is inside the tank.
I see Carl beat me to the correctioness but how you have both.
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottkeen View Post
Thanks for the reply! Yes the inside (control panel) switch has a LED light that goes on-and-off.

So, just to make sure I understand the operation of the switches...

To use ELECTRIC only -- Turn the outside (on water heater) switch ON. Leave the inside (control panel) switch OFF.

To use PROPANE only -- Turn the inside (control panel) switch ON. Leave the outside (on water heater) switch OFF.

To use both ELECTRIC and PROPANE -- Turn both switches ON.

Do I have this right?
You are correct.
If the weather is warm/hot we typically use electric only. But if the weather is cold and the incoming water is cold, we run both gas and electric simultaneously to improve recovery time.
Since we never boondock we never run gas only.

Edit: late again.
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:18 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies, guys!

I got a little confused, but now I understand that with my older (2011) Montana, I only have ONE switch inside on the control panel with a LED indicator light -- this is for propane, and I have ONE switch on the hot water heater -- this is for electric.

So now I know I have BOTH dual fuel electric and propane heating, and how the operation of the switches work.

One of the experienced RV'ers I travel with said I ONLY have propane, no electric. I was always unsure of his conclusions.

Thanks!
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rondo View Post
Jim that information you gave him may not be correct. A Suburban water heater is normally a dual water heater-- both gas and electric. Some of the not so new/older Montana's had a dual toggle switch inside and not two switches as mine does which is a 2013. On the single toggle switch you toggled up for gas and down for electric. If it sat in the middle it was neutral and did not heat the water. That is the way my old unit was. The outside switch is for electric only and it must be on IF you want to heat the water with the electric element that is inside the tank.
I see Carl beat me to the correctioness but how you have both.
See my correction as well. Again, Sorry for confusion
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:26 PM   #9
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A follow-up question on the ELECTRIC operation of the hot water heater...

Is there an indicator to know if it's working or not (other than waiting for water temp to go up)? How long does it take to heat up a 10 gal tank with electric?

I bought this RV used last January. I don't know the condition of the element.
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Old 08-19-2018, 03:47 PM   #10
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Scott-- The only other way of telling if it is working on electric only is if you take a test meter out and take the cover off where the element goes into the tank and check to see if you have continuity there. The switch inside will more than likely light up (if yours lights up) whether it is in electric or gas. On my older unit, as I said earlier, the toggle switch inside was a dual toggle. Up for gas and down for electricity if I remember correctly( it may have been reversed from that however-- long life short memory) Anyway, to run the electric only the switch on the outside had to be turned on also besides the switch on the inside toggled to the electric side of the heater. If you have not changed the anode rod you might want to do it also but do not do it with a full tank of hot water. The outcome is not pretty. Also always make sure your hot water tank is full BEFORE turning it on to either gas or electric. Not good if empty and running on gas and you will burn out the heating element in the tank if it is turned on electric and the tank is empty. This only takes a few seconds and the element is toast.. Don't ask me how I know this! LOL Good luck and Happy Camping!
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Old 08-19-2018, 04:48 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rondo View Post
<snip>
...Some of the not so new/older Montana's had a dual toggle switch inside and not two switches as mine does which is a 2013....
/<snip>
Hey Rondo, how old was that Montana with a 3 pole switch? Did you have something from the last Century? All the Montanas I have seen from 2002 up to around 2010 had a single inside switch which was exclusively for the propane. The only electric control was the switch inside the outside cabinet. I think it was around 2010 when Montana spent another $0.10 to add a separate interior switch for the electrical side (while keeping the outside one). I don't recall ever seeing a Mountaineer with an inside electrical switch.
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Old 08-19-2018, 05:06 PM   #12
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Carl-- I had it on my Conestoga wagon when I came to Nebraska to settle. Actually, it was on our 2004 2980RL Montana, if I remember correctly. It may have been added to it but I don't think it was. It worked out really nicely because it lit up when in either the electric or gas mode and if off not lighted switch. You saw it when we were at the Q the first time or is my memory gone on that also or did we have the 2013 by then? I don't know, to many years have past!
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Old 08-19-2018, 06:11 PM   #13
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Weird! My 2005 2955 had the single switch and our friends late 2004 2950 (rear kitchen) has a single switch. Robbie had a 2008 2980 but I don't recall the type of switch he had. Now I am going to have to barge into my neightbor's RV to find one of these 3 pole switches.
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Old 08-21-2018, 10:00 AM   #14
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I normally leave the switch on the heater turned "on," and energize the electrical element with the use of the breaker inside. Of course, be sure that your heater is full of water any time that the electrical element is active' otherwise, you are looking for one of those special water heater element sockets.
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Old 08-25-2018, 03:51 AM   #15
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Well, that was about a 3 minute fix!

Replaced the old switch with the new switch, was able to use the old rubber gasket, added a bead of silicon around it. Kudos to the tip to use needle nose pliers to put the contacts on the switch, no kidding they don't give you much room.

Thanks everyone for the info on what switch powers electricity vs propane to the water heater. I'm running my water heater on electricity right now. Gonna switch off the propane tanks! (I use an electric induction cooktop for cooking, or the grill outside)
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Old 08-29-2018, 03:58 PM   #16
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I thought I'd chime in and mention; if you haven't already, definitely get the correct sockets and pull the anode rod and the element out, and flush out all the buildup. May not be terrible after 7 years but my 2003 was kinda gross.
I have photos but I don't have them here at work with me to easily post.

I replaced the anode with a lead-free magnesium one (rather than aluminum so it deteriorates better than the aluminum, helping the tank NOT deteriorate) and replaced the heating element with a longer one.

I also did a vinegar soak and then used a hose to flush the tank with blasts of water and a LOT of calcium came out. bunches.

good to go now! I can shower 10-15 minutes with good water temp if I use a low flow and both heating elements on. decent little heater (same model I think).

Replacements are easy to get for the element and rod (amazon!) and a socket is $10 at an auto part store. total invested is like 30-40 dollars.

I can link you the parts if you decide to do a refurb (good idea buying used).
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Old 08-29-2018, 04:31 PM   #17
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If you're mechanically inclined, you can install a lighted 20 amp switch inside your fiver in the wall near the HW. That way you just leave the outside weenie switch on and control your electric element from the comfort of inside. Just splice into the existing power feed to your electric HW element with the switch. Most any RV now days in the lower mid price range on up has a dual heat source HW.
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Old 08-29-2018, 05:19 PM   #18
pyoung47
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I would not recommend removing the heating element unless it tests defective. Many are curved back type which can be tough to remove without damage.
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Old 08-29-2018, 10:32 PM   #19
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My 2010 Mountaineer 326RLT has the single rocker switch in the cabinet inside for propane and the electric switch outside in the water heater cabinet. I too learned the hard way by having the water heater bypass switch on when I de-winterized and burned out the fuses in the water heater. They are the 2 black rubber reset buttons. I have also had my electric element burn out twice. When hooked up to shore power, we run only the electric element. We take back to back showers with no loss of temp. We have used both electric and propane together when the water in the heater is cold and we want hot water soon in the winter.

My dealer told me to make sure the water heater electric element is off when traveling and not hooked up to 110V power so that it doesn't drain the batteries like the TV boster does.
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Old 08-30-2018, 02:14 AM   #20
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I would not recommend removing the heating element unless it tests defective. Many are curved back type which can be tough to remove without damage.
You can look at it through the anode hole on this model and decide if it's corroded enough to warrant a change like mine was. I don't know how you'd damage it unless you're clumsy, It's just a stick of metal attached to a bolt thread.

You need a Philips screwdriver, a 10mm socket, a 1.5" socket, the new element, and 15 minutes. Hardly difficult...YouTube has a good tutorial. This model heater in my rig has a straight element, and the retrofit element (I read all models get the same new element) is a tad longer. Worst part was bending the gas line out of the way.

If what I've witnessed so far owning a used RV is any indication, this is the simpler of tasks and something it's good to know how to do.

Element:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B004RCXD0G?psc=1&ref=yo_pop_mb_pd_title

Anode I chose:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0085IJXNO?psc=1&ref=yo_pop_mb_pd_title

By the way, I scraped a ton of calcium and mineral deposits off that anode before the photo, lol.

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