electric water heater to propane - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-27-2014, 11:20 PM   #1
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electric water heater to propane

how difficult, and expensive, is it to switch a unit from electric only to propane or propane electric?

a camper i'm interested in is electric only,, but i just noticed it has 30a power converter with charger---would this charger hold enough energy to warm the water for a shower?

thanks, bb
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:13 AM   #2
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Robert,
I wanted the capability of camping "off-grid", so I replaced the electric water heater in my EggCamper with an Atwood combination gas/electric water heater (GC6AA-10E). This was not a trivial change. It meant cutting a large hole in the side of the camper, runninng propane plumbing to the new heater, and some minor carpentry work to support the new water tank inside.

The original electric water heater was completely enclosed within the camper shell and looked like a scaled down version of an electric water heater that you'd have installed in your home. The Atwood replacement required venting to the outside and was mounted through the large hole that I cut in the side of the camper.

Was it worth it? Yes. The Atwood works well on both gas or electric, however, if you leave it turned on, it'll empty an propane tank in a couple of days. We turn it on about 20 minutes before we want hot water and then turn it off when we're done. When we're hooked to electric, we just leave it turned on and let the campground pay for the luxury of hot water on demand.

On edit: The original (electric only) water heater was only 2.5 gallons. We don't shower in our rig, so I can't say if it would be adequate. Jane believes that it wouldn't. The Atwood is 6 gallons with a mix valve that makes the effective capacity 9 gallons, but we still uses the campground facilities for showers.

Hope this helps.

Ron
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Old 01-28-2014, 07:35 AM   #3
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thanks ron

yes, that could not have been a better reply! I was considering a used egg camper i saw in my area for sale, but i want the ability to turn the water heater on, go mountain biking, shower and go to work---hence the choice of a small fiberglass unit with no set up or hassle.

if anyone has any advice, opinions, or can poke holes in my plan I'd love to hear it---now rather than post-purchase!

thanks again ron, bb
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Old 01-28-2014, 08:01 AM   #4
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along the same lines, how about changing a propane only water heater to propane/electric. I think i read somewhere it is simple, but......
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Old 01-28-2014, 08:20 AM   #5
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You can buy kits that replace the anode rod in some water heaters with an electric probe that will keep your water warm. The gas/electric models are good for heating water on gas and once it shuts off, switching to electric to maintain the heat.
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Old 01-28-2014, 09:36 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbard View Post
along the same lines, how about changing a propane only water heater to propane/electric. I think i read somewhere it is simple, but......
I haven't done it but would think it may well be pretty simple if you exchange the same size tanks as the trailer cut outs and propane lines etc would already be there. But I am not sure it would be worth it in the long run if you purchased a second hand trailer with a working propane only hot water tank. May be a consideration if you had to replace a none working one though. I seem to think the propane & electrical heater cost a far bit more than propane only. There would be the propane savings & convince though having the options to switch it over to electrical when camping at a spot with power. I have propane only hot water tank and camp without electrical hook ups about 50% of my camping time. I tend to only use the hot water tank if I am going to use the shower and then turn it off after. When camping with out power I don't want to be having to go out and look to fill my propane tanks every 4 days or so due to over use of the hot water tank - if I turn it off when not showering when I can get by for a couple of weeks of no power camping using one propane tank. If I am camping someplace with electrical and showers I often don't bother to turn on the hot water tank and just boil a kettle of water for doing the dishes. The tank will also keep the water fairly warm once its heated up for long periods of time so I can often get a sink full of dishes done using whats left of the hot water long after I have shut the propane hot water tank off.
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Old 01-28-2014, 10:03 AM   #7
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Going back to your original question... NO you can't run a water heater off of a converter. In any case it has to be plugged in to work anyway and the battery alone would go dead long before it even warmed up a few gallons of water.

In my opinion converting to LP is a very expensive proposition. Water heaters are $300+ a cook top another $150, a furnace $400, and a 2 or 3 way refrigerator another $1000.

Unless one: a) Only "camps" in full service sites or, b) has a fear of LP gas, all electric makes no sense at all..... and converting one of these makes even less sense. I think that most of those that are sold used are Oooops purchases by the seller.
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Old 01-28-2014, 12:19 PM   #8
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It's a job, installing a gas appliance. That said, I wouldn't even consider an all-electric trailer. It's just too limiting. There are thousands of camp sites in absolutely stunning locations where there are no hookups at all, and it would be a shame to miss out on camping there just because I had to have electricity. Last year we took a 3-week trip to the Valley of Fire State Park (NV), Death Valley NP, Joshua Tree NP, Carpinteria State Beach (CA), the Hearst Castle . . . and three overnight stays at Walmarts (two-in-route overnights and one so we could get back to Joshua Tree early in the morning and be ready to pull into a camping spot just as someone else left . . . the park was FULL), NONE of them with hookups.

There are some nice things about having hookups. Our microwave and electric blanket don't work without them, and it's nice to set up our cube heater and switch our water heater and refrigerator to "electric" so we don't run our propane down. That said, we don't miss it that much when we don't have hookups.

We got our Scamp used with a propane-only water heater, which I retrofitted to run on electricity, too. It was a pretty simple upgrade. The details on how to do it are here.
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Old 01-28-2014, 12:37 PM   #9
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surprised to see the egg camper only uses electric. I like the glossy fiberglass interior, however, it appears one is not getting much for their money.
thanks everyone for some insightful conversation. Peter, I'm going to start another thread regarding free camping and Walmart Camping. interested to hear about people's experiences.
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Old 01-28-2014, 01:01 PM   #10
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Robert if you do a search using the forums drop down search option at the top of the page and use the bottom box (google search) you will find lots of threads regarding Walmart camping and free camping elsewhere.
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Old 01-28-2014, 04:36 PM   #11
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When I bought my Scamp I was at first disappointed to see that Scamp would not upgrade my "propane only" choice to a "propane/electric combination" water heater. [They now offer the combo unit]
As it turns out, the combination unit was not really needed since the water heater is so well insulated that it will hold heat for long periods when the propane is turned off... and it appears that the pilot light alone will maintain the water temperature almost indefinitely. As a result, propane is only used in any significant quantity while the water heater is cycling and it almost only cycles when the shower is used.
The burner on a 6gal. RV water heater is is much larger in relation to tank size than a home system and so has a much quicker recovery rate.
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Old 01-28-2014, 07:18 PM   #12
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i used a converter kit- took out the drain tap, and inserted the heating element there. Tie the thermostat to the pressure relief stem, plug in and go. It takes about 15 minutes to get warm water, about 1/2 hour- 45 minutes to get a full tank of real hot water, and if i'm in a site with hydro, saves me propane. Propane takes about 5 min. for warm, 15-20 minutes for hot
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Old 01-29-2014, 05:20 AM   #13
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Robert,
I think the conversion that Joe mentioned is called a hot shot. I have friends that use one quite successfully.

As for replacing a propane water heater with a combo, assuming the same size/manufacturer, the only consideration is the electrical service for the electric portion of the unit. Our "long term, 6-month winters in Florida" camper is a Trail Cruiser (I'm embarrassed to say, it's not fiberglass, but that's another story for another forum) that came with a propane only water heater. I was so pleased with the gas/electric in the EggCamper that I replaced the one in the Trail Cruiser.

The physical dimensions for both water heaters were the same, so it was simply remove the old unit and install the new unit. The combo unit has separate switches, one for electric and one for gas. So, it was necessary to run wiring for the switches to the control circuits on the new unit. Also, I had to create a new 120 vac run for the heating element. In the Cruiser, that was a bit more difficult because I didn't have an empty spot in my converter box for another AC breaker. So, I had to tap into the main shore power feed and run power to a box with a separate 15 amp breaker, then from there to the water heater. Of course none of this was free, but I did recover $25 from the sale of the original gas-only water heater on Craig's list. Yippee.

As for running electric from an inverter - not really feasible. When I first got the EggCamper, I used a little Honda generator, once and then decided to go with solar for my off-grid camping. As quiet as the Honda was, it was still too loud for me. There was another post recently from another EggCamper owner who added propane to his EggCamper. I think he had it done for him and the cost wasn't that big a deal. BTW, I also added a propane furnace at the same time (Atwood 8012). Nice quiet unit.
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Old 01-29-2014, 08:57 AM   #14
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Is the conversion kit from propane to electric possible called a Lightning Rod such as this one or is a Hot Shot something different?
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