Propane only vs propane/elec water tank heater - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-24-2021, 01:20 PM   #1
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Name: Biker
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Propane only vs propane/elec water tank heater

Planning to replace the original (propane only) hot water heater/tank unit in my older Casita with a new one.


Has anyone decided to stay with propane/gas only model vs the Direct Spark Ignition-Electric model, and if you have for what reason?


Any downsides to the Direct Spark Ignition-Electric unit?



Thank you!
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Old 08-25-2021, 11:12 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by biker View Post
Planning to replace the original (propane only) hot water heater/tank unit in my older Casita with a new one.


Has anyone decided to stay with propane/gas only model vs the Direct Spark Ignition-Electric model, and if you have for what reason?


Any downsides to the Direct Spark Ignition-Electric unit?



Thank you!
Several years ago we replaced the propane only 3 gal water heater with a 6 gal propane/electric/direct spark in a 1986 Casita. It was wonderful. We ran the wire for the electric igniter to the sink area so we could access it better instead of where Casita put it in 2007 near the floor by the big dinette. I'd never go back to a propane only model. With the electric you can heat the water while hooked to shore power and save your propane. It heats the water very good and quickly. The direct spark means no having to go light the pilot which can be very difficult to do in wind. Also saves on propane since you don't need to keep the pilot on. I'm not sure you can buy a water heater that has a pilot now.
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Old 08-25-2021, 11:24 AM   #3
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Our previous camper had the propane only with a pilot light you had to light from outside the camper.
Our new camper has propane only but with the DSI that makes it a lot easier to operate.
I decided against adding 120 volt electric to the water heater since we don't always stay at sites with electric, plus the added complexity, and if you forget to ensure the water heater is full of water when you turn the electric heater on, you will need to replace the element.
The electric makes sense though if most of your camping has electric hookups, or you want a backup if you run out of propane.
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Old 08-25-2021, 11:35 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Radar1 View Post
Our previous camper had the propane only with a pilot light you had to light from outside the camper.
Our new camper has propane only but with the DSI that makes it a lot easier to operate.
I decided against adding 120 volt electric to the water heater since we don't always stay at sites with electric, plus the added complexity, and if you forget to ensure the water heater is full of water when you turn the electric heater on, you will need to replace the element.
The electric makes sense though if most of your camping has electric hookups, or you want a backup if you run out of propane.
To prevent hurting the tank by accident we keep the switch for the electric heating on off except when we plug in. When we unhook from shore power we automatically turn off the switch. Just one thing we have gotten into doing when unhooking.
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Old 08-25-2021, 12:03 PM   #5
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I like the electric option but the location of the switch outside was a bit of a pain. I recently rewired it to an inside, lighted switch, both for convenience and to help ensure I turn it off when not needed.

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Old 08-25-2021, 12:13 PM   #6
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The 2010 Spirit Deluxe I bought new in August, 2010 had the "dual use" 6 gallon water heater as OEM. I was VERY happy with it. Just do NOT have the 110VAC electric ON if the water heater is (or soon will be) empty. Doing so will damage the 110VAC heat coil which will then need to be replaced. I have heard some company had a heat coil that supposedly did not immediately self destruct but I'd still be wary. Unless the cost difference between dual use and propane only is significant, I'd recommend the dual use model. Whatever model you chose, I'd akso recommend picking up an anode road. Eventually, you WILL need to replace it (and also have a roll of white Teflon pipe tape to wrap around the anode threads).
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Old 08-26-2021, 10:44 AM   #7
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A few years ago now we upgraded water tank and furnace

Like the propane savings of no pilot and also like the flip switch and instant on. The replacement 4 gallon unit is bigger so less room available under sink but love the convenience.
We also upgraded our furnace, again no pilot, turn switch to on set temperature and enjoy.
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Old 09-23-2021, 09:40 PM   #8
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There are propane models with a pilot light, there are propane only models with direct spark ignition, and there are combination units that are gas DSI plus electric.

I never turn on a RV water heater (or water pump) unless I need it, then it gets turned off when not in use and at night. I installed switches which are lighted so I won't forget that they are on. https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/...age-96914.html

Don't know what brand you have, but the new Dometic with the aluminum tank is dimensionally the same as the Surburban models. Surburban is also making a special model to replace the older Atwoods without using adapter plates.

I much prefer the aluminum tank (on the Atwood and Dometic) as it does not have nor require a anode rod and the tanks, if not allowed to freeze, will last for years, I mean 20 or 30 years. The porcelain on steel tanks of the Surburbans do not hold up.

Surburban makes DSI gas models with electric that has a switch on the outside, very inconvenient but easily solved with a switch and wiring properly rated and installed for 120v AC. Surburban also makes a gas/electric model that controls the 120v AC to the element with a relay operated by 12v DC (which is how Atwood/Dometic does it).

Personally, I cannot imagine NOT installing a combination gas/electric water heater. If you have electric hookups, you get the hot water free, save your gas. It will increase your resale also.

The Dometic unit uses one 120v 14 gauge Romex™ run to it, and four 12v DC wires to the control panel (and 12v DC power and ground to the control panel).

Charles
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Old 09-23-2021, 09:49 PM   #9
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Our Airstream had a propane/electric water heater. As Charles stated it doe allow for not using gas if you are hooked to shore power. Another benefit was that you could use both heaters at the same time for faster recovery.
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Old 09-24-2021, 05:42 AM   #10
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to save money( yes I am cheap), I bought a replacement tank only for my trailer, it came with the electric element, all I had to do was move the burner from my old heater to the new one.
the switch took about 4 hours, and I now have a dual source water heater.
While DSI is nice, it isn't strictly necessary, I stayed with a manual pilot light .
I bought my tank from ebay, and I believe it was under $200.00

Joe
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Old 09-24-2021, 07:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesinGA View Post
...
I much prefer the aluminum tank (on the Atwood and Dometic) as it does not have nor require a anode rod and the tanks, if not allowed to freeze, will last for years, ...
I assume you mean, "if not allowed to freeze while full..."

Because this manual says:

The approximately two quarts of water remaining in the tank after draining will not cause damage to the tank should freezing occur
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