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Old 12-10-2014, 10:49 AM   #1
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Water Heater and Fresh system sanitizing drama

My husband and I have never had any kind of motor home before. We bought (a month ago) a 1994 winnebago elante 37 RQ. My dad (who we bought it from; he lives in Wisconsin) had put the pink antifreeze in it and it was due for a freshwater tank sanitizing so we began that process. Because since we've had it we've noticed that funky water odor that my grandparents' camper had when I was a kid. It comes out of all faucets, hot or cold, although its worse at the kitchen sink. It's not rotten, it's not sulfur/egg smelling, its just weird and nasty! Anyways, the instructions said to bypass the Water Heater tank (I'll call it the wht for the rest of this post) so we did. we put the bleach in, ran through all faucets hot and cold, let it sit overnight. next day drained the tank, filled again mostly. While it was draining, I went on youtube to try to find causes of funky water (because it still smelled bad even though we had bleached drained and filled!)
We found that the water heater should have an anode rod. We went to look. Pulled out the drain to the water heater (after making sure it was off). Source of odor found! Extreme nastiness came out. Well, the water was mostly clear but there was some gray sandy looking sludge in the drain plug. We drained the water heater, set bypass valve to normal flow, filled and drained once more. The odor was considerably lessened, but then we filled it and we noticed something strange:

After we’d emptied the wht, when we turned on the water pump and the drain plug was off, and the valve was at bypass, water would pour out of the drain plug of the wht. That’s not right is it? Also once after we’d filled it, one of us turned the valve back and forth while one of us watched the water drain out, and it seemed to have NO effect on the rate of flow.

something’s not right and I’m trying to figure out if its the wht bypass valve or just my understanding of the function of the bypass valve.

Also we need to know how we should proceed with the sanitizing of the entire water system. Do we need to start over, and what do we need to do to the wht as part of that? Also the drain plug is a 90 degree elbow so we cannot install a straight anode rod (like the nice man showed us on youtube! Albeit his was for a different model RV than ours.)

Is my wht destroyed? How can I tell if it is still ok or not? I have questions, only questions, and no answers! See, I need help
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Old 12-10-2014, 11:11 AM   #2
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I'll leave the sanitizing process to someone with an RV similar to yours, but may be able to help with the water heater issues. If your water heater has three valves associated with the bypass, you need to have all three in the correct position to keep water out of the water heater. The valves to ( cold water in) and out of (hot water and at top) the heater both need to be closed in addition to opening the "bypass valve" that is in the line that connects the in and out lines. If either is open, water will enter the water heater when the pump is turned on.

You should be able to replace the 90 degree drain valve with a straight plug that accepts an anode rod or install an aftermarket electric heating rod (includes the plug) if want to add electric heat. Your Dad probably put in the 90 degree to make draining easier. With the straight plug you need to stand to the side to prevent getting hit with the water when you drain the water heater.

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Old 12-10-2014, 11:28 AM   #3
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Your water heater also needs to be flushed. You could have up to 3 valves controlling water flow at the WH, but often they don't have 3 full valves. The least you could have is one, the other two replaced by check valves that only allow water to flow in one direction.
In this photo, all three valves are shown in the on position. For normal use, the center valve should be off. To winterize, the center would be on and the two valves closest to the WH would be off to block flow to the tank. You mentioned you think you need an anode. This is only true of Suburban WH, most Atwood WH are aluminum tanks and need no anode. In a Suburban, the anode is attached to the drain plug. They need one because the tank is steel and could be damaged by electrolysis if no anode is in the tank to sacrifice metal to preserve the tank material. To flush and clean a WH, you'll need gallons of white vinegar. This video is about a Suburban tank, there also is a video about an Atwood WH if that's your brand.

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Old 12-10-2014, 12:14 PM   #4
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The bypass is located under the closet area inside the motorhome. there is 'normal' and 'bypass' only.

Also I was watching more youtube (LOL) and the guy on rvgeeks told me that there are two main water heater brands out there: Suburban which is steel, and Atwood, which is aluminum. The aluminum Atwood heater he showed had a nylon (plastic) drain plug, which is what ours has. So can I assume that since the drain plug was nylon with no anode, that my tank is aluminum?

I did see how to use vinegar to descale the water heater so I'd like to do that. I still have questions above about the bypass working (or not, as the case may be.) Can someone explain how to prove whether or not the bypass valve is working properly?

Also I don't have a cool winterizing kit like the RVgeek guy has, so I have to figure out how to get the vinegar into my hot water heater tank without purchasing 23 gallons of vinegar to make a 50/50% solution for my freshwater tank! LOL!!
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Old 12-10-2014, 12:15 PM   #5
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pic

here's a couple pics:
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Old 12-10-2014, 12:16 PM   #6
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or not! time to go get the kids from school!
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Old 12-10-2014, 12:19 PM   #7
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pic

trying to post a pic:
sorry, they weren't sideways when I sent them! LOL
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Old 12-10-2014, 12:20 PM   #8
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Ok yes they were, trying again!
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Old 12-10-2014, 01:30 PM   #9
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Make sure it is an Atwood and someone didn't just replace the brass drain plug with a nylon one.
The way I flushed my tank was to go to Home Depot and pick up a threaded male coupling that screwed into the tank. (Take the drain plug with you to match up) I then added a PVC pipe out past the side of the RV to the female end of the coupling. A 90º elbow and a vertical pipe to make the opening higher than the pressure relief valve. A funnel in the end of the pipe and I was able to pour vinegar into the WH. Keep adding the mix until it comes out the open relief valve. I had PVC pipe and an elbow from other home projects, so I only had to purchase the coupling for about $ 0.50.
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Old 12-10-2014, 02:01 PM   #10
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Thanks Bflinn, I'll show that to my hubby!

I emailed the manufacterer to get details on the water heater tank. It is probably the original one; I wouldn't know how to check that for sure though!

Any ideas on how to check that bypass valve for proper function? I would think that if its set to bypass the hot water tank, that when you have the water pump on and the drain plug out with the water heater tank empty, you would NOT have water then coming out of the water heater drain. Will someone please verify?
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Old 12-10-2014, 02:04 PM   #11
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Sorry about the heater bypass error. It's what I get for guessing since I'm not familiar with your RV. If there is only one valve, you probably have a check valve that is stuck. No big deal since your getting water to the heater.

Your photo looks like an Atwood. Combustion chamber on my Suburban is on the opposite side, but given my track record you better wait for confirmation from someone that knows for sure!
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Old 12-10-2014, 02:11 PM   #12
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Water Heater and Fresh system sanitizing drama

Many single valve WH bypass systems just have one valve between the hot and cold connections with a check valve on the hot outlet. The theory is that water will not enter if no way out. With the drain plug out, this blows the theory. So you probable don't have a problem.

As far as the flush, any RV store sells a hose adapter that is a long small tube with a "J" bend in the end. Connect it to a water hose and insert the long tube into the WH drain and twist it around. The water pressure will help break the calcium lose which will come out he drain.

Lastly, recent Atwood WH's come with a nylon drain plug. Meaning the WH may have been changed.
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Old 12-10-2014, 02:37 PM   #13
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The check valve might not be closing properly, but if you do the vinegar soak it might dislodge deposits that cause it to fail. If it doesn't close, they are very inexpensive but according to the available access to the back of the water heater, it might be hard to change.
Shiggs68 is referring to a flush wand, O.K. for rinsing out the tank but won't help in pouring vinegar in to soak. They are also often available at Walmart.

Amazon.com: Camco 11691 Water Heater Tank Rinser: Automotive
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Old 12-11-2014, 07:56 AM   #14
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Y'all rock, thanks! We shall get busy.
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