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Old 04-30-2014, 12:21 PM   #1
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Hot water heater switches questions...

My 08 Surveyor (Suburban water heater) has a hot water heater switch with a red light inside mounted on my sink cabinet. I think that's for 110v power. I also have outside on the water heater (black rocker switch with on/off labeled on it). Is that for using propane? Could someone explain these for me? What if both switches are turned on? Both are off right now. TIA
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Old 04-30-2014, 12:35 PM   #2
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Before turning on any switches make sure there is water in the hot water heater. A dry tank makes for a very short heating element life. If you have both 110 and gas turning both on will heat the water faster. When I am in a park with elec. I use the 110v to heat my water. When the demand is high (taking showers) I turn the gas on as well to recover faster. When I'm done I switch it off. I've never run out of hot water doing it this way, even with multiple people taking showers.

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Old 04-30-2014, 01:44 PM   #3
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Is the outside switch for propane operation and how does that operate? Do you just turn on propane and turn the outside switch on?
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Old 04-30-2014, 01:52 PM   #4
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My outside switch is for electric
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Old 04-30-2014, 02:46 PM   #5
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So do you think if I turn on the inside red lighted switch it will turn on the propane use of the water heater? Will it light by itself?
Summing up the outside switch is for electric heater element, inside switch for auto-propane heating. Correct?
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Old 04-30-2014, 03:17 PM   #6
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Often there is a 120 v. on/off switch in the water heater compartment. This switch is turned to off when draining the tank for storage so no one accidentally turns on inside wall switch and burns out your element. The switch for LP gas is usually similar to other 12 v switches, mine is on levels panel with one of the water pump switches. Flip it on and you can hear the flame light to start the heating process. It should be automatic, only requiring checking or cleaning about once a year. The water will be very hot, it is not adjustable, just mix with more cold to temper.
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Old 04-30-2014, 03:26 PM   #7
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The black outside switch on the water heater operates the solenoid valve to allow gas to flow and to ignite the pilot.
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Old 04-30-2014, 03:33 PM   #8
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Sorry you've gotten so much conflicting information. I suggest you search for the manual for the exact model of water heater you have. The information I gave was typical for motor home water heaters, but I'm not sure about a travel trailer that might be different. Take the outside cover off, copy down model # and Google it.
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Old 04-30-2014, 04:01 PM   #9
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My info was directly from the suburban water heater in my new TT. The pilot should ignite after the switch is turned "on". It makes 3 attempts to light and if it does not light then you are supposed to turn the switch off and cycle back on again for another attempt.
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Old 04-30-2014, 04:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KT4Wextra View Post
My info was directly from the suburban water heater in my new TT. The pilot should ignite after the switch is turned "on". It makes 3 attempts to light and if it does not light then you are supposed to turn the switch off and cycle back on again for another attempt.
Again, caution. Suburban also makes (made) electric ignition, and pilot light models. Check your model number against this rubric:

Airxcel | Suburban Manufacturing Service
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Old 04-30-2014, 05:47 PM   #11
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Think this is resolved and thank you all for your response. It has been helpful. I went out to the trailer and checked my manual. The single manual is for Suburban models SW6D, SW6DE, SW6DM, SW6DEM. After some investigation I found the letter codes mean the following: D-Direct spark ignition, E-Electric Element, and M-Motor aid. I believe mine is SW6DE. I then found this link:
Suburban SW6DE water heater basics - Forest River Forums
So it looks like the outside one is strictly for electric. The parts manual lists the switch as electric element switch. The inside switch is for propane and ignition. Both switches can be turned on at the same time for quicker heating if needed. Obviously you want to use the electric if you have a shore or generator hookup to save propane. Hope this helps someone else out in the future as well. Thanks again for taking the time to answer.
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Old 05-01-2014, 09:00 PM   #12
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Water heater

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My outside switch is for electric
Starting with fall winterizing, water heater tank is drained! Make sure that you flip off the Water Heater breaker & turn off the exterior switch for the WH!!!!!
The Red Light Interior Switch is only for propane! When you start a new season > check the Water Heater valve & flip it so the Tank FILLS!!!! Mentioned in previous helpful hint! Then turn on WH dedicated Breaker!!!
Then feel comfortable with flipping on exterior W H toggle switch (press on the top toggle to turn on)! You should hear a hissing noise ( or air release sound) as heat element activates.
That is all you need to do for the electric! The interior switch is only for the propane system to activate & it will! When you are on (30amp r 50amp etc.)'
try the electric as it saves on the propane for other uses!
ps If you didn't have any h2o in the tank; head to the dealer & get a new element!
Great luck,
Paul
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Old 05-01-2014, 09:05 PM   #13
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Water heater

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Originally Posted by BFlinn181 View Post
Often there is a 120 v. on/off switch in the water heater compartment. This switch is turned to off when draining the tank for storage so no one accidentally turns on inside wall switch and burns out your element. The switch for LP gas is usually similar to other 12 v switches, mine is on levels panel with one of the water pump switches. Flip it on and you can hear the flame light to start the heating process. It should be automatic, only requiring checking or cleaning about once a year. The water will be very hot, it is not adjustable, just mix with more cold to temper.
Thanks, this is correct info! I would just keep lp gas tanks turned off initially
& use the out side switch to turn on water heater!
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Old 05-01-2014, 10:57 PM   #14
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Ditto inside propane use, outside electric only I will use the gas to get the water hot faster, then shut off inside switch and run on electrical
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