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Old 10-20-2013, 04:59 PM   #1
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soot from water heater

Hi all,

Just got back from our last trip of the year - great time at Cherry Hill Campground in Washington D.C. (highly recommend!).

When I went to pack up to leave, I discovered soot from the water heater on the side of the rig. Never had that before & am puzzled as to why it happened. We were running it on propane (as we always have). It's an Atwood propane / 110v.

Any ideas?

Thanks!


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Old 10-20-2013, 05:09 PM   #2
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Looks like spiders or something is inside where the air goes in past the burner and comes out the exhaust. Try blowing out the burner tube with air and see if anything come out.

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Old 10-20-2013, 05:18 PM   #3
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My '99 American Eagle would do the same, the soot will clean up with a little wax. Mine would do it depending on the wind, not all the time. I would be curious what causes it, I tried blowing my burner tube out also but didn't have anything in it.
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Old 10-20-2013, 05:32 PM   #4
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You *MUST* check your propane lines for spiders or other insects. This is caused by an inefficient proportion of propane & air mix. This is a VERY serious fire hazard in your motorhome and means that flames are coming up into the exhaust vent of your water heater.

We dealt with this problem as well and it's about a 10 minute fix with the proper tools Evicting some unwanted guests | Our RV Journey

Seriously -- DON'T run your water heater again until you clean out the lines!
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Old 10-20-2013, 05:38 PM   #5
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This area, outlined in green, is where you want to check/take apart



the slots in the tube allow air to come in and mix with the propane for proper fuel burning, but those same slots are large enough to let spiders and mud daubers get in and make their own homes.

It only takes the smallest of spider webs in that tube to effect the efficient burning of propane.

Not only will you have inefficient burning of propane and soot on the outside, but you also risk high levels of carbon monoxide on the inside of your motorhome.

This is a highly serious safety issue!
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Old 10-20-2013, 05:59 PM   #6
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Thanks guys! I had thought about possible wind effects but not the spiders. I will be sure to inspect / blow it out ASAP. Looks like I need to make that part of my routine maint.

2Labs - thanks for taking time to do the pic with location - that's helpful!
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Old 10-20-2013, 06:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steverino View Post
Thanks guys! I had thought about possible wind effects but not the spiders. I will be sure to inspect / blow it out ASAP. Looks like I need to make that part of my routine maint.

2Labs - thanks for taking time to do the pic with location - that's helpful!
Not a problem at all ... the RV'ing community is about helping other RV'ers

Kindly be sure to post to this thread when you take the time to inspect your water heater propane line ... discovering your problem.
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Old 10-20-2013, 06:16 PM   #8
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After clearing the insects, in 2labs post, check the screw on the right side in the green square. Sometimes this can work loose and the tube with the holes can slide, causing a change in the air mixture.

When there are no insects and when the tube with the holes is properly adjusted, when ignited, the flame should be blue, no yellow, and sound like a jet engine blast.
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Old 10-20-2013, 06:30 PM   #9
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Curiosity got the better of me. Went out with a flashlight & wrench & removed the burner tube and found.....stinkbugs! Cooked ones. About three in the large heater tube and another four or five in the small burner tube. Bastards.

Also found a small old mud dauber nest in the large heater tube - but I think the main issue was the bugs.

Grateful we didn't have a bigger issue, and that no repairs are necessary (for once).

BBQ Judge - thanks for the tip. I'll fire it up & confirm clean operations.

Thanks again, everyone!
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Old 10-21-2013, 10:16 AM   #10
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I see many have spoken of the posibility of spider or other insects in the large tube where the flame goes or in the heat exchanger area.. In addition you may have a oriface issue Dirty or partially clogged.

In both cases Routine maintenance involves cleaning these areas and adjusting the flame for a clean burn.. Do so.
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Old 10-21-2013, 10:42 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by wa8yxm View Post
I see many have spoken of the posibility of spider or other insects in the large tube where the flame goes or in the heat exchanger area.. In addition you may have a oriface issue Dirty or partially clogged.

In both cases Routine maintenance involves cleaning these areas and adjusting the flame for a clean burn.. Do so.

Roger that.

Thinking out loud here, but has anyone experimented with using a relatively fine mesh screen behind the WH compartment door to keep critters out? I realize it would have to be heat-proof, and that one would have to remove it to service the WH...

I certainly don't mind doing the maintenance, but am thinking that a bug or critter could crawl in there anytime - even five minutes after you last checked it... Or does everyone take it apart just before firing it up on every trip? I can't imagine that most do.
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Old 10-21-2013, 12:07 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Steverino View Post
Roger that.

Thinking out loud here, but has anyone experimented with using a relatively fine mesh screen behind the WH compartment door to keep critters out? I realize it would have to be heat-proof, and that one would have to remove it to service the WH...

I certainly don't mind doing the maintenance, but am thinking that a bug or critter could crawl in there anytime - even five minutes after you last checked it... Or does everyone take it apart just before firing it up on every trip? I can't imagine that most do.
I'm afraid that a screen of such fine mesh to keep out spiders would restrict air flow. Stink bugs are a relatively new (1998, Penna.) introduced species that are now found coast to coast. In the smallest nymph stage they are less than 2.5 mm (1/10") Spiders can be even smaller. In addition to the obvious cover vents, there are other ways into the burner area.
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Old 10-21-2013, 04:05 PM   #13
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I'm afraid that a screen of such fine mesh to keep out spiders would restrict air flow. Stink bugs are a relatively new (1998, Penna.) introduced species that are now found coast to coast. In the smallest nymph stage they are less than 2.5 mm (1/10") Spiders can be even smaller. In addition to the obvious cover vents, there are other ways into the burner area.
Figures. Maybe I'll try to devise something that I could put on whenever the rig is in storage. We'll see...
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Old 10-23-2013, 06:31 AM   #14
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They make a burner tube brush just for that reason. It only takes a few seconds at the beginning of the season to run it up thru the burner tubes. You can usually find them where Bar-B-Q grill accessories are sold. If not then look around at your nearest Camping goods store. Son=mone is bound to have one.
While you are at it, if you have a propane fridge then you need to clean the tube on it also, and don't forget the grill, don't want to burn those steaks and hot dogs.
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