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Old 11-09-2020, 11:05 PM   #1
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Water heater smell of combustion

So this is a bit different in that the smell is NOT in the water. When the heater is burning there is an overwhelming smell of combustion by-products of some kind inside the coach. It's a pretty nasty smell and worries me enough that I turn the thing off when we sleep.

Water heater is the usual suburban unit - 99 vintage - located in the passenger sidewall. Inside access is by taking one of the drawers out in the closet unit.

No evidence of any burned area around the unit (and if there was I'm sure it would have immolated the coach by now).

CO detector, gas detector, smoke detector - none of them are triggered.

Given the way the unit is built, I can't figure out how exhaust gas would get inside the coach.

Anyone else run itnto this?
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Old 11-09-2020, 11:30 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VanDiemen23 View Post
So this is a bit different in that the smell is NOT in the water. When the heater is burning there is an overwhelming smell of combustion by-products of some kind inside the coach. It's a pretty nasty smell and worries me enough that I turn the thing off when we sleep.

Water heater is the usual suburban unit - 99 vintage - located in the passenger sidewall. Inside access is by taking one of the drawers out in the closet unit.

No evidence of any burned area around the unit (and if there was I'm sure it would have immolated the coach by now).

CO detector, gas detector, smoke detector - none of them are triggered.

Given the way the unit is built, I can't figure out how exhaust gas would get inside the coach.

Anyone else run itnto this?
Your water heater should have very little if any combustion odor. I suspect that the burner tube has something clogging it. If the burner is not getting enough air it will burn yellow and emit obnoxious ordors. Get the burner to burn correctly and the odor should go away.

Some question to ask yourself:
  1. Has it worked without problems in the past?
  2. Has anyone performed any maintenance on it lately?
  3. Have you recently relocated to a higher elevation?

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Old 11-10-2020, 10:37 AM   #3
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1999 vintage RV ...water heater

"CO detector, gas detector, smoke detector - none of them are triggered."
What vintage are THEY^^^^. Self life of the sensors is 5-7 yrs and need replaced.


Combustion smell.....
Open WH Outside panel and have someone turn on the GAS for heating
What does the flame look like?
Any evidence of sooting.....blackened area above combustion chamber?
Suburban does NOT have an 'air shutter' that allows for air/fuel adjustments. They use an 'open venturi' to pull air in via the gas flow thru ORIFICE
Sounds like you need to clean burner assembly and the orifice

Orifice is part of the burner tube
Remove burner tube assembly'
Unscrew orifice for end of burner tube...soak in alcohol/air dry
**NO poking anything thru orifice or Blowing high pressure air thru it (will damage the metered hole)
Use a small bottle brush to clean the burner tube

Check spark electrode for soot/carbon on electrode...emery cloth to clean
Wipe the ceramic insulator down with rag sprayed with silicone

Reassembly and fire off
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Old 11-11-2020, 07:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yeloduster View Post
  1. Has it worked without problems in the past?
  2. Has anyone performed any maintenance on it lately?
  3. Have you recently relocated to a higher elevation?
Yes/no/not really - worked at this elevation (2500 ft) - moved to sea level (worked there) and moved back.

Smoke detector - new, CO - same vintage as coach, Gas detector - worked a couple months back.

Will do some cleaning and have another shot.
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Old 11-15-2020, 02:01 PM   #5
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Well unfortunately, the orifice fell out and is lost in the gravel. Some research indicates that the standard burner is for up to 4000 ft. We recently spent some time in flagstaff at over 7000, so could have been sooted up.

The orifices I have found online show threaded parts, but obviously if they are threaded they wouldn't fall out - does anyone have some pictures of the actual orifices?

And does anyone have a source? I've found the burner tubes with the standard orifice from a number of online sources but just the orifices are a bit of a harder search.
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Old 11-15-2020, 02:28 PM   #6
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I suggest just getting the standard orifice and try down the road for the high altitude one. We were at 9,000 ft in Wyoming this summer and couldn't find a high altitude orifice at any price!
Used electric as the standard burner's flame was very erratic.
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Old 11-15-2020, 02:55 PM   #7
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When mine did this, it had a dirt dobber nest inside where the burner fit into.
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Old 11-15-2020, 06:31 PM   #8
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You don't say what water heater you have. Assuming you have a Suburban model SW6Dxx of 1999 vintage then you probably need this: Suburban 010843 Burner with Orifice

I'm not sure they sell the orifice separately.

If you want the high elevation burner then this: Suburban 010844 Burner with Orifice

See this link to determine which Suburban water heaters these fit: Suburban 010844 Burner with Orifice
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Old 11-15-2020, 10:22 PM   #9
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yup - that's the model I have. They do sell the orifices separately - if you can find them.
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Old 11-16-2020, 11:29 PM   #10
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You may want to check out this company for the orifice you lost. They sell new and salvage RV parts.
https://colawrv.com/
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Old 11-17-2020, 12:34 AM   #11
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You may want to check out this company for the orifice you lost. They sell new and salvage RV parts.
https://colawrv.com/
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Old 11-19-2020, 12:13 PM   #12
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To some degree this has been a wild goose chase, all because of misinformation.

Bought a new anode rod this week. It came with a sticker inside warning that i you remove the gas line from the burner tube, the orifice might drop out. I had one of these stickers on the inside of he water heater cover, but it was badly worn.

If you go back to the middle of the post, I thought I heard the orifice drop out. I actually dug up and sifted about 10 sq ft of gravel and couldn't find it, so I started looking for them online and elsewhere. The ones I found couldn't have possibly worked.

Some of the comments from people that bought them online at Amazon indicated the separate orifice wasn't included, and so assumed they didn't fit or were incomplete and returned them.

So I called Suburban. They make it pretty hard to contact them, and are reluctant to provide information from a liability standpoint. They expect everyone to go to a trained technician to replace the burner tube, which given my location and skill set, is just ridiculous.

So eventually what I found out is that there is no longer a separate orifice. It's just the hole drilled in the fitting on the end of the burner tube. The size is stamped on the tube (mine had corrosion covering the stamping). Took the one that I had and ran a number 60 drill into it and it fits pretty tight (but shouldn't have, which means this orifice is .001-.002 oversize).

I ordered a new one for high altitude and will verify all of the above when it arrives.

I'm at 2500 ft with an even higher density altitude, so it could be that the standard orifice I have is just marginal and I should replace it.

So if you have a one-piece orifice/burner tube assembly peel off that sticker before you confuse yourself or a future owner.
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Old 11-19-2020, 02:47 PM   #13
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2500 FT ...high altitude orifice is going to be TOO LEAN of a mixture

Don't 'need' high altitude orifice until above 5000' (IF it is really needed)
Have run water heater, fridge, furnace at 8000' w/o issue several times

OEM Standard uses a #61 Orifice (6, 10, 12, 16 gal w/12,000btu burner)
OEM High Altitude (which is orifice used in 4 gal models with 9000btu burner) is #65 Orifice
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Old 11-19-2020, 08:19 PM   #14
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yup.

Recall I started down this path with a combustion odor. Not like there's a lot to go wrong on these things.

Everything else gaseous on the coach works fine.

I'd last used the heater in Flagstaff, and yes I've used it at higher altitudes before without problems as well. Won't hurt to carry the high-altitude unit.

Orifice really can't get "carboned up" as it's well away from the actual combustion, so I don't know what the issue was. Like I said, it will take a #60, and the area difference between a 60 and a 61 is 15% or so.
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