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Old 04-06-2023, 12:07 PM   #1
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Troubleshooting electric water heating

It's the morning after our second night ever in our 21C, and I'm certain that I'm getting no heat from the electric element in the water heater.

The propane heating is working fine, and actually gets the water very hot. But I've left the electric heater on overnight each night with the gas off. I see no significant current draw on the EMS panel, and the water in the tank is cold by morning.

I've toggled the breaker for the heater several times (confirming it is on), checked the switch under the water heater cover several times (confirming it is on), and pressed the reset buttons under the water heater cover. If it wasn't a rainy day, I would get out the multimeter and look for a place to check for 115VAC on the water heater itself.

From your experience, what else should I look at?
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Old 04-06-2023, 12:22 PM   #2
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From your experience, what else should I look at?
Did you ever, ever use the water heater on electric without water? It only takes mere seconds to burn out the element. Ask me how I know, I went through two of them before I learned my lesson. Fortunately they're fairly inexpensive and fairly easy to replace.
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Old 04-06-2023, 12:25 PM   #3
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Did you ever, ever use the water heater on electric without water? It only takes mere seconds to burn out the element. Ask me how I know, I went through two of them before I learned my lesson. Fortunately they're fairly inexpensive and fairly easy to replace.
Yep that's what I was gonna say, are you sure the water heater tank is (and has been) full, meaning not in bypass mode?
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Old 04-06-2023, 12:29 PM   #4
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Did you ever, ever use the water heater on electric without water?
Thanks. I can't say that didn't happen, but I'm not aware of it.

That said, it sounds like I should find a couple of replacement elements to carry along as soon as possible.
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Old 04-06-2023, 12:37 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by SteveSgt View Post

The propane heating is working fine, and actually gets the water very hot.
From your experience, what else should I look at?
Quote:
Originally Posted by TahoeJoe View Post
Yep that's what I was gonna say, are you sure the water heater tank is (and has been) full, meaning not in bypass mode?
The tank is working fine on propane so it's not in bypass mode.

Looks like the multimeter is about the only way to nail the problem down. Either no power in the circuit, a defective switch or an open circuit in the element.

Good luck tracking it down.

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Old 04-06-2023, 12:40 PM   #6
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FYI, here's a link to a Suburban Water Heater Troubleshooting Manual which might be of interest / help.

Note this is NOT a Suburban document but one compiled by the independent Heartland Owner's Forum, but it appears quite thorough insofar as the 110VAC troubleshooting procedures.

Be Safe when playing with electricity , Good Luck!
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Old 04-06-2023, 02:33 PM   #7
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If you are anywhere near the ETI factory, you could also give them a call to let them know of your electric water heater issue. By our 3rd day of ownership of our 21C (at the Lynden KOA), we noticed a couple things not quite right and when we called Escape about it they asked us to bring it back so we did. We drove it back across the border for just a few hours and they fixed it all real quick. Just another idea for you to consider. Hope you find a fix soon and glad you still have hot water with propane. -Bea
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Old 04-06-2023, 03:12 PM   #8
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There is a switch behind the exterior hatch on the left side bottom. You may have to switch it on before plugging into electrical. This is only on the 2 way tank. Good luck.
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Old 04-06-2023, 04:17 PM   #9
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The switch on our water heater is actually mounted upside down and it is very hard to see. Requires getting down on a knee. This is odd for me as I am a retired electrician but I didn't install this switch. So on my trailer water heater the up position of the switch is off and when in the down position the heater is on. Good luck and Happy Camping!
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Old 04-06-2023, 05:13 PM   #10
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Quote:
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FYI, here's a link to a Suburban Water Heater Troubleshooting Manual which might be of interest / help.

Note this is NOT a Suburban document but one compiled by the independent Heartland Owner's Forum, but it appears quite thorough insofar as the 110VAC troubleshooting procedures.
This looks useful. And while I believe I followed the procedure for de-winterizing tank filling, and the power-up sequence, I certainly could have missed something. All symptoms seem to point to a burned-out heating element. I'll have a spare waiting for me at a future stop along the road.

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Be Safe when playing with electricity , Good Luck!
That's why I'm not out in the rain with my multimeter right now, but just hoping the propane holds out.

Thanks.
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Old 04-06-2023, 05:16 PM   #11
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The heater is pretty simple. Make sure the breaker is on and sending power to the heater.

As Post 9 says, the outside switch on the heater is mounted so that down is "on" (same as the propane ignition switch on the inside).

The element should have a resistance of 10-16 ohms. Check that at the connection points on the element with all power off.

Under the reset buttons there are 2 high limit shut off switches, one for electric and one for propane. If the button hasn't popped out that shouldn't have gone bad. But, if you have to check it remove the pad, turn on the power and check for current from one side of the high limit switch to the other.

That's about it, breaker, switch, element, and high limit switch. None of the components are costly. None are hard to replace except for a bit of fiddling around to get at them.
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Old 04-06-2023, 05:26 PM   #12
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That's why I'm not out in the rain with my multimeter right now, but just hoping the propane holds out.

Thanks.[/QUOTE]

Your propane will last a long time to come, if your tanks were full.
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Old 07-25-2023, 01:19 AM   #13
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I'm back to working on this problem, 4 months later, now that I'm on the road again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Viajante View Post
The heater is pretty simple. Make sure the breaker is on and sending power to the heater.
Checked.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Viajante View Post
As Post 9 says, the outside switch on the heater is mounted so that down is "on" (same as the propane ignition switch on the inside).
Checked.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Viajante View Post
The element should have a resistance of 10-16 ohms. Check that at the connection points on the element with all power off.
I just checked this morning. The original element (which I thought I might have blown-up), and the new unopened one both measure ~11Ω.

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Under the reset buttons there are 2 high limit shut off switches, one for electric and one for propane. If the button hasn't popped out that shouldn't have gone bad. But, if you have to check it remove the pad, turn on the power and check for current from one side of the high limit switch to the other.
This is the next thing to check. I have the suspicion that power isn't getting to the water heater at all.

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Under the reset buttons there are 2 high limit shut off That's about it, breaker, switch, element, and high limit switch. None of the components are costly. None are hard to replace except for a bit of fiddling around to get at them.
I understand. This electric heater never worked since my delivery in early April. I can only work on it when I have it out of storage and hooked up to power.
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Old 07-25-2023, 12:09 PM   #14
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Have you checked the breaker connections for the water heater. Did they secure the wires properly , did they strip the insulation back enough so the lug is on the bare wire not the insulation. Just a thought
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Old 07-25-2023, 02:41 PM   #15
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Have you checked the breaker connections for the water heater. Did they secure the wires properly , did they strip the insulation back enough so the lug is on the bare wire not the insulation. Just a thought
I agree, start troubling shooting at the beginning and the end of where you should have power.

Certainly the terminal of the circuit breaker is the first place to confirm power.

I don't see any indication in the checking of the element resistance that the connecting wires were checked for power. Were they?

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Old 07-25-2023, 06:54 PM   #16
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Do you have an inside switch for electric for the water heater? If so, you have a relay and 12v circuit controlling the 115VAC. Beside the ckt. breaker 115 VAC connection there is a junction box that connects the trailer wiring to the water heater. The junction box is on the top RH side facing from inside the trailer looking outside. The best way to access it is to pull the wood panel above the WH. You might have a bad connection there; I would check for input voltage to the water heater after checking the CB connection.
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Old 07-25-2023, 08:35 PM   #17
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I agree, start troubling shooting at the beginning and the end of where you should have power.

Certainly the terminal of the circuit breaker is the first place to confirm power.

I don't see any indication in the checking of the element resistance that the connecting wires were checked for power. Were they?

Ron
I was having all kinds of difficulties getting my AC to run off of my inverter, then while trying to cleanup the electrical bugs I discovered this loose wire.
Right from the beginning it never had a good crimp on it, things have been way better since.
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Old 07-25-2023, 11:05 PM   #18
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Do you have an inside switch for electric for the water heater?
I don't think ETI does this in any of their models.

There is a water heater switch, but the ETI manual says it only activates the gas heating system. The manual says that the outside switch activates the electrical heating system.

I haven't lifted up the mattress to look at the wiring to the heater yet. That's on the ToDo list.
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Old 07-25-2023, 11:14 PM   #19
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We are in the same boat with no electric hot water although our worked fine until recently. I believe something in the exterior on/off switch melted on ours as the switch was suddenly stuck in the on position after it stopped working.
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Old 12-01-2023, 07:13 PM   #20
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Problem found!?!

I had one last step of troubleshooting I needed to do before I took the whole trailer into a shop that did warranty work for the Suburban water heater. I wanted to take a quick look at the connection box where A.C. power enters the water heater.

Accessing this junction box required some very awkward contortions (or else disassembling the bed platform). This kind of work is more difficult in a storage yard without any hookups.

I found what is most likely the problem right away.
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It sure appears that the electrical input to the heater was left unconnected at the ETI factory. Note the loose, bare white wire, which is a part of the heater.

I carefully tested the resistance of the heater again--about 11Ω--and it was what I would suspect for such a heating element.

This leaves me with two concerns, either:
  1. someone in the factory might have left the white (neutral) wire disconnected for a good reason.
  2. The Weigo connectors do not adequately hold the wires, and the wire will again fall out.

Either way, I may have solved this problem which had plagued me from my first day after delivery.
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