No one likes a cold shower or finding yourself ending a long drive in your RV only to learn your water heater is on the fritz. There are two primary factors that can make heating water difficult; 1. Critters and insects that have nested in your water heater’s flue tube and 2. Poor incoming water quality. We’re going to expand a little on both these items so you can learn some easy preventative tips to make your water heater last a long time and prevent the need for RV water heater repairs.
Black smoke signals problems
Is there a black smoke stain running up from the water heater on the side of your RV? RV water heaters have what is a called a flue tube and this is where heat from the propane burner is transferred to the water in the tank. A black smoke stain may be an indicator that water heater function is compromised.
Insects in your Flue Tube
For some reason nature decided to make the smell of burned propane an attractive scent to some insects. For this reason, they love to climb in through the flu tube vent and make a nest in the flu tube. When they do make their nest it reduces the air flow that is vital to producing a proper propane flame and subsequently impacts the water heating process.
At a minimum the flue tube should be inspected at the beginning of your RV season, brushed/cleaned as needed. By opening the water heater door you can gain access to the front of the water heater and the flue tube. The Atwood water heater has a “U” tube and Suburban water heater has a straight flue tube. Depending on which heater you have accessing the flue tube will require removing a couple of screws and small sheet metal parts. Using only a brush with nylon bristles, run it through the flue tube a couple of times to remove any debris that has gathered between uses.
You may want to have some insect killer on hand just in case you upset those pesky Mud Daubers that may be living in the flue tube. Especially so if you have an Atwood water heater because the “U” shaped flue tube makes it impossible to see them before you upset them. Suburban heaters have the straight tube so grab your flashlight and look before you brush. The flue tube must be kept clean and free flowing. A clogged up flue tube makes for some nasty problems, some of which can be catastrophic. Always Remember, “THINK SAFETY FIRST.” Anywhere you have an open flame the area must always be kept clean and free from all foreign debris or matter.
Water quality on the other hand is not something you can predict. Remember the many different resorts or parks you stay in all have water that comes from different water supplies. In Phoenix, RV water heaters can often encounter hard water full of minerals that impact the performance of your water heater. Flushing your tank will go a long way to keep the sediment that collects from ruining the life of your water heater. If you have a water softener this will certainly help over the long term as this reduces scaling in the water heater tank
Give it a Try
If you want to keep your water heater working well for many years then you want to develop the routine of conducting your own annual RV Water heater maintenance program. With the right tools you can do this but before you dive in, be sure to read your owner’s manual for guidance. If you run into difficulty you can always call us and we will try to walk you through this. If that doesn’t work, you can always give us a call to conduct your maintenance checks.