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Old 10-19-2004, 10:36 PM   #1
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To Go All Electric on the Water Heater?

This might sound nuts, but since I am staying for an extended period
of time in my 89 excella, should I look at replacing the fire breathing
monster of a hot water heater with an electric unit. Two reasons...

1. This would save precious propane
2. I don't pay the electric bill for the camp site.

The bigger and more looming question, one that will probably shatter
all me credibility, is do I already have an electric HW heater that all
I have to get to work as total electric is unhook the gas or flip a
switch.

The reason I ask and don't know is my manual talks about two versions.
Mine is neither. I think a picture would be work 1k words. I'll post one
tomorrow.

But give the choice would an all electric be a good idea. Keep in mind
money is no object. I just don't want to wait 15 minutes for hot water
or be incinerated by an errant gas jet that is one sheet of birch plywood
away from my head. ( actually I believe they used ash in my model for
the flooring substrate )

thanks.
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Old 10-20-2004, 12:00 AM   #2
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Why would someone want to heat hot water?

Seriously, if money is no object, why not have gas and electricity available to heat your water? I have both on mine and I like the flexibility.
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Old 10-20-2004, 09:07 AM   #3
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To Go All Electric on the Hot Water Heater?

Greetings Excellaphant!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Excellaphant
This might sound nuts, but since I am staying for an extended period
of time in my 89 excella, should I look at replacing the fire breathing
monster of a hot water heater with an electric unit. Two reasons...

1. This would save precious propane
2. I don't pay the electric bill for the camp site.

The bigger and more looming question, one that will probably shatter
all me credibility, is do I already have an electric HW heater that all
I have to get to work as total electric is unhook the gas or flip a
switch.

The reason I ask and don't know is my manual talks about two versions.
Mine is neither. I think a picture would be work 1k words. I'll post one
tomorrow.

But give the choice would an all electric be a good idea. Keep in mind
money is no object. I just don't want to wait 15 minutes for hot water
or be incinerated by an errant gas jet that is one sheet of birch plywood
away from my head. ( actually I believe they used ash in my model for
the flooring substrate )

thanks.
While I am not a fan of LP or natural gas appliances, in my RV they are something of a "necessary evil". Most electric water heaters that will be small enough to provide the volume of hot water will be too large for the available space (if strictly 115/120-volt AC); or will require 220-volt AC (something that would be a problem in most campgrounds). An alternative, that works for many of my acquaintances is either a "hot-rod" auxilliary electric element for the stock water heater - - or one of the new dual-fuel (115/120-volt AC or LP) water heaters. I actually found that my Overlander used minimal fuel (LP gas as it is a basic OEM style unit) to run its Atwood water heater constantly for the five months that it served as my home when I changed residences four years ago - - I did have a new water heater installed to insure that all was safe prior to the move. Another option would be one of the new water heaters with the remote electronic start that can allow you the freedom of greater control over when the water heater is actually running.

Good luck with your research!

Kevin
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Old 10-20-2004, 12:39 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excellaphant
This might sound nuts, but since I am staying for an extended period
of time in my 89 excella, should I look at replacing the fire breathing
monster of a hot water heater with an electric unit. .....

Not nuts at all. Before the advent of propane water heaters for RVs, Airstream used small electric water heaters. My 1953 Cruiser has one.

I can see the benifits of using one. The water heater in my 1963 Overlander (now sold) used to wake me up several times each night at my hunting camp.
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Old 10-20-2004, 01:03 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Porky Pig
Why would someone want to heat hot water?

Seriously, if money is no object, why not have gas and electricity available to heat your water? I have both on mine and I like the flexibility.
The other benefit of a dual unit is the faster recovery time. We normally flip on the gas switch just prior to a shower. Now you have both electric and gas providing the temperature rise. Water temp holds better during the shower and the next person using the shower starts with a hotter tank. Once done with showers we flip the gas switch off. The electric element maintains plenty of hot water for all other needs.

Only thing we learned with our trailer is that use of the microwave, air conditioner, and electric side of the water heater at the same time trips a 30 amp breaker.

Jack
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Old 10-20-2004, 09:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcanavera
The other benefit of a dual unit is the faster recovery time.
Jack
The main point I see, though, is to have hot water when I want it, not to heat water when I don't, or worse, to run out of hot water.

I specify instantaneous, also known as tankless, water heaters all the time as an architect in commercial environments. They are becoming increasingly popular in the residential markets, too. They come in either gas or electric models.

The ultimate temperature a tankless water heater can heat up to, is dependent on how fast the water flows past the heater. Be sure to think about how many gallons per minute your shower consumes. I have a 1.5 GPM flow rate on both the interior and exterior shower heads.

I suggest looking at either an Eemax EX3012M, Ariston GL-25, or the RV-500. They can all be retrofitted rather easily, but the RV-500 is one that is specifically made to fit in the same cavity as the old tank-types. Personally, I'm going with the Eemax for my unit.

It only requires 25 amps @ 120 volts, which is less than the A/C (mine is 55 amps @ 115 volts). This may work for you, too, if you are on shore power all the time, and you know to shut off the A/C compressor if you're tripping the breaker often.

Christopher
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Old 10-21-2004, 12:27 AM   #7
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seems wasteful

I'm not sure why you would do this, as the amount of propane used by the gas water heater is minimal and heating by electrical resistance is hugely wasteful of energy. My propane tanks last weeks, even this time of year, and most of that goes for the furnace and stove, in fact the water heater rarely comes on except when I am actually using a significant amount of hot water.

I understand the benefits of tankless in homes - instant hot water, no water wasted while the hot water gets to point of use, etc. Even then, the builders I work with try to specify gas for the tankless installs, to save energy. But in the trailer it is all so compact that there is never more than a few seconds delay for hot water, the tank heats very quickly, and it uses very little gas. There doesn't seem to be a compelling reason, from what I have seen.

When you look at actual energy use, whether you pay for it or not, 25 amps at 120 VAC is 3000 watts - a LOT of energy. To get that juice to your campsite, after transmission losses, probably costs 10 times the amount of fossil fuels to be burned at the generating plant than simply heating the water directly from your tank.

And as for safety, I'd be more concerned about a 25 amp load in my trailer than using the water heater as it was designed. My 1971 gas water heater works flawlessly, although it may well have been replaced somewhere along the line.

Just my two cents.

john
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Old 10-21-2004, 11:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 71_safari
I'm not sure why you would do this...
When you look at actual energy use, whether you pay for it or not, 25 amps at 120 VAC is 3000 watts - a LOT of energy. To get that juice to your campsite, after transmission losses, probably costs 10 times the amount of fossil fuels to be burned at the generating plant than simply heating the water directly from your tank.

john
Great points, John.

There are only a few extreme cases where an electric tankless water heater is more feasible than a gas one in an RV, home, or business.

The RV-500 is what I suggest. In my opinion, it should be original equipment in any Airstream. It is gas-fired, is designed expressly to fit right into the same cavity as the tank-type, and it does not have the same level of winterizing issues as a tank-type.

Christopher
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Old 10-21-2004, 12:44 PM   #9
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Theres another reason for the tankless water heater, It weighs about 30 lbs less when they are both full of water.
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Old 10-21-2004, 02:18 PM   #10
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Christopher,

The RV-500 looks like a great unit. Very impressive specs, espec. the weight and fuel usage. That will be my next one when it comes time.

Thanks for the info.

john
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Old 10-21-2004, 02:50 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gerbermania
The main point I see, though, is to have hot water when I want it, not to heat water when I don't, or worse, to run out of hot water.
Christopher
I agree with the above statement, my point is that a combo unit with gas and electric running at the same time will provide a longer run of hot water than a gas only or electric only tank water heater. Obviously a tankless unit brings about a whole different view.

In reference to the other post, yes electric may be more wasteful than gas in a pure fuel to energy measurement, but I'd be crazy to use my propane (based on its current cost) in lieu of the availabilty of electric at a campgrounds. I also use my heat pump in lieu of running the furnace until temps get down below 40 degrees.

Propane is a refined product and requires a fueled truck delivery so I'm pretty sure the energy waste/loss when making an electric/propane comparison is much less than you would imagine.

Regards,

Jack
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Old 10-21-2004, 06:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excellaphant
This might sound nuts, but since I am staying for an extended period
of time in my 89 excella, should I look at replacing the fire breathing
monster of a hot water heater with an electric unit. Two reasons...

1. This would save precious propane
2. I don't pay the electric bill for the camp site.

The bigger and more looming question, one that will probably shatter
all me credibility, is do I already have an electric HW heater that all
I have to get to work as total electric is unhook the gas or flip a
switch.

The reason I ask and don't know is my manual talks about two versions.
Mine is neither. I think a picture would be work 1k words. I'll post one
tomorrow.

But give the choice would an all electric be a good idea. Keep in mind
money is no object. I just don't want to wait 15 minutes for hot water
or be incinerated by an errant gas jet that is one sheet of birch plywood
away from my head. ( actually I believe they used ash in my model for
the flooring substrate )

thanks.
Camping World sells a dual-power (propane and 110v) water heater for a little over $200, it should fit right in where your old one is.
Terry
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Old 10-21-2004, 08:28 PM   #13
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Propane water heaters in RVs use very little propane. However, an electric water heater element uses a significant amount of the small 30 amp budget an Airstream has. During camping trips, I have the pilot on the water heater going from the time I set up camp to the time I tear down camp. The $15 it cost me to fill a 30# gas bottle is not much compared to the other expenses we have while camping, considering the fact that we barely use one bottle per camping season. When fulltimeing in Florida in February, the least amount of time I got from one bottle was 8 days, and that was from the furnace running alot. Without the furnace, you can almost get a month per bottle, heating water and cooking.
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Old 10-21-2004, 10:36 PM   #14
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Very insighful replies, thanks everyone. It seems that I should have
done more homework. My Atwood model seems to be gas/electric.

And the point about the propane usage being minimal makes me think
keeping it around is a good idea. I mainly cook outside and I don't envision
running the gas heaters that often so two full tanks should last me quite
some time.

If it does go out, some of those suggested models look nice, but I better
save my pennies to replace that Coleman AC unit. A friend of mine has
a nice Duo Therm Dometic and it's whisper quiet compared to mine.

thanks
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