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Old 06-20-2011, 08:46 PM   #1
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Water heater caught on fire

stopped in Kansas 3 nights ago. wind, hail, rain. next morning I was in bathroom shaving. trailer filled with foul smelling smoke coming in from around the water heater. got the dog, wife, and fire extinguisher outside and opened the water heater door. fire was already out. the plastic box and some of the wires over the burner had burned. fire was out when I got to it

unit was a Atwood with DSI. what to replace it with?

do they catch on fire often?
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Old 06-20-2011, 09:21 PM   #2
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Hi Bill,
Ours acts up, too. And judging from the amount of sooting on the vented cover piece (black as coal) it has been known to shoot a flame or two. It always sounds like a snorting pig with a bad cold!

At a rally, a much more experienced Airstreamer tried to adjust/fix it for us. It acted up again. Currently, my husband has cleaned the tube, igniter, etc., looked for dirt dobber nests, etc., and has it working without shooting flames.

Incidentally, we talked to Airstream about it today (we were in Jackson Center having shocks installed). The story was that we might need a probe, or a circuit board, or we could just replace the thing. We will replace it. Meanwhile, while we heated water for me to take a shower, hubby sat outside in a lawn chair and watched it to make sure it behaved.

We would never leave the thing running, we just turn it on long enough to heat the water - and now we watch it to boot.

Also, I think you may find a thread all about water heaters which might be helpful. Ours is an Atwood. Bet yours is, too.
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Old 06-20-2011, 09:30 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Bill M. View Post
stopped in Kansas 3 nights ago. wind, hail, rain. next morning I was in bathroom shaving. trailer filled with foul smelling smoke coming in from around the water heater. got the dog, wife, and fire extinguisher outside and opened the water heater door. fire was already out. the plastic box and some of the wires over the burner had burned. fire was out when I got to it

unit was a Atwood with DSI. what to replace it with?

do they catch on fire often?
Was it a electrical fire at the connector or do you think it started from the burner?
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Old 06-20-2011, 09:34 PM   #4
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Might want to take a picture and call Atwood for an email address to send it to for an opinion. Glad you escaped unscathed....
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Old 06-20-2011, 10:54 PM   #5
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Our Atwood threw a wobbly when an errant spider decided to take up residence in the main supply pipe. The thermal cut-out melted (as it's supposed to) and the inside of the control panel looked a little scorched. A guy from the dealer's came out and cleaned it up for us and fitted a new thermal cut-out, which had it working fine, albeit that we weren't very confident for a few days. The tech reduced the amount of air being added to the burner by closing the little silver slide thing a little, to quieten the burner down a bit (it does roar). However, the exhaust became very sooty very quickly so I opened the air valve up again; cleaner exhaust but noisy again. That's life I guess.
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Old 06-21-2011, 02:28 AM   #6
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Hey Bill, you may want to check out Suburban as a replacement of your Atwood tank type water heater. However it sounds like you had an electrical issue that started the fire.
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill M. View Post
stopped in Kansas 3 nights ago. wind, hail, rain. next morning I was in bathroom shaving. trailer filled with foul smelling smoke coming in from around the water heater. got the dog, wife, and fire extinguisher outside and opened the water heater door. fire was already out. the plastic box and some of the wires over the burner had burned. fire was out when I got to it

unit was a Atwood with DSI. what to replace it with?

do they catch on fire often?
did it look like this?
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f445...ire-73813.html
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Old 06-25-2011, 10:36 AM   #8
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I dont mean to hijack this thread...but someone did suggest a Suburban water heater in lieu of the Atwood. Is the Suburban a direct replacement for the Atwood. Do they both fit equally well in the side of an Airstream?
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Old 06-26-2011, 09:26 AM   #9
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stopped in Kansas 3 nights ago. wind, hail, rain. - Bill, we drove through this storm north of Salina, too! Only moderate damage to the front panels of The Silver Otter, but no mechanical problems. Sorry about your heater.
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Old 06-29-2011, 08:54 PM   #10
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Bill, check out a thread from 6-22-06 "Atwood vs Suburban".
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Old 06-29-2011, 10:00 PM   #11
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I had the same experience as Mr UK Toad. A spider built a nest in the line and it flamed up. My local RV Tech fixed it and told me that spiders are attracted to the propane smell. He told me to put moth balls on the floor inside the water heater compartment because spiders don't like their smell. I did, and have not had a problem since!
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Old 06-29-2011, 10:45 PM   #12
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Flaming Waterheater

I had that problem years ago in an sob. the water heater had a pilot light. The problem was caused by critters (spiders I assume) building there nest in the orfice. Went to NAPA and bought a set of torch tip cleaners and cleaned the orfice and did not have that trouble again. Every season I now clean the water heater orfice and still have not had a repeat of that problem.
PS: If the gas stove (its that thing nest to the entry door) erupts in a lazy yellow flame at the vent theproblem is again critters in the orfice.
Beginner
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Old 06-30-2011, 07:37 AM   #13
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Thanks for the suggestions. The heater was not burning well. It made a surging sound. The wind was blowing hard into that side of the trailer. I think the burner sputtered and backed up enough gas to ignite the wires and the big chunk of plastic with the board in it. The insulation from the wires and the potting for the board melted and dripped down on the burner. Lasted about 5 min then burned out.

I have the new water heater installed now. I went with another Atwood. I opted to get the DSI - electric model. When I see how well the new one burns I realize how dumb I was to continue to operate the old one without a perfect flame. My suggestion is if yours has any burning issue at all you should attend to it. Beginner has it right in the post above.
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