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Old 09-26-2013, 11:05 AM   #1
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1973 21' Globetrotter
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Water heater-electric/Propane combo?

Investigating replacing my water heater and am considering the basic drop-in Atwoods. Im looking at the basic propane model vs. the propane with the additional electric heating element (WATER HEATER ATWOOD - GC6AA-8). I saw one post recently where someone bought the electric combo model, and said if he had it to do over again, he would go propane only (because they never use the electric). Anyone else had this experience? Any compelling arguments for/against the electric/propane model?
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:21 AM   #2
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If you boondock without hookups the electric one is more or less useless. That is the way I travel, so when I put a new DSI water heater in my Argosy, I went with propane only. My new FC has the electric element in it as standard equipment but since I am rarely plugged in to power it remains mostly unused.

Those who stay in campgrounds with power like the electric element as it is "free" heat for their hot water. Of course they pay for it in the campground fee as does everyone else.

So, depends on your travel mode.
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:41 AM   #3
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My Classic came with the electric/gas unit and I really have been pleased with it. We always camp where there is electric so the savings in gas is great. The other benefit is that we can click on the gas side of the heater when showering which provides much more hot water. It is especially noticeable when we camp in the early/late seasons or at sites that have cold water supplies such as northern Wisconsin or Michigan.

The disadvantages can be at sites that have weak circuit breakers when you attempt to run microwave, air conditioner and water heater at the same time. Not a frequent occurrence but it happens at least once a year at a campsite. In that case we switch off the electric to the heater during those high use periods.

I guess the other disadvantage when you are doing a replacement in a trailer that hasn't had a dual fuel heater is the electrical wiring and the switch that needs to be added. If you aren't handy in that realm, it might be better to install a gas only unit.

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Old 09-26-2013, 12:02 PM   #4
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I have an Atwood LP/electric water heater, and when my ignitor/senser went out at a campground, I was still able to have a hot shower due to the electric mode still working. Now I use it on electric whenever we have power, saving my LP for when we boondock. Plus on electric it is silent, so you will not wake up to the roar of the LP burner.
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Old 09-26-2013, 12:26 PM   #5
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Always Give Yourself Options

Whenever I re-equip or restore a vintage Airstream, I try to take advantage of new technologies.
The propane/ electric combo water heater is a wonderful improvement over the original, propane-only water heater that came with your 1973.
Whenever we have hookups we heat our H2O with electricity and conserve our propane. When we boondock we use propane.
The Atwood propane water heater with electric option is just as easy to install as one without electric. The cost difference is negligible.

As a separate but related recommendation, please be sure to install water heater bypass valves and line when you install your new water heater. It is easily done and makes winterizing so much easier.

Hope this helps.
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Old 09-26-2013, 01:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Belegedhel View Post
I saw one post recently where someone bought the electric combo model, and said if he had it to do over again, he would go propane only (because they never use the electric). Anyone else had this experience? Any compelling arguments for/against the electric/propane model?
Having an electric option available adds a little weight and a little cost -- not much of either. Other than the weight and cost, there's no disadvantage to having electric available. If you don't want to use it in any particular situation, you just turn it off.

My Airstream has an electric/propane water heater while my Cayo has propane only.

The electric/propane setup has several advantages:

1) If you camp where there is electricity, you end up using much less propane. I typically refill one of the 40# propane bottles on the Airstream once a year, maybe more if we're doing a bunch of winter camping. The Cayo has 20# bottles, and for the same amount of camping, I refill them 5-6 times. My local propane dealer wants the bottles dropped off, they fill them then I pick them up the following day. It makes for a lot of extra errands, in addition to the cost.

2) The water heater is quieter when it is set for electric operation.

3) During busy times when you're using a lot of hot water, you can run both the gas and electric, and the water heats faster than with gas alone.

4) If you're ever in a situation where you park your rig inside a garage or other enclosed space, you can run the electric water heater without concern about CO from the water heater exhaust accumulating.

5) Aside from the general cost and hassle of getting propane, electric is particularly suitable if you, at some future point, are camping in a remote location with poor or seasonal road access so that you have to hand-carry propane, or where there are no propane dealers nearby, etc. Since it is generally not possible to retrofit an electric element to a water heater (kits like the hot rod have many drawbacks compared to the factory setup), you're better off planning ahead now.
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Old 09-26-2013, 03:13 PM   #7
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We upgraded our 65 Safari with an Atwood DSI Elect/Propane water heater this spring. We love it! We boondock 70% and in parks 30%. Always use the elect. in the parks. If you shop around the elect. option is not much more $ and well worth it. It will be a plus if you should sell your trailer down the road.
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Old 09-27-2013, 08:43 AM   #8
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Thanks everybody--this was the kind of feedback I needed!
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Old 09-27-2013, 09:08 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by idroba View Post
If you boondock without hookups the electric one is more or less useless. That is the way I travel, so when I put a new DSI water heater in my Argosy, I went with propane only. My new FC has the electric element in it as standard equipment but since I am rarely plugged in to power it remains mostly unused.

Those who stay in campgrounds with power like the electric element as it is "free" heat for their hot water. Of course they pay for it in the campground fee as does everyone else.

So, depends on your travel mode.
^
X2

Disclaimer....we have never been "hooked-up"

We seldom use electric, (except when the switch is whacked on by mistake),
or it's turned on at Spring get-ready.
We conserve LPG by only running the burner when hot water is needed, 20min and it's plenty hot with these new tanks with no thermostats. When not at the CS, it's off.
Plus we sprung a line leak at night, cold water in the tank kept the burner on, we discovered it at 5am. Ticking pump and roaring burner make a rotten alarm clock. Lucky the tank hadn't pumped out.

Nice cross-threaded fitting.

Bob
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Old 09-27-2013, 09:52 AM   #10
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It can't hurt to have the choice available, the need depends on type of travel and camping you do. We spend months at a time in our Airstream, probably best described as destination campers. We decide where we want to spend some time, boondock most of the time along the way using only solar and propane, and electrical hookups when we get there. Nice to have it either way.
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