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Old 04-24-2012, 01:00 PM   #1
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1978 31' Sovereign
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Water heater for '78 Sovereign

I've been looking at the 6 gallon Gas/electric Atwood heaters to replace the one we currently have. Is there a specific one I need to buy for this trailer? And why can't I just keep the door that's already on it vs adding the new one and painting/etc to match the exterior? Stupid questions I'm sure, so please forgive the newbee...
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:25 PM   #2
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Water heater for '78 Sovereign

Greetings millsd!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!

Quote:
Originally Posted by millsd View Post
I've been looking at the 6 gallon Gas/electric Atwood heaters to replace the one we currently have. Is there a specific one I need to buy for this trailer? And why can't I just keep the door that's already on it vs adding the new one and painting/etc to match the exterior? Stupid questions I'm sure, so please forgive the newbee...
I can't tell you if there is one water heater that will fit better than another, but you may want to check a few things. First, many of the larger Airstreams from the Vintage era came with ten gallon water heaters so there will be some required patching of the exterior sidewall if you change from ten gallon to six gallon . . . it is a rather common modification, but you must be prepare to deal with the results. If you look closely, you can see the patch that surrounds the six gallon water heater in my Overlander . . . it originally had a ten gallon Bowen:



Replacing with a similar sized modern water heater limits or eliminates the need to patch the opening.

To answer you question about the door. The door is part of the water heater housing that is removed when the water heater is removed. There are threads on the Forums regarding the modification of the original door to fit a new water heater. It is also possible to purchase a door from Airstream (like those on new Airstreams) to replace the factory door on a new water heater (you just need to be sure that you are purchasing the same model and brand water heater that the door is designed to fit).

Something else to consider when considering a new water heater are two options that are available today that weren't when our coaches were new. The first, electronic ignition, is one that I would add if I were purchasing a new water heater today . . . as lighting the water heater and furnace are two of the most onerous chores for me when I am Airstreaming . . . adding this feature does require adding a 12-volt circuit for the ignitor as well as a switch to activate the water heater that is typically placed either in the bathroom or kitchen. The second, electric element, is one that allows you to use campground electricity to heat your water . . . this is one that I have debated about and chose to pass on . . . it requires wiring in a standard AC outlet near the water heater to serve the electric element and I just didn't think that I would get enough benefit from the device to add it . . . two 40 pound LP tanks last me more than one season as things stand now so I am not suffering from the modest expense of a seasonal refill on my propane bottles.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:41 PM   #3
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And a third option, one we're probably going to go with when our water heater goes belly-up: One of the on-demand water heaters especially made for RV use.

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Old 04-24-2012, 01:57 PM   #4
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1978 31' Sovereign
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The previous owner was a bit of a hack, so I'm not sure there even is a water heater door at this point. There is a vented door where the original fridge would be and an exterior water faucet on the outside by the bathroom (clearly added), but I don't recall anything that looks like the heater doors i've seen. Anyone have a pic of that on a 78 sovereign with bathroom in the middle?
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:37 PM   #5
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I had similar issues with my Trade Wind. I went with a 10 gallon Atwood 120V/Propane model. Having the 120/propane option is well worth the little extra cost,IMO. Why use my propane to heat water if I'm paying for a full service site and most of the time we camp with service. Flip the switch and in a little while hot water. If I am at the farm with no power, flip a switch and I have hot water and don't have to go out and light it. It does require a circuit but my box had a spare slot for a 4th breaker and it was not problem to add. Even going with the 10 gallon heater I had to add a trim ring as the old hole was bigger than the new door.
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