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Old 05-13-2009, 11:46 AM   #1
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lebolewis's Avatar
1976 31' Sovereign
Always searching for a place w/low Humidity , FT RVing, N & S, E & W, & in between
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 271
Water Heater Replacement

Changing out the old original Bowen Water Heater and installing a new Atwood is a daunting challenge for just about anyone......., except for someone who has done it several times before! Well, I did it, once!.......but, if I were doing it again, I would let the professionals handle it. If you decide to do it, here are a few "tips" and "insights" that will make your job a bit easier.

The COSTS: The professionals would have done it for $650.00, plus about $37.00 sales tax. That figure is $450.00 for the new water heater and $200.00 for the installation......they would have completed the job in less than one day. I searched around on the Internet and got a new Atwood for $318.00, including shipping, and I paid about $50.00 for parts and a new bypass setup.

SURPRISES and the UNEXPECTED: The old Bowen was apparently custom made for the 76 slants forward at the top to fit the contour of the side and it extends about an inch out over the bottom. The new Atwood does not have this form and it must be elevated from the rear about 3/4 inches to get a flush fit in the front. About 10 feet of the trim piece at the bottom must be removed and pulled back out of the way to allow working space and to permit the new Atwood to slide into the opening.
The door on the old Bowen was made shorter to allow a continuous trim piece. The trim piece has to be cut and refitted to finish the job. The trim piece on my Airstream was attached with Aluminum rivets.......BUT.....the the snap pin was steel!!....making it impossible to drill them out! I finally just ground the heads off. The final "gotchu" was......the old Bowen was installed "before" the cabinet was built around it.......and 3 strips of aluminum were fitted on top and both sides on the inside wall to fill the air gaps.....THEN... Vulcumed sealed from the INSIDE!!......making it a monumental task to remove the old water heater!! Overkill to be sure. These strips have to be removed to get the new Atwood to fit. Oh, one more thing, Atwood suggests butyl tape to seal the outside flange...I search several places and FINALLY found some.......forget it!.....once the flange makes contact with it, it sticks tight and you cannot make any moves, right or left, up or down, to center the opening and get the flange properly seated. NOT a good idea! Just use a bead of Vulcum after you have installed the screws

I had propane leaks, water leaks and even several days of rain to contend with. I completed this job by the "barelys" just about did me in. Took me major parts of 4 days! But, I admit I am slow.

When you get a chance to "Dance" or "sit this one out".......I hope you DANCE!
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Old 05-13-2009, 01:41 PM   #2
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1965 17' Caravel
Spring , Texas
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 2
WOW, on my home improvement jobs, I always change my estimated time to complete by going up one level (2 hrs = 2 days) and multiplying by 3. Looks like you conformed to that formula pretty well.

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Old 05-13-2009, 03:56 PM   #3
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1978 28' Ambassador
Morada , California
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,583
I guess AS went to a 'standard' Atwood model in year models after a 'standard' model fit ours...

I changed the Atwood in our rear bath, 78 model a couple of months ago...I went with a electronic ignition model. I decided to replace the water pump with a new style variable flow model at the same time, as it mounts inboard of the water heater, in the same cramped space!!! Not much room for all that new 'plumbing' in that tight space...

Boy, that was a 'fun' job, and yes, the matching up of the exterior panels is a real B****! Finally got it sealed and buttoned up, and installed the heater on-off switch on the same cabinet in the bath...everything's still working great, and I don't have to worry about the wind blowing out the pilot light, as happened all the time on the original - OK, it was 30 years old and need an update!
Ray & Pat; Morada, CA
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