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Old 12-21-2014, 09:25 AM   #1
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2015 Bunk RV550 Upgrade # 1

The first of several planned upgrades has been complete. I ripped out the standard hot water heater and installed a new RV550. I also did this on my last new 2012. I strongly believe this should be a standard item on a high end luxury trailer, especially when it is designed for family use. Take showers like at home, save on LP, and it makes winterizing (no drain the tank or bypass valve to fuss with) very easy.
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Old 12-30-2014, 08:05 PM   #2
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This looks like a great idea/unit. How long did it take to swap out? Anything I should know to make the swap out easier?
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Old 12-31-2014, 06:34 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Skee75 View Post
This looks like a great idea/unit. How long did it take to swap out? Anything I should know to make the swap out easier?
Hi Skee75, Since I have now done it twice on new Airstreams it went a bit easier the second time around. Plan on a full day going slow and it is nice to have a helper handing and fetching things. The old unit must be disconnected from the electrical feed, switch wiring, gas and water lines. Remove the top insulation cover as well. Unscrew the old unit and carefully pull it off the trailer and remove. My dad was inside guiding and I was on the outside pulling. Once out you will need to cut the top of the opening an extra inch or so higher (you can see how I laid out the tape at the top where I cut at). I used a die grinder with cutting wheel and went real slow bracing myself well to make sure it did not run across the trailer side. You will also need to make the same cut from the inside. Be careful with your measurements as its really hard to put the aluminum skin back in place. On the 2015 Bunk there was a slight interference with the left side bed wall brace (looking from the inside) so I removed it and took one of the pieces off. After that I laid out new butyl tape and carefully put the new unit into the trailer. I put one screw (new self drilling metal screws from Ace) in at the top to hold it in place and checked all the alignments without the exterior cover and then with it on. I shifted the unit slightly to one side and then cut the bottom accent trim back to make an even gap on both sides. This was a pain. You need to carefully knock the end piece off then using a hack saw with a backer plate taped to the trailer to prevent any accidental scratches cut the trim pieces back. I then glued the end cap back in place. I put a second layer of butyl tape in the corners and screwed the corners brackets in place adding an extra screws on the top and side. I then cut the PEX back and clamped in new pieces removing the old bypass plumbing. I had the PEX crimp tool, crimps and an assortment of PEX "T", "L" and inline splices and extra pipe from the first install to get the new layout just right. I used an 18" flex hose for a barbeque grill to make the gas connection then using the schematic from the old heater and an ohm meter to double check I wired the hot water gas switch from the bathroom to the on inputs on the new water heater and wired the red light in the bathroom to be on when the water heater was on. The electric switch I just left unconnected. I also cut and fit new insulation pieces for the interior wall and used 4" wide metal tape to make a good seal all the way around.

Once that was all completed I used 1" x 2" trim board to raise the level of the bed area to clear the top of the back of the heater as it is just a bit taller in the back once installed than the old one.

The new RV550 comes with the high wind, cold weather kit, and snake bites so that makes it a bit easier. It did not come with the butyl sealing tape though.

I think that is about all I did. Depending on your model make sure you can access it well and there are no vertical issues. In both my cases the 2012 25FB and the 2015 Bunk I was able to remove the bed platforms so it makes working in there very easy. If it is not readily accessible from above I would really make sure it would fit keeping in mind that it needs more vertical clearance at the back. This again in my case did not mater as it made the beds an inch or so higher.

If you decide you want to pursue putting it in and would like to chat about it send me a PM with your number and a time to chat and Ill give you a call.
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Old 12-31-2014, 07:25 PM   #4
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2012FB, nice install and great details. May I ask the vendor you purchased the RV550 from?
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Old 12-31-2014, 08:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2012FB View Post
Hi Skee75, Since I have now done it twice on new Airstreams it went a bit easier the second time around. Plan on a full day going slow and it is nice to have a helper handing and fetching things. The old unit must be disconnected from the electrical feed, switch wiring, gas and water lines. Remove the top insulation cover as well. Unscrew the old unit and carefully pull it off the trailer and remove. My dad was inside guiding and I was on the outside pulling. Once out you will need to cut the top of the opening an extra inch or so higher (you can see how I laid out the tape at the top where I cut at). I used a die grinder with cutting wheel and went real slow bracing myself well to make sure it did not run across the trailer side. You will also need to make the same cut from the inside. Be careful with your measurements as its really hard to put the aluminum skin back in place. On the 2015 Bunk there was a slight interference with the left side bed wall brace (looking from the inside) so I removed it and took one of the pieces off. After that I laid out new butyl tape and carefully put the new unit into the trailer. I put one screw (new self drilling metal screws from Ace) in at the top to hold it in place and checked all the alignments without the exterior cover and then with it on. I shifted the unit slightly to one side and then cut the bottom accent trim back to make an even gap on both sides. This was a pain. You need to carefully knock the end piece off then using a hack saw with a backer plate taped to the trailer to prevent any accidental scratches cut the trim pieces back. I then glued the end cap back in place. I put a second layer of butyl tape in the corners and screwed the corners brackets in place adding an extra screws on the top and side. I then cut the PEX back and clamped in new pieces removing the old bypass plumbing. I had the PEX crimp tool, crimps and an assortment of PEX "T", "L" and inline splices and extra pipe from the first install to get the new layout just right. I used an 18" flex hose for a barbeque grill to make the gas connection then using the schematic from the old heater and an ohm meter to double check I wired the hot water gas switch from the bathroom to the on inputs on the new water heater and wired the red light in the bathroom to be on when the water heater was on. The electric switch I just left unconnected. I also cut and fit new insulation pieces for the interior wall and used 4" wide metal tape to make a good seal all the way around.

Once that was all completed I used 1" x 2" trim board to raise the level of the bed area to clear the top of the back of the heater as it is just a bit taller in the back once installed than the old one.

The new RV550 comes with the high wind, cold weather kit, and snake bites so that makes it a bit easier. It did not come with the butyl sealing tape though.

I think that is about all I did. Depending on your model make sure you can access it well and there are no vertical issues. In both my cases the 2012 25FB and the 2015 Bunk I was able to remove the bed platforms so it makes working in there very easy. If it is not readily accessible from above I would really make sure it would fit keeping in mind that it needs more vertical clearance at the back. This again in my case did not mater as it made the beds an inch or so higher.

If you decide you want to pursue putting it in and would like to chat about it send me a PM with your number and a time to chat and Ill give you a call.
Great write up. Once I get my AS I will reach out to you for more info.
Thank you!
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Old 12-31-2014, 10:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sphere Guy View Post
2012FB, nice install and great details. May I ask the vendor you purchased the RV550 from?

I bought them direct from Precision Temp. Ask for Fred. Great guy!


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Old 01-01-2015, 02:34 AM   #7
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I'm not sure why we would need this, the factory heater supplies all the hot water we have needed during 24 months travel and heats it with propane or electric, or both.

It's just the two of us, maybe for a larger family traveling?
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Old 01-01-2015, 12:15 PM   #8
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I have a bunkhouse as well and took interest in this. While i think the RV550 is an excellent unit i pause to think how we use our hot water heater now. When we boondock (majority of our style) we actually sometimes use the warmed water in the tank without turning the unit on. We frankly never run out of hot water as I have it set fairly hot so when adjusting temp at faucet not much hot water is needed to acheive desired temp.
Thanks for sharing, nice install!
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Old 01-01-2015, 01:02 PM   #9
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2015 Bunk RV550 Upgrade # 1

It is not so much how any one of us use the standard heater, it is the widened performance envelope of a hot water system that can do more. It can cover scenarios not possible with a standard heater.

Very nice DIY thread, thanks.

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Old 01-01-2015, 07:39 PM   #10
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2015 Bunk RV550 Upgrade # 1

It is definitely a lifestyle choice. We have not boon docked in over 15 years and mostly stay in nice RV resorts (Tiger Run in Breckenridge, View Point RV & Golf in Mesa, Disney's Fort Wilderness in Orlando, The Vines in Paso Robles, etc.).

As far as reasons go to change it out prior to our first use:

Consecutive showers: My wife and I are early morning risers and do not function until after showers. My wife goes first and then I jump in right after her. If our 15 year old is along he goes next.

Happy Wife: With our 2012 25' FB, my wife, a beautiful petite woman with a full thick head of naturally curly red hair tried all methods of shower use (quick as possible, but with body wash, hair wash, hair conditioner and rinse she would run out, Navy shower she found that it took too long for the water to reheat between turn offs and again she would run out. She was also getting cold when the shower was not running.). So she would not shower in the trailer choosing instead to go traipsing off to the resort showers. This was not acceptable to me. Why in a 70 and 90k trailer could she not enjoy a good hot shower just like at home. Why make her do otherwise. Happy wife....

Winterizing: We live in Denver and make a number of trips during the winter to warmer climates so I am constantly needing to winterize for the trip back home. With the RV550 there is no need to raise up the bed mattress and scratch my arm through the tiny access hole to work the heater bypass valve then go out and drain the tank. Now I simply pop the cover to change the newly installed winterizing valve, insert the hose/SS tube into the jug, turn the pump on and simply open faucets/showers.

Water leaks: With the new 2012 I had several interior water leaks that were the result of the overheated hot water pressurizing the water lines to the point that they would leak. Lucky for me they were obvious and quick repairs. After much research I learned that Atwood recommends all systems to have an expansion tank to protect the water lines from overpressure. I thought I was quite diligent in keeping the infamous water cushion in the hot water tank, but I still got leaks. It was suggested by others to always turn off the hot water heater when not in use and to periodically run the water to keep pressure from building up. This was just not acceptable to me and I did not want to run the risk of having unknown water damage develop. I would strongly recommend installing a hot water expansion tank since Airstream does not include one.

Cold weather use: When it is really cold in the morning we found that by the time the hot water in the tank had heated up the water in the "cold" hot water lines it had used up a good bit of the available hot water before it was really hot at the faucet or shower and again we would run out. If you turned it off even for a few minutes the water would be cold again.

We bought a luxury trailer to well, enjoy luxury (i.e. a nice long hot shower if desired). The factory installed system for us does not achieve that.

For other's the 6 gallon tank is obviously just fine and that is really great, as well as, it saves you a good bit of money and time.
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Old 01-01-2015, 08:18 PM   #11
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Well said. Some things are almost counterintuitive. I had no interest in a dishwasher till I learned it only uses three gallons. And can store all the dishware plus some more. That my unit also has a washer dryer makes the tankless that much more attractive.

Same for the big Shur-Flo water pump with stainless tank. Adding an exterior access hot water tap is also on the list of possible upgrades. I have had to pull over after heavy insect clouds to clean the glass. Literally could not go farther. Hot water trumps a spray bottle any day. Big onboard water capacity makes for many potentials. A tankless may make those possible.

Etc.


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