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Old 08-10-2008, 08:05 AM   #1
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janetpowell
Hot Water Heater, On or Off?

Howdy gang!
We are enjoying our time as Camp Hosts at First Landing State Park. We struggle through each day with our chores, then beach time reading, sailing or kayaking. We bike to the oceanfront or to do our shopping. Yesterday we kayaked Muddy Creek off the Back Bay near Pungo, then splurged for dinner out. I'm really tense.
We have a question. We are camped here for 2.5 months. We have been leaving our hot water heater on all the time (electric). Is it an ok practice to leave it on continuously, or would it be better to turn it on prior to use. We don't have sewer hookup, so we only use hot water for dishes and personal hygiene. We use the campground or our outside shower facilities for bathing. We recently had a time where the electric hot water wasn't working, so we switched over to propane to be sure the heater was working. Eventually we found the circuit breaker flipped. Our daughter was here with two friends, so I'm assuming may-be they overloaded it with hair dryers, etc.
So, the question is: Should we leave the hot water heater on continuously, or just turn it on a little bit before we need it? Thanks and I hope all is well!
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Old 08-10-2008, 08:59 AM   #2
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IF we have electric we usually turn ours off at night when we're on a lengthy trip. For a weekend we just leave it on. Unfortunately I can't give you a reason for this practice. If we're burning propane we're more conservative.
Now I have a couple of questions for you We've been eyeing up First Landing as a potential spot to meet the kids since they live in Charlottesville and Blacksburg, VA. How far away is an ocean beach, as in one where you can ride the waves? And can you recommend a certain campsite or section of the campground as having nice big shady sites?
Thanks,
Pam
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Old 08-10-2008, 09:17 AM   #3
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Hi Janet,

Leaving the Water Heater on electric all the time depends on what other electrical appliance are running (if any) and how good your shore power is.

I would say there’s no problem leaving it on all the time, as long as there’s water in the tank and no other electrical appliances that draw a lot of current are running, such as A/C, hair dryers, toaster, coffee maker, etc. When you have multiple electrical units running simultaneously you have the problem of tripping a breaker like you’ve already experienced. That’s the only problem.

We typically leave it off and turn it on ~1/2 hour before we want / need hot water. This is because most of the time we're also running the A/C.

What we also do, when we leave our camp site and plan to be away for hour(s), we typically turn off the electric water heater and also turn off the water to the trailer. We turn off the water just in case there’s a leak, blown hose, or hose comes loose from a faucet, etc. This way we won’t return to a flooded out coach. It’s just an extra precaution. If we're running the A/C when we're gone, we turn off the electric water heater to make sure the A/C will run while we're gone (i.e., ta make sure the A/C breaker isn't tripped when we're gone).

Hope this helps.
Enjoy your time a campground hosts, you’ll have to tell us all about your experiences.
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Old 08-10-2008, 01:09 PM   #4
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Heater On

We leave our water heater on electric all the time unless we are not using the trailer. It takes little electricity to maintain the water at temperature. Unles you're away from the trailer more than 8 hours it will take just as much energy as you would have used to return it to temperature.

We also turn our water off when we're going to be away from the trailer.

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Old 08-11-2008, 08:26 AM   #5
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water heater

Thanks for all your responses!
Fortunately, this year we have rarely had to use the air conditioner. Actually, I currently have on long pants and a sweatshirt. This has been the coolest, rainiest, summer in the last four years here at Va Beach. I really prefer the swealtering 90+ degree days for the beach. We do use these cooler days to explore the swamp areas in our smaller kayaks.
Funny story....this morning a young couple pushing their baby were passing by. I overhead the Mother say to her husband, "Honey, when we get old do you want to be Camp Hosts?" After I stopped laughing I filled Fred in on the funny.
As far as campgrounds in this area. We prefer First Landing because it is more primitive, and quieter. They only have water and electric hookups, but not everywhere in the campground. B, A, and D sections are the most wooded and shady. The disadvantage is that even with a reservation you have first come first serve for the sites. Most of the dune site go first, they tend to be quite sunny and hot. Arriving early and not on friday or saturday helps to ensure a better site. Checkout is 3pm, so some days during the peak people are lined up in the parking lot waiting for sites to open up. Sure makes is hard for the Camp Hosts to cleanup! The campground is on the Bay, so the swimming is great, the water is warm, the dolphins come very close, but the waves are not large. The Oceanfront is about 10 minutes away and you can generally find some free parking in the northern area or simply pay $5-10 to park. There is also a bike trail from First Landing over to the Oceanfront through more of the state park. The other campgrounds are a KOA and Trav-L-Park south of the Oceanfront. We stayed at the Trav-L-Park for many, many years when our children were young and teenagers. It has full hookups, three pools, activities, a shuttle to the Oceanfront, and they have a parking lot at the beach that you can use for free. It was getting a bit pricey, but I haven't looked lately. It was great with our family and children because there was so much for everyone to do. There is also part of the bike trail that runs by the Trav-L-Park that goes to the beach. I stayed at the KOA many moons ago before children, so I don't have a recent rating on that one. It is across the street from the Trav-L-Park. One disadvantage is that the campgrounds are in the flight path of the Oceana Naval Air Base. You will have jet noise, but it's kind of neat. Va Beach is a great family beach with lots going on all the time. They have free concerts and entertainment on many corners. They seem dedicated to keeping it a family beach. We've been to most of the beaches on the East and West Coast and by far Va Beach is our favorite. I guess that's why we spend 2.5 months here in the summer!
If you have any other specific questions, you can always send a PM.
As far as the water heater, our biggest concern would be wearing it out by leaving it on for 2.5 months. But then may-be we'd wear it out quicker by turning it on and off so much.
Thanks again for all your assistance! Janet and Fred
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:10 PM   #6
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Hi Janet

Hutch pointed out the electrical issues and how to over come them, however there is one mechanical issue leaving the HW on all the time with the way these little Atwoods or the Suburban brands HW heaters are made.

It is thermal expansion. Some may never see this but in your case you might or already have an issue and do not yet realize it.

Here is the deal. When you fill your HW heater from being dry, water enters the unit and forms an air pocket in the top. That air pocket allows a place for the water to expand into when it heats. As long as the air pocket is in place, all normally works OK.

However that air pocket over time dissolves and then there is no place for the water to expand to. So pressure builds and soon a drip, drip, drip occurs on the HW safety relief valve. That drip goes right down on top of the gas valve and the thermostat unit and can cause issues. The excess pressure in the camper water system will find a loose fitting and may leak.

If the safety relief has been dripping for a real long time, then soon calcium builds up on the seat and will not shut off unless it is replaced.

The cure to the air pocket is simple if it is lost. Drain the HW heater and refill it. It will create another one. To help keep it longer, turn off the HW when you do not need it. Pending how long you camp, a drain and refill might be in order occasionally and it will help get ride of the crud that builds up in the bottom of the heater as well. Some people have been known to add a air over blader surge tank to their campers just for this reason. I have never done it but know some have for just this reason. I drain the HW heater after each camping trip and only heat when needed so I stay ahead of the problem.

Ours on electric only takes about 20 to 25 minutes and I’m hot. If I run the propane at the same time it is even quicker. In our style camping we can plan that far in advance for the HW usage. Doing dishes, we just flip it on when we sit down to eat.

Another advantage to only heating when needed is the calcium and lime build up inside the heater tank. It occurs when ever water is heated just like on your home heater system. How fast that rock like buildup occurs depends on PH of the water and hardness and the source of it. Most of us do not have a water softner on our campers so we have limited life on these little heaters. How long is a heater life? It all depends on the water inside and how long the unit has been heating. While we cannot control the water source so much, we can turn it off when we do not need it to help slow down the ultimate build up to the point it barely heats any more.

Since you live in one spot for so long and never turn the HW off, you might soon have an issue. Go look inside the HW heater compartment for corrosion going on under the safety relief valve. That is the first place it shows up.

Hope this helps

John
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Old 08-14-2008, 07:03 AM   #7
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janetpowell
water heater

Thanks John, I don't even have to go look at the water heater I already have seen the corrosion and wondered if it was normal. We have a constant drip that contains dissolved minerals that can be seen on the outside of the camper below the water heater compartment.
We will begin turning the heater on and off from now on. And on our list of things to do today, in addition to the beach and sailing, we will add draining the tank.
This forum and group of people are the best resource one can ask for! Thanks again.
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Old 08-14-2008, 10:05 PM   #8
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Janet

You have the classic signs of safety relief valve drip….

Draining and refilling will recreate the air pocket, no problem. The drip, may or may not stop if it is indeed coming out of the safety relief valve. Check first.

If your lucky, upon refill the over pressure of thermal expansion will be gone and the drip on the relief valve will go along with it. If this is the case, great.

If not, there are some tricks that “sometimes” shut the thing up.

TURN OFF the power to the TT and switch off the battery. This will kill any 12 volts on the PC board and any chance of 120VAC. Make sure you do this before anything listed below.

If on city water or fresh tank pump, shut it off and open up both hot and cold faucets to bleed out any pressure in the system. Make sure the water is not hot in the heater so you will not get burned.

Then ideally find some kind of jug, plastic pot, old gutter piece or something to put under the exhaust spout of the relief valve. This is to catch any water that will come out.

Then while holding the water catch, flip the relief valve handle a few times. You are trying to reseat the valve seat. It is spring shut and you lift againt the spring.

The if the wiring is not soaked, turn city water back on or water pump and see if the leak stopped. Some times you have to repeat the process. Bleed off pressure on the faucets each time as if you flip the handle under full pressure it will come flying out of there with full authority….and all over you and the heater.

On heaters that have a pipe on the exhaust of the relief valve, like a home water heater, you can burp the valve under pressure as the water blast is directed. It blows out the water, blows out crud and sometimes works to shut up the leak.

However, the odds are not in your favor. If yours has been dripping for a long time, the calcium and lime may be built up on the seat and will not reseat. Changing the valve to a new one in that case is the only way to correct it that I know of. Maybe others might have a way to get them to reseat.

Again before you get into this, make sure it is indeed dripping out the relief valve. And if it is dripping, it will need attention to stop it or sooner or later it will corrode the T state and gas valve body and depending on how bad it is, short out the circuit board. Why they did not pipe the relief port out away from the all the critical components is beyond me. That way when it leaks, at least it does not do as much damage to the rest of the heater.

Good luck and hope this helps.

John
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Old 08-15-2008, 08:09 AM   #9
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water heater

Well fortunately after more careful inspection, the safety valve is not actively leaking. There is sediment on the pipes, but not corrosion on the electrical components. The drain plug is what has been leaking and we were seeing mineral deposits on the outside of the camper. Phew! I have printed out your directions for reseating the safetly valve and put it in our manual, just in case. We used your idea of turning on the electric and gas when we finished at the beach yesterday. We had hot water for a shower in no time. After sailing for about 4 hours, we were ready for showers and there was a long line at the bath house. Interesting that both sources of heat can be used at the same time. I had assumed that one would negate the use of the other.
Thank-you again for your expert advice!!!

Another sunny day in Va Beach! Yesterday I was sailing with about 12 dophins. They were pacing me and came close enough for me to reach our and touch them. It was like they were as curious about me as I was about them. They were jumping and playing all around me when I stopped to take pictures. http://www.flickr.com/photos/janetandfred/
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Old 08-17-2008, 10:02 PM   #10
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Janet

Glad things worked out on the heater. I also followed your link to some really neat looking pics. The Dolphins really seem to be frockling….

Your water craft also caught my eye. Is that a sea Kayak with a mast and out ringers? So you can switch between paddling and sailing?

The use to have a sail kit for a canoe as well, mask, lea boards, use a paddle as the rudder but I have not seen on one a Kayak. That could be a new multi use fun toy… solo

John
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Old 08-18-2008, 07:18 AM   #11
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Hobie Island

Hi John,
Glad you enjoyed the pictures. Indeed my kayak is the greatest toy I have bought in a very long time! It is a Hobie Island Adventure. It is a 16 foot kayak with outriggers, rudder, and 15 foot sail. The kayak also has a mirage drive system where you peddle. So, one can paddle, peddle or sail the kayak. The whole thing disassembles and reassembles extremely easily. The kayak is 62 pounds, then all the sail equipment brings the total weight to 110 pounds. I can handle the kayak by myself moving, loading, etc, but it is much easier with Fred's help. We use Rolleez wheels to move them any distance. We did have the hard type wheels, but switched to the large balloon tires because we move them in the sand so often. We got a Yakima rack for our truck to transport my Adventure and Fred's Revolution kayak. His kayak has a sail kit, but mine is WAY more fun! We should have gotten two Adventures! http://www.hobiecat.com/adventure-is...re_island.html
With the lakes you have so close to you, I can see you greatly enjoying this toy! We took it out to Lake Arthur and Lake Pymatunning in PA before we left for the beach. We plan on taking it up to Lake Erie when we get back in the fall. There's not enough time for all the toys!
Have a great day, Janet
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Old 08-18-2008, 08:40 PM   #12
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Janet

WOW Way cool!!!!!

I have 2 canoes and a Small Pintail sail boat accumulated over the years. H'mm I could sell the sail boat and one canoe and get the Hobie 1 hull fits all.. and still have as much water craft toys and be a lot less bulk. Plus solo fun just went up higher and easier. Soloing a 16'4" or 17'8" length canoe is "work", been there done that. And the Pintail while I can launch/land from a beach on a trailer, but too it is "work". But it is a nice little day sailer.

Boy, too many toys, not enough time....

Thanks!!

John
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