We thank our friend Jim Tome from Kleen Tank for another guest blog contribution…
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How the water heater in your RV hot water system works:
There are three main ways to heat the water in an RV hot water tank:
- Heat of the engine.
What can go wrong with water heaters in your RV hot water system?
Note: Water with high levels of iron and/or sulfate will increase the rate of deterioration. To extend anode life, drain water from tank whenever the RV is not being used. Avoid any extended time of non-use with water in the tank.
Don’t forget regular cleanings of your RV hot water system!
Cleaning your RV’s hot water tank is pretty easy. Just follow these steps:
- Turn off your water heater, either inside your RV at the main control panel area and, if there is one, via a small rocker switch on your water heater, outside your rig and behind the access door.
- Turn off the water supply to your RV, both the park or shore water and via any onboard pump. You don’t want the RV filling the tank as fast as you are emptying it!
- Open the pressure release valve. It’s located at the near the top of the water heater, outside your rig and behind the access door. It looks like a metal switch at the end of a small, short pipe fitting. You may hear sputtering and see water squirt out a bit. This is normal.
- Using the appropriate socket wrench size (it varies by manufacturer of the water heater and whether you have an anode installed), slowly loosen the nut at the drain. This is located near the bottom of the water heater, outside your rig and behind the access door. Be prepared for water — potentially pretty hot — to come gushing out!
- Using an RV Water Heater Flush Wand, flush out the water heater tank. To do this, attach a garden hose to the wand (which has an on/off switch on it) and turn on the water pressure.
Insert the wand into the tank and turn it on. Move the wand in and out, back and forth, and around in a circle.
- Water will come out of the water heater tank, along with build-up, corrosion, and hard, calcified material (see above photo). Keep flushing and cleaning the tank for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Let the tank drain. Take this time to inspect the anode if you have one. If it looks very corroded (i.e. you see what looks like a coat hanger wire at the center of it, now exposed) or more than 25% of the anode is gone, it’s probably time to replace it with the appropriate size.
- If you have an Atwood water heater and it’s out of the two-year warranty, it’s probably a good decision to install an appropriate sized (4.5”) anode to keep corrosion down.
- Replace or install the anode or replace the nylon drain plug. Make sure to use some plumber’s teflon tape to ensure a tight, leak-free connection. Tighten the anode or drain plus securely, but do not over-tighten (especially important for the nylon drain plug which can break if torqued too tight).
- Turn on the supply of water to the water heater. You may hear it filling up if you listen closely. It may take 3 to 10 minutes, depending on tank capacity.
- Water will spurt out of the pressure release valve (located at the near the top of the water heater) once the tank is full. Snap the release valve closed.
- Check the anode or nylon drain plug for drips or leaks. Tighten if needed.
- Turn the water heater back on, either inside your RV at the main control panel area and, if there is one, via a small rocker switch on your water heater, outside your rig and behind the access door.
- Make sure the water heater is heating water correctly.
So, that wraps up this very important RV hot water system cleaning and maintenance advice from the pro! Thank you, Jim, for providing accurate information to keep our RV motorhomes and towable hot water system in fine working order.
About our guest author:
Jim Tome, owner of Kleen Tank, an Authorized All Pro Water Flow dealer, has been an RVer for over 15 years. His company provides RV holding tank cleaning services throughout the U.S., but mostly in the Midwest. He posts weekly articles on RVing, tips and advice, and relevant topic on the blog at KleenTank.com. Jim also attends RV rallies throughout the year, gives seminars, answers questions, and teaches RVers about their RV’s holding tanks and waste handling systems. Check his rally schedule to receive your 25% coupon if you’re attending any of them!