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Choosing a new hot water heater


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I have an 11 year old Suburban SW10DE 10 gallon hot water heater. Been used 10 years as a vacation trailer - 2-3 months a year, and one year full timing for us. I'm thinking it will probably give up the ghost in the next year or 2, and debating about buying one now (while we're in an easy to get mail area) vs waiting till it fails.

 

I'm wondering what others have experienced and would recommend as far as type of heater, and manufacturer, etc. I'm fairly handy, not a plumber or engineer, so would most likely install it at my convenience when plenty of free time, or possibly wait till it fails.

 

So what to look for, and what manufacturer would you suggest?

 

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I (that is, a dealer) replaced my Suburban 10-gallon SW10DEM water heater with a 12-gallon Suburban SW12DEM.

If you have extra room, I suggest getting a larger Suburban -- the 12-gal is about 2 inches longer than a 10-gal and the 16-gal about 6.5 inches. Otherwise, the other dimensions are the same, plus you can reuse the old water heater cover from your 10-gal. Very handy as repainting to match your coach can get pricey.

I had a dealer do it because the "DEM" units are tied into my DP's cooling system, and I didn't want to mess with that.

Here are the Suburban water heater specs.

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One thing I consider when replacing a hot water heater, is that "sometimes" if you buy the same brand (Suburban or Atwood etc) there may be a better chance the plumbing and hook ups are situated similar which makes for an easier installation, but if they are years apart that may not be true at all. Even if an off brand unit were cheaper, Id buy one of the leading brand of heaters since if it breaks down parts are more likely to be available. Another consideration would be remote switch wiring and installation and if the old and new are similar????That could save a lot of time and work.

 

Have you looked at new 10 Gallon Suburbans just to see how similar located the inlet and outlets are and the gas supply and remote switch operation??

 

PS mine is dual fuel, Gas or Electric, I really like that feature

 

John T

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While I happen to like Atwood water heaters better, I also believe that the difference is minor in that I don't like to fool with the anode and if replacing one I'd use the same brand because of the dimensions of the opening and the location of connections. I think that Zulu has given very good advice but I'd add that you probably should also make sure that it has both gas and 120V as heat sources. In my opinion, the differences between the Atwood and the Suburban are very minor and like John T, I'd stay with one of those two brands, even if there is another less expensive brand.

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If the tank itself isn't leaking, then the burners/ elements are replaceable. I replace our Anode rod in out Suburban about every 9 months, but we seem to live in parks that have their own wells, or count hard water.

Currently we have a 12gl and with both the elec and gas turned on, we can take continuous showers like 15 minutes or so and never run out of hot water. Like others said above, if its possible to replace to a larger model then go for it.

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We had an Atwood hot water heater on our previous trailer and have a Suburban on our current trailer. Both were 10 gallon gas/electric and were functionally identical. With the Suburban I have to change the anode rod every year. It isn't really a big project, but all things considered I preferred the Atwood as it eliminates this task.

 

I agree with others in that I would choose a replacement that requires the least amount of modification to the existing plumbing, which would likely mean going with the same brand.

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While I happen to like Atwood water heaters better, I also believe that the difference is minor in that I don't like to fool with the anode and if replacing one I'd use the same brand because of the dimensions of the opening and the location of connections. I think that Zulu has given very good advice but I'd add that you probably should also make sure that it has both gas and 120V as heat sources. In my opinion, the differences between the Atwood and the Suburban are very minor and like John T, I'd stay with one of those two brands, even if there is another less expensive brand.

Are the Atwood and the Suburban HW heaters interchangeable??

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Yes, and no. There are some models that the opening is the same, or you may find one that you would need to enlarge the opening. The requirements for 12V, 120V, water, and propane are the same but connections might need to be modified. In general, the size & dimensions of the opening are the most important as other modifications are pretty easy. When an opening needs to be enlarged, the degree of difficulty is then dependent upon the construction of the RV and making it smaller could be difficult.

 

For theses reasons, even though the required connections are pretty much the same, most RV owners replace with the same make and often model of water heater.

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You never can tell how long they will last. We have a 15 1/2 year old Atwood. Do not know how it was used prior to us owning, but it has been used full-time for the past 4 1/2 years and is still going strong. You may not need one for 5 years..... or more.

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Let's see - 2002 - 2015 Atwood is still heating. Kinda jinxed the anode (I know, Atwood doesn't have one) by using a water softener. I did replace a electric thermo once.

 

Also thinking of adding and whole house anti-scald mixing valve soon. That heater can just get to hot, like when you drop the shower on it.

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My Suburban is 15yrs. old and still works fine. I've replaced the heating element, and the Anode rod. I also learned a little trick that will get almost all the mineral build up out. I've used a flushing nozzle which worked pretty well, but it didn't get it all out. I just get a short length of flexible tubing that will just fit into the tank opening. Then I duct tape it to a shop vac hose and shove it in to vacuum out the granola as I like to call it. I've also done it in my stix & bricks hot water heater. It always surprises me how much of that junk ends up in the vac.

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