Upgraded Water-Heater to direct-spark type, 2007 StarCraft 34-RT

Firehawk068

Active Member
Mar 22, 2016
288
This Camper came factory with the mechanical-style, pilot-light type Water-Heater.
We use it for hot water all the time.
Since owning it, it has always had an issue with the pilot-light going out at random times throughout a camping-trip.
I'm not sure if it's because we always seem to be camping at higher altitudes? Or what the issue might be?
Over the years of using it I've tried every possible thing I could think of to try and remedy this..................
Cleaning the gas valve,line,orifice,burner,etc.........Replacing the thermocouple. Adjusting the pilot screw more. Adjusting the pilot screw less. Moving the pilot flame closer to the burner flame. Moving it farther away.............I've tried it all!

Anyway, last year while flushing it out before getting it ready for the camping season I noticed little bits of bluish-white material coming out with the usual scale and sediment.
It appeared to be bits of the porcelain lining from the inside of the tank.
Since it is now 15 years old, I figured it's probably time to replace it.
I chose the model that has 12-volt direct-spark ignition, and also has a 110-volt heating element built-in.
Since we do about 50% camping with hookups and 50% boondocking, I figured it would be helpful to have both propane and 110-volt water-heater function.
Same size as the old one (6 gallon) so it should be a direct replacement.

IMG_2007.JPG

IMG_2006.JPG

I purchased the Switch-Panel and the 12-volt/110-volt Relay separately.

Suburban Switch Panel.jpg

Suburban Relay.jpg

Removal of the old one was super easy.
Disconnect the two water lines inside, the propane-line on the outside, unscrew the flange from the Camper-wall and it slid right out!

IMG_1961.JPG

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IMG_1964.JPG
 

Firehawk068

Active Member
Mar 22, 2016
288
I took this time to clean/vacuum out the compartment after removal.

I had to separate the wall-flange from the old heater, as I needed to reuse it.
Also had to extend some of the wires longer to make sure they would reach to the switch-panel.
Wired and mounted the relay to the heater, and slid it into position, making sure to feed the propane line through the opening to connect to the gas valve.
I then sealed the wall-flange to the heater with silicone caulk, and screwed it to the heater with the three long screws.
Then sealed the flange to the camper-wall with silicone and screwed it into place, and mounted the door.
Last was install the rubber grommet in the opening for the gas line, and seal it up really well with silicone.

IMG_1980.JPG

IMG_1981.JPG

Then it was move to the inside to wire it up and test operation.
Hooked up the cold and hot water connections.
(the push-pull switch mounted to the floor is a secondary switch in the water-pump circuit. The one by the sink is easily bumped and was left on during the whole drive home once. This circuit doesn't shut off with the master-switch, or when closing the camper roof for some reason)
IMG_1998.JPG

Mounted the Igniter-Module to the wall inside the cabinet.

IMG_1997.JPG

Mounted the switch-panel next to the door for the cabinet.

IMG_1995.JPG

Wired everything up 110 and 12 volt, turned the gas on to test.
It fired right up! Instant ignition, and shuts off as soon as you push the rocker-switch off.
I only ran it for a few seconds to check the flame pattern, as it doesn't have any water in it.
Checked the switch for 110-volt operation, and can hear the relay click on and off.
Will see how it works the first weekend in June on our first trip out of the season.
 

JimmyM

Super Active Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jun 5, 2014
3,301
Franklin, MA
Thanks for the walkthough and pics. I wish mine came with the 120V element. I'm not sure it even has a provision to add one. But that was a great upgrade.
I see you've done quite a bit of your own PEX work in there as well.
 

Snow

Super Active Member
Jul 19, 2007
11,979
Ontario
Thanks for the walkthough and pics. I wish mine came with the 120V element. I'm not sure it even has a provision to add one. But that was a great upgrade.
I see you've done quite a bit of your own PEX work in there as well.
Easy to do if your water heater doesn't use an anode rod.. Then you replace the drain plug with a "hotrod" , wire in a 120vac switch and plug nearby.
If your water heater uses an anode rod, you could still do it, but I recommend against it, as you could have the tank corrode rather then the anode rod, it's there for a reason..
 

JimmyM

Super Active Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jun 5, 2014
3,301
Franklin, MA
Easy to do if your water heater doesn't use an anode rod.. Then you replace the drain plug with a "hotrod" , wire in a 120vac switch and plug nearby.
If your water heater uses an anode rod, you could still do it, but I recommend against it, as you could have the tank corrode rather then the anode rod, it's there for a reason..
That's true! My (Atwood I think) doesn't have an anode. But then I'd lose my water heater drain valve. Damn compromises!
 

Firehawk068

Active Member
Mar 22, 2016
288
Thanks for the walkthough and pics. I wish mine came with the 120V element. I'm not sure it even has a provision to add one. But that was a great upgrade.
I see you've done quite a bit of your own PEX work in there as well.
Actually, most of the PEX is factory.
The whole Camper is plumbed that way.
I've replaced a few sections over the years.
 

JimmyM

Super Active Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jun 5, 2014
3,301
Franklin, MA
Actually, most of the PEX is factory.
The whole Camper is plumbed that way.
I've replaced a few sections over the years.
The PEX crimps are different in my camper. I thought those were all YOUR crimps. Not factory. Also, I KNOW they don't use brass. Well done project though.
 

stierheim

Member
Apr 22, 2013
54
I took this time to clean/vacuum out the compartment after removal.

I had to separate the wall-flange from the old heater, as I needed to reuse it.
Also had to extend some of the wires longer to make sure they would reach to the switch-panel.
Wired and mounted the relay to the heater, and slid it into position, making sure to feed the propane line through the opening to connect to the gas valve.
I then sealed the wall-flange to the heater with silicone caulk, and screwed it to the heater with the three long screws.
Then sealed the flange to the camper-wall with silicone and screwed it into place, and mounted the door.
Last was install the rubber grommet in the opening for the gas line, and seal it up really well with silicone.

View attachment 83944

View attachment 83945

Then it was move to the inside to wire it up and test operation.
Hooked up the cold and hot water connections.
(the push-pull switch mounted to the floor is a secondary switch in the water-pump circuit. The one by the sink is easily bumped and was left on during the whole drive home once. This circuit doesn't shut off with the master-switch, or when closing the camper roof for some reason)
View attachment 83946

Mounted the Igniter-Module to the wall inside the cabinet.

View attachment 83947

Mounted the switch-panel next to the door for the cabinet.

View attachment 83948

Wired everything up 110 and 12 volt, turned the gas on to test.
It fired right up! Instant ignition, and shuts off as soon as you push the rocker-switch off.
I only ran it for a few seconds to check the flame pattern, as it doesn't have any water in it.
Checked the switch for 110-volt operation, and can hear the relay click on and off.
Will see how it works the first weekend in June on our first trip out of the season.
Great job! Just a word of caution - never energize the 110V option on an empty tank, it only takes seconds for the heater to burn out if it is not under water. I'm not sure how long it would be on this heater, but a home HW heater with 4,500W elements will burn out in 10 seconds or less if energized dry (don't ask me how I know :)).
 

Firehawk068

Active Member
Mar 22, 2016
288
The PEX crimps are different in my camper. I thought those were all YOUR crimps. Not factory. Also, I KNOW they don't use brass. Well done project though.
The Blue PEX with the brass elbows is from me. All the rest that is shown is factory from StarCraft.............Crimps and all.
I bought a crimp-tool and a bunch of the stainless-steel ring-clamps, cause I knew I'd be replacing sections eventually.
It has already come in handy.
 

Firehawk068

Active Member
Mar 22, 2016
288
Great job! Just a word of caution - never energize the 110V option on an empty tank, it only takes seconds for the heater to burn out if it is not under water. I'm not sure how long it would be on this heater, but a home HW heater with 4,500W elements will burn out in 10 seconds or less if energized dry (don't ask me how I know :)).
I didn't have 110 shore-power hooked up. I just checked that the relay for it would activate with 12-volts.
 




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