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Electric Water Heater-Wiring A Switch For 120Volt Ac


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#1 Charley in Tennessee

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Posted 10 September 2014 - 12:25 PM

I have a 2001 SD that has the 120 volt AC cord to power the water heater located where the shore power cords are. It is a separate three prong plug that has to be plugged in to make the water heater work on household AC current. The previous owner had a lighted switch put in, inside the water heater compartment that also must be turned on to get shore power hot water.  The gas heater works fine, and so does the shore power heater element if I plug it in and turn the switch to on. I want to direct wire the three prong end into the RV circuits somewhere to avoid having to find a separate extension cord or splitter when using the electric water heater. What are your recommendations ? How is this wired on newer models? I don't mind splicing it into one of the under dining table outlets with a separate switch but would like to get some feedback first.



#2 HBarlow

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Posted 10 September 2014 - 04:17 PM

I have not done any wiring on my Casita so have no detailed familiarity with it's wiring.

 

Generally speaking you should be able to wire your ac supply wires for the water heater element into the source from which the dedicated utility outlet currently used to plug the power cord gets its power.  You could remove the utility outlet and attach to its wires or hard wire the element power inside the utility outlet box. 

 

I think it's common in house wiring to bring in ac power from the breaker to one pair of screws on one (of two) female receptacles in the utility receptacle and then connect another outgoing pair of wires to route to the next utility outlet to the connection screws the other of two female receptacles.  Connect the ground wire in each three wire bundle to the common ground tap in the utility outlet box.

 

If you choose not to retain the utility outlet simply remove it and replace it with a junction box and use wire nuts to connect your new wires to the old.  Cover the box with its safety cover when your wiring is completed. 

 

Be sure to keep black (hot) wires on the correct side of the utiltiy outlet and the white (neutral) wires on the opposite side or together.  Green is ground in house type three wire  wiring bundles.  Connect the greens to a common ground.



#3 Wally Z

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Posted 10 September 2014 - 05:05 PM

Not familiar with the wiring on that year.  I would want that one on a fused circuit for sure with a lighted on and off switch. The one I have is on a circuit breaker located in the power panel next to the fuses.  There is also a switch in the outside water heater access panel.  Check to see if you have a circuit breaker that isn't being used.


Edited by Wally Z, 10 September 2014 - 05:06 PM.

2014 17' Casita SD


#4 Rob and Linda

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 10:40 AM

Hi, Charley !

 

So, here's the third response unable to speak directly to your question... sorry 'bout that!   :unsure:   I just wanted to remind you that as you are thinking through all of this to keep in mind that one should never, but never turn ON the electricity to the water heater's heating element unless the heater's tank is full of water.  To do so is the kiss of death for the electric heating element.

 

Rob


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#5 Charley in Tennessee

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 04:02 PM

Thanks everybody. I will be sure to pump the tank full and check with the overpressure valve to make sure the tank is full. There already is the 15 amp fuse circuit for the heater, I just need to run the cord to some outlet to make sure it can be made "hot" by flipping a switch instead of having to run a separate cord to my electrical stuff where the shore power cord is. I am about to decide to run it to the double outlet under the side dinette and wire it into the outlet where one will remain hot for plug ins, and the heater connection to a switch on the top part of what was a double AC outlet. I am looking tonight for one that has a lighted switch to remind me that it is on. That way, I retain the possibility to have one thing plugged in under the dinette ( although I'm not sure what ) and I will still have two switches to turn the heater on because there is one outside next to the gas regulator and thermostat that is also lighted. I will report back when I get it wired and tested.



#6 HBarlow

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 04:58 PM

You could also install another 120vac utility outlet located beside the existing one and jumper from the original to the new with proper house type three wire if you don't want to use the original.



#7 Charley in Tennessee

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 05:21 PM

Thanks Harvey, I have spent the last hour looking for a combination switch with a pilot light and have decided to probably do what you have suggested. Lutron makes a decora rocker switch with a small pilot light, but I can't find a good retail source for it. I think I will just install a separate box and switch with a pilot light for when it is ON. I will then have two switches and the one outside can be a "safety" switch in case someone accidentally flips the inside on to ON. Thanks to all.



#8 Us burros

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 05:42 PM

Charley,

 

Our '05 is as Wally described, a dedicated 120V breaker for the water heater. How many 120V breakers does your '01 have? Is there a spare or space to add a breaker? When I installed an inside illuminated rocker switch I discovered the line ran directly from the breaker to the water heater.

 

096 Water Heater Elec. on.JPG

 

HERE's you a $4 illuminated switch. Or check with Grainger.


Edited by Us burros, 11 September 2014 - 05:46 PM.


#9 Euphoria

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Posted 11 September 2014 - 06:02 PM

wtrhtrpwrsw.JPG

 

Adding an interior control switch is a pretty simple conversion to make... 

 

 

Instructions for Installing a Remote HWH 120 vac Switch, for turning the electrical element in the HWH on/off from inside the trailer).

You need:

 

3 terminal single pole pilot light switch (it has 2 brass screw and 1 silver screw terminals.) Leviton makes one with a switch on top and a red pilot light on the bottom that fits a single electrical rectangular box (see pic above). You can find them at any "big box" store. 

 

*   A rectangular single electrical box, specifically designated "for use in old, or existing construction". This model will have a swing-out wing on each side with a screw in each to draw the box up tight to the backside of the bulkhead for mounting.

 

*   A saw, or other cutting device necessary to cut a hole to mount the box, (again, wherever you choose to locate it.) I personally prefer using a Roto-Zip for this, but a drill for pilot holes and a jigsaw with a fine blade will work. If you use a jigsaw, applying some masking tape around the outside edge will help protect the fiberglass or wood damage caused by the vibration when cutting.

 

*   12/3 w/Ground Romex wire, which will have a Black, White and a Red insulated wire, as well as a bare ground conductor. Allow yourself enough wire to adequately reach your intended location, (wherever you decide to locate it inside your trailer,) and enough extra to carefully route it around the perimeter of any cabinets. I would recommend following and attaching it with zip-ties to the existing wiring bundle running through the trailer to the extent possible. I mounted my switch under the leg area of the side dinette table on the front of the rear bench. (If you choose to mount it there also, then about 6 feet of wire should be sufficient for your installation.)

 

To begin;

 

Unplug your trailer's shore power cord. Then remove the converter's cover plate to expose the 120 vac circuit breakers. Locate the breaker which controls the HWH (should be marked on the cover plate) and remove the black wire from the top terminal screw on this breaker. Pull this wire out of the terminal, but keep it handy.

.

1.) Using the BLACK wire of the three insulated wires in the new Romex cable, attach it to the HWH breaker terminal screw in the trailer's converter panel, and connect the other end to one of the gold colored screws on the new switch. (It doesn't matter which one, as long as it is one of the gold screws.)  

 

2.) The RED wire is connected to the other gold screw on the switch, and is then wired back to the original black wire that was removed from the breaker terminal, (you remember the one that you removed from the breaker...yes, that one.) So, one wire will be black and the other will be red at this connection, but this is not a problem, nor code violation. Twist them together well with electrician's pliers, then wire nut and seal it real good with electrical tape.

 

The switch itself needs to have a neutral wire in order for the pilot light to come on when the HWH element is energized. 

 

3.) Use the WHITE wire for that purpose, and it goes on the silver screw on the switch. The other end of the white wire goes to an empty screw on the neutral bus in the main converter panel below the breakers. Be sure it is attached to the neutral bus, not the ground bus (Yes, they are not one and the same.) 

 

To differentiate the two: 

*  You will see a large white insulated wire attached to a big screw terminal that has a copper bus bar with several screw terminals on it as well. This is the neutral bus

*  The other copper bar with terminal screws is the ground bus, and usually has a large green or bare wire attached to it along with several ground wires.

 

4.) Connect the BARE ground wire to the ground screw on the new switch and the other end to the ground bus in the converter panel. 

 

When you are done hooking all these connections up, replace the converter's cover plate and install the new switch cover plate. Then turn your converter panel circuit breaker on again, (and don't forget to leave the outside switch located on the HWH itself in the ON position at all times to make it work from inside, because power still goes through this switch on the HWH itself. Its nice to not have to go outside to turn it on or off each time you want hot water.)

 

Finally, make sure that your new switch is in the OFF position before re-establishing your shore power connection to prevent burning up the heating element (unless you are absolutely sure your HWH is full of water.)

 

Remember, you now control the electrical side of your HWH solely from this new switch!

 

Hope this helps. Write if you have any questions.

 

Greg


Edited by Euphoria, 11 September 2014 - 06:35 PM.

"If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Sir Isaac Newton

 

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#10 HBarlow

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Posted 12 September 2014 - 01:25 AM

Very professional, clear, and concise instructions.  I copied them into a Microsoft Word file for future use.

 

I knew how to wire a basic outlet to supply the water heater but did not know how to wire the indicator lamp.

 

You must have an EE degree.



#11 Euphoria

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Posted 12 September 2014 - 07:44 AM

Hi Harvey,

No, not an EE, but I do have a strong electrical background, both as a prior civilian and military electrician. I see from your avatar that you also are a submarine guy. I was an IC Electrician back during the 'Nam era on a cold war Polaris boat.

(US Sub Vets-Bremerton Base, Life Member, VFW Life, American Legion Life, Fleet Reserve Assn.)

USSNathanHale1 (Small).jpg


Edited by Euphoria, 12 September 2014 - 07:51 AM.

"If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Sir Isaac Newton

 

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#12 HBarlow

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Posted 12 September 2014 - 10:31 AM

Yeah, I was there doing the same thing during the same period.  I rode George C. Marshall SSBN 654 April '68 through May or June of '74.  It was a Polaris boat when I reported aboard but was converted to Poseidon at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard between late '71 and early '73.  I enjoyed the Pacific Northwest during that overhaul period.

 

I spent 3 1/2 years on an old WWII era diesel boat before GCM.



#13 Charley in Tennessee

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Posted 12 September 2014 - 01:35 PM

OK, I have discovered that I must have a gas only Suburban unit that someone put in a Hott Rod conversion. I wondered why there were two contacts from a wire to the "anode". I have now noticed the Hott Rod logo on the end cap. I was going to put in the exact pilot light switch that Euphoria has in the photo inside a new box, and wire the "plug" end somewhere to a hot source. Now I am really concerned about the missing anode and what that has been doing to the tank on my heater. I am still trying to get a 1-1/16" socket to remove the heater element where the anode-drain plug should be. Can you inspect the tank from that small of a hole ? Does the glass lining prevent seeing the rusted out liner ? I am not opposed to using the LP for hot water and re-installing an anode. Thoughts ?



#14 Euphoria

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Posted 12 September 2014 - 08:01 PM

Charley,

Hope your HWH isn't too corroded from the lack of a good sacrificial anode for an extended period of time. I don't know if you have access to one of those flexible probe type cameras, but you may be able to see how bad the damage is, (or hopefully isn't,) if you can conjure one up. I wasn't really thinking at the time I posted, but I should have surmised that you may have had a "propane only" HWH that someone "modified" at the expense of losing the all-important sacrificial anode.

 

 

Yeah, I was there doing the same thing during the same period.  I rode George C. Marshall SSBN 654 April '68 through May or June of '74.  It was a Polaris boat when I reported aboard but was converted to Poseidon at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard between late '71 and early '73.  I enjoyed the Pacific Northwest during that overhaul period.

 

I spent 3 1/2 years on an old WWII era diesel boat before GCM.

Wow, we were at PSNS for the Poseidon conversion too. Arrived March '73 and I never left. I even retired from PSNS as a journeyman. Got my Honorable Discharge while it was still in overhaul in the yard. Processed out at Sand Point in '74. Boat then went to the east coast where they cut the missile compartment out of it as part of SALT 1. Turned it into a useless POS boat. Eventually it was decommissioned and scrapped it out at PSNS in 1994 as part of SALT 2. Small world... Diesel Boats Forever!


"If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Sir Isaac Newton

 

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#15 Charley in Tennessee

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Posted 14 September 2014 - 11:59 AM

Greg, I am just starting to get a handle on how the systems on my Casita are configured. I am learning a lot when I have time to troll the forums and get some feedback. I bought this 2001 since it was real close to me and had been babied. It looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor except for some minor rust on the frame, which I have already sanded, primered and painted. I don't think that the previous two owners got to spend a lot of time boondocking and I am going to call the previous owner to see if he was the one to install the Hott Rod. I have only had it for one month and been out in it once. My wife and I are taking it for a three day trip this coming weekend for a shakedown cruise. I am discovering that it was pretty basic for an SD in that it does not have a 12 volt DC fridge like the new ones, but does great on LP and AC. It indeed has an LP only water heater, but I was thrown off by my sellers directions to connect and activate the "110 AC" part of it. I have access to a probe camera from a friend who installs and wires up home theaters and such. I am going to borrow it if I can to take a look. How much galvanic action do you suppose there is when the unit is not activated or full of water ? I know that electrical activity will enhance the rate of decay, but we shall see. I really appreciate you and all the other's feedback. It has been a fun learning experience and I really am a do it your-selfer if possible. Just part of the fun and learning experience.I have put in a overhead vent cover to be able to get some fresh air when boondocking and it is raining, and am installing the window vents for rain this week. If you have anything you think that is a really important addition or mod that really stands out, let me know. I will post what I find when I get a look at the inside of the heater. Thanks again.