HOT WATER HEATER
To operate your hot water heater you must have both the propane turned on and also the battery switch inside your Roadtrek turned on. With the propane on and flowing, turn on the hot water switch on the wall of your Roadtrek (near the monitor panel). There will be a red indicator light on the switch to show you that it is ON. Turning on that switch will ignite the burner that heats the water in the hot water tank. (This does not apply to a Roadtrek Ranger that has an electric hot water heater.)
NEVER TURN ON THE HOT WATER HEATER SWITCH UNLESS THERE IS WATER IN THE HOT WATER TANK.
NEVER TURN ON THE HOT WATER HEATER SWITCH IF YOU HOT WATER TANK IS IN BYPASS MODE.
ALWAYS FILL YOUR WATER TANKS AND THEN TURN ON YOUR WATER PUMP - AND OPEN THE HOT WATER FAUCET TO DRAW WATER INTO THE HOT WATER TANK BEFORE TURNING ON THE HOT WATER SWITCH. SEE WATER FLOWING THROUGH THE HOT WATER TANK AND INTO THE FAUCET AT FULL FORCE FIRST.
IF ONLY USING CITY WATER, OPEN THE HOT WATER FAUCET TO DRAW WATER INTO THE HOT WATER TANK BEFORE TURNING ON THE HOT WATER SWITCH. SEE WATER FLOWING THROUGH THE HOT WATER TANK AND INTO THE FAUCET AT FULL FORCE FIRST.
IF YOU TURN ON THE HOT WATER SWITCH WITH A DRY HOT WATER TANK YOU WILL DAMAGE THE TANK AND THE HOT WATER HEATER!
The hot water tank holds six gallons of water. It takes some time to fill six gallons with the water pump. It will fill faster on city water. Be patient no matter how you are filling it.
(You can also know if it is full by going outside, opening the side panel of the van for the hot water heater, open the pressure relief valve on the top (it is on what looks like a faucet pipe) by pulling the silver handle gently towards you and stand back when you do this. IF water is in the top of the tank it will start pouring out. Close the valve right away or you will lose all that water. The pump will come on and refill what you let out. Close the side of the hatch outside the van.)
With water in the tank you are now ready to turn on the hot water heater switch on the wall. It takes time to heat that much water. Give it time. It will start to feel warm in five to ten minutes. It can take fifteen minutes or longer to start to feel that the water is hot. If you are concerned that the water is not getting hot, you can check that the hot water heater is working by checking on it outside the van. If you go to the hot water heater cover/vent in the rear driver's side of the Roadtrek you will not only hear the gas flowing but you will also feel heat coming from the vent. Be careful as the hot water heater outside gets hot.
While you are with the Roadtrek in a campground or campsite you can leave the hot water heater switch on. As the water in the tank cools down, it will automatically turn on again and heat the water back up to temperature BUT the hot water tank is very well insulated and is inside your Roadtrek and under most conditions the water will stay hot for a long time before it needs to be reheated. We get hot water for a whole night in November by just leaving the hot water heater switch on for 15 minutes to a half hour and then turning it off. The water stays so hot that it needs to be mixed with cold to use it. Turn off the switch and conserve your propane when the water is hot. Of course, if you use a lot of hot water at one time it will be replenished in the tank with cold water which will need the hot water switch on to heat up. If you leave the Roadtrek for the day or are driving, turn off the hot water heater switch.
The furnace heats with propane but needs the battery switch ON for two functions - one to start the furnace by igniting the burner inside and two to run the electric fan inside the furnace that circulates the hot air around the Roadtrek. To start the furnace, have the propane on, turn on the battery switch, and then turn on the Furnace switch that is a setting on the air conditioner/thermostat panel on the wall.
Be sure the put the thermostat setting to a setting warmer than the temperature inside the Roadtrek to the temperature that you want it to be inside. You will hear the furnace igniting and the fan will start. You will feel the heat coming out rather quickly. Adjust the temperature with the thermostat. The air conditioner/heat pump and the furnace share the same thermostat. Do not put anything in front of the furnace vent on the floor of the Roadtrek. That space will get hot and you want it open and clear to allow the heat to get around the rest of the Roadtrek.
Be aware that if you are moving the selection switch on this panel, it happens occasionally that when shutting down the air conditioner you will move the switch down one more notch than you intend as OFF is between COOL and FURNACE. The furnace will start. If the propane is on it will ignite and the furnace will come on. If the propane is OFF, the furnace will attempt to ignite and with the absence of propane the system will continue to try to spark the propane (that is not there to ignite). You will hear the system "clicking" to do this. Just move the switch to OFF and it will eventually stop - but it does not stop immediately.
The propane detector does not run on propane but is an alarm system to warn you if there is propane gas leaking into the Roadtrek cabin. It is generally located near the floor. If the propane detector goes off, turn OFF the propane valve immediately!
TURNING OFF THE PROPANE
You turn off the propane just the way that you turned it on. Turn the grey valve knob inside the compartment over the bumper clockwise (to the right) to turn it off. I have read a recommendation that when the propane is shut off at the valve, one should again go to the stove and try to light it - with the propane off. If it does light it will just stay lit for several seconds burning off any gas that remains in the line. This is done for safety by purging all of the gas out of the gas lines in the Roadtrek.
THE PROPANE SYSTEM AS SEEN ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE ROADTREK
The components inside of your Roadtrek that use propane are all vented on the outside of the Roadtrek. It is important that these vents remain clear and not clogged with road debris, bugs, webs, or bird's nests. You can open and check and clean each one - EXCEPT the furnace vent.
Hot water heater vent ->
Open this vent by turning the ring so that it is in line with the slot that it passes through. Then pull the vent out from the edges.
Refrigerator Vent ->
Open this vent by turning the small knobs at the bottom. Turn and pull out from the bottom and lift out from the top.
Furnace Vent ->
This vent DOES NOT OPEN.
Be aware that the actual flame and burner for the furnace is just behind this vent in the wall of the van which is behind the furnace unit heating vent that you see inside the Roadtrek.
Again ALWAYS keep these vents clear. If you happen to be in the Roadtrek in a snow storm and you are going to use the propane, go outside and clear all snow and ice away from these vent opening.
Talking about propane with RVers is one of those topics that elicits extreme responses. It is one of those things that 50 will tell you one thing and another 50 will tell you the opposite. Propane is something that if one uses common sense is safe. If one does not use common sense and wants to "prove a point", propane can be extremely dangerous. I am not inviting a debate. I am providing basic things to know.
A common question is "should the propane be on when driving?" Many, many will say no. Many will say yes. Roadtrek officially says "NO" and that is the best advice I can give anyone as well. The only reason one might keep the propane on while driving is to run the 3 way refrigerator on propane. There really is no reason for this as it will run just as well on battery while driving. But so many insist on driving with the propane on for the refrigerator. IF you do this, NEVER PULL INTO A GAS STATION WITH THE PROPANE STILL ON. Pull over before reaching the gas station and turn the propane off at the rear valve. The reason for this as this will turn off the burning igniter and pilot light flame that keeps the burner lit with flame on the fridge. If that burner is lit and any gasoline vapor should waft into the vents on the side of the Roadtrek (which just happen to be on the same side as the gasoline fill) there will be an explosion of a magnitude that you never want to experience (and may not survive to experience again). I have seen the power of propane explosions. They result in a huge ball of flame and destructive force. I take propane very seriously. Some RVers don't and that puts everyone in jeopardy around them.
When you are traveling you need to be aware of propane restrictions on some bridges, tunnels, and roads. This will generally be posted at the entrance but when routing your trip you want to be aware of these well in advance so that you will not need to find an alternative route at the last minute. This is not common all over the country but is in some parts of the country. I know several places in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic where there are propane restrictions on major routes. When we are traveling we need to make a route around Baltimore as no propane is permitted in the tunnels going into and out of Baltimore.
Propane will run your systems for a good amount of time. When the LEDs on your monitor panel indicate that you will be needing propane soon, go to a propane station where a trained and certified individual will put it into your Roadtrek. They should know exactly what to do and once shown where the propane connection (where the valve is in the back) is, they should take it from there. If they are uncertain, stop them and leave and go to some place that knows what they are doing. The first thing the person filling the propane will do is open the relief valve - this is normal. They will then connect your tank to their filling tank and fill your propane tank to 80% and no more. This is the proper way to fill a propane tank. It is never filled to 100%. At 80% your monitor panel will show full. Most campgrounds have propane for sale and at a campground you can be pretty sure that they have filled an RV before and know exactly what they are doing. Many places sell propane - just be sure they know what they are doing. I know someone who sells propane at their business and I asked what the training involved. I was rather disturbed to hear that "some guy from the propane distributor comes and shows us a couple of times how to put it in". I had hoped that "certified" meant something much more than that. After hearing that, I am more inclined to go to an RV shop or campground to have propane properly put into my Roadtrek. I have to wonder if they actually complies with this testing program, but they are selling propane.
I am sure the technicians and engineers out there will tell you that there is a lot more to know about propane but with what is in this article you will be able to get though just about anything "propane" in your Roadtrek.
One more thing -
Here is the cover that you take off to access the propane valve. This cover is VERY, VERY EASY to lose.
See in the photo that my cover is hanging in front of the bumper. The cover does not come so that it will hang there. I put a small hole in the corner of the cover, attached some heavy weight fishing line through the hole and tied the other end inside the compartment in a safe spot. When the cover is put back the fishing line just hangs down out of the way inside. When the cover is taken off, it will not get lost. This is simple to do and saves having to order and purchase a new cover should if it got lost. There is also a way to make a new cover easily but it must be done BEFORE you lose the old cover. I will talk about that in a future article.