Here is a photo of the hot water tank inside my Roadtrek 190:
You can see the three valves that need to be set here against the foam insulation around the hot water tank. I will go into detail about these three valves but using this photo, I am going to explain the flow of water in and out of the hot water heater. The water source can be from the water pump or from city water - the water that comes into the plumbing when you connect a fresh water hose with an RV water pressure regulator connected to the hose that is connected to an outdoor water spigot.
Take a look at the pipes in front of the foam insulation around the tank. There is one that goes across the tank at the top. There is one that goes across the tank at the bottom. There is one that goes up and down between those two pipes.
When the hot water tank is in use - NOT BYPASSED - the cold water comes into the hot water tank in the bottom tank. You can see the COLD sticker there next to the valve. Inside the tank the heating unit makes the water hot and the hot water stays in the tank until you turn on the faucet hot handle or the hot handle on either of the shower faucets. When water leaves the tank, water is instantly put back into the tank at the bottom filling it back up again. As I have written in another article - the hot water tank is never empty - unless you remove the anode rod that is in the compartment for the hot water heater outside on the driver's side of the van. Now knowing this - this is how the valves work.
The valve on the bottom of the tank when OPEN lets water flow into the tank. When it is closed, the cold water does not go into the tank. Here is a photo of the bottom valve closed. Note that this valve broke on my Roadtrek and the service at the Roadtrek dealer replaced it with a metal handled valve - your valve will have a black handle if it is the valve that came from Roadtrek (just like the other valves you see in the photo).
THIS VALVE IS IN BYPASS POSITION. This is how you want to set your valve when it is to be put in BYPASS MODE. Notice that the valve is turned ACROSS the pipe (side to side). THIS VALVE IS CLOSED. (If this valve was turned in line with that pipe - going from front to back - this valve would be OPEN - allowing water to flow into the hot water tank.) IN BYPASS YOU WANT THIS VALVE TO BE CLOSED - JUST AS IT IS IN THIS PHOTO.
We look next to the valve on the pipe going into the tank at the top of the tank. There is a red sticker that says HOT next to that valve. This is where the hot water comes out of the tank.
THIS VALVE IS IN BYPASS POSITION. This is how you want to set your valve when it is to be put in BYPASS MODE. Notice that the valve is turned ACROSS the pipe (side to side). THIS VALVE IS CLOSED. (If this valve was turned in line with that pipe - going from front to back - this valve would be OPEN - allowing water to flow OUT OF the hot water tank.) IN BYPASS YOU WANT THIS VALVE TO BE CLOSED - JUST AS IT IS IN THIS PHOTO.
These two valves open or close the pipes that put water into and out of the hot water tank. They are important parts of the BYPASS three valve system - and in BYPASS they must be CLOSED. But we have a third valve - the one on the pipe that goes up and down between the other two pipes. This is actually the main valve for BYPASS. What this VALVE IS OPEN cold water goes from the bottom pipe (where it cannot go into the hot water tank any longer because the bottom valve is CLOSED) and goes up the up and down pipe. Take a look at the valve on that pipe -
THIS VALVE IS IN BYPASS POSITION. This is how you want to set your valve when it is to be put in BYPASS MODE. BUT TAKE NOTICE that the valve is turned in line with the direction of the pipe pointing UP. THIS VALVE IS OPEN! (If this valve was turned across the pipe and the end pointing toward the cabinet opening - pointing toward the aisle - going across the pipe - this valve would be CLOSED and water could not go up the pipe. IN BYPASS YOU WANT THIS VALVE TO BE OPEN - JUST AS IT IS IN THIS PHOTO.
So what happens in BYPASS - cold water comes in at the bottom pipe and goes UP that up and down pipe and goes into the top pipe and then continues along in that pipe to the sink. IF you have your hot water tank in BYPASS - no water ever goes inside the hot water tank - and if you turn on the hot water faucet at the sink or the showers you will get COLD water coming out of the sink - even though you turned the hot water handle on. That is exactly what you want it to do.
Why do you want to Bypass the hot water tank? When winterizing if you do not bypass the hot water tank will fill with RV anti-freeze before that anti-freeze will go into the sink or showers and their respective pipes. The hot water tank is SIX GALLONS! You will waste SIX GALLONS of RV anti-freeze before every putting the RV anti-freeze where it is needed. And since the hot water tank is always full - well that is a lot of wasted anti-freeze! Emptying the hot water tank will protect it just fine. These valves and these pipes will fill with RV anti-freeze in the process I describe in my articles to winterize your Roadtrek.
So let's go back over this step by step -
1) Turn the bottom valve ACROSS the pipe - CLOSING THE VALVE.
2) Turn the top valve ACROSS the pipe - CLOSING THE VALVE.
3) Turn the middle valve - pipe going up and down - in line with the pipe with the handle pointing UP - OPENING THE VALVE.
YOU NOW HAVE A HOT WATER TANK IN BYPASS!
In the Spring to put the hot water tank back into the water system to provide hot water reverse these steps. In working position, all the tips of the valve handles point toward the aisle. The top and bottom valves will be OPEN and the up/down pipe valve will be CLOSED.
There is one thing you may want to also do - and this is up to you. I get concerned that if we are inside the Roadtrek or traveling with it when winterized, one of us might - by accident - turn on the hot water heater switch on the wall - with the hot water tank empty. That will do serious damage to the hot water tank and hot water heater. There is a fuse (the hot water heater is a 12 volt appliance) - not a circuit breaker - in the Roadtrek fuse box for the hot water heater and that is all that is on that fuse. By removing the fuse you cannot turn on the hot water heater - no matter how the switch is set. JUST REMEMBER when de-winterizing to put that fuse back or your hot water heater will not turn on.
Thanks to a very gracious reader, Nick, we have been able to now include where these valves are in a Chevy Roadtrek 210. Nick took the photos inside his 210 for us. These same valves are in a different location in the 210. Here is a photo of the cabinet they are located just below the sink -
The valves on the right side of the cabinet on the left wall of the second shelf section
The hot water tank is inside the cabinet to the left..
Here is a close up look inside this section of the cabinet -
You can see the valves pointed to with the red lines and labeled. To orient these to our article turn the photo counterclockwise:
The valves are turned just as they are in the 190 when putting the hot water tank into bypass or taking it out of bypass.
Here is where the hot and cold water pipes go through the cabinet wall to the cold intake and hot output connections on the hot water tank: