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Old 01-06-2017, 07:35 PM   #1
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Excessive soot above water heater vents

My 2016 Hill Country trailer has the Atwood water heater. I noticed yesterday I have a LOT of soot residue above the water heater exhaust vents.

Sorry I don't have any pictures. I quickly grabbed a bucket of water and some Dawn and cleaned the area.

Clearly, this is related to running the water heater on the propane mode but what would cause this amount of soot? A little soot I can understand but an area about 1 foot square seems a bit excessive and has never happened to me on any of my other RVs.

Your thoughts? TIA.
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Old 01-06-2017, 07:51 PM   #2
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Although I have heard and seen this, it has never happened to me personally. It sounds to me like the W/H is burning incorrectly. Have you inspected your flame? There should be just a little orange in the mostly blue flame. Adjustment is done by sliding an air shutter more open or closed.
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Old 01-06-2017, 07:53 PM   #3
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Stan, thanks for the quick reply.

I'm not familiar with an adjustable shutter on these water heaters. In fact, I'm not familiar with anything that is owner-adjustable on these things.

What does this thing look like?

Thanks again!
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Old 01-06-2017, 11:20 PM   #4
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Problem - Sooting
1-Solution is to unblock obstructed main burner, U tube, or exhaust grille.
2-Adjust main burner alignment, valve, air shutter or flame spreader.
Here is picture of Air shutter-
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Old 01-07-2017, 05:22 AM   #5
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Soot

It can also be a result of low propane pressure or obstructed gas valve. It would need the service of a licensed gas technician . Also you can take a compressed air hose and nozzle and blow out the burner assembly and combustion chamber. Spiders love to live in these enclosed areas. They also love to live in the relief valve ports on gas valves and pressure reducing tank regulators causing them to operate poorly.
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Old 01-07-2017, 06:33 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TxCowboy View Post

I'm not familiar with an adjustable shutter on these water heaters. In fact, I'm not familiar with anything that is owner-adjustable on these things.

What does this thing look like?
If you are totally unfamiliar with the situation, I highly recommend you have this checked either by your dealer, or a LP service technician.
In my opinion it's not something to let go. RV's have caught on fire by exactly the same thing.


Just to add to this----I think you have a highly dangerous situation. In my opinion, you should discontinue using LP on the water heater until you get it looked at/fixed. Switch it over to electric if you are using the camper.
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Old 01-07-2017, 07:06 AM   #7
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PapaT -- Thanks for the picture. That clarifies things greatly. I found my model's owner/user guide for this Atwood on another website and this little air shutter isn't marked. Will have to check this out when I'm back at this RV next week.

Jeffur -- I've got a can of compressed air that I use for my electronics that I'll used to blow out this area. I did a visual check of the unit when I saw the soot buildup and didn't see any critters but I'll check it again.

Lloyd -- yeah, I agree with your comments. I don't screw with propane. It's either working right or it's not and, in this case, it's not. I'll do the visual checks and minor maintenance mentioned above and then call the tech and let him deal with it. We only use the propane side for rapid recharge of the hot water and that might actually be contributing to this situation. Probably haven't used it more than a couple of times in the past year.

Thanks for all of the insight and advice, all.
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Old 01-08-2017, 12:33 PM   #8
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Mine did this several years ago after a spider built his home in the tube. Pretty good amount of smoke for a short while!

Check the color of the flame when it is on. should be pretty much blue. If it is yellow it is not getting enough oxygen.
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Old 01-17-2017, 05:00 PM   #9
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Hey, gang, just wanted to update you on my question.

We finally got back to the office/RV and I just fired up the propane side of the water heater. The flame looks like what Stan mentioned below in boldface:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stan View Post
Although I have heard and seen this, it has never happened to me personally. It sounds to me like the W/H is burning incorrectly. Have you inspected your flame? There should be just a little orange in the mostly blue flame. Adjustment is done by sliding an air shutter more open or closed.
It seems to be burning correctly.

This leads me to believe that the soot is normal. The day(s) when this soot developed, the wind was blowing directly into the water heater at about 20 mph or higher. Probably a bit high for the system to be working its best.

I'll keep an eye on it for the next couple of days and test it from time to time to see if the soot starts to build up again.

Thanks again for all of your insights.
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Jeff & Laurie -- Full timing in Rockport, Texas
Auggie (our beer-loving English Cocker Spaniel)
Angus (55 pounds of attitude in a 5 pound chihuahua body)

Our home base -- 2018 Grand Design Solitude 375RES -- The "Uno Mas!"
The mobile office -- 2016 Crossroads Hill Country HCT26RB -- The "Poquito Mas!"
Gone but not forgotten: 2015 Heartland Landmark 365 Key West (lost to Hurricane Harvey)
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