Suburban Hot Water Systems Gas Update DEC 2018

Facts first, Trav’s opinion at end.

Suburban Hot Water Systems are one of the most popular choices across all types of vans. There is currently a suspension on the sale of selected new units – which applies to buying a new caravan, buying an individual hot water system, or having it fitted to your existing van.

We attended an industry forum this week to get the latest news on the development, which sounded exciting – but the gas department didn’t show up, so there are no real updates.  As it stands:

These models are affected:

  • SW6PA (Manual Gas Only)
  • SW6DA (Gas Only)
  • SW6DEA (Gas / 240V 19L)
  • SW4DEA (Gas / 240V 15L)
  • SW4DA


Affected Serial #s:

  • from 181315552 to 193002648 (some serial numbers may end with a ‘D’)
  • from 8183311827 to 8190201139

Manufactured from 4 April 2018 to 1 August 2019

The issue:

Combustion gases may enter the living quarters of the van. ie – its not an LP Gas leak, its the burnt gas emissions that may end up inside your van. This is basically carbon monoxide – like a car exhaust pipe – you don’t want to breathe it.

The solution:

There is no current resolution to the issue. At some point (hopefully soon), a rectification will be issue that allows the units to be fixed, and returned to service. If you have an affected unit, in the meantime, do NOT use the unit on gas. It is best to locate the gas shutoff valve and turn off the gas supply to the appliance.

How to check:

Open the exterior access door to the hot water service and check the model and serial number located on the right hand side.

Repaired units will be labelled. If you see a label next to the model/serial number that says CTC001 the inspection has already been completed and the appliance can continue to be used. If the label is not present and the appliance falls under this recall you must discontinue use of the hot water service on gas and seek inspection and repair.

What to do:

Consumers should immediately check if their appliance is affected and if so, cease using the appliance powered by gas. (Consumers may continue to use the appliance if powered by electricity only.) Consumers with affected appliances should contact Coast RV’s dedicated recall hotline on 02 9645 7685 to register their details to be advised of remedial actions when they are available as the remedial process has not yet been finalised.


Trav’s Take:

Straight up: anything running on gas has the potential to be incredibly dangerous. There are lots of rules around gas fittings & appliances and they change regularly. It is really important you ensure your van is safe – by getting a professional to do any gas related work on your van.

In my opinion, this particular issue is only one of a number that really need addressing.

#1) Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms exist and should be compulsory. Carbon monoxide is odourless, invisible, tasteless and lethal. So you don’t know you’re breathing it, and it can kill you. These CO alarm units are like a smoke alarm – they run on a 9V battery and are screwed to the ceiling (or up high).  If you do have a carbon monoxide leak, it will alarm, and potentially save your life. We have them available for less than $50. We’ve highlighted the importance of these at our seminars for the last couple of years before this issue arose. (If you haven’t been to a seminar – subscribe here to be notified of the next one).

#2) Not just hot water systems: There are multiple appliances in your van that burn LP Gas and produce Carbon Monoxide (CO). Primarily your stove & your fridge.

What happens to the CO from your stove? It ends up inside your van. Invisible, tasteless and lethal. The gas rules say you have to have a range hood, but you don’t always run the range hood when running the stove. People use the range hood to get rid of smells, not an invisible deadly gas. Turn your range hood on, even while boiling the kettle!

Some people (not many), use the stove burner to heat up the van on cold nights. Just don’t do it. It normally goes hand in hand with covering the vents to keep the cold out. That’s a recipe for disaster.

This is rare, but I recently had a customer looking for some large circular roof vents about 8″ diameter. We had a few options. I asked what they were for. The chimney came the answer. CHIMNEY! from what?!? The fireplace. What fireplace?!? The fireplace I’m fitting to keep the van warm, because timber is cheaper than gas when you’re in the bush….  I don’t even want to know the legalities of all that, but if you want my opinion – don’t fit a wood burning fireplace inside a caravan.

Your 3-way fridge burns gas and produces carbon monoxide. It is meant to be vented out the exhaust through the top vent through a special fitting. I reckon 1 in 2 fridges I look at don’t have this exhaust system setup properly. Sometimes incorrectly fitted by the manufacturer, or it’s fallen apart, or some DIY mods have affected it. All of these issues trigger the same problem. CO ends up in the van. The entire fridge cabinet is meant to be fully sealed from the living quarters of your van – however, my experience is that next to none are. There’s always gaps in the cabinetry, or holes drilled through for cables, pipes, accessories etc – all of which void the correct installation requirements and allow CO to vent through. Again invisible, tasteless, lethal gas getting into your van.

If you’ve got an LP Gas heater they are generally ok. They have a good external exhaust system. However, if that exhaust is located under a window, there’s a high chance that Carbon Monoxide could be sucked back into the van if the window is open. Have a look at where yours is located.

Chest type 3-way fridges – like the old Chescolds. Do NOT run these (on gas) inside a van or vehicle. For all the same reasons. They burn your oxygen, and exhaust toxic carbon monoxide. They must be put outside to run.

If you want peace of mind on all of the above – just contact us to go through your van’s appliances and how they are installed, and we’ll advise our recommendations.

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