HOT WATER SAGA

The Suburban

Caravan safety is not something we can force upon anyone, especially when you consider there's no legal requirement to fit a carbon monoxide or flammable gas alarm to an RV in Australia. Therefore, every owner must assess the risks associated with these hazards for themselves and decide whether the additional piece of mind is worth the investment.

We've highlighted two incidents where these hazards have gone undetected resulting in the caravan occupants being seriously injured or killed. The problem is incidents of this severity are rare and it’s easy for RV owners to consider that it will never happen to them, if they actually consider it all all.

For the last two weeks, the RV community has been buzzing with the news the Australian Gas Association, the body responsible for the certification of gas appliances used in Australia, suspended the gas licence for a range of Suburban gas/electric hot water systems. That suspension has now led to safety notices being issued by state and territory regulators around the country.

This chain of events apparently started when the owners of a caravan in Adelaide reported they were feeling nauseous whenever the hot water system in their van was operating on gas. Tests showed the hot water system was releasing carbon monoxide into the living space of the caravan. Testing by the Australian Gas Association revealed the issue wasn't limited to a single unit. In fact, the safety notices refer to units manufactured between April 4, 2018 to August 1, 2019 - over a whole year's production. When you consider the Suburban units involved are the most commonly used hot water systems installed in Australian caravans and motorhomes, there could be hundreds, possibly thousands of RVs involved.

Unlike Liquefied Petroleum Gas or smoke from a fire, carbon monoxide is almost undetectable by the human senses. You can't see it and you can't smell it. The first signs of carbon monoxide poisoning you may notice would be easily confused with being fatigued or coming down with the common cold. If you're asleep and a carbon monoxide leak occurs inside your caravan, you may never wake up.

The caravan owners in Adelaide who reported the initial issue were extremely lucky they were able to associate their symptoms with the operation of the hot water system on gas and realise what was possibly happening. Had they not made that connection, the outcome could have been disastrous, not just for them, but for potentially thousands of others.

WORDS MARTY LEDWICH

GUIDE Caravan Safety – Part 2

Accessing your vehicle is as easy as one step up

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  • From 181315552 to 193002648

  • Manufactured from April 4, 2018 to August 1, 2019

Serial numbers affected:
  • SW6DEA
  • SW4DEA
  • SW4DECA
  • SW6PA
  • SW6DA
  • SW4DA
  • SW6DECA (Dual Fuel)
Models affected:
  • Suburban Recreational Vehicle Water Heaters
Appliance:

Suburban Hot Water Systems affected by the safety notices:

What to do if you have one of the affected units (advice from the Energy Safe Victoria website):

  • Immediately stop using the appliance.
  • Identify whether your hot water heater is one of the affected models and if the serial number falls within the ranges listed above. This can be done by checking the appliance data plates found under the front cover of the hot water heater (see instructions below). If you are unable to do this, your caravan service agent should be able to assist.
  • If the water heater model is confirmed to be one of the models listed above, then it must NOT be used until rectified by an authorised Suburban agent or dealership. The gas isolation valve to this appliance must be turned off until the appliance and installation have been rectified.

The safety issues only apply while the appliance is operating on gas. It is safe to continue operating your Suburban water heater if it can operate from a 12- or 240-volt supply.

“Tests showed the hot water system was releasing carbon monoxide into the living space of the caravan.”

How to deal with Carbon Monoxide poisoning 
(advice from the WA Health website):

  • If you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately remove yourself or the affected person from the premises.
  • If the affected person is unconscious and cannot be moved, turn off the suspected appliance, open doors and windows, remove yourself from the premises and call emergency services on triple zero (000).
  • Immediately ring triple zero (000) if the affected person is unconscious.
  • Contact the Poisons Information Centre (national) on 13 11 26.
  • See your doctor.
  • Visit a GP after hours.
  • Ring Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.

How to check your appliance’s model and serial number:

1

Remove the hot water heater cover plate. Make sure to let it cool first if the appliance has recently been used.

2

Locate the technical specification plates.

3

Check the model number and serial numbers.

GUIDE Caravan Safety – Part 2

HOT WATER SAGA

The Suburban

WORDS MARTY LEDWICH

Caravan safety is not something we can force upon anyone, especially when you consider there's no legal requirement to fit a carbon monoxide or flammable gas alarm to an RV in Australia. Therefore, every owner must assess the risks associated with these hazards for themselves and decide whether the additional piece of mind is worth the investment.

We've highlighted two incidents where these hazards have gone undetected resulting in the caravan occupants being seriously injured or killed. The problem is incidents of this severity are rare and it’s easy for RV owners to consider that it will never happen to them, if they actually consider it all all.

For the last two weeks, the RV community has been buzzing with the news the Australian Gas Association, the body responsible for the certification of gas appliances used in Australia, suspended the gas licence for a range of Suburban gas/electric hot water systems. That suspension has now led to safety notices being issued by state and territory regulators around the country.

This chain of events apparently started when the owners of a caravan in Adelaide reported they were feeling nauseous whenever the hot water system in their van was operating on gas. Tests showed the hot water system was releasing carbon monoxide into the living space of the caravan. Testing by the Australian Gas Association revealed the issue wasn't limited to a single unit. In fact, the safety notices refer to units manufactured between April 4, 2018 to August 1, 2019 - over a whole year's production. When you consider the Suburban units involved are the most commonly used hot water systems installed in Australian caravans and motorhomes, there could be hundreds, possibly thousands of RVs involved.

Unlike Liquefied Petroleum Gas or smoke from a fire, carbon monoxide is almost undetectable by the human senses. You can't see it and you can't smell it. The first signs of carbon monoxide poisoning you may notice would be easily confused with being fatigued or coming down with the common cold. If you're asleep and a carbon monoxide leak occurs inside your caravan, you may never wake up.

The caravan owners in Adelaide who reported the initial issue were extremely lucky they were able to associate their symptoms with the operation of the hot water system on gas and realise what was possibly happening. Had they not made that connection, the outcome could have been disastrous, not just for them, but for potentially thousands of others.

Accessing your vehicle is as easy as one step up

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

Suburban Hot Water Systems affected by the safety notices:

  • Suburban Recreational Vehicle Water Heaters
Appliance:
  • SW6DEA
  • SW4DEA
  • SW4DECA
  • SW6PA
  • SW6DA
  • SW4DA
  • SW6DECA (Dual Fuel)
Models affected:
  • From 181315552 to 193002648

  • Manufactured from April 4, 2018 to August 1, 2019

Serial numbers affected:

What to do if you have one of the affected units (advice from the Energy Safe Victoria website):

  • Immediately stop using the appliance.
  • Identify whether your hot water heater is one of the affected models and if the serial number falls within the ranges listed above. This can be done by checking the appliance data plates found under the front cover of the hot water heater (see instructions below). If you are unable to do this, your caravan service agent should be able to assist.
  • If the water heater model is confirmed to be one of the models listed above, then it must NOT be used until rectified by an authorised Suburban agent or dealership. The gas isolation valve to this appliance must be turned off until the appliance and installation have been rectified.

The safety issues only apply while the appliance is operating on gas. It is safe to continue operating your Suburban water heater if it can operate from a 12- or 240-volt supply.

“Tests showed the hot water system was releasing carbon monoxide into the living space of the caravan.”

How to check your appliance’s model and serial number:

1

Remove the hot water heater cover plate. Make sure to let it cool first if the appliance has recently been used.

2

Locate the technical specification plates.

3

Check the model number and serial numbers.

How to deal with Carbon Monoxide poisoning 
(advice from the WA Health website):

  • If you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately remove yourself or the affected person from the premises.
  • If the affected person is unconscious and cannot be moved, turn off the suspected appliance, open doors and windows, remove yourself from the premises and call emergency services on triple zero (000).
  • Immediately ring triple zero (000) if the affected person is unconscious.
  • Contact the Poisons Information Centre (national) on 13 11 26.
  • See your doctor.
  • Visit a GP after hours.
  • Ring Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.

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