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Winterizing: Part 2: Water Heater Bypass

| Updated Nov 22, 2021

Note: This procedure assumes you have a Suburban Water Heater.  In Part 1, we drained the water heater and the fresh water tank.

Winterizing is much easier if you have a water heater bypass. If you don't have one, we highly recommend adding one. It not only simplifies your life, it saves you the cost of an extra 6 gallons of antifreeze necessary to fill the water heater.

You can buy a bypass kit at Camping World (or other RV store) to install yourself or you can have a RV shop do it for you. If you bought a used camper, it is very likely a previous owner or the original dealer installed one.  Find your water heater inside your Roadtrek (since you just drained and flushed it in Part 1, you know where inside to look for the rest of it).  Ours has a handy door in front of it, but it is possible yours may require removing a few screws in a panel to reach it.

Water Heater Bypass
The bypass kit in our Roadtrek – bypass off

A bypass kit is simple.  It is an auxiliary pipe connecting the input and output sides of the water heater with valves that direct the water to flow through this pipe, bypassing the tank.   Change the position of the valves as part of the winterizing process. The valves let you leave the water heater tank empty and still be able to flow antifreeze through the rest of the plumbing.

Top Bypass Valve - Bypassed
Top Valve – Bypass On
Top Bypass Valve
Top Valve – Bypass Off

It doesn't matter if you start at the top or bottom, but turn each valve so the water will flow into/out of the bypass line and not the tank.  It is possible to have from 1 to 3 valves in a bypass kit, so check it carefully.

Bottom Bypass Valve - Bypassed
Bottom Valve – Bypass On

Now turn the other valve.  The handle is in line with the direction the water can flow.  In this case it is parallel to the bypass line.  That's it.  You have now bypassed the water heater and will not need to fill it with antifreeze for the winter.

You may worry about a little water left in the tank after draining and flushing.  Any water left  has plenty of room to expand if it freezes, so it is not a problem.  You are now ready for Part 3.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2013-10-28

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

11 Responses to “Winterizing: Part 2: Water Heater Bypass”

September 22, 2014at12:49 pm, Dave Mckinniss said:

I winterize my R V by going to FLA

September 22, 2014at10:43 am, James Wilkinson said:

Soon, I will attempt the dreaded winterizing of my Lance 1130, a task that takes the local RV dealer more than an hour to do. Oh, boy…

September 22, 2014at8:20 am, Ronda McLaughlin said:

John McLaughlin Mary Ann McLaughlin

September 22, 2014at5:49 am, David Rousseau said:

Meri-lyn Rousseau

January 03, 2014at12:10 pm, TrekerJack said:

Great winterizing series – clear and succinct! I’ve had my RT 2000 200 Popular for about 18 months now, the bypass was my first mod. After reading the winterizing instructions, I thought “I gotta get a bypass kit”. Saves tons of antifreeze. If you’re at all handy with basic tools the mod is pretty easy. The only issue I had was after installing it I could no longer close the cabinet door. The bypass interfered with the trash bin mounted on the inside of the door. I removed it. Wasn’t very useful anyway.

October 28, 2013at9:25 pm, Campskunk said:

there are a dizzying array of bypass valves – the earliest RTs came with none, my 2003 had a RT-installed bypass kit that was identical to one offered for sale online and at Camping World, with two valves like yours. the two-valve systems connect two of the three lines at the junction, so they’re kind of like Y-valves or transfer relays. the current system on RTs is three valves and they’re all simple open/shut line valves – two on the water lines, and one on the bypass hose. close the two line valves and open the bypass, and voila, you’re in winterizing mode.

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