what will I have to change to install a standard electric water heater in a mobile home. It is electric now, but store says there is a diffe

Rick's Avatar (by Gravatar) by Rick in  Plumbing » Water » Hot Water 

I need to know if you can switch from an electric mobile home water heater to a standard electric water heater. Store says there is a difference...and besides the price...all I can see is some kind of electric switch next to the power wire inlet on top of the tank with two rather small wires going to it and they then run down the side of the tank and then through the floor. I have swapped out standard heaters several times in the past...even some in mobile homes but never saw this switch before.

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Answer by homeowners

Basically, the only difference in design of mobile home water heaters is that they are intended for installation in a very tight space and therefore they are generally smaller and have all the inlets/outlets as well as valves on the side of the body and nothing on top. I mean, this is just in  very general terms because there are some larger models (by GE, I think) that are marketed to mobile home owners and yet they are still of considerable size (40Gal) and designed just as any other electric water heater out there. But, again, normally a mobile home water heater would be a smaller capacity, shorter, stubbier body with all the connections done from the side.  

As far as the smaller wires you've described - this sounds like a sensor, likely a temperature sensor. When you have your connections on the side, you can't use a dip tube  to separate the cold inlet water from the hot. This heater appears to come with a controller that takes the water temperature at the very top of the tank into consideration as another data point for switching the low or the top heating elements. This would be just my conjecture - the model number and the manufacturer's name would be extremely helpful.

By the way, was that a point-of-use heater (tiny) or something more like an actual household water heater (just small)? PoU ones have their own specifics but swapping a "normal" mobile home electric water heater would not be any different from those other standard jobs you've done in the past.

Answer by

Thanks for the reply. The unit that is installed now is a regular sized water heater. It is a 40 gal unit and is 48" tall. MOR-FLO INDUSTRIES is the brand name and the model # is ZHEFR90-42DTRL . The company is/was in Johnson City, TN.  I can understand your thoughts about the sensor because the heater does have the side inlet and outlet...but why would the wires go through the floor ???? I have not got under the floor to see where they go...but I would think they would have to go to some power source.

Answer by homeowners

 Haven't got a chance to look at the particular heater yet but just a brief comment on the smaller wires going through the floor: this often happens when a low voltage power is needed and the installer is trying to use a transformer that's available somewhere else in the house, used for some other low voltage device, very commonly a door bell. I've also seen stuff wired to 24V available on the security system's transformers. Perhaps those wires aren't a sensor after all and instead are low voltage power for control circuits of the heater? 

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