New Water Heater? Yes, You Can Keep the Shroud!

Some folks are happy to get rid of them, but I like the vintage furnace and water heater shrouds like those on the Tradewind.  It’s part of the original look.  When my Tradewind water heater started leaking last year I was more concerned about keeping the vintage exterior intact than replacing the old Bowen.  Thanks to advice from Doug Rowbottom and some creative engineering on Rick’s part, the old shroud is still part of the Tradewind.

Others have done this using more elegant methods.  We went with something simple.  Turns out that a 6 gallon Atwood fits the original exterior access cutout fairly well.  The fact that the big old 9 gallon Bowen could be removed by pulling it out through the streetside twin eliminated the need to cut any of the exterior skin.

I wasn’t present for the entire process and don’t have tons of photos, but  I’ll try to explain as best I can.


Rick removed the shroud from the exterior down to the skin.  He had to cut through the exhaust pipe behind the old flue to free it up completely. Inside from under the twin he disconnected the old Bowen and got it out .

What remained of the Bowen was a heavy galvanized box frame with a flange fastened to the exterior.    This facilitated the exhaust to go out the flue to the great outdoors, not inside or between the trailer skins where it could asphyxiate the occupants.

The photo above shows the old flange with the raised edge that surrounded the Bowen.  Airstream screwed it to the outside skin.  Heavy steel staples hold the flange to the box inside that houses the controls.  Rick ground off the staples to free the flange.  Saving this flange is key to the new installation.

Rick had to shim up the new Atwood from the inside to bring it flush and level with the existing exterior opening.   He cleaned the outside skin of the old butyl and crud, applied new butyl tape, and secured the old flange to the exterior skin as it was originally using new stainless screws. Bend the Atwood’s own flange edges slightly inward and it will fit inside the original.  Rick had make some final adjustments and notched the bottom of the old flange to accommodate the burner assembly.

He secured the old to the new with screws, sealed between with butyl tape, then verified the water and LPG connections were still intact.   He reinstalled the remaining upper sections of the shroud with stainless screws to made sure everything was still fitting solid. Then we took them off for further modification later.

The old Bowen installation required a slightly larger interior skin opening then we needed now.  Since the Atwood had a flush-mount design and our installation wouldn’t permit bad juju to creep back into the trailer, we simply tucked insulation, the pink stuff, into the small gap between the interior skins and the Atwood.

The upper left panel of the old shroud assembly had to be modified to accommodate the heat exhaust on the left from the Atwood.   Using the factory Atwood exterior door as a template, we traced for a cut-out in the appropriate area.  This piece is thin enough to use tin snips to make the cut-out.  We didn’t have any, so I dropped it off at a sheet metal shop.  They threw in a piece of heavy pierced aluminum to put behind the cut-out.

Now the old panel is vented like an Atwood door with this small modification.  Some heat is also discharged out of the right side through the shroud by nature of it’s design.

All in all, it wasn’t as complicated as I expected.  The lower access panel comes off with the original wing cam fasteners just like it used to so I can reach the controls and light the water heater.  It sure is a pleasure not having to relight an ailing pilot every time I want to shower or do dishes.  Since the recovery time on the Atwood is so fast I haven’t missed the larger water tank.  It’s awesome to be in hot water again!

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