The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued the warning on Friday ahead of the holiday season, urging consumers to check their caravans and recreational vehicles (RVs) for “dangerous Suburban-branded water heaters”.
The ACCC warns that carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death, and exposure for a short amount of time can lead to serious injuries - that carbon monoxide has no smell and is unlikely to be detected - and it is also highly flammable and can explode on contact with a spark or flame.
The Gas Technical Regulators Committee (GTRC), with the ACCC’s assistance, is raising awareness of the need for repair of thousands of water heaters.
“Do not use the affected water heaters in gas mode under any circumstances,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“It’s especially important to check your caravan’s water heater as soon as possible if you plan to go away during the summer holidays. It only takes a minute and it could save the lives of your loved ones.
“We are concerned that a large number of deadly heaters remain in caravans and RVs because owners have not yet contacted Coast to Coast for an inspection. Coast to Coast Caravan and Leisure has recalled these heaters due to the serious hazards they present. Owners should not take this issue lightly and act quickly.”
Rickard says consumers can check if their heater is affected by opening the exterior access door to the hot water service and checking the model and serial number located on the right hand side - and should then enter the serial number at the Coast to Coast website.
“Anyone with an affected water heater should urgently contact Coast to Coast Caravan and Leisure on 02 9645 7685 who will arrange for a licensed gasfitter to inspect their water heater free of charge,” Rickard said.
The ACCC says that consumers will not have to cover any costs related to the supply and installation of the new water heater, or any required associated work, such as the modification of cavity and gas and/or water lines.
“Coast to Coast Caravan and Leisure will check every unit, after being contacted by consumers, to ensure the water heater is properly installed and if needed, will replace the unit through a licenced gasfitter free of charge,” the ACCC advises.
The ACCC notes in its statement on Friday that Coast to Coast Caravan and Leisure notified a recall for Suburban Recreational Vehicle Water Heaters on 15 November 2019 due to their serious safety hazards - and that 18,139 heaters have been sold across all states and territories in Australia mostly installed in caravans and RVs via certain caravan and motorhome retailers.
The ACCC also says that gas regulators have been working with Coast to Coast Caravan and Leisure to identify a suitable safe replacement water heater, and replacement models initially proposed by Suburban, the overseas manufacturer, also failed testing - and a safe model was finally produced, and approved for use in July 2020.
“The supplier advises stocks of replacement units are now in hand and they are keen to get remediation happening quickly. To date, only 210 units have been remediated or scheduled for inspection, and the supplier would like to encourage greater consumer response to the recall.
“The affected products are the Suburban Recreational Vehicle Water Heaters with model numbers SW6DEA, SW6DA, SW4DEA, SW4DA, SW4DECA, SW6DECA and SW6PA that have serial numbers between 181315552 and 193002648 (some serial numbers may end with a 'D') and between 8183311827 and 8190201139. They were manufactured between 4 April 2018 and 1 August 2019,” the ACCC reports.