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Guide on Choosing the Right Water Heater for Your RV

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  • Post last modified:August 27, 2023

Welcome to my comprehensive guide on choosing the right water heater for your RV. Whether you’re a seasoned road trip enthusiast or new to the RV lifestyle, having a reliable water heater is essential for ensuring comfort and efficiency while on the road. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to decide which water heater is best for your needs. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you make an informed decision.

In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of water heaters available for RVs, the factors you should consider when choosing the best one for your needs, and how to enhance energy efficiency in your RV. We’ll cover everything from installation tips and maintenance to troubleshooting common issues. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to choose the right water heater for your RV.

Key Takeaways:

  • Choosing the right water heater is crucial for comfort and efficiency in your RV.
  • There are different types of water heaters available for RVs, including tank-based and tankless models.
  • When choosing a water heater, consider factors such as fuel source, capacity, and energy efficiency.

Exploring Your Water Heater Options for RVs

Before you can choose the right water heater for your RV, it’s essential to get an overview of the various types of water heaters available.

There are two main categories of RV water heaters: tank-based and tankless. As the name suggests, tank-based water heaters store hot water in a tank and are the more traditional option. On the other hand, tankless water heaters heat water on demand and do not store hot water in a tank.

Both types of water heaters have their advantages and limitations, so let’s explore each option in more detail.

Tank-Based Water Heaters for RVs

Tank-based water heaters are the most common type found in RVs and operate using either electricity or propane gas to heat the water stored in the tank. The size of the tank can vary depending on the model and can range from 4 to 16 gallons.

One of the main advantages of a tank-based water heater is the ability to provide hot water continuously. However, the tank’s limited capacity means that the hot water supply can run out, and it takes time to reheat the water. Additionally, tank-based water heaters can be bulky and take up valuable storage space in your RV.

Tankless Water Heaters for RVs

Tankless water heaters have gained popularity in recent years due to their energy efficiency and endless hot water supply. Instead of storing hot water in a tank, these systems heat the water on demand as it flows through the unit.

One significant advantage of a tankless water heater is the ability to provide an endless supply of hot water without taking up too much space in your RV. Additionally, they are more energy-efficient than tank-based models since they only heat water when needed, resulting in lower energy consumption and cost savings over time. However, the initial cost of a tankless water heater is higher than a tank-based model, and installation can be more complicated and may require professional assistance.

water heater options for RV

Tip: When choosing between tank-based and tankless water heaters, consider your RV’s size, number of occupants, and hot water usage needs. This information will help you determine which option suits your specific requirements.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an RV Water Heater

Choosing the best water heater for your RV is a crucial decision that can impact your comfort and convenience on the road. To ensure you make an informed decision, consider the following factors:

  1. Budget: Water heaters for RVs come in a range of prices, so you’ll need to weigh your budget against your desired features and fuel source. Keep in mind that fuel-based models may have a higher initial cost but can save you money in the long run.
  2. Fuel Source: RV water heaters are available in electric, gas, and hybrid models. Each fuel source has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose one that meets your needs and preferences.
  3. Capacity: Consider the size of your RV and how many people will be using hot water at the same time. This will help you determine the ideal capacity for your water heater.
  4. Energy Efficiency: Choosing an energy-efficient water heater not only saves you money on your utility bills but also reduces your carbon footprint. Look for models with high energy efficiency ratings and features such as insulation and temperature control.
  5. Installation Requirements: Before purchasing a water heater, make sure you have the necessary space and infrastructure to install it properly. Some models require additional ventilation or upgraded electrical systems.

By considering these factors, you can narrow down your options and find the best water heater for your RV. Keep in mind that different models may have unique features and considerations beyond these general factors, so be sure to do your research and consult with experts before making a final decision.

RV Water Heater Buying Guide

Tank-Based Water Heaters for RVs

If you’re in the market for an RV water heater, chances are you’ll come across tank-based models. These types of water heaters work by heating and storing a specific amount of water in a tank, which is then ready for use whenever you need it.

RV tank-based water heaters are available in various sizes, usually ranging from 6 to 10 gallons. The size you choose will depend on your needs and capacity requirements.

One of the biggest advantages of tank-based RV water heaters is their simplicity and reliability. These models are relatively easy to install and require minimal maintenance. Additionally, they can provide hot water for multiple uses simultaneously, such as showering and washing dishes.

However, one of the cons of tank-based water heaters is that they can take up a considerable amount of space in your RV. They can also be slower to heat up water than tankless models.

When selecting a tank-based water heater for your RV, consider factors such as fuel source (electric or gas), recovery rate, and energy efficiency. Keep in mind, gas-powered models tend to heat water more quickly than electric ones.

Overall, tank-based water heaters can be a reliable and practical option for many RV owners.

RV Water Heater Types

Tankless Water Heaters for RVs

If you’re looking for an energy-efficient and space-saving water heater for your RV, a tankless model may be the right choice for you. Unlike tank-based water heaters, which store and heat a specific amount of water, tankless water heaters heat water on demand, providing unlimited hot water supply while taking up less space.

Tankless water heaters for RVs are available in both electric and gas-powered models, each with its own advantages and considerations. Electric tankless water heaters are easy to install, operate quietly, and require less maintenance than gas models. However, they may not be suitable for larger RVs or high-demand applications, as they have lower heating capacities.

Gas-powered tankless water heaters for RVs are more powerful and can provide hot water to multiple appliances simultaneously. However, they require proper ventilation and a gas supply, which may not be available in all camping sites.

When choosing a tankless water heater for your RV, consider the size of your RV, your hot water needs, and your fuel preferences. It’s also important to note that tankless water heaters may have a higher initial cost than tank-based models, but can save you money in the long run due to their energy efficiency and longer lifespan.

tankless water heater for RV

Overall, tankless water heaters for RVs are a great option for those who value energy efficiency, space-saving, and unlimited hot water supply. However, they may not be suitable for all RVers, so make sure to weigh your options carefully before making a decision.

Electric vs. Gas Water Heaters for RVs

Choosing the right fuel source for your RV water heater is a critical decision that can impact your comfort, budget, and safety. Both electric and gas-powered water heaters have their advantages and disadvantages, and the right choice depends on your preferences and usage habits.

Electric Water Heaters Gas Water Heaters
Produce no emissions Produce emissions and require ventilation
More energy-efficient for smaller RVs and occasional use More energy-efficient for larger RVs and frequent use
Require a reliable source of electricity Require a propane tank and occasional refills
Quieter operation Louder operation and potential propane leaks

As you can see, electric water heaters are cleaner, quieter, and more efficient for smaller RVs and infrequent use. They are also easier to install and maintain, making them a popular choice among RVers. However, they require a reliable source of electricity, which may not be available in remote areas or during power outages.

On the other hand, gas-powered water heaters are better suited for larger RVs and frequent use, as they provide higher output and faster recovery time. They are also more compatible with boondocking and off-grid camping, as propane tanks can last for weeks or months. However, they emit air pollutants and require proper ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Gas-powered water heaters also require periodic refills of propane, which can be inconvenient.

Overall, the choice between electric and gas-powered water heaters depends on your specific needs and preferences. Consider factors such as frequency of use, size of your RV, availability of electricity and propane, and environmental impact before making a decision.

electric vs gas water heater for RV

RV Water Heater Installation Tips

Proper installation of an RV water heater is vital for ensuring its longevity, efficiency, and safety. Here are some tips to help you with your installation:

  1. Read the instructions carefully: Before you start, make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Follow the steps sequentially, and don’t skip any steps.
  2. Choose a safe location: Mount the water heater in a well-ventilated area, away from combustible materials such as curtains, papers, and fuel. Make sure the location is level and stable.
  3. Use the right tools: The installation process requires specific tools, such as pipe cutters, wrenches, and sealants. Use the appropriate tools and techniques for the job.
  4. Ensure proper connections: Connect the water heater to the RV’s plumbing system, propane tank, and electric supply, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Double-check all the connections for tightness and leaks.
  5. Test before use: Before using the RV water heater, test it for proper operation and safety. Fill the tank with water, turn on the power or gas, and check for any leaks or malfunctions.

Proper installation is not only important for your RV’s water heating system but also for your safety and those around you. If you’re unsure about any steps, consult a professional installer for assistance.

RV Water Heater Installation Tips

RV Water Heater Maintenance

To ensure that your RV water heater runs smoothly and lasts for years to come, regular maintenance is crucial. Here are some essential RV water heater maintenance tips.

Flushing the Tank

Over time, sediment and mineral buildup can accumulate in the water heater tank, reducing its efficiency and potentially causing damage. To prevent this, it’s essential to drain and flush the tank once a year.

Here’s how to flush the tank:

  1. Turn off the water heater and let it cool down for at least an hour.
  2. Close the water supply valve and release the pressure relief valve.
  3. Connect a hose to the drain valve and direct it to a suitable draining location.
  4. Open the drain valve and let the tank drain completely.
  5. Close the drain valve and open the cold water supply valve.
  6. Let the water run for a few minutes until it runs clear, then close the pressure relief valve.
  7. Turn on the water heater and wait for it to heat up before using it again.

Checking the Anode Rod

The anode rod is a sacrificial metal component that attracts harmful minerals and sediments, protecting the water heater tank from corrosion. Over time, the anode rod will wear down and need replacing.

Here’s how to check the anode rod:

  1. Turn off the water heater and let it cool down for at least an hour.
  2. Locate the anode rod on the top of the water heater tank.
  3. Unscrew the anode rod and inspect it for damage or significant wear.
  4. If the anode rod is more than 50% worn down or corroded, it’s time to replace it.
  5. Install a new anode rod and secure it tightly.

Inspecting the Pressure Relief Valve

The pressure relief valve is a safety component that prevents the water heater from over-pressurizing, which can cause serious damage. It’s essential to inspect the pressure relief valve regularly to make sure it’s functioning correctly.

Here’s how to inspect the pressure relief valve:

  1. Turn off the water heater and let it cool down for at least an hour.
  2. Locate the pressure relief valve on the top or side of the water heater tank.
  3. Lift the lever on the valve slightly to release some water.
  4. If water flows freely and stops when you release the lever, the valve is functioning correctly.
  5. If the valve does not release water or continues to flow after releasing the lever, it’s time to replace it.

RV Water Heater Maintenance

Regular maintenance is essential for keeping your RV water heater in optimal condition. By following these tips, you’ll ensure that your water heater runs efficiently and lasts for years to come.

Enhancing Energy Efficiency in Your RV Water Heater

Improving the energy efficiency of your RV water heater has several benefits. Not only will it help reduce your carbon footprint, but it can also save you money on fuel costs. Here are some tips to enhance the energy efficiency of your RV water heater:

  1. Insulate your water heater: Adding insulation to your RV water heater can help it retain heat and reduce the amount of energy needed to maintain the desired temperature.
  2. Consider a tankless water heater: Compared to traditional tank-based models, tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient because they only heat water as needed, eliminating standby heat loss.
  3. Adjust the temperature: Lowering the temperature of your RV water heater by just a few degrees can significantly reduce energy consumption.
  4. Use efficient showerheads: Low-flow showerheads can help reduce water consumption, in turn reducing the amount of energy needed to heat water.

Implementing these energy-saving tips can help you maximize the efficiency of your RV water heater, allowing you to enjoy hot showers and clean dishes while minimizing your environmental impact.

RV water heater

Upgrading Your RV Water Heater: What You Need to Know

If you’re considering upgrading your RV water heater, there are a few key factors to keep in mind. First and foremost, you’ll need to determine whether you want to stick with your current fuel source (electric or gas) or switch to a different one. This decision may be influenced by availability, personal preference, or even cost.

Another important consideration is the size and capacity of your new water heater. A larger tank may provide more hot water, but it may also take up valuable space in your RV. Take measurements and consider your overall water usage to determine the optimal tank size for your needs.

Keep in mind that upgrading your RV water heater may also require modifications to your RV’s electrical or plumbing systems. If you’re not comfortable with this type of work, it’s best to hire a professional to ensure a safe and successful installation.

Tip: When shopping for a new RV water heater, look for models that offer enhanced energy efficiency and improved insulation. These features can help reduce your overall energy consumption and save you money in the long run.

Before making any upgrades, it’s also important to ensure that your RV’s electrical system can handle the increased demand of a new water heater. Consult your RV owner’s manual or a qualified electrician for guidance on electrical compatibility and any necessary upgrades.

Finally, be sure to thoroughly research and compare different models and brands to find the best fit for your needs and budget. Reading reviews and seeking recommendations from fellow RVers can also be helpful in making an informed decision.

upgrading RV water heater

By taking the time to carefully consider your options and plan for the installation and maintenance of your new RV water heater, you can ensure a comfortable and efficient road trip experience for years to come.

Troubleshooting Common RV Water Heater Issues

As with any appliance, issues can arise with your RV water heater. Here are some common problems you may encounter and tips for troubleshooting them:

Issue Possible Cause Solution
No hot water Broken heating element, tripped circuit breaker, low propane gas supply Check the heating element and circuit breaker, refill the propane tank
Inconsistent water temperature Dirty or damaged burner, faulty thermostat, sediment buildup in tank Clean or replace the burner and thermostat, flush the tank to remove sediment
Leaking water Loose or damaged connections, corroded tank, faulty pressure relief valve Tighten or replace connections, replace the tank or pressure relief valve
Strange noises Sediment buildup in tank, loose parts, damaged heating element Flush the tank to remove sediment, tighten or replace loose parts, replace the heating element

In some cases, you may need to consult a professional technician for repairs or replacement parts. It’s always best to address issues as soon as possible to prevent further damage and ensure your RV water heater operates efficiently throughout your travels.

common RV water heater issues


Choosing the right water heater for your RV is essential to ensure comfort and efficiency on your travels. As we’ve explored in this guide, there are various factors to consider, such as fuel source, capacity, and energy efficiency.

Whether you opt for a tank-based or tankless water heater, electric or gas-powered, proper installation and maintenance are crucial for optimal performance and longevity.

Remember to prioritize energy efficiency to save on costs and reduce your carbon footprint. And if you’re planning to upgrade your RV water heater, be sure to consider all the options and do your research beforehand.

With this guide, you now have the knowledge and tools to make an informed decision and choose the right water heater for your RV. Happy travels!

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