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Step-by-Step Guide: How to Install an RV Water Heater

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  • Post last modified:August 27, 2023

As an RV enthusiast, it’s essential to have a reliable and functional water heater in your recreational vehicle. Installing an RV water heater may seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and guidance, you can complete the installation process smoothly and efficiently.

Proper installation of an RV water heater is crucial to ensure its longevity and optimal performance. In this guide, I’ll provide you with a step-by-step installation process, tips, and safety precautions to follow to help you install your RV water heater with ease.

Key Takeaways:

  • Installing an RV water heater is essential for a comfortable RV experience.
  • Proper installation is critical to ensure longevity and optimal performance.
  • In this guide, we will provide a step-by-step process, tips, and safety precautions to help you install your RV water heater successfully.

Understanding Your RV Water Heater

Before you begin installing your RV water heater, it’s important to understand the different types of heaters available and the components involved in the installation process.

There are two main types of RV water heaters: tankless and tank-style. Tankless heaters heat water on demand, while tank-style heaters store hot water in a tank until it’s needed.

It’s also important to note that RV water heaters run on propane, electricity, or a combination of both. If your RV doesn’t have a propane system, you’ll need to choose an electric water heater.

When installing an RV water heater, you’ll need to consider the location and clearance requirements. Make sure you have enough space for the water heater and that it’s installed in a safe and accessible location.

Additionally, be sure to follow all safety precautions during the installation process, such as turning off all power sources and releasing any pressure in the water lines before beginning the installation.

With these installation tips for RV water heaters in mind, you can ensure a smooth and successful installation process.

RV water heater installation

Gathering the Necessary Tools and Materials

Before beginning the RV water heater installation process, it’s crucial to gather all the necessary tools and materials to ensure a smooth and successful installation. Here are the items you will need:

Tools Materials
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Pipe thread tape
  • Ratchet set with appropriate sockets
  • Drill with various bits
  • Wire strippers/cutters
  • Butane torch or propane torch
  • Multimeter
  • New RV water heater
  • Flexible gas line
  • Plumbing fittings and hoses
  • Copper tubing and fittings
  • Ignition assembly kit (if necessary)
  • Sealant or caulk

It’s important to note that some RV water heaters may come with installation kits, which will include some of the necessary tools and materials. Be sure to check before purchasing anything additional.

While it may be tempting to save money by tackling a DIY RV water heater installation, it’s crucial to have the right tools and materials. Improper installation could lead not only to costly repairs but also to safety hazards such as gas leaks or electrical fires. When in doubt, it’s always best to consult with a professional RV technician.

DIY RV water heater installation

DIY RV water heater installation requires the right tools and materials for a safe and successful installation. Image source:

Removing the Old Water Heater

Before installing the new RV water heater, it’s essential to safely remove the old one.

Step 1: Turn off the propane and disconnect the battery to ensure there’s no power running to the water heater.

Step 2: Turn off the water supply and use a wrench to disconnect the hot and cold water lines from the water heater.

RV Water Heater Installation

Step 3: Disconnect any remaining wires or electrical connections. Be sure to label them if necessary to ensure correct reconnection later on.

Step 4: Carefully remove the old water heater from its mounting bracket, taking care not to damage any surrounding components.

Step 5: Once the old water heater is removed, clean the area thoroughly to ensure a clean and secure installation for the new one.

By following these steps, you can remove your old RV water heater safely and efficiently. You’re now ready to move on to the next stage of the installation process.

Installing the New Water Heater

After removing the old RV water heater, it’s time to install the new one. Follow these step-by-step instructions to ensure a proper installation:

  1. Choose the right location: Select a location for your new RV water heater that is easily accessible and allows for proper ventilation. Ensure there is enough space to work around the unit during installation.
  2. Connect the plumbing: Connect the hot and cold water lines to the bottom of the water heater. Use Teflon tape on the threaded connections to prevent leaks. Ensure the connections are tight and secure.
  3. Connect the gas: If your RV water heater is gas-powered, connect the gas line to the water heater using a wrench to secure the connection. Use a gas leak detector to ensure there are no leaks.
  4. Connect the electrical: If your RV water heater is electric, connect the power supply to the unit. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure the connections are secure.
  5. Secure the water heater: Use screws or bolts to secure the water heater to the RV. Ensure the unit is level and stable before proceeding.
  6. Fill the tank: Open a hot water faucet and turn on the water supply to fill the tank. Check for leaks around the connections.
  7. Test the water heater: Turn on the water heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions and let it run for several minutes. Check the water temperature and ensure it’s heating properly.

Following these best practices for step-by-step RV water heater installation will help ensure a safe and effective installation process. Once your new RV water heater is installed, move on to the testing and troubleshooting section to ensure it’s functioning correctly.

RV water heater installation

Testing and Troubleshooting

After installing your new RV water heater, it’s important to test it thoroughly to ensure it’s working correctly. One common mistake when installing an RV water heater is not properly filling the tank with water before turning on the power. If the tank isn’t filled with water, it can cause damage to the heating element.

To test your water heater, turn on the water pump and open the hot water faucet. Once the water begins to flow, turn on the heater. You should hear the burner ignite and the water should begin to heat up. If you don’t hear the burner ignite or the water isn’t heating up, there may be an issue with the installation.

If you encounter any problems during testing, it’s important to troubleshoot the issue before using the water heater. Some common troubleshooting tips include checking the electrical connections, ensuring the propane is properly connected, and checking for any leaks in the system.

It’s also a good idea to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific troubleshooting tips and solutions. By addressing any issues early on, you can avoid potential damage to your RV water heater and ensure it’s working properly for years to come.

RV Water Heater Troubleshooting

Ensuring Safety and Compliance

Proper installation of an RV water heater is not only crucial for its functionality but also for the safety of the passengers. Following safety guidelines during installation can prevent accidents and keep everyone safe on the road.

Tip: Turn off the propane and electrical power sources before starting the installation process.

Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly before beginning the installation process. These instructions will provide specific safety guidelines and installation requirements.

When installing an RV water heater, it’s important to comply with all relevant regulations and codes. These may vary depending on your location, so it’s important to research and understand the requirements in your area. Non-compliance may result in fines or other legal consequences.

Always use the proper tools and materials to ensure a secure installation. This will also prevent damage to the RV and potential hazards from loose connections or improperly installed components.

RV water heater installation safety precautions

By following these safety guidelines and complying with regulations, you can ensure a safe and effective installation of your RV water heater.

Maintaining Your RV Water Heater

Proper maintenance of your RV water heater is crucial for its longevity and efficiency. Here are some best practices for maintaining your RV water heater:

  1. Flush the tank regularly: Sediment and other debris can accumulate in your RV water heater tank, reducing its efficiency and potentially causing damage. Flushing the tank regularly can help prevent this. To do so, simply turn off the water heater and drain the tank completely. Then, run cold water through the tank for several minutes, flushing out any sediment and debris.
  2. Inspect for leaks: Regularly inspect the fittings and connections on your RV water heater for leaks. If you notice any leaks, tighten the fittings or replace any damaged components as soon as possible.
  3. Replace the anode rod: The anode rod is a sacrificial component that helps prevent corrosion in your RV water heater tank. Over time, the anode rod will deteriorate and need to be replaced. Check your owner’s manual for recommended replacement intervals.
  4. Test the pressure relief valve: The pressure relief valve is a safety feature that releases excess pressure from the RV water heater tank. It’s important to test this valve periodically to ensure it’s functioning properly. To do so, simply lift the valve’s lever and allow some water to escape. If the valve fails to release any water, it may be damaged and need to be replaced.

By following these maintenance practices, you can help ensure that your RV water heater operates efficiently and effectively for years to come.

RV Water Heater Maintenance

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Despite your best efforts to properly install your RV water heater, you may still encounter some common issues. Here are a few of the most common problems and how to troubleshoot them:

Issue Troubleshooting Steps
No hot water Check that the propane tank is full and the pilot light is lit. If both of these are in working order, the thermostat may need to be replaced.
Water temperature is inconsistent Check that the temperature setting is at the desired level, the propane tank is full, and there is adequate water flow. If these are all in order, the thermostat may need to be replaced.
Water leaking from the heater Check all connections to make sure they are tight and properly sealed. If this doesn’t solve the issue, the tank may be damaged and require replacement.
Strange noises coming from the heater Drain the tank and remove any sediment that may have accumulated. If this doesn’t solve the issue, the heating element or tank may need to be replaced.

Remember, if you’re not comfortable troubleshooting or making repairs to your RV water heater, it’s always best to seek assistance from a professional. Improper repairs can lead to further damage and even safety hazards.

Proper installation of an RV water heater


Installing an RV water heater is a crucial part of ensuring the comfort and convenience of your home on wheels. By following this RV water heater installation guide, you can safely and efficiently replace your old unit with a new one, ensuring proper function and preventing potential hazards. Remember to gather all the necessary tools and materials, follow safety precautions, and test your new unit to ensure proper operation. Additionally, regular maintenance and troubleshooting can help you avoid common issues and extend the lifespan of your RV water heater. By implementing these best practices, you can enjoy hot water on demand in your RV for years to come.

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