RV Water Heater


July 4, 2023

Are you thinking of buying a new water heater for your travel trailer? Then this article can be helpful to you.

Lately, there have been so many new and improved water heaters hitting the market that it can be hard to decide which one fits your needs.

This article will help you understand how water heaters work and what features to look for when buying one. This article will also help you choose the right water heater for your RV.

Hot water may seem like a luxury at home, but when you’re camping, it becomes an essential commodity—which is why your RV’s water heater is such an important appliance. 

Not only does having hot water make all your adventures more comfortable, but it can make you feel warm and cozy.

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Warm Up With RV Water Heaters

When you’re camping in the woods, it’s easy to see how much we rely on hot water. 

Especially during the winter, a water heater can help you stay warm by supplying you with heated water for showers.

A quality water heater system will also give you warm water at any time of the day. You can use your water heater when you shower, do dishes, or do laundry—it’s a convenient way to stay clean!

What Do RV Water Heaters Run On?

All water heaters use one of two types of fuel: LP (liquid propane) gas or a mixture of LP gas and electricity. 

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a type of fuel made of hydrocarbon gases, specifically propane and butanes. 

A charged battery will also be necessary if you plan to use your propane stove for cooking.

You can also run a gas-only water heater while boondocking if you can get electricity to make the heater work. 

Some types of hybrid heaters require both LP gas and AC power.

How Long Should an RV Water Heater Last?

A hot water tank can last 10 to 15 years, but this is just an average, and your water heater’s life span can vary greatly depending on the brand, usage, and maintenance.

Are Tankless Water Heaters Good for an RV?

Tankless water heaters use less energy than old tank heaters. 

Since traditional hot water heaters last so long, they tend to be more expensive in the long run than tankless units are. 

The cost of your water systems will depend on many factors, including the amount of water you use and how much the system costs.

How Does a Tankless Water Heater Work in an RV?

Tankless water heaters used in RVs and many homes produce hot water as soon as you flip the faucet. 

Rather than heating the entire tank of water, an instant RV hot-water heater heats the water as it passes through a set of pipes within the system.

Tankless RV water heaters also have an adjustable controller, which lets you control the temperature of your water.

The result is an endless supply of hot water for as long as your RV has a source of running water.

With this continuous hot water supply, you no longer have to shower in cold water or worry about running out of hot water while washing dishes.

Do RV Water Heaters Run on 12v?

Most RV water heaters are electronically controlled and powered by a 12-volt battery system. Proper voltage and ground connections are needed for all electronic water heaters.

The voltage between your water heater’s terminals should range from 10.5 volts DC to 13.5 volts DC for them to operate properly.

If a converter supplies too much voltage to a battery bank or if the batteries themselves are discharged, it can damage your system.

Ground connections are just as important. It’s easy to forget the significance of grounding the battery bank and the water heater, so always keep this in mind. 

If the water heater’s grounding screw isn’t sturdy, it may rust or come loose. Remember to keep this connection clean and tight.

How Much Is a Tankless Water Heater?

The average cost of installing a tankless water heater is between $5,500 and $6,500.

The total cost of installing a tankless water heater without the unit can range from $1,800 to $3,500, averaging around $2,650.

The significant variable is labor. In some areas, it’s more expensive to get a water heater installed than in others.

What Is the Use of the Magnesium Anode in an RV Water Heater?

A magnesium anode is used in RV water heaters as sacrificial protection. Because it is a more active metal, magnesium will sacrifice itself to protect the tank’s water heater.

Once all magnesium anodes are consumed, corrosion will directly attack the water heater and affect its life span.

Cathodic protection systems require at least annual maintenance and inspection. This protection is a method for protecting submerged and underground metallic structures from corrosion.

Maintaining your water heater properly will let you have hot water and good water pressure throughout the year.

More Efficient Cathodic Protection

The imposed current anodes have a more efficient technology than the traditional sacrificial anodes. Unlike magnesium or aluminum water heater anode rods, this new cathodic protection system is built to last several years and doesn’t need maintenance.

The current anode is made of insoluble titanium alloy and covered with a protective layer of mixed metal oxide (MMO).

A low voltage is required to be transmitted through the anode so it can activate. You can get this voltage using an electronic rectifier connecting to a standard 120-volt socket.

The current passes through the tank and completely polarizes it, forming a protective layer that prevents rust.

The RV Water Heater Anode Rod Should Be Checked Annually

You should check your RV’s anode rod at least once every six months.

Since you’ll be flushing out your water heater tank before winterizing, this is an excellent time to check the anode rod.

The water in the tank’s lines and pipes could freeze if you don’t winterize your RV. If the water in your pipes freezes and expands, it can cause cracks, and possibly burst.

If you don’t live in a region that requires you to winterize your RV and use a magnesium anode for your water heater, it’s still important to check the anode rod annually.

The Anode Can Be the Cause of the Sulfur Smell in Hot Water

The anode is the primary cause of that rotten egg-like smell in hot water.

Many would suggest removing the anode entirely to fix this problem, but removing it is unnecessary.

By removing the sacrificial anode from your tank, you leave it unprotected against corrosion.

Sulfate Reducing Bacteria in Your RV Water Heater

It’s important to note that there are multiple causes for sulfur-smelling water.

If the odor is present only when you run your hot water, it’s likely caused by sulfate-reducing bacteria (sulfur bacteria) in your tank.

If the sulfur smell is present in both hot and cold water, the problem usually comes directly from the water source, which might have the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas in it.

If the smell comes from your water supply, this problem can be the most expensive to fix since you will need to test and treat your water.

Reaction With the Magnesium Anode

Anaerobic bacteria that react with magnesium and aluminum sacrificial anodes primarily found in water heaters are the most common cause of smelly water. 

Do You Leave the Water Heater on All the Time in RV?

It’s safe to leave your RV water heater on all the time, just as you would at home. Just be sure that there’s always water in the heater, and that it’s turned off before moving your RV.

How to Choose a Water Heater for Your RV

There are several factors you should think about when choosing an RV water heater.

  • Fuel source. Water heaters are fueled by electricity or propane. Choosing the best option for you depends on several factors.

For example, your hot water needs can change from season to season, and the construction of your RV influences the water heater’s energy consumption.

  • Tankless or tank heaters. The majority of older water heaters used in RVs are tank-style models. The tank is set up to dispense hot water only when necessary.

Meanwhile, tankless water heaters actively heat the water once it passes through the system.

While tankless water heaters are more expensive than traditional models, they provide their users with an unlimited hot water supply. This means you’ll always have hot water in your motor home.

Tankless water heaters are also more energy-efficient than tank heaters and can properly distribute water throughout your RV.

  • Size of the water heater. The typical water heater with a tank can hold 6 to 10 gallons of water.

When choosing a heater for your RV, you should consider the space’s size and how many people will be traveling with you. A larger tank is also needed to supply hot water for many RV occupants.

  • Water heater installation. Whether you choose a tankless or tank water heater, they’re both easy to install. You should carefully read the installation instructions that come with your water heater.

You could also search online reviews to learn how to install a water heater. When shopping for an RV water heater, look for one that’s easy to install. 

  • Heating capacity and output. Tankless heaters are much smaller than those with tanks because they have no limit on capacity.

Instead of measuring output by the volume or mass of hot water, it’s gauged based on flow capacity—the number of gallons released in a minute.

Most models can provide two or two and a half gallons per minute, which is enough water to meet the needs of most families.

  • Energy consumption. For many RV owners, the efficient use of water heaters is a primary concern.

Unless you’re in a campground with electrical hookups, you must be careful about your energy consumption.

Tankless heaters are the most energy-efficient type of water heater because they only use their heating element when necessary.

The amount of heat a water heater can produce has a large effect on energy efficiency.

If you’re using an old water heater, no matter what type it is, the best way to minimize your energy consumption is by replacing it with a new one.

A Primer on the Types of RV Water Heaters

You can choose among three fuel sources for your camper’s water heater.

Propane and electric water heaters can be used with either liquid propane or electricity.

One option is to use a power source that’s convenient for you. Another option is to heat water quickly using both sources of energy.

What’s the Best RV Water Heater?

The Camplux 5L Tankless Propane Gas Water Heater is a basic but effective water heater for hot showers while you’re off-grid.

Camplux 5l

This water heater contains two D-size batteries and a five-foot gas regulator.

The weight is about 10 pounds, and it also comes with a carrying handle, so it can be mounted to the exterior of your RV. It can also deliver up to 1.32 gallons of hot water per minute instantly and continuously.

But the Camplux is only meant to be used as a shower, not for boiling drinking water. The water temperature will automatically shut off when it reaches 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

Girard 2GWHAM

The Girard 2GWHAM is a high-quality RV water heater, built to last and engineered for maximum hot water delivery under heavy demand.

It has an anti-freeze function that kicks in automatically when the temperature drops below 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ignition is powered by the RV’s 12-volt system, making it quieter than most propane heaters. The manufacturer recommends professional installation, but several customers have reported that you can install it yourself.

Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Tronic 3000-T

The Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Tronic 3000-T can heat and store seven gallons of water. It runs on 120-volt AC power but must be connected to a permanent power source.

People say the tank takes less than 40 minutes to fill with hot fresh water. The temperature range is 65 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can’t boil drinking water. It also lacks a display of a thermostat.

Suburban Manufacturing 1236.2037

This Suburban water heater with direct spark ignition (DSI) is both flexible and durable.

The flexibility of the engine comes from its ability to run on either gas or electricity. The durability of this water heater is apparent in its steel-and-porcelain construction. 

It has a 12-gallon tank and outputs 12,000 BTUs (British thermal unit). That’s enough to heat the tank in less than a half-hour.

Ez 101 Tankless Water Heater

The EZ 101 Tankless Water Heater is a propane-powered portable unit with advanced capabilities not usually found at this price point. The ignition is powered by two D-cell batteries.

The propane will ignite when a faucet is turned on but will go out again once you turn it off to conserve propane and hot water.

 The heater shuts off automatically after 20 minutes. This helps prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if the heater is used inside the RV.

The three dials on the unit let you easily adjust water flow and temperature.

The on-demand water heater system may freeze if the temperature drops below freezing.

Some RVers complain that this heater doesn’t heat cold water very well, and others users are concerned about long-term reliability.

Other Options

Of course, if you’re unsatisfied with the choices above, there are many other options to explore. Here are some examples:

  • EcoSmart ECO 11 Electric Tankless Water Heater
  • Furrion 2.4GPM Tankless Rv Gas Water Heater
  • Suburban Gallon Gas and Electric Water Heater
  • Atwood 10-Gallon RV Water Heater
  • Gasland BS158N Propane Tankless Water Heater