How to Use Your RV Water Heater

How Tos & Tips

When compared to traditional camping, RV camping is positively luxurious. Not only do RV campers get to sleep in a comfortable bed every night, they can also have hot showers in their very own bathroom whenever they feel like it.

That said, before one can take those hot showers, they must learn how to properly use their RV water heater. Fortunately, this isn’t too difficult to do, and as long as you keep up with simple maintenance, the water heater for your RV should serve you well for years to come.

RV Electric Water Heater vs RV Propane Water Heater

There are three types of RV water heaters with tanks: electric water heaters, propane water heaters, and combination heaters.

As you might guess, an electric water heater heats water using electricity. This works fairly well and is great for those who have electricity included in their camping fees and wish to conserve propane. That said, a water heater that is solely electric cannot be run while boondocking unless you have an inverter. Additionally, it is relatively easy to mess up an electric water heater by frying the heating element if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Propane RV water heaters are the best RV water heater option for those who enjoy dry camping and wish to conserve electricity. These appliances heat water using propane, which some people feel less comfortable with. That said, as long as the heater is used properly and the propane lines are well taken care of, you shouldn’t have any issues as all.

Obviously, a combination heater is ideal. This type of hot water heater for an RV allows the user to employ the electric heating element or the propane option based on what the circumstances call for. It is also possible to use both electricity and propane at the same time in order to heat the water more quickly.

Using a Traditional RV Hot Water Heater

Now it’s time to move onto how to start hot water in an RV. Let’s say you’re in your RV and you’re ready to use the water heater. If you’re working with a traditional water heater—the kind with a tank—there are some things you’ll want to note.

First, you’ll need to make sure your hot water tank has water in it. To do this, first ensure any bypass valves that could cut off the water supply to your tank are open instead of closed. Next fill your fresh water tank or hook your RV up to a city water connection. Open a hot tap and let the water run for a few seconds. Doing this will ensure you have water in your tank to heat.

Next, you’ll want to switch the water heater on. As mentioned before, you can choose to use both the propane and electric options together if you happen to have a heater with both. Doing so will cut down a bit on the time it takes to warm your water. That said, even with both types of heat going, you will need to wait at least 20 minutes to have a full tank of hot water. This wait time could increase should you happen to be in cold weather.

You can choose to leave your water heater on or switch it off between uses. However, it is important to note that leaving a propane heater running will empty your fuel tank pretty quickly. Additionally, leaving an electric heater on runs the risk of burning or frying an element should your tank somehow become empty.

Caring for an RV Hot Water Tank

Of course, once you figure out how to use it properly, you’ll want to make sure you take good care of your RV water heater tank. Maintenance on an RV water heater should be done every 6 to 12 months. Luckily, this is easy enough to do.

Begin by turning the heater off and giving the water inside plenty of time to cool off. When you’re certain it’s cool, remove the drain plug or the anode rod and let the tank drain completely, allowing any sediment and debris to drain out. If your tank has an anode rod rather than a simple plastic plug, take this opportunity to replace the rod. This helps prevent buildup in your tank. New anode rods can be found on Amazon, at Camping World, and anywhere else RV hot water heater parts can be found.

Another thing you should do to take care of your water heater tank is winterize your trailer each year before the weather turns freezing. This will keep your tank from cracking due to frozen water. Instructions on how to winterize can be found here.

Choosing an RV Tankless Water Heater

Don’t like the idea of waiting for water to heat up every time you want to shower or wash dishes? Prefer a constant stream of hot water? A tankless water heater for an RV might be the thing for you. This RV upgrade is becoming more and more popular, and once you experience the luxury of on-demand hot water, you’ll understand why.

Wondering what the best RV tankless water heater is? Well, the Camplux 5L Portable Propane Tankless Water Heater is well loved by many RV owners. Meanwhile, some would argue that the Girard 1GWHAF Tankless Water Heater or Precision Temp RV 550 is the best tankless water heater for an RV. Do your own research and decide which one will suit your needs and then learn to enjoy long hot showers even when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

Clearly, there is a lot to think about when it comes to RV water heaters. Hopefully this article helped you get started using your water heater and gave you some ideas of upgrades you may want to make in the future. We hope you have a wonderful time camping with hot water, and a comfortable tiny home-on-wheels to boot!