In writing about our personal experiences, we sometimes mention products or services that we use or recommend. This page may contain affiliate links for which we receive a commission.
The standard water heater in most RVs is an LP unit that holds 6 gallons of water and keeps the water at a set temperature.
This is acceptable for the camper who goes out for the weekend and wants to be able to wash the dinner dishes with the same ease that they’re accustomed to at home.
However, for the family that’s staying at a resort for a week with a couple kids, this isn’t the most user-friendly situation.
Not to mention the fact that full-time RVers become accustomed to taking daily showers. Depending on the size of your family, it could turn into an all-day process just to cycle each person through the shower and wait for the water heater to recover each time.
To make matters worse, 6 gallons of hot water is only enough to take you to about the point where you’re covered with soap from head to toe. Then it cuts to cold when the hot water runs out. That final rinse can be downright chilling!
Fortunately, RVers have a few alternatives…
Larger 10-Gallon RV Water Heaters
A huge improvement is the next step up with a 10-gallon water heater.
My wife and I lived for 3 years with this size and found that it supplied enough hot water.
Plus, by reducing the water flow a little bit, you could take a shower with the water running continuously. If you hustled, you could finish without it going too cold during the final moments.
Of course, we still had to wait an hour for the water heater to get back up to temperature for the next shower.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take as long a shower as you’d like? Then to be able to have another person take their shower as soon as you’re finished? Then to be able to wash dishes or send a load of clothes through the washer/dryer immediately after everyone is done in the bathroom?
RV Tankless Water Heaters
Tankless water heaters are becoming the accepted way to heat your water in today’s new home construction market.
Though they aren’t standard equipment on most RVs at this point, they are available for the RV market too.
With propane burners and the sensors powered by 12V DC, an RV tankless water heater will work exactly like the one you may have at home. As soon as you open a faucet and water flow is sensed, the burner ignites. In a matter of a second or so, hot water is coming out of the faucet.
Pros & Cons Of Tankless RV Water Heaters
The cost of a tankless RV water heater is a bit higher than a regular RV water heater. You’re looking at around $1,000 for an RV tankless water heater, compared to about $800 for a standard 10-gallon RV water heater.
The question that immediately came to mind for me is what happens when you’re not hooked to city water?
Operating off your onboard fresh water supply, how does it know when you’ve run out of water? Ignition for the unit is controlled by a flow meter. A spinning blade of sorts turns as water flows through the unit. At the point that you run out of water, the spinning component no longer turns because water is no longer passing by. At that point, the burner will shut off or refuse to ignite, rendering the system safe until water flow is again established.
Much to the delight of RVers who are living Green, a tankless RV water heater will consume less fossil fuel than the standard RV water heater that ignites and keeps 6 to 10 gallons of water piping hot, regardless of whether you’ll be using it or not.
For those who go boondocking for extended periods of time, propane consumption is a big deal. Stretching your supply means fewer trips into town to get refilled.
It wouldn’t take much time at all to make up the difference in price between an environmentally friendly tankless RV water heater and the standard 6- or 10-gallon RV water heater.
Maybe it’s time to upgrade…
More About RV Tankless Water Heaters
- A Tankless Water Heater Is An RV Essential
- Portable Tankless Water Heater For Camping
- Ways That Portable Tankless Water Heaters Come In Handy
- How To Upgrade To An RV Tankless Water Heater Yourself
I’ve been involved in RVing for over 50 years — including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs and motorhomes. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller… you’ve got a good idea of who I am. To date, I've shared my RV knowledge in over 300 articles here at The Fun Times Guide!