Tips on Buying and Maintenance of RV Water Heaters

Tips on Buying and Maintenance of RV Water Heaters
August 23, 2012 Lorelie

It is a common fact that the water heater installed in your RV is primarily a propane gas appliance.  Typically, the water heater unit that is installed in most RVs has a 6-gallon tank, but bigger RVs may have 10-gallon or even up to 16-gallon tanks.   An RV water heater may operate only on gas or on gas and/or 120 volt AC, depending on the model installed.

Tips on Buying an RV Water Heater

RV water heaters are typically built as small and lightweight water heating devices, with the purpose of being installed below the floor, behind the baggage door, or outside, so you can have more space to enjoy in your mobile home, and still be able to enjoy the benefits of having hot water anywhere and anytime you like.

RV water heater are considered to be very convenient not only by providing hot water with the use of the RV engine’s heat (while driving), but also it can provide electricity from the electrical system or generator.

When you are in the search to buy an RV water heater, the best model is the one that meets all your needs, has high performance, has a decent tank life and is extremely reliable.  Of course, you would not want to experience going outdoors while on a camping trip in the mountains only to discover that your RV water heater unit is not working properly at all.

Unlike other types of water heaters such as those used in a residential bathroom or in a hotel, RV water heater units are very robust and durable.  Even if you are currently on the road driving your RV through rough terrains, unpleasant weather conditions and far away from civilization, you never have to worry about your RV water heater unit as it is protected against shorts in the electrical system and voltage spikes as well as it has a feature protection for electronic ignition caused by excessive heat conditions.

As with any other water heater unit, the size is also very important, and the size of the water heater unit that you must have for your RV depends on how many of you are usually traveling and using hot water for doing the dishes or for showering, and even the extent of the demand.   You can buy water heater models for RVs with a capacity ranging from 3 gallons up to 16 gallons.

Take Note:  If you are not going to use your RV during the winter season, you must try to protect the plumbing/heating system, by either adding the antifreeze or draining the system.  You must take precautions by first removing the anode rod because it might get affected by corrosive action.

A typical RV water heater and its components such as the limit switch, reset button, anode rod, drain plug, pilot lights and the ignition system are very accessible and concealed just behind the removable outer door.  With a flush mount or standard protective doors, an RV water heater unit does not interfere with mobile home design as it has a compact and neat appearance as well as it has corrosion-free resistance.

Like other water heater units that are popularly used at home, RV water heaters are very much user-friendly as you can turn the power on either from the inside or outside.  They are also easy to maintain, troubleshoot and repair.

RV water heater units having the electronic ignition can be activated from inside your RV and the heating process will commence even when you are driving, without you having to leave the RV.  For pilot light models, it is possible to re-ignite from the inside as well.

Take Note:  It is highly recommended not to use RV water heaters that are utilizing propane gas most especially while driving, because the pilot light or flame can be really affected with the incoming air.

Maintenance Tips for RV Water Heaters

Below are some common and simple maintenance tips for RV water heaters:


The drain plug for RV water heaters can be found on the bottom of the outside compartment.  After every trip you take, it is best that you drain the completely.  If it is troublesome for you, then at least you must drain your RV water heater during the winter time.  If you do not do this, then you are risking your water heater unit to be damaged due to freezing.  Moreover, ensure that you never the water heater while it is still hot or under pressure.


You must never make the mistake of lighting your RV water heater when it is empty.  The tank has to be completely full of water before you can light the heater.   You can actually easily tell whether the tank is full or not.  First, you need to open the faucet for hot water.  When you get a steady flow of water, then you will know that the hot water tank is full.


You need to also inspect the burner area and the exterior water heater vent occasionally as these areas are prone to obstructions.  You have to ensure that there are no insect nests that are blocking the vent.  If there are any obstructions in the vent, it can prove to be troublesome as it prevents the release of harmful gases.


Most RV owners seal their RV water heater units in order to protect them.  However, you must never make the mistake of using plastic in order to seal your water heater unit.  Plastic is known to trap moisture, which may potentially have the opposite effect of what you wanted.  As a matter of fact, trapped moisture can easily and quickly damage RV water heater units.

By-Pass Valve Kit

When it is time to winterize your RV, you will most likely need to put at least 6 gallons of antifreeze into your RV water heater/s.  You can utilize a by-pass valve kit in order to avoid having to waste a lot of antifreeze in the heater unit.  These by-pass kits let the antifreeze to bypass the tanks of the RV water heaters after they are completely drained.  The antifreeze will go directly into the water lines.

Mentioned above are a few common and simple maintenance tips for RV water heaters.  You need to ensure that the tank is completely full prior to you lighting the heater.  You also have to drain the tanks in order to prevent freezing during the winter season.  If you choose to do so, you can use a by-pass kit so that you will not have to waste a lot of antifreeze filling up the RV water heater tank.

Before you go and buy a water heater unit for your RV, it is best to search the market first for what is the best one there is out there for your mobile home.  Consult a professional or ask some of your friends who may also have an RV.

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