It’s time to update your RV water heater, but which of the many options should you choose? Should you buy a water heater that runs on gas (propane), a mixture of gas and electric power, or a tankless option?
Read on to learn about our top choices for hot water on the go with the seven best RV water heaters.
Our Top Picks
Agust Electric Hot Water Heater
Best for Hot Water Fast
Girard RV Tankless Hot Water Heater
The Suburban 5243A is a gas/electric hybrid RV water heater, which gives you flexibility and options when you’re going off-grid or when you run out of gas.
The 10-gallon capacity gives you between an 8- and 10-minute hot shower (depending on how cold the water is that you’re heating, how hot you like your shower, and how long you want to shower.)
- This RV water heater has a convenient indoor switch that allows you to toggle between gas and electric as needed, so you don’t have to brave the elements for hot water.
- Installation is easy enough for a do-it-yourself job, which makes this already-reasonably-priced RV water heater even more affordable.
- Tech support on this brand is difficult to come by. If you do have problems on installation, you might have a hard time getting anyone at the manufacturer to help.
Best Budget Option
This RV water heater is a bit smaller than our top pick (three gallons), but it gets the job done without costing you a fortune or taking up too much space.
No gas needed for this heater. It runs on electricity and back-up battery power.
- The digital display makes it easy to control water temperature from the unit, which is compact enough to be mounted on a shelf or even the wall if you don’t want to mount it on the floor.
- The water heats up quickly without needing to preheat.
- The smaller tank means less water in reserve, and you’ll only get a couple minutes of constant hot water at a time.
Best for Hot Water Fast
The Girard Tankless Hot Water Heater not only heats water quickly, but has been designed to use about half the gas of a tanked heater of the same size (six gallons).
This water heater is quiet and controllable from a digital control panel that displays temperature and important error messages.
Temperature and flow rate are moderated by a high-tech microprocessor, resulting in a consistent, steady water flow.
- The ability to heat water fast—and moderate the temperature to avoid scalding—set this RV water heater apart. It’s also lightweight and won’t take up a ton of space in your RV.
- Also, Girard’s customer service is excellent, so if you do have any problems, rest assured that they can help.
- There’s a slight issue with the unit timing out if it’s used too long. To avoid this, turn it off in between longer uses (like between showers).
This water heater is another tankless type that provides nearly instant hot water. It contains a flame failure device and protects against freezing and overheating.
At around only 10 pounds, the Camplux 5L Outdoor Portable RV Water Heater is easy to carry and comes with mounting hardware so you can attach it where you need it.
- Transporting this heater to where you need it is a breeze, given its small size. And you can’t complain about it taking too long to get hot.
- In terms of quality, you get what you pay for. The unit itself is fine, but the plastic fittings aren’t well made and you might have to replace them at some point.
This tankless water heater is another good option if you’re on a budget. It runs on a 20-gallon propane tank with a battery-operated ignition device.
The unit comes with mounting hardware and a bright LED display so you always know what temperature to expect.
- Lightweight, affordable, and efficient, the Gasland Outdoors Portable Water Heater is a solid choice for hot water on the go.
- Hauling around a 20-gallon propane tank can be cumbersome. And, although this is a water heater designed to be used outside, it doesn’t come with a waterproof seal or cover. It can withstand some moisture–like spray from the shower hose or an occasional light rain storm, but it won’t survive unprotected in a place that gets a lot of rain.
Full-time RVers love the Fogatti tankless water heater. It’s compact, heats water fast, and can keep the hot water flowing for a relatively long time.
This particular model comes with a handy remote control for adjusting the temperature, and features a high-altitude mode.
- You can install this unit yourself with little trouble. The water you want to use heats quickly and can run for around 20 minutes in one go.
- It comes with a remote!
- Tech support is a struggle with this RV water heater.
- Typical RV flow restrictors can cause an “error” when you’re operating the unit and result in the heater shutting down. To get around this, you’ll need to remove or adjust the flow restrictors, or run two taps at the same time to keep the flow high enough that the heater doesn’t overheat.
With a rectangular display unit that can be attached to a shelf or wall, the Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater integrates well into nearly any decor. The seven-gallon point-of-use mini-tank fits neatly under a sink.
Beyond that, though, it’s a powerful little water heater that provides around 15 minutes of consistently hot water.
- The display can be mounted nearly anywhere, vertically or horizontally, which might make the difference for you as you try to maximize your RV space.
- The unit heats water fast, and only requires around 30 minutes of pre-heat time.
- You may need to buy and install a pressure-relief valve. This unit should come equipped with it, but that’s not always the case.
- You also may need to replace the plastic connector pieces, as the ones in the box are poor quality and break easily.
Gas, Electric, Hybrid, or Tankless
As far as fuel goes, you have your choice in RV water heaters. You can select a model that runs on gas (usually propane), electric, or a combination of both.
Much of this decision depends on where you plan to use your RV water heater the most. While gas is much less expensive than electricity, if you’re camping at an RV park that includes electricity in the rental fee, cost won’t be a deciding factor.
Another consideration is the type of electricity your RV is wired for. A 30-amp system on your RV–three connectors on your cord where it plugs into the park electricity source—means you will most likely be unable to run another electrical device (air conditioning, microwave, or any other big electricity users) while also powering the water heater.
In fact, attempting to do so risks blowing a fuse. However, a 50-amp system (your power cord has four connectors) shouldn’t cause any problems. Do note that you cannot solve this problem with an 30-amp-to-50-amp adapter.
Electric water heaters maintain heat more effectively than gas heaters. There’s no pilot light to worry about with electric, and the heater will power off automatically after a period of nonuse.
Of course, gas is the answer if you plan on spending most of your time off the grid where electricity isn’t available. Gas heaters also heat faster–and recover faster–than their electric counterparts. That being said, with a gas-only heater, when you run out of propane, you also run out of hot water.
A gas/electric hybrid water heater is the ideal option if you plan to spend most of your time at a campground with electricity. This type of heater will allow you to use gas and electric to heat water at the same time, meaning your water will heat more quickly than if you’re using a gas- or electric-only model. Hybrid water heaters are more expensive up front.
Tank or No Tank
Another consideration is if you want a heater that works with a tank or not.
Tankless water heaters are relatively new to the RV scene. They heat water as it passes through your pipes, meaning you don’t have to worry about running out of hot water like you would if using a tank. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about a leaky tank.
This technology still has some kinks, though. For example, these units are less reliable when there’s lower water pressure, and maintenance is tricky. On top of that, they’re much more expensive than their tanked counterparts.
If you do choose to go with a tank, be aware that most standard RV tanks hold six to 10 gallons. A typical residential water heater holds around 40 gallons, so don’t expect to be able to sustain several showers in a row (or one long one).
Which to Choose
Essentially, if you’re going to be full-time RVing or living in your rig and you can afford it, go with a tankless option. You get hot water fast that lasts for multiple showers.
If you want to spend most of your RV time off the grid, go with a gas water heater, or a hybrid so you can have the option to use electricity.
Weekend warriors who plan to see the great outdoors in the day and park their rig in a campground at night can get by wonderfully with an all-electric water heater.
Frequently Asked Questions About RV Water Heaters
Are all RV water heaters the same size?
Simple answer: no. Measure the size of your sidewall opening before you start shopping–height, width, and depth. Make sure the unit you choose will fit.
What do I do with my water heater in the winter or if I’m not going to be RVing for a while?
During the winter, part of your winterizing plans should include draining your water heater tank so that water doesn’t freeze in the pipes and cause damage. Tanked heaters come with a drainage plug that you should open fully and leave open until the tank is totally empty.
Are there tools on the market to make my existing RV water heater more efficient?
Yes! An anode rod can help heat the water in your tank faster and prevent against corrosion. A water filter is also a good idea to remove particles from your tank that can damage your RV plumbing system.
Wrapping up the 7 Best RV Water Heaters
Whichever type of RV water heater you choose, you won’t regret the ability to take a hot shower after a long day of hiking, spelunking, or even just playing cornhole with the family!
Think about your needs–like number of people using it—and your preferences—off grid, campsite, or a little of both–before you do your shopping. And remember to measure your space! You may covet that 10-gallon tank, but your rig just may not be able to accommodate it.
Now, take that new water heater and hit the road! Be sure to check out all our RV tips and tricks, especially how to stay clean while camping!
- About the Author
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Ronda Lindsay is a professional writer and editor who has worked in government communications for nearly two decades.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, she fostered her love of nature and the outdoors by exploring the Pacific Northwest’s many natural playgrounds before moving to the Washington, DC, area to see what the eastern side of the country had to offer. She’s also spent plenty of time camping, hiking, and floating around central Texas, where she now lives.
With a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in professional writing, Ronda loves to learn and write about the latest trends in outdoor adventuring and share that information with Beyond the Tent readers.