Portable water heaters buying guide and model comparison. A review of the top three portable water heaters for camping, RV-ing, outdoor activities, in and around the house, cottage, cabin, or ranch, for taking a hot outdoor shower, car wash, cleaning pets, vehicles, and more. Explore the benefits and features of portable water heating devices and see why they are worth it to buy.
A portable water heater is a device that heats a small amount of water and that you can easily move and carry around for outdoor use.
Buying the best portable water heater is a choice, while having hot water is a necessity. Whether you are a stay-at-home person, passionate camper, like traveling, or need a water heating solution for your cabin or cottage, hot water is something that you would need every day. Or, almost every day. That is why a portable water heater becomes a great advantage.
These devices provide hot water almost instantly anywhere you go. They are small, easy to install, use, store, and transport.
There are two main types of water heaters: tank-type and tankless, both used in residential and commercial applications, even mobile homes.
Depending on the home size, water heaters are available as point-of-use or whole-home water heating, delivering hot water to one or multiple fixtures.
Tank-type water heaters are designed with the storage water tanks where cold water is heated and from where it is delivered to one or more fixtures, showers, or bathtubs.
Tankless water heaters are designed without the storage tank, heating water on demand while passing through the heat exchanger. These are also available for a single fixture (point of use) or multiple - for whole-house water heating.
There are different types of portable water heaters. Customers can buy either tank-type or tankless. Most models are designed to heat water with propane gas while using batteries to ignite the gas burner, making them an excellent traveling companion. Propane gas is stored inside the propane tanks/cylinders and is widely used and available to buy (many use BBQ tanks). Yes, it is the most expensive fuel type, but it provides the most power and is easy to get it.
There are also portable water heaters that combine storage tanks and on-demand heating. With the help of a circulation pump or gravity, water from the storage tank or bag flows through the heater, where it is heated while passing through.
You can also read about portable water heaters that use electricity, but they are not truly mobile because electrical connection limits your movement and the power is not available everywhere. The heat output is not as great as propane gas but is cheaper.
You can also find heaters that use solar energy, even campfires for heating water, and many DIY-ers already shared their ideas online.
Portable water heaters are small, compact, lightweight, heat water fast, and deliver it when you need it. They usually weigh between 10 and 15 pounds.
Most travel-friendly heaters with storage tanks have a capacity of around one gallon. Larger models with higher capacity tend to weigh more but also provide longer showers.
When choosing a tankless model, check out the water flow measured in gallons per minute (GPM). The typical water flow rate is between 1 and 3 GPM, and you will get hot water faster with the higher flow.
It is important to consider a water flow rate because you want to finish as many tasks as you need or enjoy one without interruption.
Compared to home-type heaters, portable models with low water flow or capacity are intended for one fixture or device at the time and therefore should be installed as close as possible.
Select a model that provides enough safety and allows convenient temperature control.
Choosing a portable water heater with quality components and safety features is imperative since the intent is to use it outdoors to withstand the elements and frequent handling.
The price and warranty are probably the most important for many. The cost of a portable water heater is from $100 up, where those in a higher price bracket provide more features and better quality components. The price also depends on the fuel type it uses.
I have reviewed three of the most popular portable water heaters, where two models are using on-demand technology, also known as tankless, and one utilizes a storage tank.
All the reviewed portable water heaters use propane gas (LP) for heating and no matter which one you choose, be aware that the propane tank is not included in the price. Most buyers have bought these mobile units to have hot water ready for showers, food preparation, and washing when away from home. Tankless models can run for hours on one propane tank while heating on demand, while the tank-type can deliver hot water depending on the tank's capacity.
The Eccotemp L5 is one of the most popular portable water heaters on the market. Thanks to the small, compact, and lightweight design, the Eccotemp L5 is your best mobile and camping companion. It can be easily stored inside the trunk, carried, and mount for heating water at the campsite, cottage, pool, beach, and wherever hot water is needed.
The Eccotemp L5 is also one of the top-selling portable water heaters with tankless technology. It runs on LP or propane gas and provides endless hot water for any outdoor applications, at home or away. The unit is compatible with the 20-pound grill propane tank, which is very easy to find and purchase.
The Eccotemp L5 tankless water heater uses two "D" cell batteries for the operation, making it electricity-independent and portable. According to the manufacturer, the unit works great when added to a power washer and the 12-V water system. When you buy the Eccotemp L5, you will find all the adapters supplied.
With the maximum power of 37,500 BTU, this portable water heater can produce 1.3 to 1.4 gallons per minute of hot water, with the temperature rise between 30 and 35 F. The unit is easy to use as it has an automatic ignition that allows the burner to turn ON as soon as the minimum water flow is generated. Once ON, you can adjust the temperature between 80 and 150 F and choose one of several spray settings. You can use a water heater for hours, depending on the set temperature, but the unit turns OFF automatically after 20 min as a safety measure.
The unit is recommended for use when camping, hunting, at the pool, beach, for car and pet washing. With its 13 pounds and compact size, this portable water heater is very easy to carry and handle. The built-in handle allows you to take it anywhere you need it, and it folds down for easy storage.
The Camp Chef Triton model is another popular portable water heater very similar to the Eccotemp L5. It uses propane gas and a 2-D battery for ignition, as well.
With the gas input of 34,000 BTU, the Triton can produce a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute.
It comes with the adaptors and a hose to connect to the 20-pound propane tank, 8 ft. shower hose, and the showerhead with four settings; off, mist, shower, and jet spray. According to the manufacturer, the Triton heater can run for 18 hours (depending upon the water flow) on one standard LP tank charge.
At the time of writing this article, the Camp Chef Triton has been reviewed by over a hundred customers and users on Amazon.com, where it received 4.3 out of 5 stars.
The Coleman Hot Water On Demand model is one of the most popular tank-type portable water heaters for camping, found online.
The Coleman heater is equipped with the 30,000 BTU burner, which can heat a 5-gallon water tank to 100 F in five seconds. The hose that connects the water tank and the water heater is included in your purchase, but the spray adapter and propane tank are not.
The Coleman water heater utilizes the 6-V rechargeable battery that is used to run the water pump.
The water heater heats up to 40 gallons of cold water on one battery charge (approximately 2 hr.) and 16.4 oz. propane tank. As it usually takes 8-9 hours to recharge, it is a good idea to buy a few more batteries, especially if you are away for an extended period. The battery can be recharged either from the home electrical outlet, car, or RV.
Near the top of the heater, three LED lights inform you when the battery is low when recharging and the temperature is too high.
The temperature dial, located in the middle of the unit, allows you to select one of the three sectors: cold, warm, and hot.
The Coleman mobile water heater is mainly used for cooking, dishes, coffee and tea preparation, and outdoor showers. The swing-out spout is good when washing dishes.
As seen from the above review, portable water heaters are very useful to have and an essential device when you need hot water when camping, traveling, RV-ing, during the emergencies such as power outages, storms, and where the electricity is not available.
On the road or off the road, portable water heaters ensure comfort and convenience.
The above mobile heaters offer almost everything you need... except the propane tank, which has to be purchased separately.
The Eccotemp L5 and Camp Chef Triton have a warranty of one year, while the Coleman model provides a 3-year limited warranty.