RV Water Heaters Review

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Finding the best RV water heaters for your mobile and recreational vehicle, so you can travel with the comfort of your home and use hot water anytime and anywhere.

RV hot water heaters are small and lightweight appliances that are designed to provide hot water in your RV while traveling or camping, for example. There are two main categories and few options:

  • RV water heaters that are using propane (LP) gas

  • Electric heaters

  • Heaters that utilize engine's heat
  • Combination propane/electric

rv water heater - suburbanMost of the water heaters for RV use are tank-type style and they come with the capacities from low 4 gallons to high 16-gallon size. The most common size is 6-gallon, which is good enough for a decent shower, or two, or a smaller pile of dishes.

They are usually installed outside the RV which makes them convenient for service. Outside installation allows an easy access to the exterior door, and that eliminates the need for the service technician to enter your vehicle.

RV hot water heaters are designed to mount perfectly, and flush in the RV sidewall, for the nicer look. Also, most of the manufacturers of the RV water heaters offer matching access doors, which ensures clean and attractive exterior of your coach.

RV water heater is equipped with all the necessary components for compact, safe and lightweight package. This includes a small, insulated tank and multiple protection features such as those against the high temperature or pressure.

Propane water heaters

Propane heaters are similar to the gas heating units used in homes. They use a pilot light to light the gas used for heating. The combustion air must be supplied from outside the vehicle while products of combustion are vented out.

The ignition is electronic or pilot. The pilot is manually lit, and in a case when wind or other conditions extinguish the flame some heaters use the relight option which automatically relights itself.

The electronic ignition is more convenient since it uses a simple switch from inside the RV.

Electric RV water heaters

RV hot water heaters can also use electricity and run either off the 120 V electrical hook up or generator. The heating elements which are used for water heating are screw-in or bolt-on type, and they are easily replaceable.

Engine Heat RV water heaters

In this application, the heat exchanger is used to transfer the heat, generated by the engine and through the coolant system, to the water. This is a very economical and practical way of water heating, usually combined with other sources, so when you arrive at the destination hot water is ready to use.


The main manufacturers are Atwood and Suburban. They both offer several models that run on electricity, propane gas, engine heat or a combination. The main difference between these two brands is that Atwood uses an aluminum clad tank, which eliminates the need for the anode rod and makes them lighter, while Suburban uses this metal tank and the anode against corrosion.

Also, Suburban offers five different sizes, ranging from 4 to 16 gallons, while Atwood has two only; six and ten gallons.

There are also tankless-type heaters such as Girard that do not have a storage tank, but the heat exchanger. These models are lighter than tank-type, use less energy and are producing hot water on demand with no recovery time.

See the reviews and prices on Amazon.com.

If planning to replace your old RV water heater with another brand you have to check the model size, sidewall cut-out, and depth dimensions.

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Picture is courtesy of Suburban company

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