The Ultimate Guide to RV Hot Water Heaters: Choose the Right One for Your Mobile Home

Are you planning your next outdoor adventure but concerned about not having access to hot water for showers or dishwashing?

If so, you’re not alone. One of the main challenges of camping or RV-ing is finding a reliable source of hot water.

Fortunately, RV hot water heaters are the perfect solution to this problem.

With a hot water heater in your mobile home, you can enjoy all the comforts of home on the road, no matter where your travels take you.

Atwood RV water heater

Whether you’re camping off-grid in the wilderness or parked at a full hookup campground, hot water on demand is a must-have for staying clean and comfortable.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about RV hot water heaters. From the different types and models available to the top-selling brands and essential features to look for, we’ve got you covered.

So, if you’re ready to upgrade your camping or RV-ing experience with hot water on demand, read on to discover the best RV hot water heaters for your mobile home.

RV Hot Water Heaters: Things to Consider

Brands to Look For

When you’re in the market for an RV water heater, it’s essential to find a model that will meet your needs for hot water, have a reliable tank life, and provide high-performance efficiency. After all, the last thing you want is to be in the great outdoors, whether camping or hiking in the mountains, only to find that your unit isn’t working, and there’s no hot water when you need it most.

Thankfully, there are a few major brands of RV water heaters available in North America, with the most popular ones being Atwood and Suburban.


Atwood RV water heaters are among the most popular models for RVs, with some considering them the best option. These heaters primarily use propane gas or LP as the fuel source but can also operate on electricity from an electrical hook-up or generator, utilizing the RV’s engine cooling system and combining two fuel sources.

The main advantage of these heaters is their tank construction, which features a high-strength aluminum core. This design eliminates the need for an anode rod, reducing maintenance and service costs.

While some RV hot water heaters are equipped with a pilot light, modern models come with direct spark ignition (DSI), making them a superior choice.


The Suburban RV water heater is another renowned brand in North America, highly recommended for RV enthusiasts. These water heaters are available in three types and sizes, ranging from 4 to 16 gallons. All models are designed for easy installation and can fit into nearly any recreational vehicle.

The key advantage of Suburban models is the implementation of a porcelain liner on the steel tanks, along with an anode rod for corrosion protection. With proper maintenance, these units can provide many years of reliable operation.


Eemax RV water heaters from Eemax Inc. are electric tankless appliances designed to provide on-demand hot water in a continuous and limitless supply. These water heaters feature a modern and compact design, making them easy to install and troubleshoot, which makes them an ideal choice for RVs and camping.

The top-performing models offer higher BTUs, improved recovery and delivery rates, and are capable of producing a larger volume of hot water.


When it comes to RV water heaters, there are several types available to suit varying needs and preferences, each with its own unique features and benefits. Understanding the different types of RV water heaters can help you make an informed decision about which one is best suited for your specific needs and preferences.


Electric water heaters utilize electricity as their main power source. They are often found in RVs with access to electrical hook-ups or when connected to a generator. Electric water heaters heat the water using electric heating elements. They are generally slower in heating water compared to propane heaters but can provide a continuous supply of hot water as long as there is power available.

Electric models utilize electricity from the electrical grid system or generators and require about 12 amps to run.


Propane water heaters are popular in RVs due to their efficiency and compatibility with the existing propane systems in most recreational vehicles. These heaters use propane gas as the primary fuel source to heat the water. They are known for their quick heating capabilities, allowing users to have hot water available in a short amount of time.

When considering propane water heaters for your RV, you have the option to choose between economy models equipped with a pilot light or advanced models featuring direct spark ignition (DSI).

In comparison to pilot light models, the DSI models offer a more reliable and superior option. They operate using an electric ignition system, ensuring that no gas is consumed when the unit is not actively heating water. Additionally, DSI models eliminate any concerns about burner ignition while driving your RV.

With the convenience of DSI models, there’s no need to step outside and manually light the heater with a match. Instead, you can simply press a switch from within the comfort of your RV, making the entire process hassle-free and user-friendly.

Note: It is not recommended to use an RV water heater powered by propane gas while driving, as the airflow during travel can interfere with the pilot light or flame.


Motor aid type water heaters, also known as engine-assisted water heaters, utilize the RV’s engine cooling system to heat water. They divert a portion of the engine coolant to a heat exchanger, transferring heat to the water supply. This allows hot water to be generated while the RV is in motion. Motor aid water heaters are a cost-effective option that maximizes energy efficiency by utilizing waste heat from the engine. They provide a continuous hot water supply and are ideal for those who frequently travel or prioritize convenience.


Combination water heaters, also known as hybrid or dual-fuel water heaters, offer the flexibility of using both propane and electricity as fuel sources. These water heaters are designed to switch between the two energy sources, allowing RV owners to choose the most convenient option based on their circumstances. For example, when the RV is connected to electrical hook-ups, the water heater can utilize electricity, but if there is no electricity available, it can seamlessly switch to propane gas.

These water heaters feature separate thermostats for each heating mode, ensuring independent control. Most models are equipped with thermostats capable of heating water up to 140°F, providing ample hot water for various needs.

Available in common sizes of 6 and 10 gallons, these compact and space-saving heating units can be easily installed in nearly all recreational vehicles and motor homes. In instances where multiple individuals are traveling, a larger tank size, such as 16 gallons, may be required to accommodate increased hot water demand.


If space efficiency and energy conservation are priorities, tankless RV hot water heaters offer a compelling solution. These compact units heat the water on demand as it flows through the system, eliminating the need for a storage tank. Tankless water heaters provide a continuous supply of hot water, ensuring you never run out, although they may have limitations on the flow rate and the number of hot water outlets that can be used simultaneously.

Buying Tips

Fuel Source

Determine the type of fuel source you prefer for your RV water heater. As seen from before, common options include propane, electricity, hybrid, or motor-aid. Choose a fuel source that aligns with your RV’s setup and availability.

Small and Lightweight

RV hot water heaters are designed to be compact and lightweight, making them ideal for installation in limited spaces. These water heaters are typically placed outside, below the floor, or behind the baggage door of the RV. By locating the water heater in these positions, valuable indoor space is preserved for storage, while still ensuring easy accessibility for service and maintenance purposes when needed. This clever design allows RV owners to maximize their interior storage capacity while ensuring the water heater remains conveniently accessible for any required maintenance or repairs.

Capacity and Recovery Rate

When purchasing a tank-type water heater for your RV, the size of the tank is a crucial consideration.

Selecting the appropriate capacity depends on your hot water usage requirements. Tank sizes typically range from 3 gallons up to 16 gallons, with larger capacities ensuring longer showers and a greater supply of hot water.

Additionally, it’s important to aim for a high recovery rate when choosing an RV water heater. A high recovery rate indicates how quickly the water heater can heat a fresh supply of water after the initial hot water has been used. Opting for a water heater with a higher recovery rate ensures that you can replenish hot water faster, allowing for more consistent usage and reducing the wait time between showers or other hot water needs.

When selecting a tankless water heater for your RV, consider the flow rate, which indicates the amount of hot water the unit can provide per minute. Choose a model with a flow rate suitable for your needs and the number of hot water outlets you anticipate using simultaneously.


Moreover, if you are concerned about poor weather conditions or driving through rough terrain, and being away from civilization, rest assured that RV hot water heaters, such as Atwood models, are designed with robust protection features. These water heaters are safeguarded against voltage spikes and shorts in the electrical system, ensuring reliable and safe operation.

Additionally, they incorporate protection mechanisms for the electronic ignition to prevent malfunctions caused by excessive heat conditions. With these built-in safety features, you can have peace of mind while enjoying hot water in your RV, even in challenging environments.

Note: If you do not plan on using your RV during the winter season, it is important to take precautions to protect the heating and plumbing system. You can do this by either fully draining the system or adding antifreeze. However, it is crucial to exercise caution when performing these tasks. Before adding antifreeze or draining the system, make sure to remove the anode rod first, as it may be susceptible to corrosive action. By following these steps, you can help safeguard your RV’s heating and plumbing system from potential damage during winter storage.


RV hot water heaters and their components, such as the reset button, limit switch, drain plug, anode rod, pilot lights, and ignition system, are conveniently accessible and located behind a removable outer door.

This design ensures easy access for maintenance and repairs while maintaining a neat and unobtrusive appearance that complements the overall aesthetics of the mobile home. Additionally, the materials used in the construction of these water heaters provide corrosion resistance, ensuring durability and longevity.

As mentioned earlier, RV water heaters are designed with user-friendliness in mind. When properly installed, you can conveniently turn the power on or off from either the exterior or interior of the RV. They are also designed for easy maintenance, troubleshoot, and repairs, allowing for efficient servicing when needed.

If your RV water heater is equipped with an electronic ignition, you can activate the heating process from inside your mobile home. This means that even while driving, you can enjoy hot water without the need to exit the RV. For models with pilot lights, re-ignition can also be done from inside the RV, providing added convenience and ease of use.


Whether you’re on the road, traveling, or at a campsite, the best RV water heaters will provide you with an ample supply of hot water for a comfortable shower, meal preparation, or dishwashing. With reliable options from reputable brands such as Atwood, Suburban, or Eemax, you can trust that these water heaters will operate efficiently for years to come. In the event of any issues, you can easily find spare parts and access a reliable service network for assistance.

Before you embark on your shopping journey, it’s essential to consider the size of the water heater opening where the unit will be installed. This ensures compatibility and a seamless installation process.

With the right RV water heater, you can bid farewell to using unsanitary campground bathrooms and the inconvenience of waiting to get home to clean up. Enjoy the convenience and comfort of having hot water readily available for all your RV adventures.


Where Is the Water Heater on an RV?

The water heater in an RV is typically located either on the exterior, inside the living area, or underneath/below the floor. The specific location varies based on the RV’s design and model.

How Long Does It Take an RV Water Heater to Heat?

The heating time for an RV water heater can vary, but on average, it takes around 10 to 30 minutes to heat the water to the desired temperature. Factors such as the type of water heater, energy source, and initial water temperature can affect the heating duration. Tankless water heaters provide hot water instantly, while tank-type heaters may take longer. Propane-powered heaters tend to heat water faster than electric ones. The specific manufacturer’s instructions should be consulted for accurate heating time information.

Should I Leave My RV Water Heater On?

Whether to leave your RV water heater on or not depends on your needs. Leaving it on ensures hot water availability but consumes energy. Consider frequency of use, energy conservation, and safety when making a decision.

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