Suburban RV Water Heater Review and
Buying Tips
(updated 2018)

Suburban RV water heaterSuburban

Buy a Suburban RV water heater, get hot water and have a comfortable and worry-free outdoor adventure with the luxury of your home. As most of us do not like an inconvenience when on the road traveling, and as we do not want to give up on our comfort, this makes the RV water heater an essential appliance when camping today.

Having the hot water available anytime and anywhere gives us a joy and peace of mind so we can take a shower, cook easy and fast and clean the dishes and utensils, eliminating the temporary and inconvenient solutions and costs (using paper plates, plastic knives, and forks, or camp facility).

Which type is for me?

In US and Canada, Suburban RV water heaters are found in three different types and sizes from 4 to 16 gallons. Due to its simple construction and small size, all the models are easy to install and can fit in almost any recreational vehicle.

Before buying one check the size of the opening in the sidewall of the motorhome. Also, take into account the number of people that are camping and that will use the hot water because the tank has to be big enough to meet the demand. Keep in mind that these units are much smaller than the ones used in homes, so pay attention when taking a shower – hot water does not last long.

Based on the RV design, your motorhome requirements, and personal preference, you can buy a Suburban water heater that is using propane gas, a combination of gas and electricity and heat from the engine - also called motor-aid models.

The electric and propane gas operated models are the most popular and convenient type. An electric type uses the electric grid (shore power) or generator and is usually in operation when parked and hooked on. The propane-powered, which can use the direct spark ignition (DSI) or manual pilot light, are used either when the RV is parked or when moving. The recovery time can greatly improve if the unit is operated on both fuel sources.

An RV that is equipped with the heat exchanger can use the engine heat to heat water and this is the most efficient type, but when the vehicle is running. If the vehicle is not moving, the water is not heated so it can deliver only lukewarm or cold water.

Gas models

Suburban offers RV water heaters in three types, several sizes, and features that can match requirements of almost any RV and its owners.

Of all Suburban water heaters with the tank sizes from 6 to 16 gallons come with the gas input of 12,000 BTU so it can achieve high 10.2 GPH in recovery. In other words, high recovery means more hot water, enhanced comfort, and less "cold water sandwiching" or temperature fluctuation. And with a specially designed insulation jacket, more heat remains inside the tank for the efficient operation, resulting in less heat loss and energy waste.

Small and lightweight, Suburban RV water heaters can be installed very easy. They are convenient to use, operate and maintain. Even if you have an installed RV heating unit from other manufacturers, like Atwood, and if for some reasons have to be replaced, no need to go with the same brand, you can install Suburban – it offers accessories that make the installation a snap. Users liked an easy installation - almost “plug and play” – as long as the provided instructions are followed.

Suburban water heater tanks with a capacity of 4 and 6 gallons are with the standard-mount doors, while flush-mount doors are available for all Suburban water heaters. Even if you buy a bigger tank than you need, such as 12 and 16 gallons, don’t worry, it is worth the investment.

Suburban RV water heaters with the pilot ignition

This is the simplest type of all Suburban models, also the cheapest. These gas RV models use an old, but proven method for ignition - a manual pilot light. There are three models for you to buy.

SW4P being the smallest model utilizes the 4-gal tank, gas burner that can produce up to 9000 BTU and provide up to 7.6 GPH in recovery rate. Other two models; SW6P and SW10P have in common both gas input of 12000 BTU and recovery rate of 10.2 GPH, but are different in how much of hot water they can store; 6 vs. 10 gallons.

These models also utilize a re-ignitor so you don't have to relight the pilot when it is extinguished or when the gas supply is turned off.

The best selling model is 6-gal unit SW6P.

Suburban water heaters with the direct spark ignition (DSI)

As opposed to the above models that use the manual pilot light, DSI models use an electronic ignition and an indoor mounted switch so the unit can be ignited and controlled from inside the RV, providing convenience to the users.

There are five models available. A model SW4D is the smallest and lightest unit and it features the tank with the capacity of 4 gallons and a burner with the gas input of 9000 BTU that is providing a recovery rate of 7.6 GPH. Other models; SW6D, SW10D, SW12D and the largest SW16D are all having the same gas input of 12,000 BTU and recovery rate of 10.2 GPH, while the capacity ranges from 6 to 16 gallons.

Models with the direct spark ignition are good for places and seasons with bad weather so you can control the heater and heating process with a remote switch from inside the RV.

The best selling model is SW6D.

Combined gas and electric models

While the gas and electric fuels have each advantage, they also have disadvantages which are resolved by combining these two fuel sources and making them available inside one unit. So, the water heater uses a gas burner with the gas input of 12000 BTU to provide a recovery of 10.2 GPH and an Incoloy electric heating element with 1440 W, to provide a recovery up to 6 GPH. A simultaneous use of gas and the electric option is resulting in an increased recovery rate of 16.2 GPH.

If you would like to buy a Suburban water heater with the dual option, keep in mind that some models combine an electric and pilot light option (SW6PE and SW10PE), while other electric and direct spark ignition option (SW6DE, SW10DE, SW12DE, and SW16DE).

According to the online store Amazon.com, Suburban RV water heaters that use both electricity and propane gas (DSI) are the most popular.

The best selling model is SW12DE.

Protective elements for a durable operation

One of the main benefits of Suburban RV water heaters is their longer performance life, mostly thanks to the two protective parts/systems. One is the anode rod that almost neutralizes the aggressive water action on the metal tank, providing a cathodic protection. The anode rode should only be removed for inspection or draining and replaced when worn-out.

Note: Replace the anode rod once a year, or when 3/4 of the rod's weight is gone, so you can keep the heater performance efficient.

The other protective element is the porcelain lining, corrosion resistant material, so heated water cannot drastically harm the metal tank of the unit.

Note: Suburban manufacturer offers a three-year warranty, but to prolong the unit’s life, proper maintenance is recommended. According to one of the user’s review, his Suburban lasted over 20 years.

Summary

If RV-ing is your passion, and you like spending time outdoors, don’t hesitate to buy a Suburban RV water heater, it is coming from the industry-leading company.

Professionally sized and installed heating unit will provide just enough hot water for the necessary jobs, giving you a feeling and comfort just like at home. While the delivery rate of hot water is not the same as with the residential unit, but it is nice to have hot water available after a long day camping in the woods.

For Suburban RV water heater troubleshooting, problems and repairs, we recommend using this repair guide, manufacturer's user guide, or call the Suburban technical support for details.

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