RV Hot Water Heaters
Review, Buying Tips,
Troubleshooting and more
(updated 2020)

Find out how to buy the right RV hot water heater for your recreational, mobile home. Explore the best models, top-selling brands, features to look for, troubleshooting guide, maintenance tips and more. Check out what the top manufacturers Atwood and Suburban have to offer for water heating.

Either you are RV-ing, camping or enjoying in any of the outdoor activities, a water heater is one of the devices you must have. And the reason is simple; it will deliver hot water for a quick shower and cleaning dishes, which will make you feel comfortable and clean.

Best selling RV water heaters

Brands to look for

When looking to buy an RV water heater, the best models are those that will meet most of your needs for hot water, have a decent tank life, high performance and are reliable. You don't want to go outdoors, either camping or hiking in the mountains, and discover that your unit is not working and there is no hot water when you need it.

There are a couple of major brands of RV water heaters in North American, and the most popular ones are certainly Atwood and Suburban.

Atwood

Atwood RV water heaters are found as the most popular models for RVs (some say the best), that are mainly using propane gas or LP as the fuel source. These units can also operate from an electric source, off an electrical hook-up or generator, with the RV's engine-cooling system and combining two fuel sources.

The main advantage is the tank constructed of a high strength aluminum core that eliminates the need for an anode rod which reduces the maintenance and service costs.

Some RV water heaters are equipped with the pilot light, but modern ones come with the direct spark ignition (DSI), which makes those models a better choice.

Suburban

Suburban RV water heaters is another popular brand in North America, recommended also for RV-ing, and those can be found in three types and sizes; from 4 to 16 gallons. All models are easy to install and can fit in almost any recreational vehicle.

The main advantage of Suburban models is the use of a porcelain liner on the steel tanks and the anode rod for corrosion protection. With the proper maintenance, the unit can last and operate for many years.

Eemax

Eemax RV water heaters from Eemax Inc. are on-demand electric tank-less appliances that are heating water on demand and provide it in endless supply, have a modern and compact design, are easy to install and troubleshoot making them ideal for RV and camping.

The best models have more BTUs, have higher recovery and delivery rate and produce more hot water.

Types

Popular RV hot water heaters that are often found in recreational vehicles are the ones that utilize propane gas (LP) and electricity as the fuel source. The propane type gives you independence of the electrical grid, while the electric-powered is more convenient and you don’t have to worry about running out of the fuel or pilot light going out.

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

If planning to buy a gas water heater you will have an option to get one with the pilot light (economy models), or a model with the direct spark ignition - DSI (advanced models). Direct electric ignition is more reliable and better option as it doesn’t use gas when the unit is not heating the water, and there are no problems with the burner ignition when driving an RV. With the DSI models, you don’t have to go outside and light it with the match, you simply press the switch from inside of an RV.

There is also a water heater which uses heat from the engine. These are known as motor-aid or heat exchange types, which is the most cost-effective way because when the engine is running the heat is already generated, so why not to use it. These devices use the heat delivered by the engine cooling system.

With the most common sizes of 6 and 10 gallons, these small and compact heating units can be installed in almost any recreational vehicle and motor-home. If you have more people travelling, obviously you will need a larger tank, which can go up to 16 gallons.

Combined fuel usage is the preference of many because the greatest advantage is to use the electricity when hooked up on the grid or a generator, and take advantage of propane gas when the electricity is not available. They have separate thermostats for the heating modes that are independent of each other. Most of the models have thermostats that are designed to heat water up to 140 F.

Buying tips

Small and lightweight

RV water heaters are built small and lightweight that are mostly installed outside, below the floor or behind the baggage door, leaving you more indoor space for storage, yet still accessible to service when needed.

Capacity

The size of the tank is very important, and selecting the right capacity depends on the user demand for hot water. You can buy models with a capacity from 3 gallons up to 16 gallons, where larger capacity guarantees longer showers.

Protection

Moreover, if the poor weather and driving through the rough terrain and away from civilization concerns you, don't worry, RV hot water heaters, such as Atwood are protected against voltage spikes and shorts in the electrical system. They also feature protection for the electronic ignition caused by excessive heat conditions.

Note: If you are not using an RV during the winter time, try to protect the heating/plumbing system, by either draining the system or adding the antifreeze. You should be careful there, remove the anode rod first as it might get affected by the corrosive action.

Convenience

RV hot water heaters and its components like the reset button, limit switch, drain plug, anode rod, pilot lights, and ignition system are very accessible and hidden behind the removable outer door. With a flush mount or standard protective doors, they don't interfere with the mobile home design while providing a neat appearance and corrosion-free resistance.

As said before, RV water heaters are very user-friendly when properly installed, you can turn the power ON either from outside or inside; they are easy to maintain, troubleshoot and repair.

RV hot water heater with the electronic ignition can be activated from inside your mobile home, and the heating process will start even when driving, without leaving the RV. For pilot light models, re-ignition is possible from inside as well.

Note: While driving, it is not recommended using an RV water heater that is powered by propane gas, as the pilot light or flame can be affected by the incoming air.

Summary

Either you are on the road - travelling or at the campsite – camping and hiking, rest assured that the best RV water heaters will bring you just enough of hot water so you can take a comfortable shower, make a meal or clean the dishes.

No more using dirty bathrooms at the campsite or waiting to get home and clean. By choosing one of the popular models from Atwood, Suburban or Eemax you can be confident that devices will operate for years and if something happens, the spare parts and service network are there.

Keep in mind, before you start shopping to check the size of the water heater opening where the unit was and going to be installed.

Related articles

Atwood
Suburban
Troubleshooting RV water heaters

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