When you’re out on the open road in your RV, you need access to hot water to do things like washing the dishes, cleaning the laundry and taking showers. If you want access to quick and convenient hot water in your camper, you need to invest in an RV water heater.
For many RV enthusiasts, a quality water heater is a must-have for any camping trip. I’m here to show you some of our favorite picks of RV water heaters available on the market and offer some tips on how to pick the perfect model for you.
Our Top Picks: Water Heater for Your RV
|Best Hot Water Heaters||Category|
|Suburban 5239A Water Heater||Best Overall|
|Girard 2GWHAM||Best Tankless Heater|
|Eccotemp EM-7.0 Mini||Best for Small Spaces|
|Stiebel Eltron Tankless Water Heater||Best High-End Heater|
|GASLAND Outdoors BE158||Most Affordable|
A Deeper Look at Each of Our Favorites
Let’s go into more detail on each one of our recommendations.
Suburban 5239A Water Heater
This versatile tank heater can run on both propane and electric, making it ideal for just about any situation out on the road. You can ensure that you have access to hot water even if you run out of either gas or energy. It boasts a safe, automated 12 volt DC direct spark ignition gas heating system along with a 120-volt AC element for quick heating.
The 6-gallon tank is made of durable steel lined with porcelain, which is resistant to damage from boiling water. It also contains a built-in anode rod to help protect against rust and corrosion and extend the life of the heater.
While the tank is robust, it’s also heavy, weighing in at over 32 lbs. It can be a challenge to install, especially for people like me who need instructions. You also need to provide your own protective cover.
Once installed, the unit is able to provide plenty of hot water, and fast. The heater offers 12,000 BTU, and with a recovery rate of 10.2 gallons per hour, it’s one of the fastest tank heaters available.
- Runs on both propane and electric
- A safe direct spark ignition system
- Durable steel 6-gallon tank
- The tank is lined with porcelain and contains an anode rod for longevity
- One of the fastest recovery rates available
- Difficult to install
- No cover included
Best Tankless Heater
This tankless water heater from Girard offers an impressive 42,000 BTUs, distributing warm water even throughout large RV campers. I love that it offers an endless supply of hot water whenever I need it, and I never have to worry about running out in the middle of my shower. The heater also maintains an even flow of water using a built-in microprocessor designed to detect and adjust the temperature automatically.
Because it has no tank, the heater’s setup is small and simple. You don’t need to hook up any LP gas lines, anodes, or bypass valves to the system. It can also utilize either gas or electric, boasting 12 volt DC power that operates safely at below three amps.
While many water heaters require winterization if you plan to use them in sub-zero conditions, the Girard 2GWHAM is designed to withstand cold weather without a problem using freeze protection.
With heavy use, this heater can wear out quickly. Many users have found that it can also be a challenge to contact customer support for help as well. It’s best to keep up with proper maintenance to avoid the heater breaking down along the line.
- The tankless design offers an endless supply of hot water
- Compact and easy to install
- Microprocessor ensures even flow and temperature
- Uses both gas and electric power
- Designed to withstand cold climates
- Wears out quickly without maintenance
- Can be difficult to reach customer support
Best for Small Spaces
Eccotemp EM-7.0 Mini
Many RV owners are working within small space constraints, and we have to be conservative with the appliances that we install. The Eccotemp EM-7.0 Mini boasts a lightweight design that installs anywhere you have a 120-volt outlet.
You can fit this heater under most sinks, in cabinets, or at the back of closets with plenty of leftover storage space. What’s more, you can place it directly next to plumbing fixtures to avoid installing any extra pipes in your plumbing setup.
Despite its small size, this tank heater is still able to store up to 7 gallons of hot water. It also offers a quick recovery time and can heat water anywhere between 70℉ and 140℉. You should take note, though, that running it at high temperatures for prolonged periods of time may cause the heating element to burn out quickly.
I love that this water heater is versatile enough to install just about anywhere in my camper trailer. However, you should try to keep it somewhere that’s well insulated. This heater doesn’t withstand cold temperatures well and needs to be protected against the elements.
- Ideal for small spaces such as under the sink or in a cabinet
- Installs anywhere there’s a 120-volt outlet.
- Stores up to 7 gallons
- Quick recovery time
- Can heat water anywhere between 70℉ and 140℉
- Heating element burns out easily
- Cannot withstand cold temperatures
Best High-End Heater
Stiebel Eltron Tankless Water Heater
This luxurious water heater has a sleek white design that looks good in any room of your camper. It’s tankless, giving it a low profile that will fit in your RV without taking up too much space. It also offers an endless supply of hot water on demand.
Patented Advanced Flow Control technology helps to maintain a constant water temperature to keep you comfortable. If too much hot water is used, it reduces the flow to prevent a sudden drop in temperature. However, you may find that you have trouble maintaining adequate water pressure when using more than one faucet at a time.
With the Stiebel Eltron, you can heat water anywhere between 86˚F and 140˚F. I love that the unit is able to maintain constant temperature thanks to electronic auto modulation, but it does take some time for the water to heat up properly.
Thanks to its efficient design, this water heater can help you to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint. It even boasts a digital monitor to show you how much you’ve saved on energy costs.
- Attractive and compact design
- Tankless design for endless hot water
- Heats water anywhere between 86˚F and 140˚F
- Advanced Flow Control technology keeps an even temperature
- Energy-efficient and eco-friendly
- Low maximum flow rate
- Takes a while to heat
GASLAND Outdoors BE158
For those on a budget, the GASLAND Outdoors BE158 offers many of the same perks as its competitors for a fraction of the price. As a tankless heater, it’s small, lightweight, and takes only minutes to install. However, the fittings can be prone to leaking.
The GASLAND Outdoors BE158 also supplies hot water whenever and wherever you need it. It has a maximum output of 41,000 BTU/hour for quick and efficient heating, with a capacity of 1.58 gallons per minute. I love that it provides hot water instantaneously, but it can be a little bit noisy during operation.
This water heater is built for safety, with multiple avenues designed to protect you and your property against accidental damage. The unit includes a flame failure device and overheating protection along with anti-freezing protection for cold weather ventures.
- Affordable price tag
- Compact size
- Easy to install
- Quick and efficient heating
- Multiple safety protections
- Loud operation
- Fittings prone to leaking
Recap: Best RV Water Heaters
- Suburban 5239A Water Heater – Best Overall
- Girard 2GWHAM – Best Tankless Heater
- Eccotemp EM-7.0 Mini – Best for Small Spaces
- Stiebel Eltron Tankless Water Heater – Best High-End Heater
- GASLAND Outdoors BE158 – Most Affordable
What to Look For in a Water Heater for Your RV
With so many different water heaters available on the market, it can be a challenge to pick the best one for your camper. Fortunately, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help you decide on the right RV water heater.
The Fuel Source
Water heaters run on three main fuel sources. Which one is best for you will depend on factors such as the construction of your RV, your hot water needs, and your energy consumption goals.
Most entry-level RVs, as well as many older models, use a liquid propane water heater to supply hot water throughout the vehicle. This is one of the oldest and most time-tested heating methods available. While liquid propane is reliable, however, it’s not to most energy-efficient or cost-effective choice. It also poses more potential dangers than other heating systems.
Liquid propane heaters come in two different varieties, including those with a manual pilot light and those with direct spark ignition. While a manual pilot light needs to be reignited by hand when it goes out, a direct spark ignition system automatically detects and engages an igniter.
Electricity is a popular way of powering water heaters in RVs, as it’s safe and relatively energy efficient. They’re also versatile, as they can run either on generator power or through an RV park connection. However, electric heaters tend to warm water slowly, and they can be expensive to operate.
These days, many RV water heaters are able to function using both electricity or liquid propane as needed. This way, campers never have to worry about running out of power, even if they lose access to the grid or on-board energy.
One of the most sophisticated and energy-efficient ways of heating water in your RV is by using a Motoraid water heater setup. Instead of draining an outside power source, a motoraid heater uses fluid from your engine’s cooling system to heat water. Not only is this a green and cost-effective way of heating your water, but it also allows your water heater to work while driving.
Tank Heaters Vs. Tankless
Many older water heaters are tank heaters, meaning that they store a limited amount of hot water in a tank to be dispensed as needed. Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, are a more recent invention. Instead of storing water, they actively heat it as it passes through.
While tankless heaters can be more expensive than options with a tank, they supply endless hot water on demand. They’re also more compact than tank heaters, more energy-efficient, and distribute water more evenly throughout your camper.
The Size of the Heater
Heaters with a tank typically have a holding capacity of between 6 and 10 gallons. In general, the size of the heater you choose will depend not only on space constraints but also how many people will be traveling in your RV. With more people, you may need a bigger tank to ensure you don’t run out of hot water.
Some RV water heaters boast 16-gallon tanks, but this isn’t entirely accurate. While these heaters are able to provide a higher capacity of hot water, in reality, the tank itself is only around 10 gallons. The water is heated to extreme temperatures, then mixed with cold water to make it last longer.
Recovery rate is also important when considering the size of a heater. This is a measure of how much water a tank heater can provide within an hour of being drained. Larger heaters tend to have slower recovery rates, as it takes longer to heat the volume of water inside.
Tankless heaters tend to be much smaller than those with a tank, and they don’t have a limited capacity. Instead, they’re measured in water flow capacity, which is the amount of hot water a heater can release per minute. Most models are able to supply two to two and a half gallons per minute, which is enough for a typical family.
Energy efficiency is a primary concern for many RV owners, especially when it comes to appliances such as water heaters. Unless you have access to a power hookup, the chances are that you have to be conservative with your energy consumption.
The most energy-efficient water heaters are tankless, as the heating element is only engaged as needed. While it might seem counterintuitive, propane heaters are also more energy-efficient than electric, though motoraid models are the most efficient of all.
The heating capacity of a water heater also affects energy efficiency. This rating is measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs. The higher the heating capacity rating, the more efficient a unit is. Most RV water heaters offer between 30,000 and 50,000 BTU.
If you have an old water heater, no matter what type it might be, one of the best things you can do to reduce your energy consumption is to replace it. Technology is advancing every day, and new RV water heater models tend to have much lower power usage than those made a decade or two ago. With the right water heater for your camper, you can make your next trip more comfortable.