Are you tired of taking navy showers while camping? Would you like to enjoy a nice, long, warm shower while still enjoying the beautiful outdoors? It might be time for you to consider switching out your traditional water heater for an RV tankless water heater. Let’s dive in!
What Is an RV Tankless Water Heater?
An RV tankless water heater is an on-demand system for heating your water. Traditional water heaters hold water in a tank, which adds weight to your rig and takes up precious space.
An RV tankless water heater heats water through a heat exchanger as you use it rather than holding warm water in a tank. Now, you won’t run out of hot water while showering, and you’ll conserve space and weight in the process!
Why Do RVs Not Use Tankless Water Heaters?
RV manufacturers have typically installed tank water heaters in campers. These are older technology and are usually cheaper to install. While tankless water heaters are starting to become options from the factory, their track record up until recently has been lacking. Compared with the reliability and predictability of the tanked versions, first-generation tankless water heaters for RVs had issues with scalding and water flow, and had to be installed after-market.
Fortunately, many of these problems have been solved and we are starting to see more companies offer efficient, on-demand water heaters as options from the factory.
What Are the Advantages of Having a Tankless Water Heater?
Unlimited and instant hot water is the biggest advantage most think of with tankless heaters. You can have hot water for as long as you want it. If you like taking 20-minute showers, you can because the hot water doesn’t run out. This also means you can take a hot shower, and then your kids can take a hot shower without waiting for the water to reheat inside the tank. Forgot to turn on the heater? No problem! Just turn it on and get in the shower, no waiting is required.
Efficiency is another advantage. Because you do not need to leave the heater on all the time to get hot water immediately you can save propane. These heaters tend to be very efficient at heating water compared to a tanked alternative. Part of this is because they do not lose heat through tank walls.
Also, because they’re tankless, they reduce the amount of weight on your RV. You aren’t carrying around a tank full of water when you travel–not to mention a tankless unit frees up so much space. They also require less maintenance and are super easy to use.
What Are the Disadvantages of an RV Tankless Water Heater?
It will be expensive to switch out your traditional water heater for an RV tankless water heater. The best tankless water heaters will cost anywhere from $250-$1000, and that doesn’t include the cost of installation.
Tankless water heaters typically only heat with propane. This could be a disadvantage if you are plugged in and not paying for electricity as most RV-tanked heaters can heat with electricity or propane. Luckily, they tend to be very efficient on propane compared to a tanked unit.
Finally, you have to let the water run for a bit before the tankless water heater kicks in. This is important to consider if you often boondock and try to conserve water. Some models can run at much lower flow rates and will be better for boondocking.
Is a Tankless Water Heater Worth It In an RV?
Given the advantages and disadvantages, you’re going to have to decide whether a tankless water heater is worth it in your RV camper. Consider your camping style and your travel style, and your budget.
Since most tanked water heaters that come pre-installed work completely fine for years, many people will really only consider a tankless option if they have to replace their old water heater. Especially if you have a 12-gallon tanked version, long hot showers aren’t too much of a concern. But if you have a smaller tank, say 6 gallons or less, and more than one person needs to take a shower, you may run out of hot water pretty quickly!
The on-demand feature is truly lovely for endless hot water as long as you have enough propane. Having hot water instantly is super convenient. And eco-friendly campers can feel good about only using propane when they really need it. We personally love our on-demand water heater and think it’s worth it, but we know plenty of people who are also content with their standard tank RV water heaters.
Can You Install an Electric Tankless Water Heater In A Camper?
Unless you only want lukewarm water, you should not install an electric tankless water heater in a camper. Electric on-demand water heaters require enormous amounts of power that you will not find in campers – even 50 amp RVs. Most use at minimum 10,000 watts, which is almost the entire capacity of a 50-amp RV circuit.
Because of the high wattages, these water heaters are also 240V appliances. This is incompatible with nearly all camper wiring systems. A smaller, point-of-use, 3000-watt unit might work for one faucet, but would still require a dedicated 30-amp breaker. Because of this, electric tankless water heaters are impractical for RV life. All tankless water heaters for campers heat with liquid propane gas (LPG) which is usually already in use on the RV for fridges, furnaces, and cooking.
What Size Tankless Water Heater Do I Need For an RV?
The size of your RV tankless water heater is measured in BTUs or gallons per minute that it can produce hot water. Most RVs operate well with on-demand water heaters between 40,000-50,000 BTU output. In terms of gallons per minute, this should be much less than a house tankless water heater, which can run upwards of 8 gallons per minute. Usually, campers work well with 2-4 gallons per minute capacity RV tankless water heaters.
In addition to high flow, getting a tankless water heater capable of low flow is important for an RV. When trying to conserve water in your tank, you still want to be able to get hot water when only trickling out of the faucet. Models with variable burners tend to provide hot water at lower flows.
Can I Replace My RV Water Heater with a Tankless?
Yes, you can replace your RV water heater with a tankless version. Many RV tankless water heater manufacturers design them to fit into the old space and utilized pre-installed connections to make swapping them out relatively simple. Some manufacturers will require you to have the installation performed by a certified dealer or technician, but others may allow you to perform this task yourself.
The 6 Best Tankless Water Heaters for Your RV
These six RV tankless water heaters save on space and weight. They vary in dimensions, but most of them feature similar safety protections. Let’s examine each one, so you can decide which model is best for your needs.
1. Truma AquaGo On-Demand Water Heater
About: Truma is a German company that launched in the United States a few years ago. This on-demand water heater operates on propane and also requires 12V DC power to run its electronics. It has two additional modes: “eco” and “comfort.”
Defining Features: Unlike other water heaters that keep gallons of water in the tank at all times, the Truma AquaGo On-Demand water heater only heats the water you use. It also has a small tank that mixes and pre-heats water, so it heats quickly when you need it.
The two modes are nice if you want to save on propane or water. When boondocking, the “comfort” mode is ideal since it saves on water usage by preheating its small mixing tank. And finally, since the Truma AquaGo On-Demand water heater only heats the water you need instead of using a full tank, it makes your total RV weight lighter.
Unfortunately, the Truma can only be installed by a Truma professional and will require you to visit one of their locations or have one of their mobile techs come to you.
2. PrecisionTemp RV-550
About: Precision Temp’s RV-550 tankless water heater easily installs and vents through the sidewall on your RV. And it uses the reliable VariFlame Control technology that PrecisionTemp has used for years.
Defining Features: The RV-550 delivers on-demand water continuously with its 55,000 BTU. The VariFlame Control technology maintains the consistency of the hot water regardless of flow. And since there’s no tank of water to heat, it uses less propane. Less propane means lower cost and fewer visits to refill the tanks, so RV owners enjoy that!
3. GIRARD 2GWHAM
About: This tankless water heater by Girard is designed for winter use. It’s capable of supplying 42,000 BTU and uses half the propane than a 6-gallon tanked heater. Its brushless fan and flow monitors operate on a 12-volt battery. Because it’s a tankless water heater, it’s only about 22 pounds.
- POWERFUL PERFORMANCE — At 42,000 BTUs, this continuous hot...
- CONSISTENT TEMP — The onboard microprocessor monitors incoming...
- HIGHLY EFFICIENT — The Girard RV tankless water heater consumes...
Defining Features: The Girard 2GWHAM provides consistent hot water for as long as you need it. Since you can use it in the winter, it features freeze protection by kicking on in colder temperatures.
4. FOGATTI RV Tankless Water Heater
About: Fogatti’s RV tankless water heater provides up to 55,000 BTU and heats 2.2 gallons of water per minute with propane gas. This water heater also comes with a remote controller, so you can easily control it from inside the RV. The DC motor fan operates silently.
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- 【Incessant hot water】With 55,000 BTU of power, it can produce...
Defining Features: This unit’s accompanying remote controller is valuable because you don’t have to go outside in cold temperatures. The safety features include flameout, anti-freeze, overheating, and overpressure protection. Fogatti also offers a 12-month warranty.
5. Furrion 2.4GPM Tankless RV Gas Water Heater
About: One of the most well-known names in the RV industry is Furrion. Their 2.4GPM tankless water heater has the highest heating power on the list at 60,000 BTU. It heats up to 2.4 gallons of water per minute. Furrion’s 2-year warranty covers this product, so you can enjoy it without fear of it breaking down.
- High Heating Power: 60K BTU heating power & a 2.4GPM capacity,...
- Steady Temperatures: Furrion’s Vortex technology consistently...
- Replacement Door for Atwood: Specially designed for retrofit...
Defining Features: Furrion uses its Vortex technology to provide consistent hot water when in use. One safety feature is the dual sensors that automatically shut off when the temperature gets too hot. It also has Furrion’s VibrationSmart technology to prevent damage during travel.
6. Camplux 2.64 GPM
About: One of the cheaper options is this water heater by Camplux. Commonly used by tent campers and small RV-ers who travel off-grid, this portable gas water heater is easy to carry. It does not permanently attach to the vehicle like the other options. The gas regulator and showerhead are included.
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Defining Features: If you’re tent camping, simply attach this water heater to a tree, and you have instant access to hot water. It’s portable and lightweight at only 19 pounds. After a few minutes, you’ll have 2.64 gallons of hot water per minute. Safety features include protection from dry combustion, flame failure, freezing, low water flow, overheating, and high water pressure.
Should You Add a Tankless Water Heater to Your RV?
If you dread going camping because of two-minute showers, consider adding a tankless water heater to your RV. A relaxing shower might be the only personal time you have when traveling with family.
It could be worth investing in the right RV tankless water heater for your needs. Just pay attention to your space and choose accordingly.
In addition to tankless hot water heaters, many RVers find it useful to purchase an RV water softener as well. Learn why here: 5 Best RV Water Softeners for Your Camper (And Do You Even Need One?)
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