Electric vs Gas Tankless Water Heaters for Your RV


RV Water Heaters

One of the vast benefits of RV life is the capability to take the modern-day conveniences of home on the road with you. Among those modern conveniences is the availability of hot water– after all, what is more, relaxing than a nice hot shower? Your RV’s hot water heater is crucial to supplying this modern-day amenity, and it is worthwhile to have some understanding of the types,  how your RV water heater works and electric vs gas tankless water heaters before choosing one.

Types of RV Hot Water Heaters

Water heaters for your RV utilize three primary heat sources, some propane-based. For these propane water heaters, the water temperature is proportional to the amount of gas used, the more gas, the hotter the water. The propane for these water heaters can be expensive but are great for supplying an abundance of hot water for heavy users.

Some RVs have an electric water heater, turn the water heater on, wait for the tank to heat up, and then to your delight, you have hot water. The only negative of electric water heaters for your RV is the waiting time for the unit to heat up.

The third RV water heater utilizes heat from the engine to produce hot water. If you don’t mind starting your engine, this is a highly efficient energy source for making hot water. Needless to say, when your engine is not running, the hot water slowly dissipates.

Engine-heated 6 or 10-gallon water heater tank is usually located either in the sidewall of the RV or near the engine compartment. These water heaters tend to be relatively cost-effective for the amount of hot water they produce, and one of the disadvantages is their small size restricting the hot water supply. In other words, when it comes to hot showers, it’s a quickie.

What to Consider When Choosing a Portable Water Heater?

When deciding what type of RV water heater is best for you, there are many things to consider, such as price, installation, maintenance, and fuel type.

Price is often the first thing people think about when choosing an RV water heater. However, it’s essential to be mindful that the initial cost is not the only cost associated with owning a water heater. You should consider all installation costs, fuel costs, and maintenance costs when making your decision.

Installation costs will depend on the type of water heater you choose. Propane models are the cheapest to install, followed by electric models, and Tankless models are usually the most expensive to install.

Fuel costs will also depend on the type of water heater you choose. Electric models are typically the most expensive to operate, followed by propane models.

What is an Electric Tankless Water Heater?

RV electric tankless hot water heater is another on-demand water heater system, powered electrically and located in the RV sidewall. Tankless water heaters are an exceptional choice for a continuous hot water supply, and Tankless water heaters will generate as much hot water as you need.

They are small and compact, making them easy to store and transport. Tankless water heaters are also very efficient, providing endless hot water on demand. Plus, they are much safer than propane heaters, as there is no risk of explosion or fire.

The only drawback of the tankless heating system is its price, as they tend to be more expensive than other systems previously mentioned.

How Does a Tankless RV Water Heater Work?

Electric tankless water heaters work by heating the water as it passes through a set of coils. Heated by electricity, the coils heat the water instantly as it comes into contact with them. Hence, there is no need to store hot water in a tank, which can save space and energy. Tankless water heaters last much longer than conventional water heaters, as they don’t have any parts that can rust or break down over time.

Using Your RV Water Heater

To use your RV water heater, you need to connect it to a power source and fill the holding tank with fresh water. Turn on the power switch when filling the tank, and set the thermostat to your desired temperature. The water heater will commence heating the water and maintaining your set temperature.

Using a gas/propane water heater, you will need to light the pilot light, review your owner’s manual, and follow the instructions.

Turn off the power to protect your RV from electrical and fire hazards when the water heater is not in use. Only run your tankless water heater when you need hot water.

Electric vs Gas Tankless Water Heater

Disadvantage of Tankless Water Heater

There are several key differences between electric and gas tankless water heaters. The most significant difference is that electric tankless water heaters require a 240-volt electrical connection. In contrast, you can connect gas tankless water heaters to a natural gas line or a propane tank. Because gas tankless water heaters require a separate fuel source, they have the added benefit of being able to be installed anywhere. Each of the three most common water heater types has advantages and disadvantages.

Gas water heaters are typically the most efficient since they don’t require electricity and are the most expensive to purchase and install. Electric water heaters are less costly up-front but may not be as energy-efficient as propane models. Tankless water heaters are the latest technology that doesn’t store hot water like traditional tank-style heaters. They’re very energy-efficient, but they may be unable to keep up with the demand of multiple showers back-to-back.

Still, gas models may be less costly to operate in the long run because gas tankless water heaters use less energy than electric models. In addition, electric models must be installed by a qualified electrician, while a qualified plumber can usually install gas models.

6 Best Tankless Water Heaters for RVs

If you’re planning a trip in your RV, you’ll want to ensure you have a reliable water heater. After all, there’s nothing like running out of hot water in the middle of a shower! So, what’s the best option for an RV water heater?

There are many advantages to using an electric tankless water heater, including its compact size, endless hot water, and energy efficiency. You’ll also want to consider a few things.

  • First, how much water do you need to heat?
  • Second, what’s your budget?
  • Third, how easy is it to install?

Here are six of the best electric tankless water heaters for RVs:

1.  Ecosmart ECO 27 Electric Tankless Water Heater (27 kW 240 V). This unit is highly efficient and can provide continuous hot water for up to 3 showers. Plus, it’s compact and easy to install, making it an excellent choice for RVs. It delivers up to 3 gallons per minute, and it’s Energy Star certified.

The unit also comes with all the necessary installation hardware, so you don’t need to hire a professional to install it. The ECO provides an endless hot water supply, and the Ecosmart ECO 27 is one of the market’s most popular electric tankless water heaters.

2.  Stiebel Eltron Tempra 20 Plus Tankless Water Heater (20 kW 240 V). If you’re considering picking up a tankless water heater, the Stiebel Eltron Tempra Plus is one of the market’s best options. This electric tankless water heater is ultra-efficient, providing an endless hot water supply while significantly reducing your energy bills.

The Stiebel Eltron Tempra Plus is also very compact, making it an excellent choice for small RVs. A qualified contractor or plumber can make the installation much easier for you.

3.  Rheem RTEX-04 Electric Tankless Wate Heater (18 kW 240 V). The water heater provides up to 5.9 gallons of hot water per minute (GPM) in warm climates, enough for up to 3 showers simultaneously. Lower kW models also offer continuous hot water but at reduced flow rates. It’s also Energy Star certified, meaning it’s highly efficient.

It features a self-modulating power element that adjusts power based on flow rate. It only uses the energy required to heat the water, resulting in significant energy savings over traditional gas tankless water heaters. Rheem’s unit design is sleek and will complement any decor.

4.  Bosch Tronic 3000T 7-Gallon Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater (12 A 120 V). This small, lightweight unit makes it easy to install and perfect for tight spaces. It also features a corrosion-resistant glass-lined tank and an anode rod that extends the unit’s life.

The Bosch Tronic 3000T 7-Gallon Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater is an excellent choice if you are seeking an electric tankless water heater that is energy efficient and has a compact design.

5.  ECOTOUCH Electric Tankless Water Heater (5.5 kW 240 V). The unit has smart modulation heating and provides instant and endless hot water with optimal thermal efficiency of 98% and at a minimum energy cost. The sleek tankless water heater is compact as an oatmeal box, making it possible to install it anywhere close to the outlet and avoid energy waste

6.  Ariston Andris Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater (120 V). This unit has a 6-year limited warranty on the tank and a 2-year warranty on parts. The water heater provides immediate hot water at the point of use and delivers up to 8 GPM of hot water with a compact design enabling wall or floor mounting.

Replacing your RV Hot Water Heater

As with everything else that is mechanical, the water heater requires routine maintenance, similar to the water heater in your home. You should check and clean your hot water system at least once a year, at a minimum– following the schedule recommended by the manufacturer. It may be advisable to leave it to the professionals and save yourself from any potential headaches that may arise.

An RV water heater needs to be replaced every 3-5 years on average; follow the general step below to replace your water heater. Always refer to your RV owner’s manual for guidance.

1) Drain the water heater by opening the drain valve and turning on a faucet on the hot side of the water heater.

2) Disconnect the propane/gas or electricity supplying the unit. If you have a propane/gas unit, disconnect the line from the tank and remove any anode rods. With an electric unit, simply unplug it from its power source.

3) Remove any bolts or screws holding the unit and pull it out. Reverse these steps to install your new water heater.

Drain your RV’s hot water tank for stowing it for winter using the bypass valve (if equipped). Leaving water in your tank over long periods can lead to corrosion and rust and decrease the life of your unit. Alternatively, don’t forget to turn off the bypass valve and fill your hot water tank before heading out the next time.

Conclusion: Access to Hot Water

A tankless water heater is a more efficient way to heat water on demand, with either electric or gas models. Each tankless water heater type has its own set of merits. There are many RV water heater brands to choose from, and the best one for you will depend on your specific needs.

If you want an inexpensive RV water heater to use and maintain, then a propane/gas water heater may be the best option. However, if you want an RV water heater that is more efficient, then an electric water heater may be the better choice.

For most of us, having the availability or access to hot water while traveling the county side makes for a much more enjoyable RV experience with the comforts of home.

Ultimately, the best RV water heater for you will be the one that best meets your needs. We hope the information in the article will help you decide if an electric or gas tankless water heater is right for you.


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