RV Water Heaters 101: Types, Benefits, How to Use & More

A water heater for an RV is smaller than a normal water heater. An RV water heater can be used to heat water and make it ready for use in showers, dishwashers, etc. These water heaters can be powered by the RV battery or by electricity or propane.

A typical RV has beds, furnace, refrigerator, space heater, dehumidifier, kitchen, plumbing, and a bathroom. Another facility that can be added to an RV is a water heater.

Water heaters can help in providing hot water for a shower, for cooking, for laundry, and for washing dishes.

An RV water heater is smaller than a conventional water heater that is normally used in houses. RV water heaters can be powered by various fuels like propane, electricity or directly by the RV battery.

How does an RV Water Heater Work?

The RV water heater works by drawing water from its tank using the bypass valve and heating it using resistors. A thermostat is used to regulate the temperature up to which the water is to be heated. The heated water leaves the heater when the tap is turned on. The pressure relief valve regulates the pressure inside the heater.

The main components in an RV water heater are the heating tank, the anode rod, a thermostat, the dip tube, the bypass valve, and the pressure relief valve.

RV water heaters may or may not come with water tanks.

Source: Popular Mechanics

Water tanks in an RV water heater are used for storing water that is drawn by the water heater when it is turned on.

This water is subsequently heated by the water heater and supplied to the user. A typical water heater tank can store around 6 to 10 gallons of water.

When the heater is switched on, the water is heated up using electric heating elements or electric resistors. The power supplied to the heater is used to heat the resistors up.

Since the resistors are placed in the water, the water also gets heated up.

The thermostat is a device that can detect the temperature of its surroundings.

The required temperature to which the water is to be heated up can be set using the thermostat. The thermostat is responsible for regulating the power supply to the heating elements by breaking or making the circuit using a switch.

When the temperature of the water exceeds than what is required, the thermostat opens the switch to stop the power supply.

Otherwise, the thermostat keeps the switch closed until the water is heated up sufficiently.

When the tap is turned on, the water leaves the heater via the dip tube.

The sudden reduction in temperature triggers thermostat and the heater draws more water from the tank and heats it until the thermostat allows it to.

When the water gets heated up, the pressure inside the heater also builds up.

When the pressure inside the heater reached 50 pounds per square inch, the pressure relief valve lets the water drip out of the heater back into the tank until the pressure inside the heater drops to an acceptable level.

The bypass valve is useful for deciding when the cold water is to be let into the heater. It is installed near the cold-water inlet of the heater.

When the heater is full of water, the valve closes. When the heater is directed by the thermostat to get more water, the valve opens.

The bypass valve is also filled with antifreeze solution during the winter to prevent water from freezing inside the heater.

The anode rod is used to prevent the corrosion or rust of the heater due to continuous exposure to water.

The anode works by undergoing corrosion instead of the heater, thus protecting the heater. Thus, these anodes are also called sacrificial anodes.

These anodes have to be replaced regularly when they get completely corroded.

rv water heater benefits use how it works

Types of RV Water Heaters

There are several types of RV water heaters. RV water heaters come with or without water tanks. Also, the capacity of the water tanks can vary from 6 to 10 gallons. RV water heaters can also different types of fuels like liquid propane, electricity or heat from the RV engine.

RV water heaters can be classified based on:

Presence of water tank

RV water heaters can come with or without water tanks.

Again, the size of the water tank varies, ranging from a capacity of 6 gallons to 10 gallons.

Tankless water heaters are very water conservative.

Instead of continuously heating water in a tank, they are directly hooked up with the water supply of the RV and heats the incoming water.

Therefore, they supply the required amount of hot water without storing any excess water which cannot be used or be in the danger of running out of water in the tank.

Type of Fuel used

RV water heaters can work with electricity, liquid propane or by using the heat from the RV engine.

Electricity is the most convenient form of an RV water heater. Most RV parks and camping grounds provide electric power that can be used by the heater.

The downside of using electricity as a power source is the fact that sources for electric power is not portable. The RV generator has to be used to run the heater, therefore, there is an additional load on the generator.

Liquid propane is the cheapest fuel that can be used to run the heater. Propane heaters are the earliest form of RV heaters.

They can be of the manual pilot light type, which requires a manual triggering of a flame to light the heater.

They can also be of the more beneficial direct spark ignition type, that has an internal ignitor.

The downside of using propane-powered water heaters is the fact that the hotter the water has to get; the more propane has to be used. If the propane runs out, the heater cannot be used.

Using the engine heat to run the heater is also known as the MotorAid system.

The engine has a cooling fluid like water or oil that is used to cool the engine down. The fluid is tasked with taking the heat away from the engine. Consequently, the fluid itself gets heated up.

Instead of letting this heat go to waste, it is economically used to heat the water in the heater.

The main disadvantage of this system is the fact that the engine has to be running when the heater is used.

Otherwise, the water will not be heated up effectively.

A nice Video on Propane Water Heaters-

Benefits of an RV Water Heater

RV water heaters offer several benefits. They enable the RV user to obtain hot water anytime during travel. They are smaller than a normal water heater and are portable. They are also easy to install in an RV. They are very energy efficient devices and use easily available cheap fuels.

An RV water heater is a device mainly used to obtain hot water anywhere and everywhere. It is a portable solution to a conventional water heater.

RV water heaters are smaller than a standard water heater. They are easy to install in RVs.

RV water heaters make it possible for campers to get hot water during travel.

This hot water can be used for taking a shower, doing the laundry or the dishes.

RV water heaters can work on cheap, easily available fuels.

Propane is one such fuel used; the monthly expenses for propane amounts to around $5.

These heaters can also effectively use the heat from the RV engine which is very energy conservative.

How to Best use an RV Water Heater?

The water heater has to be installed in a suitable area on the floor of the RV. Then, it has to be connected to the hot water outlet and the cold water inlet of the RV. The heater has to then be filled to the brim with water by opening its bypass valve.

The water heater has to be placed on the floor of the RV in such a way that the area provides permanent support to the RV after the side walls of the heater have been erected.

If required, the carpeting or wood paneling on the floor of the RV has to be removed in order to accommodate the heater.

A drain pan has to also be installed underneath the heater so that it can collect the water leakage from the RV and drain it properly.

The heater then has to be connected to the cold water inlet and hot water outlet of the RV. After this, the heater has to be filled with water to the brim.

For this, the bypass valve of the heater has to be checked and/or manually opened. Then, the RV pump can be turned on which will pump the water into the water lines.

When the hot water tap is turned on, water will flow into the heater.

When not in use or during the winter time, the heater can be drained of water to prevent it from corroding the insides of the heater or freezing up inside the heater.

Summary

An RV water heater can be used to heat water and make it ready for use in showers, dishwashers, etc. These water heaters can be powered by the RV battery or by electricity or propane.

RV water heaters offer several benefits. They enable the RV user to obtain hot water anytime during travel.

They are smaller than a normal water heater and are portable. They are also easy to install in an RV. They are very energy efficient devices and use easily available cheap fuels.

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