For a family that occasionally travels or camps with an RV, warm water isn’t just a luxury. How are you supposed to enjoy your time if you can’t take that cozy shower before bed! Luckily, RVs have incorporated tank water heaters for a long time now. But is it the right option? Unless you like to take super-fast showers and fight for your turn with your family, a tank water heater is definitely a bad idea.
In this article, we’ll explore the alternatives by reviewing the 7 best tankless water heaters for RVs.
The Best Tankless Water Heaters for RVs
For each heater, I’ll list the technical details, express my personal opinion, and mention the shortcomings that I saw users complain from.
Camplux is one of the most established brands in the camping industry. They made this heater specifically for people who travel a lot in their RVs but don’t have the adequate space to install a heater inside. If this applies to you, you should definitely consider this heater. It’s dense, portable, and above all, user-friendly.
All you have to do is mount this 14-pound heater with its foldable handle, connect the water hose, the gas regulator, the shower set, and enjoy your hot water anywhere. Best of all, the preceding equipment is shipped with the heater. If you consider this fact alongside the highly affordable price, you’ll realize that this heater offers a notably high value for the money.
So, back to portability, if I say that this heater can be used anywhere, I mean really anywhere! This is attainable because it is able to perform with the lowest water pressure possible, even at 3 PSI. Furthermore, if you have no power source for ignition, no worries! It can easily start with 2 D batteries. Being portable certainly doesn’t mean less performance. It can circulate water with a maximum temperature of 115℉.
Heating Capacity: 28,000 BTU/hr
Water Output: 1.32 GPM
- It comes with a gas regulator, shower head, and water hose
- It doesn’t have a draining outlet to empty the system after use
Since I believe portable water heaters are tremendously efficient for RV use, I thought I should include another heater in this category.
Taking a brief look at Camplux and you can see why it’s our favoriate. That’s why the ME25 is an excellent option for packing most bang for your buck.
It can generate around 41,000 BTU/hr, which provides up to 1.58 gallons of hot water per minute. Furthermore, at 2.5 PSI, it accepts slightly lower water pressure than larger Camplux versions. These features, expectedly, make this version a bit more expensive….but size is a huge benefit here.
Moreover, if you’re using the heater in cold temperatures, it’s possible to drain the remaining water after each day to prevent freezing.
Heating capacity: 41,000 BTU/hr
Water output: 1.58 GPM
- High temperature and water output
- Overheating protection
- Anti-freezing drain
- Somewhat bulky
- Some users complained from poor customer service
Unlike most of the other tankless heaters featured in this article, this one is specifically made for installing in the side of RVs. You can also use it for similarly small properties like trailers, tiny houses, cabins, etc. It’s important to make sure you purchase the wall-vented model rather than the floor-vented. Venting the exhaust through the wall is a lot safer and quite easier to install.
At 55,000 BTU/hr, this heater can support an 80℉ temperature rise with a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute. Some people may believe this is a pretty low output. And, scientifically speaking, it is. However, since it’s only intended for brief water use inside RVs, it should be enough. On the downside, this heater might not be resistant to cold atmospheres.
This can give rise to serious damage to the heater components, which isn’t covered by the warranty. It’s worth noting that this heater matches a 10-gallon tank heater in size. Since most RVs are prepared for 6-gallon tanks, you’ll probably need to cut a larger hole on your RV before installation. However, double-check your RV specs before doing so.
Heating capacity: 55,000 BTU/hr
Water output: 1.5 GPM
- Specifically made for RVs
- Wall venting
- Acceptable performance
- You might need to enlarge the hole on the side of your RV
- Not resistant to cold temperatures.
Installing this heater inside your RV would be highly convenient thanks to its compact design. It can fit anywhere, even inside your RV if you provided efficient ventilation. Best of all, it doesn’t need an electrical generator and it certainly won’t consume your RV battery. Instead, it ignites with the help of 2 D batteries.
The output water can be as hot as 115°F with a volume of 3.1 gallons per minute. This is above sufficient for RV usage. The lowest water output at which it can operate is 1.5 GPM. In this case, it can raise the temperature with a difference of 67°F. Like most of the other RV heaters, this one features a bunch of safety mechanisms.
For starters, it’ll instantly cut the gas if the flame goes off for any reason. This is too crucial for preventing gas leaks. Additionally, since you could be traveling to areas with extremely cold temperatures, it’s equipped with anti-freezing protection to prevent water from freezing inside the pipes. On the downside, the water temperature controls are pretty useless.
You only have three options, summer, winter, and moderate. It might seem user-friendly, but it would’ve been better if you could actually know what temperature you’re setting.
Heating Capacity: 79,000 BTU/hr
Water Output: 3.1 GPM
- High water output
- Safety features for gas leaks and water freezing
- You can’t precisely adjust the water temperature
Frankly, I could end this product review with one word, Rinnai! This company is one of the best in the gas heaters industry and has been around for over a century. This heater is primarily intended for outdoor installation in residential properties. That should give you a quick peep of how reputable and powerful it is. Therefore, you shouldn’t go for this product if you have a small RV.
This heater supports 15,500 BTU/hr as the minimum heating capacity and 120,000 BTU/hr as the maximum. These values only disclose that it can supply hot water by a rate of 5.3 gallons per minute at around 40℉ temperature rise. Although this is more than adequate for RVs, you can still purchase the higher models that provide 6.5, 7.5, 9.4 GPM.
The best thing about this heater, and most of Rinnai’s heaters, is the Ultra-Low Emissions. This means that you’d ensure the highest safety for your family. Still, you should take proper safety measures since oxygen deprivation is quite serious. On the downside, such performance comes at a pretty expensive price. But it surely proffers the best value in the long run.
Furthermore, it’s better to hire professionals for its installation to guarantee the highest safety.
Heating capacity: 120,000 BTU/hr
Water output: 5.3 GPM
- High efficiency
- Variable options for water output
- Low emissions
- Requires professional installation
Most water heaters are intuitively controlled. You keep rotating the control knobs until you’re pleased with the water volume and temperature. But this isn’t the case here. It’s much easier to fine-tune the temperature of this heater thanks to the LED screen it features. By the same token, you get to rejig your energy consumption as well. One of the knobs offers you summer and winter modes.
On the “summer” mode, the heater turns off 1/4 of the fire rows it has. On the “winter” mode, the heater uses its full power to produce 109,000 BTU/hr, which provides up to 4.3 gallons per minute. As for the safety features, this product is protected against overheating. It’ll automatically switch off if it continuously runs for 20 minutes or if the temperature reaches 167°F, whichever comes first.
If I had to choose one favorite feature, it has to be the low water pressure it needs. It can normally operate on 3 PSI only, which is super great for RVs. When it comes to durability, it’s unquestionable with the brushed stainless steel case this heater has. Additionally, all of the inner copper components are plated with tin, a material that drastically improves rust resistance.
Heating capacity: 109,000 BTU/hr
Water output: 4.3 GPM
- LED display
- Summer mode to save energy
- Operate on low water pressure
- High efficiency
- Highly rust-resistant
- Might require professional installation to ensure safety
This water heater doesn’t technically differ much from the other ones. However, it gives the highest value in terms of the overall package. First things first, Eccotemp ships a sturdy stainless steel rain cap to cover the exhaust outlet. This way, you can keep using the heater outdoors even during rainy weather.
They also send a CSA-certified gas regulator alongside all the accessories required for installation. Usually, these extras are shipped with strictly outdoor heaters like Camplux and Gasland. So having them on this indoor/outdoor heater counts as a plus. As for the performance, the heating system is capable of generating 74,500 BTU/hr. This should supply around 2.6 gallons of hot water per minute.
To keep you and your family safe, this heater is programmed to automatically turn off after constantly running for 20 minutes. Furthermore, it’s equipped with a gyroscope to instantly turn off the flame if the heater tilts more than 45 degrees. This is chiefly
important for RVs to avoid fire hazards. On the downside, several users complained about the company’s customer service and warranty regulations.
Heating capacity: 74,500 BTU/hr
Water output: 2.6 GPM
- It comes with a rain cap and gas regulator
- Lightweight (27 pounds)
- Equipped with anti-overheating and anti-tipping systems
- Uncooperative customer service and hidden terms within the warranty
What to Consider Before Buying a Tankless Water Heater?
Choosing from the reviewed products could be difficult. In addition to the technical comparison, you have to consider your space, power source, uses, etc. That’s what we’ll discuss in detail in this section.
First Things First, How Does a Tankless Heater Work?
If you already know the idea behind a tankless heater, feel free to skip. As the name implies, tankless water heaters warm the water directly through pipes without the use of a tank. The power source, either natural gas, propane, or electricity, only works when water starts flowing through your faucet. That’s why these heaters are also referred to as “on-demand heaters”.
So, Why Don’t You Buy a Tank Heater Instead?
RVs are commonly equipped with 6-gallon and 10-gallon tanks. If you have one of these, should you upgrade to a tankless heater? That’s a big, easy yes! Let’s see what benefits you’d get by this upgrade.
Infinite Hot Water
Endless supply of hot water will be available as long as you have gas or power in general. Rushing in the showers will be no more, no more fights for who showers first, and waiting time for water to heat will no longer be of worry.
Tank water heaters work via a thermostat. As the water cools, the power turns on, even if you didn’t actually use the water. This might not be a weighty problem in homes since you have heating and insulation systems. But in an RV, this isn’t always workable. Furthermore, traveling with your RV to areas with cold climates will make the water cool more often. Therefore running out of gas in no time.
Much Less Space
Residential heaters are usually gigantic. Tankless heaters are much shorter and thinner. They can be easily propped to any of your walls. To be fair, tank RV heaters are quite smaller than the tankless ones. However, their capacity lies around 6 or 10 gallons. Compare this to the endless capacity of the tankless heaters and you’ll find the clear winner.
Less Rust, Leaks, and Maintenance
If you were unlucky to have a failed tank water heater, you’d be shocked by how much rust you find inside it. It’s pretty understandable. You’ve water hanging still for at least 8 hours per day, depending on how often you use it. And despite its hideous nature, rust is only the start and it’ll leak big time after some time. In a home, it’s annoying but you can get it repaired or replaced. However, on an RV trip to a freezing state, that’s some pretty bad news!
How Much Heating Capacity?
This time, we’re off to the actual shopping part. The first number you should look at is the heating capacity. This means how much heat the tankless heater can give in a specified time. In the U.S., it’s measured by a British thermal unit per hour (BTU/hr). Why should this matter? Simply, the heating capacity will tell you the travel boundaries of your RV. For instance, let’s say you’ll purchase a heater that can supply 50,000 BTU/hr.
Let’s assume that this threshold can raise the temperature by 60°F. If you utilize this heater at a place with an average water temperature at 50°F, the heater will warm the water up to 110°F. Conversely, travel with the same unit to areas at 10°F and you’ll only get lukewarm water at 70°F. Please note that these numbers are hypothetical, just to clarify the concept.
Gauging the actual temperature from BTU is a little more complicated. If you’re traveling inside the US, make sure to review its groundwater temperature map before making a purchase.
How Much Water Flow?
As you might’ve guessed, the water flow value will tell you how much water the heater can supply per a specific time. It’s usually measured by gallons per minute (GPM). Heaters with higher GPM will be able to supply more than one water outlet simultaneously. Therefore, you can take a peaceful shower while someone is washing the dishes without cutting off your temperature.
Therefore, to purchase a heater that supplies the right amount of temperature, you should calculate your average use beforehand. The actual GPM of your RV equipment differs according to their model. But as a general estimate, an RV showerhead uses 1-1.5 GPM, while a kitchen faucet uses 1.5-2 GPM.
Gas vs. Electricity: Which Is Better?
Generally speaking, electricity should be hands down the right answer. It’s a clean source of energy that’s readily available, no need for refills whatsoever. But when it comes to RVs, the answer is pretty obvious. You won’t deplete your battery to power the heater, and you certainly won’t use a fuel generator.
Therefore, you’re left with gas. This isn’t entirely bad news, though. Gas easily excels above electricity in terms of on-demand heating. A gas heater will have a higher capacity, bigger water output, and less cost. Since it’s hard to store natural gas in containers, the best option for RVs is propane.
Where Should You Place Your Tankless Water Heater?
As we established, tankless water heaters work only when you open a faucet. Considering this fact is crucial if you want to save water. For instance, if you place your tankless water heater right by the shower, you’d instantly get hot water after you open the faucet. On the other hand, if you place the heater further away, you’ll lose all the cold water hanging inside the pipes until hot water comes.
So, when you’re thinking about its position, consider placing it in the middle as much as you can.
What Safety Features Should You Get?
For a tankless water heater to be called safe, it has to have 3 features. Firstly and most importantly, an anti-overheating system. Since we agreed on propane heaters as the most suitable for RVs, you should make sure that gas will automatically shut off if the water stopped flowing. Otherwise, the heater may explode, or at least damage itself.
The heater should also have a gyroscope. This will allow it to detect any dangerous tilt to prevent the RV from catching on fire. The last feature your heater needs is an anti-freezing system. As you might recall from school, water expands when it freezes. So, if you travel to areas with freezing temperatures, water will rip off the pipes and the intricate components of your heater.
A safe heater should detect low temperature and use some of its electrical power to keep water above freezing temperature.
As you saw, the best tankless water heater for RVs is Camplux Tankless Propane Water Heater. I like how it’s very mobile and lightweight enough to be worked with anywhere. If you want to install the heater in the side of your RV, consider PrecisionTemp RV-550 Tankless Water Heater. My most favorite feature about it is the safe venting of the exhaust through its sidewall.
If you’re going for the best bang for the buck, then you’ll love Eccotemp Tankless Water Heater. You’ll get a rain cap and a gas regulator as extras. Lastly, I wish you the warmest RV trips, pun intended!