Are you tired of taking brief RV showers and still running out of hot water?
You certainly aren’t alone. The standard RV water heater holds a measly six gallons of water and can take an hour or more to refill and reheat.
This hot water dilemma is why more and more RVers are switching to an on-demand tankless water heater that provides a continual flow of hot water whenever you want.
So, if updating your camper’s hot water situation sounds appealing, get ready to learn more about the best RV tankless water heaters down below!
What Is a Tankless Water Heater?
Conventional water heaters use a holding tank that fills with water and is heated using gas or electricity. When you open any hot water tap in your home or RV, the water flows from the tank and out the faucet.
A tankless water heater doesn’t hold water and instead uses heating elements to heat water instantly as it passes through an internal pipe. The pipe coils through the unit, and a sensor automatically ignites the heating element when water flows through the line.
The sensor monitors the water’s temperature coming into the coils and adjusts the heat to bring the water to the temperature you set before it flows to your faucets.
As long as the water flow through the pipe isn’t too fast or too cold, the water will be hot when it exits the unit and runs to your shower or sinks.
Since the water is only heated as you need it, tankless water heaters are often called on-demand water heaters.
Electric vs. Propane RV Tankless Water Heater
Both electric and propane RV tankless water heaters are the two choices available for RV use.
Electric on-Demand Water Heater
Electric tankless water heaters are popular for RVers who don’t have or prefer not to use propane in their camper.
Just connect to the pedestal at your campsite, and you’ll have all the hot water you need as long as there’s no disruption of the campground power.
Another benefit of an electric RV tankless water heater is that campsite electricity is typically free, saving money over buying propane.
If there’s a power outage or while boondock camping, you can still operate an electric water heating system using a generator or solar power.
The downside of an electric-only RV on-demand water heater is the power draw necessary to run the system that can overwhelm many smaller motorhomes or travel trailers.
Propane on-Demand Water Heater
Propane tankless water heaters are a perfect fit for RVs because most campers already have a propane system in place or bring along a portable tank for grilling.
You can swap out a conventional RV water heater for a tankless propane model without a lot of extra work.
Another benefit of propane is that it allows you to have hot water when off-grid camping easily.
Having a propane water heater saves money if you’re a monthly, full-time, or seasonal camper at a campground that charges for electrical usage.
The downside to propane on-demand water heaters for RVs is that your propane tanks can run dry at inconvenient times, leaving you without hot water until you can get a refill.
Another pitfall of a propane system is that you’ll need to safely vent the water heater to prevent harmful gases from filling your camper.
Benefits of an RV Tankless Water Heater
A Tankless Water Heater Provides Instant Hot Water
You’ll only need to wait seconds for the water to heat up, and it will remain consistently hot until you turn off the faucet.
With a conventional RV water heater tank, you could be waiting up to an hour for more for the water to reheat.
A Tankless Water Heater System Is Safer
Tankless systems only operate the heating element when water begins to flow. The rate of flow also must meet a minimum level as a backup precaution.
Conventional water heaters must always run to keep the water hot during non-use or when the tank partially drains and tops back off with cool water.
You Can Finally Enjoy Long RV Showers
A tankless unit in your RV allows you to take as long of a shower as you like. It also lets others in your camper take a hot shower with no downtime in between or wash some dishes simultaneously without affecting the hot water supply.
Tankless Water Heaters Are Energy Efficient
A tankless water heater means no more keeping a six or 10-gallon RV water tank hot at all times, saving energy.
The constant water flow in a tankless system also prevents minerals from building up as they do inside a conventional water tank that leads to poor function or failure.
Tankless Water Heaters Are Lighter
Weight is always a concern in any recreational vehicle. Tankless water heaters are lighter and often less bulky than a conventional unit that, when filled with water, can weigh upwards of 100 pounds.
Important RV Tankless Water Heater Features to Look For
RV Tankless Water Heater Flow Rate
You need to pay attention to the flow rate or gallons-per-minute(GPM) of water that can pass through the unit and still heat the water to the temperature you set.
Most RV on-demand water heaters will have a GPM between 1 and 3, but some can go as high as 5.
Most RVers find a GPM of 1.5 or 2 sufficient for general camping needs.
On-Demand RV Water Heater Pressure Rating
Tankless RV water heaters have a water-pressure range they can support, typically between 30-80 PSI.
The problem with a tankless unit is when the water pressure gets too low, it can shut down the heater, so a model that can operate on lower PSI is a smart buy.
There are times when water pressure drops significantly, such as during the morning or evening bathhouse shower rush or when RV park staff perform pool maintenance.
RV on-Demand Water Heater Temperature Range
Tankless on-demand water heater models should state how many degrees they can raise water temperature. Some are way more efficient than others to bring up the water temperature to a comfortable level.
This feature is essential because if you camp where the water source is very cold, the heater will need more power to warm up the water in the short amount of time it passes through the coils.
If you only camp where the groundwater is warmer, the unit won’t need to work nearly as hard to heat the water to the temperature you desire.
RV Tankless Water Heater Safety Features
Protect your tankless water heater for RV by buying a model with safety features such as:
- Automatic shut-down for low or high pressure
- Freeze and overheating protection
- Adjustments for altitude
- Proper venting and electrical ratings
- Digital fault alert codes and alarms
You want to RV without worrying your water heater will malfunction, so look for a model with as many safety features as possible.
Be aware that some tankless water heaters for recreational vehicles have problems at high altitudes. Read product information carefully if you like to camp in mountainous regions to get the correct model for your needs.
7 Best Tankless Water Heaters for RVs
1. Girard GSWH-2 Tankless Water Heater
- Regulates the burner to maintain the set hot water temperature.Freeze protection - designed for winter Use
- 42,000 BTUs which provides the optimum performance for an RV's plumbing
- No special LP gas lines or special plumbing required
- Quiet brushless motor
- 12V power operates at less than 3 amps
|Fuel source||Propane with 12V Ignition|
|Flow rate||1-1.5 GPM|
|Temperature range||95°F to 124°F|
The Girard GSWH-2 Tankless Water Heater is a top choice for permanent RV installation because it’s made to fit into most standard RV 6-gallon water heater compartments for fast and easy installation.
- Digital control panel
- Monitor for inlet flow, plus inlet and outlet temperature
- Freeze guard protection (ideal for cold-weather camping)
- Quite brushless motor
- Made for RV installation
The only downside to this water heater model is you need to purchase the access door separately, adding to the cost. There are four different RV access door styles to choose from to match your camper.
2. EZ 202 Tankless On-Demand Water Heater
- Easy Portability - Only 15 LBS
- Battey Powered Ignition - 2 "D" Cell Battteries Not Included
- Great for use at campsites, while fishing, while hunting, barns or any where hot water is needed.
|Fuel source||Propane with Battery Ignition|
|Flow rate||1.8-4 GPM|
|Temperature range||35°F to 77°F rise from inflow temp|
The EZ 202 Tankless Water Heater is an excellent option for RV families with larger motorhomes or travel trailers because it offers a high GPM flow rate.
The portable unit also doesn’t require 12-volt wiring to ignite the heating coils, so you can also easily use it outdoors while camping.
- Powerful level of heating
- Use inside (with vent) or outside RV (using LP tank)
- Auto overheating shut-off
- Slim, compact, portable, and lightweight
- Works at higher altitudes
- Battery ignition (2 “D” cell)
On the downside, this heater comes with a hose and shower head attachment that’s a bit too short for comfortable use. The heater also requires a high volume of air to operate efficiently indoors.
3. Eccotemp FVI-12-LP Indoor Propane Tankless Water Heater
- True 1/2NPT water fittings
- Power ventilation for safety and efficiency
- Tested safe electronic ignition system
- Digital temperature display with fully independent gas and water controls
- Precise temperature and water flow adjustment
|Fuel source||Propane with Electronic Ignition|
|Flow rate||up to 4 GPM|
The Eccotemp FVI-12-LP Indoor Propane Tankless Water Heater is a simple-to-operate unit with a digital display that’s best for mid-size to smaller RVs who don’t require large quantities of hot water.
- Runs quietly
- Manual adjustment for temperature and gas
- Comes with stainless steel venting kit
- Sleek and compact design
- Uses 1/2″ NPT water fittings for quick install
On the downside, this model needs to plug into a 120V outlet to run the digital display and the exhaust fan, and it’s not for use at elevations over 2,000 feet.
4. PrecisionTemp RV-550 Tankless Water Heater
- Designed specifically for RVs, trailers, tiny houses, cabins, mobile washing services, and more
- Takes up 1/2 the space and weighs 1/3 as much as a 10-gallon tank
- No pilot light and very high propane efficiency
- Reliable, proven VariFlame technology control system
- Designed, assembled and tested in the USA
|Fuel source||Propane with Pilotless Ignition|
|Temperature range||26°F to 88°F rise from inflow temp|
The PrecisionTemp RV 550 Tankless Water Heater is a quality unit that’s best for full-time RVers or for running multiple water sources at once as it maintains your set heat no matter the flow rate or incoming water temperature.
The unit mounts along a wall (also comes in a floor-vent option) and comes with a vented access panel, so your RV exterior has a flawless look.
- Patented VariFlame Control Technology
- Built-in freeze protection
- Flow sensor and modulation valve for safe operation
- Stainless steel construction
- Easy to winterize
- ECO high-temperature limit switch
- Easy retrofit installation in many motorcoaches
The downside of this model is the price tag and the bulky size. You will get a durable, quality-built, long-lasting unit with lots of safety features and a reliable hot-water supply, making it a great overall value.
5. Camp Chef Triton 5 Portable Tankless Water Heater
|Fuel source||Propane with Battery Ignition|
|Flow rate||1.5 GPM|
|Temperature range||38ºF to 102ºF rise from inflow temp|
The Camp Chef Triton 5 Portable Tankless Water Heater is very affordable and best for outdoor clean up at the campsite for RVs without bathrooms such as small teardrop campers, pop-ups, campervans, or small travel trailers. Hook the heater up to a standard garden hose and propane tank, and you’re ready to go.
- Portable and sets up quickly
- Comes with 8-foot shower hose with 4-setting head
- Quick-adjust manual control knobs
- Hangs or can free-stand
- Includes propane tank regulator hose
The biggest downside is this model isn’t for permanent installation inside an RV. It also requires a minimum of 25 PSI to ignite the burners.
6. EcoSmart ECO 8 Electric Tankless Water Heater
- The product is highly durable
- The product is easy to use
- Manufactured in China
- Heating elements are durable and are threaded for easy replacement
- Activation Flow - 0.3 GPM
|Flow rate||0.8-1.9 GPM|
|Temperature range||80°F to 140°F|
The EcoSmart ECO 8 Electric Tankless Water Heater boasts a 99.8% energy efficiency and is ideal for RVers who don’t have propane or prefer to run their camper on shore power.
- Patented Self-Modulating Technology
- Digital temperature control
- Field replaceable components
- Very compact and lightweight
- Easy click and twist operation
This unit’s drawback is that it requires a 240V electrical connection and 40-amp breaker, so only 50-amp RVs can install this model. It also needs inflow water to be 67°F and above to get sufficiently hot water, which means it’s most suitable for warmer camping locations.
7. Camplux 5L Propane Tankless Water Heater
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|Fuel source||Propane with Battery Ignition|
|Flow rate||1.32 GPM|
|Temperature range||46°F to 114°F rise from inflow temp|
The Camplux 5L Water Heater is another excellent portable propane tankless water heaters for RV camping trips for those who don’t have an RV shower or those who want to have hot water outside to wash up dishes, people, or pets.
- Pairs with Camplux water pump when pressurized water source unavailable
- Includes shower and propane regulator hoses
- Heat, low-oxygen, anti-freeze, and flame-failure protection
- Super easy setup and operation
- Can operate on as low as 3 PSI
The only negative about this unit is that it’s made for outdoor use only, so you’ll need to bring along a garden hose and portable propane tank for use.
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Having all the hot water you need during RV camping trips may seem like a luxury, but it really can increase camping comfort and convenience.
When you install a tankless water heater in your camper, there’ll be no more flipping a coin for who gets to shower first after that hours-long hike or frantically trying to wash all the dishes before the water gets cold.
Check out the tankless water heater models above that are ideal for RV installation. Trust me; the investment will be worth it!
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-- Andre Gide