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Key Takeaways

  • Ensure proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
  • Check and secure all water and electrical connections.
  • Activate the appropriate power source (gas or electric).
  • Remote control and automation enhance the process of starting an RV water heater.

A hot water heater is essential for a comfortable and convenient camping experience. But how do you start hot water in an RV?

To start an RV water heater safely, ensure proper ventilation and check and secure all connections. Next, activate the appropriate power source, ignite the pilot light or use direct spark ignition, set the desired temperature, and confirm hot water flow by opening a faucet inside the RV.

Over time, I've delved into the technical aspects of RV water heaters and successfully troubleshooted and optimized them for peak performance. My expertise goes beyond theory, encompassing practical solutions for various RV-related challenges. As such, I’ll provide clear, concise, and actionable guidance on starting and maintaining your RV's hot water heater, ensuring a comfortable and hassle-free RV experience.



How to Start a Hot Water Heater in an RV

When I first got my RV, starting the water heater seemed daunting, but knowing how to do so is crucial for a comfortable journey. I've gone through the process countless times, ensuring warm water for showering and other needs.

It's a simple sequence of steps that, when followed correctly, will have your RV's water heater up and running in no time.

Before diving into the steps, it's essential to understand that both gas and electric water heaters in RVs operate on the same basic principles, and starting them involves a mix of safety checks and specific actions.

Let’s explore each step so you can enjoy the comfort of hot water wherever the road may take you.

Ensure Proper Ventilation

Proper ventilation is a fundamental safety concern when dealing with gas-powered water heaters in RVs. It's not just about convenience; it's about preventing potentially life-threatening situations.

Checking the exterior exhaust of the water heater is the first line of defense against carbon monoxide buildup. Debris or obstructions in the exhaust pathway can disrupt the flow of air needed for combustion and venting of exhaust gases.

If these gases are trapped, they can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal. Adequate ventilation ensures that any harmful byproducts are safely expelled outside, maintaining a healthy and safe indoor environment for RV occupants.

Check the Connections

Inspecting and ensuring the integrity of the water heater's connections is crucial to prevent leaks and ensure efficient operation. Water lines should be free from kinks or any signs of leakage to prevent water wastage and potential damage to the RV's interior.

Additionally, when connecting the water heater to an external water supply, confirming that the hose is correctly attached prevents potential water supply issues.

On the electrical side, secure connections are essential to avoid electrical faults that could disrupt the functioning of electric or combined water heaters.

Turn on the Power Source

Activating the appropriate power source is where the water heater comes to life. It's crucial to match the type of power source to your specific water heater (gas, electric, or combination).

For electric units, locating and turning on the dedicated switch at the electrical panel initiates the heating process.

In contrast, for gas units, ensuring that the gas supply is open and ready is essential to provide the necessary fuel.

Combination propane and electric units allow you to choose based on your preferences and available resources, providing flexibility in powering the water heater.

Ignite the Pilot Light or Use Direct Spark Ignition

Depending on the age and type of your gas water heater, the ignition process may vary. Manual gas water heaters require you to manually light the pilot light, usually following specific manufacturer instructions to ensure safety.

In contrast, modern units are often equipped with direct spark ignition, simplifying the process.

Turning on a switch inside the RV, typically labeled 'LP Gas' or 'Water Heater,' allows you to safely initiate the heating process without the need for manual ignition. This step is critical for an effective start to the heating process.

Set the Temperature

Temperature control is the user's way of customizing their hot water experience. While this step is relatively straightforward, it's essential to find the right balance.

Setting the temperature too high can pose a scalding risk, especially in an RV where space is limited. It can also lead to unnecessary energy consumption.

Conversely, setting it too low may result in insufficient hot water for your needs. Properly regulating the temperature ensures that you have a safe and comfortable supply of hot water tailored to your preferences.

Check for Hot Water

After completing the setup and ignition process, it's essential to confirm that the water heater is operating correctly. To do this, open a hot water faucet inside the RV.

This serves two purposes: it releases any trapped air in the system and allows you to verify that the water is indeed heating. Once a steady flow of hot water is observed, it indicates that the water heater is functioning as expected.

The time it takes for the water to become hot may vary depending on the heater's capacity and the initial water temperature.

How Long Should an RV Water Heater Heat Up

When I'm getting ready for a shower after a long day of adventures, there's nothing quite as comforting as the thought of hot water. That's why knowing how long it takes for your RV's water heater to heat up is crucial.

Whether you're using a propane water heater, an electric water heater, or a tankless heater, the heat-up time can vary.

It takes about 30 minutes for a typical 6-gallon propane RV water heater to heat up – that's not too long if you plan ahead. If you're using an electric heater or both propane and electric, heating times could be faster or slower based on your setup.

For those who value efficiency, a tankless heater heats water on demand and doesn't require a tank to heat up, offering almost instant hot water. Check out this video for more explanation on how long it takes for a water heater to heat up.

Remote Control and Automation for Hot Water Heaters in RVs

Remote control and automation for hot water heaters bring convenience and efficiency to your daily life. Imagine being able to adjust your hot water heater's settings from your smartphone or having it automatically adapt to your needs without any manual intervention.

Remote Control

Remote control means you can manage your hot water heater from a distance. This is done through a mobile app on your smartphone or a dedicated remote control device.

You can turn the heater on or off, adjust the temperature, and set schedules without physically being near the heater. It's like having a remote control for your TV but for your hot water.


Automation takes things a step further. With automation, your hot water heater can "learn" your usage patterns and adapt accordingly. For example, it can turn on the heater just before you usually take a shower in the morning and turn it off when you're at work.

This means you always have hot water when you need it, and the heater isn't running unnecessarily, which can save energy and money.

Below are the benefits of remote control and automation in hot water heaters:

  • Energy Efficiency: Remote control and automation help optimize your hot water usage, reducing energy consumption. You won't waste energy by keeping the heater running when it's not needed.
  • Convenience: You can control your hot water heater from anywhere, so if your plans change or you need hot water for unexpected reasons, you can adjust the settings easily.
  • Cost Savings: By using hot water more efficiently, you can lower your energy bills over time. Automation ensures you have hot water when you need it and not when you don't.
  • Longer Lifespan: Properly managing your hot water heater's operation through remote control and automation can extend its lifespan by reducing wear and tear.
  • Customization: You can set your hot water preferences according to your lifestyle, ensuring you always have the right temperature and amount of hot water available.