How to replace a standard RV water heater with a tankless option

For most RVs, the standard water heater is something along the lines of an LP unit that holds around 6-10 gallons of water and preserves its temperature. If you’re a weekend camper who only uses a water heater to wash a couple of dishes, this is probably enough.

However, if you have an entire family going camping for more that 2-3 days – especially with kids – you will soon find that the standard RV water heater is not likely to keep up with your demands.

If you’re pretty much accustomed to daily showers and enjoy family camping trips – with a basic RV water heater, you’re pretty much doomed. Depending on the size of your family and your shower habits, simple rinsing can easily turn into an all-day process, as cycling the water and recovering the water heater a few times in a row is quite an adventure. This is because the standard RV water filter capacity of 6 gallons is just enough to get you to a point where you’re covered in soap, following by an excruciating cold rinse.

Doesn’t sound great? Fortunately, today there are some great alternatives for standard RV water heaters available on the market. So, what if we told you that you can take as long as you like under the warm RV shower head and let the next person in as soon as you’ve finished? Imagine washing large loads of dishes, washing clothes and such – all with warm water…

If that sound like something you need for your camping adventures, welcome to the world of tankless water heaters! These bad boys feature propane burners and sensors powered by 12V DC, meaning they work exactly like the one you likely have installed at home. The burner ignites right when you open a faucet, and within a couple of seconds hot water starts coming out.

If you’re thinking about an upgrade, the following steps will guide you through the process of upgrading to a tankless RV water heater:

  1. Turn off the propane
  2. Drain your water heater entirely
  3. Remove the gas supply line
  4. Remove water lines
  5. Make sure all electrical wiring is disconnected
  6. Unscrew the fastening screws on the outside RV water heater frame
  7. Take the water heater unit out
  8. Reverse all the steps from 7 to 1 to attach the new unit. More often than not, the gas supply pipe and the water inlet/outlet will attach properly without any further modifications. If it’s not the case, please refer to the manual or contact the manufacturer (better still, when you’re making a purchase, mention your current model so the correct fuss-free replacement can be suggested).


Once your unit is installed, all you have to do is to turn on any hot water faucet, which should automatically turn on the unit. In reverse, when you turn off the hot water, the heater turns of as well. Welcome to the world of long hot showers!

Before you take the plunge, we’d like to offer some additional points to consider. The price is probably the biggest limitation here, as a tankless RV water heater is more expensive compared to a standard one (the price difference is usually about 20% for comparable models).

Other that that, tankless RV water heaters are just amazing. As we’ve discussed before, they save a lot of frustration – and they are also much more environmentally friendly compared to classic RV water heaters! This is because tankless models consume much less fossil fuel than the standard ones, which keep a certain amount of water heated at all times, no matter if you’re actually intending to use it.

So if the price is not a deal breaker, consider an upgrade – you’ll thank us later!