RV water heaters, also called recreation vehicle water heaters, are appliances that provide hot water to the RV occupants during stoppages. A RV water heater uses the gas from the LPG cylinders available in almost all RVs to heat water. Electric RV water heaters are also popular in these vehicles for ensuring supply of hot water. Electric heaters are mostly tankless type, and offer higher energy efficiency and on-demand hot water instantly.

The RV water heater can be installed easily by the owner of the RV, though it’s best to get it fitted by an experienced professional. Available in varying storage capacities, depending on the requirement, one can get this unit with a 6 gallon capacity. These units typically have an aluminum cladding and are easy to maintain and can be accessed by an outside door that makes it easy to service the unit and makes it easier for any professional serviceman to do the needful.

RV Water Heater Basics

Here’s a quick look at the basics of RV water heaters:

1.    Most units use gas for heating water.
2.    Capacity is typically 6 gallons, but 10 gallon units are available for bigger RVs.
3.    The units can operate on gas only, or on both, gas and 120V AC power supply.
4.    Gas RV water heaters will require their pilot light to be lit every time you want to use it. Some units also come with DSI or direct spark ignition system that allows switching on the unit by pushing the ignition switch located inside the vehicle.
5.    The RV water heater can have, what is called, a by-pass valve installed. This allows quicker and pain-free drainage of the tank. The kit also is helpful in ensuring that your unit is prepared for the winter months thereby saving you time and amount of anti freeze time required. That kit is installed close to the cold water inlet and blocks water flow into the unit when not required.
6.    All RV water heaters come with a pressure relief valve that releases itself in case the water temperature touches 210 degrees F or in case of excessive pressure creation.
7.    Whenever the water pressure may reach 50 psi, the relief valve will automatically open, allowing release of pressure. The relief valve will close automatically after the pressure gets lower than 50 psi. Remember, that if you see water dripping from the water heater, it could be normal and may not indicate an issue with the unit.
8.    Dripping of water from the relief valve can be minimized by creating an air pocket at the top of the tank. This air pocket actually gets created by design to reduce to cut down any pressure buildup.

RV Water Heater Care And Maintenance

Sacrificial Anode Rod: Almost every RV water heating unit has a sacrificial anode rod inside the tank that helps increase of the life of the storage tank. With regular use this rod will deteriorate as the name suggests. It’s advisable that you check the rod on an annual basis, if the water you are uses has high levels of iron and/or sulfate.

Exterior Door Screen: Checking the water heater’s exterior door screen for obstructions like insects, debris or dry leaves etc is a necessary part of maintenance. RV water heaters require proper ventilation to operate safely.

Check for Soot: If you see soot on your water heater, just shut down the unit until you can get it repaired. A sign of incomplete combustion, soot needs to be correct ASAP and an experienced technician should be called for this issue.

PR Valve: Pressure relief wall is very important in all types of water heaters. It’s one of the most important safety features in water heaters and is designed to automatically function in case of excessive pressure. However, you should make sure your pressure valve is screwed in properly.

Water Supply And Odor: There may be times when you are exposed to the unpleasant and strong smell of rotten eggs. This happens when the water supply contains exaggerated levels of sulphur. Though the smell is bad, the water can be used. In order to completely eliminate this smell you can flush the unit completely. An add-on filtration system can also cut down on such issues.

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