How to Choose the Right Tankless RV Water Heater
Just because an RV hot water heater is tankless does not mean they are all the same type, which is an especially relevant concern for an RV where space sits at a premium resource. While our review focused primarily on complete RV tankless water heaters, there are a couple of different types.
While you’re more than welcome to test out a couple of different models to see which suits you the best, we feel it is essential to present both to you and highlight why one is better than the other. The two main types of RV tankless hot water heater, the point of use model and the traditional tankless.
Point of Use
From outward appearances, the point of use water heater might seem like the better choice for an RV. Its small size allows it to conveniently fit pretty much anywhere without having to worry about complicated installation or taking up valuable room that could be used for other things.
The main issue with a point of use hot water heater is that it often has such a low flow rate that it cannot keep up with the demands of heavier use. On top of that, point of use hot water heaters are meant to heat the water for a single fixture.
This means you would need multiple point of use water heaters to satisfy the different water sources in an RV– likely at least two with the shower and sink. Another potential issue comes from the fact that point of use water heaters are almost always electric, limiting the fueling options.
Our entire list focuses on the traditional RV tankless water heater for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is ease. For one, you generally only need a single tank free water heater to run all of the water sources in an RV.
That said, you do still need to be mindful of how much hot water each fixture in the RV uses, or else you will run into the same issue in an RV that you would in a house. Namely, a tankless water heater can only produce as much hot water on demand as the gallons per minute of water it can provide.
However, tank free water heaters generally have a much higher total throughput compared to point of use models. On top of that, the water fixtures in an RV usually do not have larger flow rates than those in houses, especially older homes.
The big downfall of a traditional RV water heater is the fact that it costs significantly more than the point of use models. In fact, tankless water heaters are often the most expensive form of heating water, though they pay for themselves with efficiency in the long run.
Further Reading: If you want to know how the basics of your RVs plumbing system works, then you can check out our in-depth guide here.
How it Runs
Traditional tankless hot water heaters can use a couple of different power sources, though you might notice that all of the options we chose to use at least one consistent fuel source: propane. The reason for this is that most RVs use propane in some capacity, and it is often an easier way of fueling an RV water heater on the road.
That said, propane is not necessarily the best way to fuel an RV tankless water heater in every situation. On top of that, if you have a more powerful RV power system, you might not want to have to worry about the inconveniences of a propane fuel system.
The two main types of fuel for an RV hot water heater are electricity and propane, with the choice often coming down to the RV as much as any other factor. We feel that the best RV tankless water heater can use either fuel source, but you might feel differently depending on various factors.
Though all of the options presented include other fuel sources, there are traditional tank free hot water heaters that run exclusively on electricity. That said, this fuel source works best as the only option when the water heater is installed in a traditional house.
Being on the road, you may not always have the ability to plug your hot water heater into an outlet and may not want to use the electricity meant for your RV on a water heater. On the other hand, RV tankless water heaters are reasonably efficient, so it is not a massive drain on your limited electricity unless you use it all the time.
To be fair, the main benefit of an electric tank free hot water heater is the fact that its efficiency means powering it with electricity is the least expensive option. Of course, the electricity on an RV almost always comes from batteries, which means you need a reliable way to charge your batteries.
While this may be a standard concern for RVs in general, it becomes a much bigger issue when powering an electric tankless water heater. The usual solution, if you choose to go this route, is to purchase a dedicated battery for the hot water heater to meet all your energy needs. However, this makes an already expensive product that much more costly.
Further Reading: If you are having issues with your current unit, then check out our guide to maintaining & troubleshooting water heaters.
Because RVs often already use propane for a host of other purposes, namely cooking and heating, it makes sense to get an RV hot water heater that will use one of the more common RV fuel sources.
However, propane can present their issues, especially when it comes to changing out the fuel once a propane tank runs dry. While there is no shortage of places to purchase propane tanks, that is a more expensive, continuous charge this fuel source imposes.
On top of that, you also have to plan a little bit since you may not necessarily come across a retailer selling propane tanks when you run out. Of course, this is not functionally different than the electric fuel source and is solved much in the same way: purchase a dedicated propane tank for your hot water heater.
It is worth noting that despite being a combustible fuel source, propane burns clean, so you do not have to worry about any environmental concerns. On the other hand, hot water heaters run on propane do need to exhaust spent fuel, so installation will either have to be placed out of the RV proper or include installed venting.
Things to Look for
This is by far one of the most critical “specs” to consider when purchasing a tankless water heater. It largely determines how many appliances and fixtures you can use at one time. That said, the throughput changes depending on the temperature of the inlet water. The change is due to liquids expanding or contracting.
This means that there is no single water flow rate you can use to make this determination. Instead, you must rely on a list of throughputs. This can make figuring out which is the right hot water heater a bit more complicated — the flow rate increases with warmer inlet water.
Cold water will reduce the flow rate of hot water compared to water that starts at a warmer temperature. This may not be as big of a concern for hot water heaters installed in a home. It becomes more relevant for RVs, where the starting water temperature can change with a few hours’ drive.
This means that in colder weather, the throughput of a hot water heater can be reduced to that of a single shower. If you have a large RV and expect to use many water fixtures at once, chances are you should pay more for a larger flow rate.
While the flow rate impacts how much hot water you get at one time, another critical factor in determining the rate and temperature of the water is the heating capacity. For propane hot water heaters, this measurement is given in BTUs or British thermal units.
You may have seen that rating used for gas grills or other propane-fueled products where it may not present an accurate reflection of performance, but for hot water heaters, it provides a useful reference. The more BTUs a hot water heater puts out, the quicker it heats the water.
Keep in mind, this may not determine the maximum temperature of the heater, with many other factors playing into that as well. For example, the type of water heaters we detailed earlier can allow a model with fewer BTUs to achieve the same temperatures as one with more BTUs if it uses a condensing design.
Still, the amount of heat a hot water heater can generate determines the throughput more than anything else outside of the outlet, which is usually large enough to handle plenty of water.
The Best RV Tankless Water Heater Reviews
Camplux 5L 1.32 GPM Portable Outdoor Tankless Propane Water Heater
Best Tankless Water Heater for Camping
This is one of the more protected tankless water heaters on our list, with protections for both low and high capacities with flow and hot water pressure. The Camplux also protects against the flame going out, dry combusting, or overheating.
Camplux does not specialize exclusively in water heaters, but they do focus on heating products in general, primarily on propane-fueled products. It is also worth noting that Campflux focuses on outdoor living products, which makes it well-suited for RV demands.
Even better, the focus on outdoor living shows up with its compact profile and weight of only 14 pounds. The only real issue is that you cannot use this heater for drinking water, and it has one of the lower flows we reviewed at only 1.32 gallons per minute.
- Has a low-water pressure startup of only 3.0 psi
- More portable than most
- Has numerous protections
- Not for drinking water
- Has a low flow
Girard Products 1GWHAF Tankless Water Heater
Most Efficient Tankless Water Heater
This is one of the few products that we reviewed, which comes with a dual burner system. While many models advertise the ability to control the water temperature, the 1GWHAF backs this claim up with a 27000 BTU burner as well as a 34000 BTU burner.
Through some combination of the two, you are pretty much guaranteed to get the temperature how you want it. Even better than that, this Girard also provides plenty of savings over the long haul with one of the best efficiencies we found at 90-percent.
While Girard may not be known for water heaters, in particular, most RVers will recognize it as a specialist in the RV accessory market. This provides Girard an insight into some of the long-term issues that RV water heaters suffer, with a focus on convenience.
On the other hand, the 1GWHAF is larger than many of the other models on our list and requires a more involved installation. On top of that, this unit seems to suffer a wide range of potential issues and requires particular care to keep in good working order.
- Has dual burners
- Has a high maximum efficiency of 90-percent
- Easy to adjust
- A more involved installation
- Is a more expensive unit
Girard 2GWHAM On-Demand Tankless Water Heater
Quietest Tankless Water Heater
The 2GWHAM water heater features a brushless motor that is both quieter and more durable than brushed motors. The 42000 BTUs is not one of the higher on our list but is more than enough to get water up to 120-degrees fahrenheit.
Hearing some of the issues customers had with the 1GWHAF, Girard went back to the drawing board to provide an even better model. The 2GWHAM takes all of the great things about the older model and improves upon them with modern innovation.
A great example of this comes with the controls which no longer use knobs and instead work from a digital control panel. This provides unparalleled control over the water temperature compared to most of the other options we found.
Aside from the fact that this Girard is a bit more expensive than most, the control panel can be a bit finicky.
- Has a brushless motor
- Puts out 42000 BTUs
- Has a control panel
- Is a more expensive unit
- Has iffy processing
PrecisionTemp RV-550 Tankless Water Heater
Best Wall Vented Tankless Water Heater
The unit puts out 55000 BTUs, which allows for plenty of hot water, but the RV-550 also considers efficiency necessary as well. This is noted through the VariFlame technology, which automatically adjusts the burner heat based on the inflow water temperature.
PrecisionTemp is one of the few companies on our list that not only specializes in tankless models but focuses primarily on the RV market too. This extends a thorough understanding of what an RV water heater should be, and the company provides just that.
A great example of this is the power venting system, which removes the need for fluting the exhaust as it is pushed through the side front panel instead. While this is a larger unit, this side venting system means that the installation is not nearly as intensive as with other large water heaters.
- Puts out 55000 BTUs
- Has side venting
- Has VariFlame technology control system
- Is an expensive water heater
- Can get too hot
Eccotemp FVI12-LP Liquid Propane Gas Tankless Water Heater
Best All-Around Water Tankless Heater
When it comes to RV water heaters, few can match the FVI12-LP in most of the important things you look for. A great example of this is the throughput where the FVI12-LP tops our list with the largest maximum rate we reviewed at 4.0 GPM.
Eccotemp may not specialize in water heaters for RVs explicitly, but they do focus on water heaters in general. This provides the company with a wealth of expertise to offer a broader range of different solutions to your RV hot water needs than most.
Part of the reason that the FVI12-LP can maintain such a high rate is due to one of the hotter burners we reviewed, which puts out 80000 BTUs. What makes this high heat output even more impressive is that the FVI12-LP also allows for reliable controls to prevent overheating.
- Puts out 80000 BTUs
- Has a solid throughput of 4.0 GPM
- Has solid controls
- Meant for indoor use
- Has a high minimum throughput
Excel Tankless Water Heater
Best Ventless Tankless Water Heater
Easily the most significant benefit this product offers is a vent free system, making it the only one of its kind on our list. Not only does it not require venting, but the Excel also fills a much smaller space than most other models, too, and can still be installed inside.
Excel specializes in tankless water heaters, though they seem to place more focus on home heaters than those made for RVs. That said, their foray into the RV field sees them taking care of some of the more pernicious issues RV water heaters have.
The vent-free system might serve well for convenience, but it also generates additional condensation, leading to an increase in humidity inside your RV. The Excel also has one of the lower throughputs at 1.6 GPM, which may not be enough for heartier hot showers.
- Puts out 38,000 BTU
- Does not require venting
- Compact design
- Has a low flow of 1.6 gallons per minute
- Generates additional humidity
Eccotemp L10 2.6 GPM Portable Tankless Water Heater
Best Tankless Compact Water Heater
Eccotemp makes another appearance on our list with an extremely portable and easy to install model. That said, you should not expect the L10 to falter in its performance just because Eccotemp made it for a smaller vehicle.
A great example of this is the burner unit, which puts out 74500 British Thermal Unit, which is far more than its throughput needs. That said, the maximum flow of 3.0 GPM is still decent for a larger RV, but more than enough for the smaller RV target the L10 suits
The Eccotemp offers a reliable efficiency by providing numerous auto-shutoff controls, both timed and for various capacities. The only issue with this is that a mixed valve system can occasionally cause an automatic shutoff due to low water pressure and the customer service is not much help.
- Puts out 74500 BTUs
- Has a decent flow of 3.0 GPM
- Has numerous protections
- Difficult customer service
- Has water pressure issues
EZ Tankless Portable Water Heater
Hottest Tankless Water Heater
The EZ 202 comes with the hottest burners on our list at 84000 BTUs, and none of the overheating issues that some of the other hotter water heaters occasionally do. Even better, the EZ 202 also comes with the second-best throughput we found at 3.2 GPM and a reasonable price tag as well.
As the name implies, EZ Tankless specializes exclusively in tankless water heaters. On top of that, the company also makes it a point to offer both home and portable models, so you should have no issue finding one perfect for RVs.
The 84-percent efficiency of the EZ 202 is not the best we found but still meets the higher end range of standards. The biggest issue with the EZ 202 is that the top vents do not allow for easy fluting, so you have to install it in a particular way.
- Puts out 84,000 BTU
- Has an 84-percent efficiency
- Has a decent flow of 3.2 GPM
- Has more involved installation
- Has pressure issues
Marey GA10LP Power 10L 3.1 GPM Propane Gas Tankless Water Heater
Best Budget Tankless Water Heater
As another tankless water heater in the running for our best award, the Marey puts out plenty of heat with 80000 BTUs. The GA10LP complements that heat water with a decent throughput of 3.1 GPM, ranking near the top of our list.
Marey is one of the older and more experienced companies that we reviewed while also specializing in tankless water heaters. That said, the company does focus a bit more on home water heaters than RVs but still puts out solid products.
Even better, the Marey gooses its efficiency to 87-percent, which is good for the second-best on our list. Though, it is fair to note that efficiency can fluctuate to as low as 54-percent, which is barely passable.
- Has a throughput of 3.1 GPM
- Easy to install
- Puts out 80,000 BTU
- Has an 87-percent maximum efficiency
- Provides less control
- Has a lower minimal efficiency
Last update on 2020-07-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API