RV / Travel Trailer Water Heater Operation

travel trailer water heater operation

Why should you use the RV/travel trailer water heater? An RV/travel trailer water heater will support you relish hot water when you travel.

They look like a residential water heater, but some points are different. To use an RV/travel trailer water heater longer, you need to know the RV/travel trailer water heater operation, maintenance, and other parts about the water heater. Here are some aspects you can pay attention to.

An overview of the RV/travel trailer water heater

An RV/travel trailer water heater is smaller than a residential heater. It has a storage container capacity of 6 to 10 gallons.

Nonetheless, there are also up to 16-gallon heaters. The fact is that these units can have a 10-gallon tank and heat the water to a higher temperature. Then, the hot water is mixed with cold, and you enable to get about 16 gallons of hot water (up to 1000°C).  

Though the RV/travel trailer water heater is a bit expensive unit, the non-tank water heaters are becoming common on the RV/travel trailer market nowadays.

RV water heater

You do not only enjoy an endless supply of hot water but also your monthly electricity bill will be reduced with a tiny amount of fossil fuel.

A traditional RV/travel trailer heater will consume more fossil fuel because it keeps the water in the tank hot with cycling on and off.

However, a non-tank heater will only operate when using fuel while you need hot water. The amount of fuel (mostly propane) is decreased because of fewer tank refills when you need hot water only.  

Prepare before using the RV/travel trailer water heater

Before using the RV/travel trailer water heater for the first place, you need to ensure the water heater operation like the device is filled with enough water. To do this, you should read the manufacturer’s manuals for filling the water and maintain it for the while.

Please bear in mind that you need to drain the water heater when you do not use it; especially when you have the travel plan or in the cold season.

Or you also need to do this when putting your motorhome or trailer in a storage area for the closed season.

How to operate the RV/travel trailer water heater

Although the RV/travel trailer water heater has different models and brands, most RVs/travel trailers have the same steps that you are able to apply to your unit.

  • Step 1: You need to check the water heater bypass valve.
  • Step 2: You should open it and let the water flow into the tank.
  • Step 3: Connect the RV/travel trailer to a water outlet and utilize the onboard pump to begin pumping water.
  • Step 4: Switch on the hot water tap.
  • Step 5: The water will start to flow via the lines in the heating container.
  • Step 6: You finally fill it to its line and your water heater will be ready to use.

In my opinion, the RV/travel trailer water heater operation is a piece of cake to overcome for anyone. Nevertheless, you should know the function and the maintenance of your RV/travel trailer to keep it longer. This also cut down the money waste in your budget from the electricity bill and the maintenance cost as well.

Recognize the main types of the RV/travel trailer water heater

In general, the RV/travel trailer water heater has 3 major categories with its available power kinds.

Electric mode

The electric mode is suitable for shore electricity or a generator power with 120v, but it requires around 12 amps of electricity. This is a good point to select LP Gas Mode when the energy is limited.

You also need to identify your RV/travel trailer’s shore power wiring and the outlet power accessible for the RV to plug in (about 30A). This is because you enable to modify your RV to LP Gas Mode or turn the water heater off in a short period of time.

Manual pilot light

With novices, a manual pilot light is a great option. This unit is one of the most standard models in the RV/travel trailer water heater market and uses a pilot light. When the pilot light is turn off, the Pilot Control also switch off and gas cannot flow. This process prevents possible incidents from the LP gas leaking.

The pilot light should not open because the wind blows and the light also turns off while traveling. The process spends about 20 minutes to make hot water, so someone will think that this is a minor inconvenience to them.

Direct spark ignition

Direct spark ignition is also the commonplace RV/travel trailer water heater. This is because there is no pilot inside.

The gas mode thermostat conveys a signal to the heater handle circuit board which opens the gas valve. The igniter is then activated and everything goes with a flame smoothly.

A flow sensor notices the flame; the gas valve is closed while the system ends. This process is longer than 15 seconds when there is not any flame is identified.

Additionally, an indicator light will make a signal which the heater failed to light. The water heater will then switch off and reset the device before another procedure could be created.

Though DIS heaters may operate when the RV/travel trailer is moving, several owners consider waiting till they arrive at their destination; and the fuel waste does not happen (especially copper heat exchanger).

Liquid propane mode

In the liquid propane mode, there are various models. The primary model is different than the others which using the ignition system. Advanced RVs/travel trailers have the Direct Spark Ignition that is a more tremendous system.

Read more: 7 Best Tankless Water Heater for RV: Review and Buying Guide

How to maintain the RV/travel trailer water heater

Like most of the other electrical products or parts of it, an RV/travel trailer water heater should have the frequent maintenance. Check each part and clean the unit on a regular basis is also a good way to save your bucks about purchasing a new RV/travel trailer.

Relying on the kind of water heater you use, you probably need more than once a year maintaining. Make sure you put this task on your maintenance schedule in the prolonged period.

Check the anode rod

The anode rod in the RV/travel trailer water heater has the similar function like a residential water heater. It protects the container from corrosion and rust. Nevertheless, some tanks can be made with glass, so the unit does not need an anode rod.

Basically, the anode rod should be checked on a regular basis (at least once a year). Some RV/travel trailer owners also change a new one each year. This is not a necessary thing you have to do. You just could inspect the device every 12 months and get a new RV when it is too cold.

Flush the tank

Do not keep the tank in its condition even you do not use it for a while. The water heater tank should be emptied. Each year, you should flush the water. Most of the inexpensive tank will allow users to spray water into the tank to get rid of dregs. Consistent tank, on the other hand, can improve the life of an RV/travel trailer water heater.

Winterize your RV/travel trailer water heater

When the tank in your RV/travel trailer water heater is drained, it should be paid more attention to the weather temperature fluctuations by increasing and keeping the condition without damage.

The water lines will also need to be prepared with anti-freeze. These lines are so thin and they will not work well when you are not in use for a while. This is a negative feedback of the RV/travel trailer water heater operation. A bypass valve will be used to support in winterizing condition.

RV water heater operation
Via: www.kinstler.com

A bypass valve can keep the anti-freeze and the water lines from coming into the tank. Although most of the RV/travel trailer water heaters have these valves, you also get the bypass valve kits. When your tank does not have anti-freeze, you should draw attention to fill water in the tank and loop as well.

Clean the burner tube

The main function of the burner tube is supplying gas to the burner when the device is in the LP Gas mode. You need to clean this supply tube every year. Simply take a can of compressed air and spray around the burner tube. It is a good idea to rinse the unit in spring.

Related: Tankless Water Heater vs Standard Water Heater

What should you do when you troubleshooting?

You often maintain all parts of your RV/travel trailer, but sometimes you will have to play an unexpected game like your gas supply tube is out of the control. This is the time to get some tricks to hack them.

Heating components

This is a popular issue that you probably face it on a regular basis. It is not difficult to take your water heater out of winterization at the bypass mode.

If the water heater is open but lacking water in the tank, the heating components absolutely fail.

When the electrical heating property is not immersed in water, it will rapidly burn out and you need to change a new one. It is not expensive and everyone can install.

Bypass valve

The bypass valve could be hard and it is also a common problem of an RV/travel trailer water heater. Fortunately, with some troubleshooting, you can play a pinpoint game! Follow some simple steps:

  •    Open the pressure valve to check the water is hot or not. If the water is still hot, you will know that the water heater is working.
  •    Test out the bypass valve to ensure it is arranged correctly.  
  •    Do not forget to check the hot water valve. The water will not leave to the tank when the hot water valve in the off position.

Gas supply tube

One of the most popular issues of the RV/travel trailer heater does not work is a clog inside. If the gas supply tube gets stuck, the gas will not catch the pilot totally.  Sometimes, you also get the smell of the propane.

This is also a reason for making a big mess from spiders and other small insects. You just need to take a can of compressed air and spray around the burner tube. This is also a method to take care of your RV/travel trailer every spring.

Broken tank

You enable to change a thick chunk of PVC for broken parts instead of buying a new tank. You also can repair the tank only. In case the broken parts are too big, then this is the time to purchase a new one.


How do you use hot water in a camper?

If you are camping in a camper, there are a few things you should consider when using hot water. First and foremost, make sure that your water heater is turned on and ready to use.

Once the hot water heater is running, be mindful of how much hot water you use during each shower or wash cycle. Water heaters require energy to produce hot water, so try to limit your use where possible.

Make sure that you also pay attention to safety precautions while using the hot water in a camper or travel trailer. Install an anti-scald device on your shower head and set the thermostat temperature at no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid the risk of burns or scalding.

Finally, remember to switch off your water heater when you’re finished using it, and ensure that all safety guidelines are followed in order to ensure safe use.

Bottom line

You do not need to become a mechanic to use the RV/travel trailer water heater, but you should know the RV/travel trailer water heater operation, how to maintain, and how the unit works well.

The RV/travel trailer is also an important appliance to help you create a smooth journey. You do not get stuck in the road; especially when you drive from a state to another one. Take care of yourselves and your RV/travel trailer water heater too!

RV Water Heater Operation

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