Photo Credit: Wayland Ventures

Best RV Tankless Water Heater Options (+ Installation Tips!)

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Having limited hot water is one of the biggest complaints about traveling and living in an RV.

Most larger standard RV water heaters barely even hold enough water for just one person to enjoy a full-length hot shower. But don’t we all want to relax and refresh with a hot shower after a day of outdoor adventuring?

Well, these days, you can have unlimited, on-demand hot water with an RV tankless water heater!

What Is An RV Tankless Water Heater?

Standard water heaters are heated water storage tanks that use excessive energy to keep the water inside at a specific temperature.

On the other hand, RV tankless water heaters use instantaneous heat exchange technology and work on a relatively simple and efficient principle.

With a tankless water heater, when you demand hot water at the faucet, cold water begins to flow into the water heater from the inlet. The moving water activates gas burners that instantly heat the water as it flows toward the open faucet without storing and heating water in the tank in advance.

Tankless water heaters are increasingly popular among homeowners because heating water on-demand saves energy compared to continuously heating a water tank to a specific temperature.

Factory-installed tankless water heater options have been available from international RV manufacturers for nearly 30 years and in the US for over a decade. The technology dramatically improved during that time, and the cost significantly dropped!

So, you can have never-ending hot water, even in your camper (as long as you have water, gas, & a 12V power supply)!

RV tankless water heaters also have the additional benefits of being much smaller and lighter than a metal tank of hot water, saving precious space and weight on your rig!

For those of us with older rigs or RV renovation projects, we now have reliable tankless water heater options to replace our outdated, inefficient, heavy, repaired-many-times-and-still-leaking standard RV water heaters!

RV bathroom
Photo Credit: Noelle Mastelotto

Understanding Regulating Water Temperature

The size of an RV tankless water heater is measured by two output capacities:

  • BTUs (British Thermal Units): A measure of heat output.
  • GPMs (Gallons Per Minute): A measure of water output.

According to the mathematical relationships among water pressure (PSI), water flow rate (GPM), and heat exchange (BTU), an RV tankless water heater capable of producing 40,000-50,000 BTUs at a rate of 2-4 GPM should be more than enough in most campers (with a maximum PSI of 50).

First-generation RV tankless water heaters were particularly susceptible to variations in water flow and maintaining consistent, safe hot water temperatures.

However, those concerns have been addressed by incorporating microprocessors that monitor water flow and temperature. They automatically adjust heat output to maintain the desired output water temperature.

Functioning with Standard Water Heaters

Typically, we keep our standard water heaters at an extremely high temperature and manually alter the water’s temperature at the faucet by mixing in cold water.

Because a standard tanked water heater stores and heats a finite amount of water in a pressurized reservoir, it creates a hot water system that is essentially independent of cold water flow.

Thus, we can proactively and incrementally control water temperature at the faucet by adjusting the amount of water flowing from either hot or cold taps because they come from independently pressurized sources.

Functioning with Tankless Water Heaters

On the other hand, a tankless water heater creates a thermodynamic pathway that is activated by the forward momentum of pressurized cold water flowing through the heating system due to an open hot water tap.

When you additionally open a cold water tap, you re-route some cold water flow directly to the faucet. Doing so reduces the amount of water flowing into the heating system.

The sudden decrease in water flow can confuse a tankless water heater, causing it to shut off and leaving you screaming in an icy shower.

So, instead of trying to control the water temperature at the faucet, you must learn how to control it at the heat source by adjusting the desired output temperature setting. 

It may take some trial and error to determine how to best achieve your ideal hot water temperature with a new RV tankless water heater. Many people suggest setting your tankless to your ideal hot water temperature (for showering) and then only using the hot water tap.

Most RV tankless water heaters have intelligent control panels to monitor and adjust such settings comfortably inside your RV.

RV showerhead
Photo Credit: Jeff Myers

Why Would You Want To Switch To a Tankless RV Water Heater?

A standard travel trailer water heater can last many years when properly maintained. So, you may only consider switching to a tankless RV water heater once the old one becomes problematic.

Eventually, though, most people agree that the energy savings and endless hot water are enough to convert them to a tankless RV water heater purchase. Especially if it’s time for an upgrade.

Additionally, the cost and labor of installing an RV tankless water heater are now quite similar to a standard RV water heater replacement!

Therefore, the pros include:

  • They are efficient —no energy is wasted heating water in a holding tank.
  • You’ll have unlimited hot water on-demand and never have to wait for a water tank to refill and reheat again! You can take a real shower in your camper!
  • You’ll have a reduction in size and weight. This option has a smaller footprint and weighs much less than a tank full of water.
  • Less maintenance is involved. Since it doesn’t constantly have to hold hot water, there is much less buildup of damaging scale or rust.

Common Complaints About Tankless Water Heaters in Campers

Lack of Electric Tankless Water Heater Options

Unfortunately, no electric tankless water heater options are currently available for RVs because of the power required to transfer 40,000 BTUs of heat to water at a 2-4 GPM rate. (At least 240 volts). All RV tankless water heaters rely on propane.

For many RV lifers, a propane-powered water heater is just another off-grid appliance. Still, it can be inconvenient not to have an electric water heating option if you’re paying for full hookups.

Delay in Obtaining Hot Water

Many tankless water heaters are marketed as “instant” hot water. However, a more accurate description would be “endless” or “on-demand” because the water in your outdoor RV pipes is cold, and that cold water must flush before you experience hot water.

Depending on temperature, pressure, pipe size, and distance from the water heater to the faucet, the water may take at least 30 seconds to run hot.

If you’re boondocking or conserving water, consider methods to capture and reuse the wasted water that comes out while waiting for the hot water flow to arrive at the faucet.

Can I DIY Install A Tankless Hot Water Heater In My RV?

Yes! Many RV tankless water heater manufacturers design them to easily retrofit standard RV water heater compartments and match connection locations.

However, you may have to make a few adjustments to fully secure the smaller tankless water heater in the standard space. But for the most part, it should be relatively easy to swap your old RV water heater with a tankless one on your own (unless a purchase agreement or product warranty requires professional installation).

Renovated Shower in 2015 Open Range Fifth Wheel
Photo Credit: @wearedanandsam

Best RV Tankless Water Heater Options For Every Budget

Top of the Budget Option:

Truma

At the top of the list, the best and most expensive RV tankless water heater system is the Truma AquaGo.

This option costs about $1200.

The Truma Group has been an international RV heating, cooling, and water system innovator for 75 years. Additionally, they have been in the American RV market for ten years.

In fact, their heat exchange technology (in 1976) was the first hot water system ever available in RVs. (Learn about the incredible history of Truma here).

Note: All Truma systems must be installed by one of their certified technicians.

Truma AquaGo comfort plus

  • It has hybrid technology with a temperature stabilizer. It uses a small hot-cold water mixing vessel to maintain an output temperature of 120*F (like standard tanked water heaters) so you can adjust the water temperature at the faucet.
  • Depending on input water flow and temperature, microprocessors automatically adjust burners from 20,000 BTU to 60,000 BTU.
  • The burner activates with water flow as low as 0.4 GPM.
  • It has a proprietary decalcification system.
  • Optional electric antifreeze kit.

Middle Price Point Options:

US RV manufacturers that offer pre-installed tankless water heater options generally choose from Furrion, Girard (both Lippert brands), or Suburban (Airxcel).

All are leading manufacturers of high-quality OEM RV appliances.

Furthermore, their replacement and retrofit tankless water heaters range in price from $600-$800.

Suburban

Suburban is an excellent option with a nice warranty if you purchase it directly from the company and have it professionally installed.

Girard

GIRARD Tankless RV Water Heater

GIRARD Tankless RV Water Heater, 12V Power, 42,000 BTUs, Quiet Operation, Onboard Microprocessor, Digital User Control Panel, Freeze Protection, Easy Installation - 2022107534
1,368 Reviews
GIRARD Tankless RV Water Heater, 12V Power, 42,000 BTUs, Quiet Operation, Onboard Microprocessor, Digital User Control Panel, Freeze Protection, Easy Installation - 2022107534
  • POWERFUL PERFORMANCE — At 42,000 BTUs, this continuous hot water heater provides optimal performance for RV plumbing. The quiet, brushless motor runs on 12V power that operates at less than three amps for a nearly noiseless operation
  • 42,000 BTUs, providing “optimal performance for RV plumbing.”
  • 12V DC brushless motor.
  • Microprocessors monitor cold water input temperature, flow rate, and hot water output temperature to regulate the gas burner and maintain water temperature.
  • It comes with an interior wall-mounted digital control panel.
  • Freeze protection.
  • Adjustable exhaust vent.
  • Access door not included.

Furrion

Furrion® RV Tankless Gas 60,000 BTU Water Heater

Furrion® RV Tankless Gas 60,000 BTU Water Heater - 16.14' x 16.14' White Door - 2.4 GPM – Vortex Technology steadies temperatures – Propane Gas-Powered Technology, Electric Ignition – 2021128847
391 Reviews
Furrion® RV Tankless Gas 60,000 BTU Water Heater - 16.14" x 16.14" White Door - 2.4 GPM – Vortex Technology steadies temperatures – Propane Gas-Powered Technology, Electric Ignition – 2021128847
  • High Heating Power: 60K BTU heating power & a 2.4GPM capacity, Furrion RV Gas Water Heater will deliver hot water on demand at consistent temperature even when the ambient temperature drops to 32ºF.
  • 60,000 BTUs – quickly heats even super cold water.
  • 2.4 GPM.
  • Patented Vortex technology mixes hot and cold water flowing through burners to maintain a stable temperature.
  • Advanced safety features – pressure relief valve, over temperature protection, automatic shut off, blower block protection.
  • It has patented VibrationSmart technology to withstand travel.
  • It requires a 12V converter.
  • It will retrofit standard 4/6 gallon RV water heater compartments.

Budget Options:

If you shop on Amazon, you will also find several slightly cheaper made-in-China brands of replacement RV tankless water heaters. These are designed to retrofit standard RV water heater installations easily.

Prices for these units range from $500 – $600.

The most noteworthy of these brands are Fogatti and Ranein

Fogatti

Instashower 6

Sale
FOGATTI RV Tankless Water Heater, InstaShower 6, Gen 2, with 15 x 15 inches White Door and Remote Controller, DC 12V, Optimized Summer Comfort Performance, Ideal for RVers' Family Use
1,108 Reviews
FOGATTI RV Tankless Water Heater, InstaShower 6, Gen 2, with 15 x 15 inches White Door and Remote Controller, DC 12V, Optimized Summer Comfort Performance, Ideal for RVers' Family Use
  • Optimum Performance — The RV water heater needs to be connected to 12-volt DC power and propane. Inlet and outlet water connections are 1/2“ NPT, gas inlet is 5/8" UNF. No special propane gas lines or special plumbing is required. One is enough to provide the entire RV with hot water. It is easy to operate, turn on the hot water and mix the cold water to reach the desired temperature to enjoy instant and endless hot water.
  • 42,000 BTU.
  • 2.2 GPM.
  • Microprocessors monitor cold water input temperature, flow rate, and hot water output temperature to regulate the gas burner and maintain water temperature.
  • It has an intelligent remote panel to monitor and control the water heater from inside the RV.
  • Advanced safety features – pressure relief valve, over temperature protection, automatic shut off, blower block protection.
  • It will retrofit standard 4/6 gallon RV water heater compartments.

Instashower 8 Plus

FOGATTI RV Tankless Water Heater, InstaShower 8 Plus, Gen 2, with 15 x 15 inches Black Door and Remote Controller, DC 12V, Best High Altitude Performance, Ideal for RVers' Everyday Use
1,108 Reviews
FOGATTI RV Tankless Water Heater, InstaShower 8 Plus, Gen 2, with 15 x 15 inches Black Door and Remote Controller, DC 12V, Best High Altitude Performance, Ideal for RVers' Everyday Use
  • 【Unprecedented experience】The high altitude suitability mode allows the machine to run smoothly even when driving the caravan to the high Denver plateau at 9,800 feet. Staged combustion technology, which controls the amount of flame in summer, prevents the water from getting too hot and saves the limited propane gas available for caravan travel.
  • 55,000 BTU.
  • 2.9 GPM.
  • High altitude mode.
  • Microprocessors monitor cold water input temperature, flow rate, and hot water output temperature to regulate the gas burner and maintain water temperature.
  • It has an intelligent remote panel to monitor and control the water heater from inside the RV.
  • Advanced safety features – pressure relief valve, over temperature protection, automatic shut off, blower block protection.
  • The access door is available in various sizes and colors.
  • This model has great reviews, especially about excellent customer service.

Instashower 8 Pro

Sale
FOGATTI RV Tankless Water Heater, InstaShower 8 Pro, Gen 2, with Mixing Tank, 15x15 Inches Black Door and Remote Controller, Propane, DC 12V, Best Unit for RVers' Everyday Use
1,108 Reviews
FOGATTI RV Tankless Water Heater, InstaShower 8 Pro, Gen 2, with Mixing Tank, 15x15 Inches Black Door and Remote Controller, Propane, DC 12V, Best Unit for RVers' Everyday Use
  • 【Unprecedented experience】The high altitude suitability mode enables the machine to operate smoothly even when driving the caravan to the high Denver plateau at 9,800 feet. The staged combustion technology controls the flame intensity in summer, prevents the water from getting too hot, and conserves the limited propane gas available for caravan travel.
  • This model has the addition of a small mixing tank for more consistent control over water temperature at the faucet. 

Ranein

ExploreFlow

Ranein 65,000 BTU RV Tankless Water Heater, Updated Version, Max 3.9 GPM, with Black Door and External Shower, On Demand Instant Hot Water Heater, Start/stop Thermostat, Compatible with all RVs
125 Reviews
Ranein 65,000 BTU RV Tankless Water Heater, Updated Version, Max 3.9 GPM, with Black Door and External Shower, On Demand Instant Hot Water Heater, Start/stop Thermostat, Compatible with all RVs
  • 【2nd Generation Upgrade】New external water outlet can be directly connected to the shower (already included). From now on, you can have hot water outside the RV. You can wash your dog and rinse the mud on your body. Built-in mixing tank, no overheating of water due to brief opening and closing
  • 65,000 BTU.
  • 3.84 GPM.
  • Quiet 12V motor.
  • Microprocessors monitor cold water input temperature, flow rate, and hot water output temperature to regulate the gas burner and maintain water temperature.
  • It has an intelligent remote panel to monitor and control the water heater from inside the RV.
  • It also has a small mixing tank for more consistent control over water temperature at the faucet.
  • Staged, deep-row combustion.
  • Advanced safety features – pressure relief valve, over temperature protection, automatic shut off, blower block protection.
  • Vibration resistance.
  • Access door included.

ExploreFlow Dual+

Ranein 65,000 BTU RV Tankless Water Heater, Updated Version, Max 3.9 GPM, with Black Door and External Shower, On Demand Instant Hot Water Heater, Start/stop Thermostat, Compatible with all RVs
125 Reviews
Ranein 65,000 BTU RV Tankless Water Heater, Updated Version, Max 3.9 GPM, with Black Door and External Shower, On Demand Instant Hot Water Heater, Start/stop Thermostat, Compatible with all RVs
  • 【2nd Generation Upgrade】New external water outlet can be directly connected to the shower (already included). From now on, you can have hot water outside the RV. You can wash your dog and rinse the mud on your body. Built-in mixing tank, no overheating of water due to brief opening and closing
  • This model includes an outdoor shower attachment.

ExploreFlow Altitude+

Ranein 65,000 BTU RV Tankless Water Heater, High Altitude, Max 3.9 GPM, with White Door and External Shower, On Demand Instant Hot Water Heater, Start/stop Thermostat, Compatible with all RVs
125 Reviews
Ranein 65,000 BTU RV Tankless Water Heater, High Altitude, Max 3.9 GPM, with White Door and External Shower, On Demand Instant Hot Water Heater, Start/stop Thermostat, Compatible with all RVs
  • 【High Altitude Upgrade】This model is a high altitude model. It can be used up to 9800 feet above sea level. You are able to adjust its burn yourself depending on the altitude you are at. Thus achieving the best working conditions for you. Please contact us if you need adjustments
  • High altitude model.
  • You can manually adjust BTU output, but you must call the company to make adjustments.

Cheapest Option:

Finally, there are the “portable” camper tankless water heaters.

These are the cheapest, most versatile options, starting around $200.

These tankless water heaters are propane-fueled, but the igniter is not hard-wired to your 12V DC system. They are not designed to retrofit into your RV water heater compartment or remain hooked up while traveling. Instead, they are mounted vertically or hung outside because of their simplistic exhaust chimneys (ventilation requirements).

Renovated RV shower
Photo Credit: Meggy Lohr

Final Tips For Installing A New RV Water Heater

Look at more than just the max flow rate. Also, keep the minimum flow rate in mind.

You want your water heater to work with variable water pressure (different RV parks, water pumps, etc.), especially when trying to conserve water. However, you also still want your water flow rate to be enough to turn it on.

Get to know your space!

First, measure and check for any areas needing repair (dirt, rust, holes).

Then also, label your plumbing. There are several loops and valves that can quickly complicate things (ex., hot water inlet and outlet, city water, fresh tank water, water pump inlet and outlet, drain valves, water heater bypass valve, and winterizing valves.)

Lastly, compare the location of connections on the old water heater to those on the new one to determine what plumbing or gas supplies are needed to connect the tankless water heater to your RV plumbing securely.

Know the size and thread type of all your fittings. 

Even if you don’t know what NPT, GHT, compression, or flare means, you should at least note the size and thread of your fittings and tubing or take them with you to the hardware store. 

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