How to Turn on Electric Water Heater in RV?

An electric water heater in an RV is a vital component that ensures you have access to hot water for various purposes, from taking showers to washing dishes. Unlike traditional water heaters, RV water heaters are compact and specifically designed for mobile living. If you’re new to RVing or you’ve just purchased your first RV, learning how to operate the electric water heater is essential for a comfortable journey on the road.

Are you ready to kickstart your RV adventure with a soothing hot shower? Discover the essential knowledge of how to turn on the electric water heater in your RV, and unlock the comfort and convenience you deserve on your next journey. 

RV water heaters come in various types, but the electric variant is one of the most common and user options. It relies on electrical heating elements to warm up the water in your RV’s tank. Knowing how to operate it is crucial, as it not only provides hot water for bathing and cleaning but also for cooking and sanitation.

Preparing Your RV for Electric Water Heater Activation

Preparing Your RV for Electric Water Heater Activation

Checking Your RV’s Power Source

Before you can begin the process of turning on your electric water heater, you need to ensure that your RV is properly connected to a power source. RVs typically use a combination of shore power plugging into an electrical hookup at a campground and batteries for their electrical systems.

Locating the Electric Water Heater

The next step is finding the location of your RV’s electric water heater. In most RVs, the water heater is located in an accessible exterior compartment. You may need to remove a cover or panel to access it. If you’re unsure about the location, consult your RV’s owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer for guidance.

Turning On Your Electric Water Heater

When it comes to turning on your electric water heater, it’s a straightforward process that ensures you have a steady supply of hot water for your needs. Usually, you’ll find a switch or panel inside your RV, allowing you to activate the heater with a simple flip, providing you with the comfort and convenience you desire during your travels.

Safety First

Before you proceed, ensure that you turn off the electric heater and unplug it from the power source. Safety should always be your top priority when working with electrical appliances.

1Safety FirstTurn off the electric heater and unplug it
2Accessing the Control PanelOpen the control panel in your RV
3Identifying the Water Heater SwitchLocate the switch labelled Electric or Water Heater
4Turning On the Electric Water HeaterFlip the switch from Off to On
5Patience Is KeyWait for 30 minutes to an hour for the water to heat up
6Checking the Status LightVerify if the status light is on to confirm operation
7Adjusting the TemperatureSet the thermostat control to your preferred temperature

Accessing the Control Panel

Once you’ve located the water heater, you’ll need to access the control panel. This panel typically includes switches and controls for the various functions of your RV, including the water heater. Open the panel and take a look at the available switches.

Identifying the Water Heater Switch

Search for the switch dedicated to the electric water heater. It’s usually labelled clearly, but it might also be colour-coded. The switch may be marked as an Electric or Water Heater. Once you’ve found it, take note of its position. It should be in the Off position when you first look at it.

Turning On the Electric Water Heater

To activate the electric water heater, simply flip the switch from the off position to the on position. This action sends electricity to the heating elements inside the water heater, initiating the process of warming the water in the tank.

Patience Is Key

After turning on the electric water heater, it may take some time for the water to heat up. The exact duration depends on the capacity of your water heater and the initial water temperature. Most RV electric water heaters can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to reach the desired temperature. Be patient and allow the heater to do its job.

Checking the Status Light

Some RV water heaters come equipped with a status light to indicate whether the heater is actively heating the water. Check for this light near the control panel. If the light is on, it means the electric water heater is operating. If it remains off, there may be an issue that needs attention.

Adjusting the Temperature

RV water heaters often have adjustable thermostats to control the water temperature. You can find the thermostat control within the control panel. Adjust it to your preferred temperature setting. Keep in mind that excessively high temperatures can result in scalding, so be cautious when setting the temperature.

Understanding RV Water Heater Maintenance

Understanding RV Water Heater Maintenance is crucial for a hassle-free and enjoyable camping experience. Your RV’s water heater ensures you have hot water for showers and dishes while on the road. To keep it running smoothly, regular maintenance is essential.

Routine checks of the heating element, anode rod, and tank flush will extend the life of your RV water heater and prevent costly breakdowns. So, take the time to grasp the basics of RV water heater maintenance. Additionally, if you’re looking to switch your RV water heater from propane to electric, familiarize yourself with the necessary steps. .

Regular Inspections

To ensure your electric water heater continues to function efficiently, conduct regular inspections. Check for signs of corrosion, leaks, or other issues. If you notice any problems, it’s essential to address them promptly to avoid more significant damage.

Flushing the Tank

Sediment can accumulate in the water heater’s tank over time, affecting its performance. To prevent this, periodically flush the tank. Consult your RV’s manual for specific instructions on how to do this.

Choosing the Right Electric Water Heater for Your RV

Selecting the appropriate water heater for your RV is crucial for your overall comfort and convenience. When you’re on the road, having a reliable source of hot water is essential, and this is where an Electric Water Heater in RV comes into play. Here, we’ll explore different factors to consider when choosing an electric water heater.

Capacity and Size

The capacity of an electric water heater determines how much hot water it can hold and provide. In RVs, these capacities typically range from 6 to 10 gallons. Consider your water consumption needs when selecting the right capacity for your RV. Keep in mind that larger capacity heaters require more space and can add weight to your RV.

Power Source

Electric water heaters can operate on either 110-volt or 220-volt electrical systems. Ensure that your RV’s electrical system is compatible with the water heater you choose. While 220-volt heaters heat water faster, 110-volt options are more common in RVs and are sufficient for most needs.

Recovery Rate

The recovery rate of a water heater is how quickly it can reheat the water after you’ve used it. This is particularly important if multiple people are using hot water simultaneously in your RV. A higher recovery rate ensures that you won’t run out of hot water quickly.

Energy Efficiency

Consider the energy efficiency of the water heater, as it can impact your energy consumption and overall costs. Look for models with good insulation to retain heat and reduce heat loss.

Maintenance and Durability

Invest in a water heater with a good track record of durability and reliability. Read reviews and consult with other RV owners to get recommendations. Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank, will help prolong the lifespan of your water heater.

Converting to Electric Water Heating

If you have an RV with a different type of water heater, such as propane or gas, and you want to convert to electric, it’s possible but requires some modifications. Here’s what you need to know:

Consult a Professional

Converting your RV’s water heating system is a complex task that involves electrical work and plumbing adjustments. It’s recommended to consult a professional RV technician who can assess your specific setup and perform the conversion safely.

Electrical Requirements

Ensure that your RV’s electrical system can support an electric water heater. If your RV is not already equipped with 110-volt or 220-volt electrical connections, this may require additional wiring.

Removing the Existing Water Heater

You’ll need to remove the existing water heater and its associated gas lines or propane connections. This should be done carefully to avoid damaging any other RV systems or components.

Installing the Electric Water Heater

Once the old heater is removed, the new electric water heater can be installed in its place. This may require modifications to the RV’s plumbing, as electric water heaters typically have different inlet and outlet connections compared to gas or propane models.

Safety Considerations

Safety is paramount during the conversion process. Ensure that all electrical connections are properly insulated, and the new water heater is securely and correctly installed. It’s best to have a professional technician perform this work to avoid any safety hazards.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with proper maintenance, you may encounter issues with your RV’s electric water heater. Here are some common problems and their potential solutions:

No Hot Water

If your electric water heater isn’t producing hot water, check the following:

  •  Verify that the heater’s power switch is in the on position.
  •  Ensure that you have a power source either shore power or a functioning battery.
  •  Check for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses in your RV’s electrical system.

Water Not Hot Enough

If the water isn’t hot enough, you can adjust the thermostat on the water heater. However, be cautious not to set it too high to prevent scalding.


Water heater leaks can be problematic. If you notice a leak, it may be due to a faulty pressure relief valve, a damaged tank, or loose fittings. It’s essential to address leaks promptly to prevent water damage and maintain the heater’s efficiency.

Noisy Operation

While some noise is normal during the heating process, excessive noise can indicate sediment buildup in the tank. Flushing the tank as part of routine maintenance can help reduce noise.

Safety Tips for Using Electric Water Heaters in RVs

Safety should always be a top priority when using any electrical appliance in your RV. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:

Regular Inspections

Perform regular inspections of your water heater, checking for any signs of damage, rust, or leaks. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage.

Temperature Control

Set the water heater thermostat to a safe and comfortable temperature to avoid scalding. It’s generally recommended to keep it below 120°F (49°C).

Turn Off When Not in Use

When you’re not using hot water, such as when you leave your RV, turn off the electric water heater. This conserves energy and reduces the risk of malfunctions.

Proper Ventilation

If your electric water heater is located in an enclosed space, ensure it has proper ventilation to dissipate any excess heat.


Does my RV water heater work on electric?

Not all RV water heaters work on electric; some operate on propane only, while others offer both electric and propane options.

How do you switch from propane to electric water heater?

To switch from a propane to an electric water heater, disconnect the propane supply, remove the old unit, and install the electric water heater following manufacturer’s instructions.

How to make sure your RV hot water tank is full?

To ensure your RV hot water tank is full, open the pressure relief valve and listen for water flow or check the tank’s indicator if available.


Understanding how to turn on your electric water heater is essential for a comfortable and convenient RV experience. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that hot water is readily available for your showers, cleaning, and cooking.

Remember to priorities safety by turning off the electric heater when not in use and regularly checking for any issues or malfunctions. With your newfound knowledge, you’re well-equipped to make the most of your RV travels, enjoying the luxury of hot water wherever your adventures take you.

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