Water heaters for your caravan, motorhome or RV

Posted by John M on

Hot water is one of modern life’s simple luxuries, but what’s the best system to get hot showers when you’re on the road? We hear this question frequently at RV Appliances, so today we’ll run through a few of the considerations if you’re looking to install a new hot water heating system or replace an existing one.

On demand or storage heater?

One of the decisions you’ll be faced with is whether to go with an on-demand or storage cylinder type heater. Each has its advantages and compromises:

On demand heaters only use gas when the water is running, and switch on automatically when you turn on the tap. This means you don’t have to turn on the heater in advance to warm up the water before a shower, and turn it off again to conserve gas. On the downside, On demand heaters still take some time (and water) to get up to temperature, and as a result you may consume more water before you get a hot flow, which is a consideration if your water storage is limited.

Additionally, some lower powered on demand heaters can struggle with low ambient temperatures. It’s important to look for a heater with a high BTU value, especially if you frequently camp through the winter or in the South Island. The new Camec Digital Instantaneous Hot Water System has just been upgraded to a higher power burner, for even better all year round performance. On demand systems are best installed with a flow restrictor to reduce incoming water pressure from your pump to a rate where the heater can provide a steady high temperature for comfortable showers. These are inexpensive and simple to fit. 

Stored hot water systems use a small hot water cylinder like a home system. These are usually gas powered, but some models also include a 240 volt electric element so you can conserve gas when hooked up to a powered site. Stored systems mean you can have hot water as soon as you turn on the tap, which means less water use. Modern systems also instantly reheat incoming cold water as the cylinder is refilled. For high volume users such as large families, the temperature can drop as the stored hot water is depleted. A larger cylinder can improve this. The US built Suburban Hot water system is long proven and highly regarded and comes at a great price, in both gas only or gas & 240V with a large 20.3L tank. Truma from Germany, provides compact systems in 10L or 14L volumes, and Gas Quip provides a ducted 13L model which provides flexibility in its positioning in the vehicle. 

Modern storage heaters can get up to temperature in as little as 15 minutes, meaning you can save gas by turning them on just before you need them from a convenient control panel in your vehicle. When plugged in to site power, or if gas consumption isn't a worry, they will efficiently keep hot water ready to go at all times.

Combination water & air heaters

Possibly the best option is also provided by Truma, who offer their Combi range of combined water and air heaters; providing space heating and hot water in a single, compact unit. These offer 10L of hot water storage and blown air heating with both gas and electric supply, and are available in a range of power outputs from 2000W to 6000W. Like the Gas Quip they can be mounted anywhere in the vehicle, and don’t require a large external access door, the Truma is a great option for total RV comfort with a limited space required.


RV water heaters use LPG gas and/or 240 volt electricity so must be installed by a qualified gasfitter. Modern heaters like the ones we sell at RV Appliances, are fitted inside the vehicle, but safely flued outside to ensure gsa safety and efficeint operation. 

There are two main types of heater: Wall mounts are slotted into a cutout in the outside wall of your vehicle, and have an access door which covers this cutout (with some models this is availble in different colours). Ducted heaters can be installed deeper inside the vehicle and include the Truma Combi and Gas Quip Malaga.

Are you looking to install or upgrade a hot water system in your motorhome, caravan or RV? Talk to us today about the option that’s best for you.

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