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Can I Leave My RV’s Hot Water Heater On All the Time

Access to a hot shower is one of the ultimate vacation luxuries – and if you have a fully-equipped RV, it will not be limited to hotel rooms. Yet, an RV’s water heater can take some time to heat up, making it tempting to leave the heater on at all times.

If you are wondering, “can I leave my hot water heater on all the time?” then you will want to think about safety and the costs attached to energy consumption or equipment maintenance. None of these three issues has absolute answers.

Is It Dangerous to Leave My RV Hot Water Heater On All the Time?

The first thing to consider when managing your RV appliances is safety. Leaving your RV hot water heater on is quite safe if you have an electric water heater. If you have a propane heater, think twice.

Propane

If your RV has a propane water heater, make sure to always turn it off after use and close off the gas valve. Before starting the vehicle and hitting the road, you should also double-check the gas valve and ensure it’s closed.

Propane water heaters usually have a small pipe or hose system that connects the heater itself with your propane tank. When your RV is moving, the lines and pipes can become loose and create a gas leak.

Under regular use, whenever a leak occurs, you will be immediately alerted by propane’s characteristic smell. When this happens, you will know it’s time to close the valve and airing everything out before turning anything on. If you leave the heater always on, gas will be continuously escaping. It will only take a spark from your engine or a nearby appliance to cause a fire or an explosion.

Electric

If your RV has an electric water heater, then you won’t be directly endangered by leaving it on all the time. Your RV’s electric appliances will work very similarly to those at your home. The main difference is that you won’t have access to an unlimited supply of reasonably-priced electricity while you’re on the road.

Will Leaving My RV’s Hot Water Heater Running Cost More?

When not plugged into shore power, campers usually need to keep an eye out for their electricity consumption – at least in between campsites. Recharging your RV batteries while on the road is expensive. Leaving your RV’s water heater on will consume more electricity and raise your overall electricity costs.

The final price will depend on the length of your trip, the type of generator you are using, and the size of your water heater. A smaller tank of up to 10 gallons may keep the extra costs under control. In addition, a heater with a “smart thermostat” and sound insulation will further slash the costs attached to having hot water all the time.

Can Leaving the Hot Water Heater On Damage the Heater Itself?

Leaving a water heater on all the time won’t damage the device. Water heaters don’t have any moving parts that will suffer from friction or that you will have to keep well-oiled. Because of this, their regular wear and tear are not affected by using them more often or for more extended periods.

A quality water heater can last for ten years or more with proper maintenance, assuming they are used correctly.

Some tips to upkeep your water heater include:

  • Cleaning and flushing out all the water every three months
  • Descaling the inside of the tank every six months
  • Check the outside of the tank for rusted spots, crud, or mold every six months
  • Replace the anode rod at least once a year

Regarding proper use, the main rule to extend your water heaters’ lifespan is to ensure it always has water inside whenever you turn it on. This sounds pretty simple, right?

If you have an automated valve system, this may not be a concern at all. However, most mid-range RVs don’t have one: you will have to manually adjust the water inlet to refill the tank. Turning the water heater on while empty will damage it: it can cause the insides to overheat, and the electrical wiring may burn out.

Finally, if you live in a region with very cold winters, you should also winterize your water heater before you park the RV for the cold season. If you leave water inside the tank throughout the winter, it may freeze. Ice takes up more room than water, creating cracks and leaks around the tank or the connecting tanks. You may also need to use antifreeze near the pipes and valves.

You might also want to check out: Are Pop Up Campers Good for Winter Camping

Is it Okay to Leave the Hot Water Heater On While Driving?

If you have an electric water heater and have already decided that you are okay with the added costs – then it’s okay to leave the water heater on while driving all the time.

However, if you have a propane heater, then this will not be safe. Even a minor gas leak could cause a fire. If this were to happen near a gas station, said fire could quickly become an explosion. Because of this, you should always turn off your propane water heater before you hit the road. Ideally, it would help if you also closed the propane valve before you stop for gas.

Conclusion

Can you leave your water heater on? Doing so will let you access hot water at a moment’s notice, whether you need a quick shower or to wash a greasy pan. The comfort of not waiting for an hour before accessing some hot water is only available for those with an electric water heater. On the other hand, propane-powered heaters should always be turned off while the vehicle is moving to prevent leaks and potential fires.

If your model is electric, then you’ll be safe – but you may still be wasting extra electricity. On the bright side, keeping the heater on won’t cause any damage to it. Proper heater maintenance is based more on routine cleaning and servicing rather than turning it off each time.