How Much Propane Does a RV Water Heater Use? Tips to Optimize Consumption

As someone who’s spent a lot of time on the road, I understand the importance of having a reliable source of hot water in your RV. It’s one of those things that you don’t fully appreciate until you go without it for a few days. One thing that many RV owners wonder about is how much propane their water heater uses. After all, propane can be a significant expense when you’re traveling long distances. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at just how much propane you can expect your RV water heater to use, and what you can do to maximize efficiency.

First off, it’s important to understand that there are a lot of factors that can affect how much propane your RV water heater uses. The size of the tank, the ambient temperature, and how often you’re using hot water all play a role. That being said, most RV water heaters will use somewhere between 7 and 12 gallons of propane per month, assuming moderate usage. Of course, if you’re taking long, hot showers every day, that number is going to go up significantly.

So, what can you do to keep propane usage to a minimum without sacrificing your hot water supply? One option is to invest in a propane tankless water heater. These innovative devices heat water on demand, rather than keeping a large tank of water hot all the time. This can be a much more efficient way to heat water, since you’re not constantly heating and reheating the same water over and over again. Some tankless water heaters can even run on electricity, which can be a cheaper fuel source than propane in some areas.

RV water heater types

When it comes to RV water heaters, there are two main types: tank and tankless. Tank water heaters are the more traditional option and work by heating up a predetermined amount of water and storing it in a tank until it’s needed. Tankless, or on-demand, water heaters heat up the water as it flows through the unit, providing a continuous supply of hot water.

Each type of water heater has its own benefits and drawbacks. Tank water heaters take up more space and may have a limited amount of hot water available, but they typically have a lower upfront cost. Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient and take up less space, but they tend to be more expensive and may require a higher installation cost.

Factors affecting propane usage in RV water heaters

RV water heaters are a vital component of any RV that allows for hot water on demand. However, the efficiency of these water heaters depends on several factors that affect how much propane is used when heating the water.

Types of RV water heaters

  • Tankless: These water heaters heat the water as it is needed, eliminating the need for a storage tank. They may use less propane than tank-style water heaters, but they require a higher gas flow rate.
  • Tank-style: These water heaters store hot water in a tank until it is needed. They may use more propane than tankless water heaters due to the constant heating of the water in the tank.

Usage habits

The usage habits of RV owners can also affect the propane usage in water heaters. Some factors to consider include:

  • Frequency of use: The more frequently the water heater is used, the more propane it will consume.
  • Water temperature: The higher the desired water temperature, the more propane will be used to achieve it.
  • Length of showers: Longer showers will require a greater amount of hot water, and thus more propane to heat it.
  • Number of people: The more people using the hot water, the more propane will be used to keep up with demand.

Efficiency ratings

The efficiency rating of an RV water heater can also affect how much propane it consumes. Energy-efficient models may use less propane to provide the same amount of hot water as less efficient models. One way to determine the efficiency of a water heater is to look for its Energy Factor (EF) rating. This is a measure of the water heater’s overall efficiency, with higher numbers indicating greater efficiency.


The altitude at which an RV is located can also affect the propane usage in water heaters. At higher altitudes, the air is thinner and contains less oxygen, which can negatively impact the efficiency of propane burning appliances. This may cause the water heater to use more propane to achieve the same results as at lower altitudes.

Altitude (ft) Propane Usage Increase (%)
0-2,000 0
2,000-4,000 4
4,000-6,000 8
6,000-8,000 12
8,000-10,000 16

The table above shows the approximate propane usage increase at different altitudes.

Pros and cons of using propane for RV water heaters

One of the main benefits of using propane for your RV water heater is that it heats the water quickly and efficiently. This can be especially useful when you’re on the go and need hot water in a hurry. Propane is also widely available and relatively affordable, making it a convenient fuel source.

However, there are some drawbacks to using propane. For one thing, it can be dangerous if not handled properly. Propane is highly flammable and can cause explosions or fires if it leaks or is ignited by a spark. You also need to be careful when storing propane tanks, as they can be damaged by extreme temperatures or rough handling.

  • Pros:
  • Heats water quickly and efficiently
  • Widely available and relatively affordable
  • Portable and easy to use
  • Cons:
  • Can be dangerous if not handled properly
  • Tanks can be damaged by extreme temperatures or rough handling
  • May require more maintenance than other types of water heaters

Despite these risks, many RV owners still prefer propane water heaters because of their convenience and efficiency. If you do decide to use propane for your water heater, it’s important to follow all safety guidelines and be vigilant about checking your tanks for leaks or damage.

For those who are weighing the pros and cons of different fuel sources for their RV water heater, it can be helpful to compare the amount of propane used by different models. The table below shows approximate propane usage for RV water heaters of various sizes:

Water Heater Size Propane Usage per Hour
6 gallons 0.2 to 0.4 gallons
10 gallons 0.3 to 0.5 gallons
12 gallons 0.4 to 0.6 gallons

As you can see, the amount of propane used by an RV water heater will depend largely on its size. If you’re trying to conserve propane or save money on fuel costs, you may want to choose a smaller water heater or one that has adjustable temperature settings.

Maintenance Tips for RV Water Heaters

Having a functional and efficient water heater system in your RV is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable camping or road trip experience. Here are some maintenance tips to keep in mind for your RV water heater:

Regular Inspection and Cleaning

  • Make it a habit to perform regular inspection of your RV water heater system. This will help you detect any issues beforehand and avoid costly repairs.
  • Clean the burner tube and orifice of your RV water heater regularly. Dirt and debris can accumulate in these areas and cause your water heater to malfunction or worse, become a fire hazard.
  • Flush out your RV water heater tank at least once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer. This will help remove any sediment build-up inside the tank that can cause clogging or damage the heater system.

Check for Leaks

It’s important to regularly check your RV water heater system for leaks. Leaks can happen in different areas of your water heater system, such as the valves, pressure relief valves, and the connection pipes. If you notice any leaks, it’s important to address them immediately to prevent further damage to your RV and water heater system.

Proper Use and Storage

Using your RV water heater system properly and storing it correctly will not only extend its lifespan but also ensure your safety during your trips. Here are some tips:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to operate your RV’s water heater safely and efficiently.
  • Turn off the propane gas supply when not in use or while traveling to prevent gas leaks.
  • During storage, drain the water in the tank and leave the pressure relief valve open to prevent any residual moisture build-up that can cause damage to your RV and water heater.

How Much Propane Does an RV Water Heater Use?

The amount of propane an RV water heater system uses depends on several factors, such as the size and type of the water heater and the frequency of use. On average, an RV water heater system consumes about 1-2 gallons of propane per day.

Type and size of RV water heater Propane Consumption (per hour) Hot Water Production (per hour)
6 gallon tank with pilot light 7,000 BTUs 7.4 gallons
6 gallon tank with electronic ignition 7,000 BTUs 7.4 gallons
10 gallon tank with pilot light 10,000 BTUs 10.2 gallons
10 gallon tank with electronic ignition 10,000 BTUs 10.2 gallons

It’s important to note that using an improperly maintained or installed RV water heater system can negatively impact its propane consumption and hot water production. Make sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations and perform regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance of your RV water heater system.

Energy-efficient alternatives to propane for RV water heaters

While propane may be the traditional choice for RV water heaters, there are now several energy-efficient alternatives available. Here are some options:

  • Electric: Electric water heaters are becoming more popular in RVs due to their efficiency and ease of use. They run on electricity, which means they are quieter and cleaner than propane heaters. They also use less energy in the long run, since propane can be expensive to refill often.
  • Solar: Solar water heaters are a great choice if you’re looking to go off-grid and reduce your reliance on traditional fuels. You’ll need to install a solar panel system to power the water heater, but once it’s up and running, you can enjoy free hot water from the sun.
  • Tankless: Tankless water heaters are a popular option for energy-efficient RV heating. They operate on demand, meaning they only heat up water when you need it, which saves energy. They also take up less space in your RV since they don’t require a large tank.

Ultimately, the choice of an energy-efficient alternative to propane will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Consider factors like budget, available power sources, and the size of your RV to determine which option is best for you.

If you’re interested in making the switch to an alternative to propane for your RV water heater, it’s essential to talk to an experienced RV repair professional. They can help you choose the right energy-efficient alternative for your specific RV and ensure that it is installed correctly.


Propane is no longer the only option for heating water in your RV. With several energy-efficient alternatives available, you can enjoy hot water without the high fuel cost or pollution. Explore your options and talk to a professional to choose the best alternative for you.

Alternative Pros Cons
Electric Efficient, quiet, clean Requires access to electricity, can be expensive to install
Solar Environmentally friendly, free hot water from the sun Requires installation of solar panel system, may not work in cloudy weather
Tankless Energy-efficient, space-saving, on-demand heating Can be expensive to install, may require ventilation

As always, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each option, consider your specific needs, and make an informed decision about which energy-efficient alternative to propane is the right choice for your RV water heating needs.

Common issues with RV water heaters

RV water heaters are designed to bring convenience and comfort to our camping trips, and they’re an essential part of our home on wheels. However, like all appliances and systems in our RVs, they’re not immune to issues. Here are some of the most common problems RVers face with their water heaters:

  • No hot water – This is one of the most common issues with RV water heaters. It can be caused by various factors such as a faulty heating element, malfunctioning thermostat, or a blown fuse. If you’re experiencing this, it’s best to have a professional RV technician diagnose and fix the problem.
  • Leaking tank – A leaking water heater is not only inconvenient but can also be dangerous. Leaks are usually caused by corrosion in the tank or loose connections. Regular maintenance such as flushing and cleaning the tank can prolong its life and prevent leaks.
  • Strange noises – RV water heaters can make popping or hissing sounds, especially during the heating process. However, if you hear loud banging or gurgling noises, it could be a sign of sediment buildup or a faulty pressure relief valve. These issues should be addressed immediately to prevent further damage.

How much propane does an RV water heater use?

RV water heaters can run on propane, electricity, or both. If you’re using propane to heat your water, you might be wondering how much propane it uses. The answer depends on various factors such as the size of your water heater, the outside temperature, and your water usage. However, on average, a 6-gallon propane-powered RV water heater can use around 0.5 to 0.75 gallons of propane per hour. This means that a full 20-pound propane tank can last you around 26 to 40 hours of continuous use.

Keep in mind that your water heater doesn’t have to run continuously to keep your water hot. Most water heaters have a thermostat that regulates the temperature and turns off/on the heating element as needed. However, if you’re camping in colder temperatures or using a lot of hot water, you might use more propane than usual. It’s always a good idea to keep an extra propane tank on hand, so you don’t run out in the middle of your camping trip.


RV water heaters are a crucial part of your camping experience, and it’s essential to keep them in good working condition. Regular maintenance and addressing any issues as soon as possible can prevent costly repairs down the road. Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and seek professional help if you’re not sure how to fix a problem. Knowing how much propane your water heater uses can also help you plan your propane usage and avoid running out in the middle of your trip. Happy camping!

Table: Pros and cons of RV water heaters

Best RV Water Heater Brands

When it comes to choosing a water heater for your RV, selecting a quality brand can make all the difference. Here are some of the top RV water heater brands to consider:

  • Atwood – Atwood is known for their durable and reliable RV water heaters. They offer both gas and electric options and have a variety of sizes to fit different RVs.
  • Suburban – Suburban has a reputation for producing high-performance RV water heaters. Their products are energy-efficient and offer quick recovery times.
  • Girard – Girard specializes in tankless water heaters for RVs. Their products are known for being compact and efficient, making them a great option for small RVs.

When deciding which brand to go with, consider factors such as price, warranty, and customer reviews to ensure that you’re getting the best value for your money.

How much propane does an RV water heater use?

The amount of propane that an RV water heater uses can vary depending on factors such as the size of the tank and how often you use it. On average, however, an RV water heater will use around 12-14 gallons of propane per month.

To help you get a better idea of how much propane your RV water heater will use, here’s a breakdown of the estimated propane usage for common RV water heater sizes:

Pros Cons
Convenient and provides hot water on demand Uses propane or electricity
Compact and space-saving Can be expensive to repair/replace
Can be energy-efficient with proper use Requires regular maintenance
RV Water Heater Size (Gallons) Estimated Monthly Propane Usage (Gallons)
6 8-10
10 12-14
12 14-16

Keep in mind that these are just estimates and your actual propane usage may vary. It’s always a good idea to monitor your propane levels regularly and refill as needed to avoid running out of fuel in the middle of your travels.

FAQ: How Much Propane Does an RV Water Heater Use?

Q1: How much propane does an RV water heater use on average?
A: On average, an RV water heater uses around 7 to 10 gallons of propane per week of use.

Q2: How long does a propane tank last for an RV water heater?
A: A standard 20-pound propane tank can last for around two weeks of daily use for an RV water heater.

Q3: Can an RV water heater run on electricity instead of propane?
A: Yes, some RV water heaters can run on electricity, but they are typically less efficient and may not be able to provide hot water as quickly as propane-powered units.

Q4: Can I conserve propane usage with my RV water heater?
A: Yes, you can conserve propane usage by using low flow showerheads, taking shorter showers, and not leaving the hot water running unnecessarily.

Q5: How do I know if my RV water heater is using too much propane?
A: If you notice that you are constantly having to refill your propane tank or that your propane usage has increased significantly, it may be a sign that your RV water heater is using too much propane.

Q6: Do larger RV water heaters use more propane?
A: Yes, larger RV water heaters typically use more propane than smaller ones.

Q7: Are there any downsides to using propane for an RV water heater?
A: One downside is that propane can be expensive, and you may need to frequently refill your propane tank if you use your RV water heater frequently.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading this article on how much propane an RV water heater uses. We hope these FAQs have been helpful. It’s important to remember that there are ways to conserve propane usage with your RV water heater, such as taking shorter showers and using low flow showerheads. If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. Don’t forget to check back for more helpful RV tips and information!