Why does hot water run out so fast in RV?

When you go camping, your vehicle is your primary source of infrastructure. There are dedicated campsites that offer supplies of all types, of course, but they cannot replace what you prepare on your own. Besides, the more intense you want your experience to be, the fewer outside resources you will have. This guide is going to help you with one of the most important issues to keep in mind.

Why do I need hot water in RV?

Taking a shower in winter is only one of the reasons. We may not think of it at a first glance, but we need hot water to cook, and it comes in handy when we are washing our hands and washing dishes. After all, while it is easy to bear the contact with cold water once or twice, it becomes too annoying over time. Not to mention it lowers your body temperature, which is an entrance door to diseases.

You can always rely on starting a campfire to heat water, sure. But how efficient is that for any of those purposes? And how willing are you to locate and chop enough wood? That resource is much easier said than done, so it should be kept at the bottom of your list. When it comes to camping, it is always better to start off by ensuring that your RV has an appropriate supply of clean, hot water.

Why does hot water run out so fast?

Now that we went through why hot water is necessary and so important in an RV, it is time for us to talk about the major issue in this regard. There are several reasons why hot water runs out so fast in an RV. However, once you understand the concept behind each one, it is easy to address any issues. You will quickly observe that it all comes down to conscious use and proper maintenance.

Your tanks have limited capacity
In theory, you will only have as much water as your tanks can hold. We are not talking about simple water storage, but the heater’s ones. RV water heaters are usually smaller than residential ones, so you have to keep that in mind especially if you are traveling with many people and/or with children. While a small house heater holds around 50 gallons of water, an RV device usually takes up to ten.

You can always consider getting larger tanks, but it is not so simple. You have to consider how much space your RV offers for that, and make sure that it is possible to connect the new tank to the water heater. Another option is to discard the whole system and use a tankless one: instead of tanks, this one uses a heat exchanger. It is more complex, but it makes sure that you never run out of water.
The heater is not getting enough fuel
Most RVs use propane to heat water. Just like gas-powered devices, you can set how hot you want your water and, as a result, how much fuel to use to make it happen. It is easy to think of setting it to use as little fuel as possible to save money, but this train of thought may be counter-productive in the long run. The concept is quite simple: we tend to use warm water for longer than hot water.

If you need to save fuel, consider using warm water for secondary tasks like washing dishes. When it is time to take a shower, getting hot water pays off. You will tend to stay there for as short as you can, which ends up avoiding water and fuel waste. Besides, we cannot understate how important it is to use properly hot water when you are camping for several days and/or during tough weather.
You are not giving it enough time to heat
There is no way to bypass the laws of thermodynamics. Water heaters need a given time to heat a given amount of water. The more water there is in the tank, the longer it will take. The only way to make that process faster is by applying a more powerful heater. However, since this solution is rather expensive and usually demands more fuel, we are going to work only with the water supply.

Since your supply is limited, you have to think ahead. An action as simple as refilling the tanks after using hot water helps a lot; by making that a habit, you will have the heater working at times when you do not need it. That also prevents the heater from being empty, which can damage the system in the long run. If there are many people, it is also wise to have them shower at different times.
The piping system may be leaking water
A solid piece of advice in RV maintenance, in general, is to drain its water system after each use. It prevents water from acquiring a bad odor, does not submit the valves to unnecessary pressure, and will not leave the water to freeze in winter. The latter is particularly problematic because it can lead to cracks in the pipes. That, in turn, will almost surely make them leak, if not fracture altogether.

It is easy to imagine why water leakage is a bad thing. It continuously wastes water and, in the case of a water heater, wastes fuel to heat it as well. It also affects the pressure at which water will come into the shower, for example. Last, but not least, it gradually lowers the available supply at the tanks. In other words, there will be less hot water for you to use, so it will naturally run out faster than usual.

Conscious use goes a long way

Although we all know the importance of saving water, it is easy to forget about it at home because we have a continuous supply of all our appliances. Living in an RV turns out to be a practical class on that: the only way to ensure we have enough hot water is by making rational use. If you keep it in mind and do not neglect your RV’s maintenance, that topic will never be a problem on your trips.


It’s possible to install a new RV water heater yourself, but it’s usually best to leave this job to a professional. Water heaters can be heavy and difficult to maneuver, and they require access to your RV’s plumbing system. If you’re not comfortable working with plumbing, it’s best to hire someone who is.

The cost of replacing an RV water heater will vary depending on the size and type of water heater you need, as well as the labor costs associated with installation. In general, you can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for a new RV water heater.


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Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by travel. I inherited this passion from my parents. Since my college years and to this day, I have had a passion for traveling in a motorhome. I am here to share my experiences with you.

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