How To Turn On An Electric Water Heater In RV

Hot water is an absolute essential in your RV, let’s face it, nobody wants to have a cold shower!

We have previously covered why your heater might be making strange noises, and also some great tankless heater options, but today we want to cover a quick guide on how to turn on an electric heater in your RV in a few simple steps.

We are also going to share essential heater troubleshooting tips, that you definitely need to know.

how to turn on an electric RV water heater

How To Turn On An RV Electric Water Heater

Turning on your electric water heater in your RV can be easily done in just a few simple steps;

  1. First and foremost, make sure that there is actually water inside of the hot water tank before you start.
  2. You are now going to need to access the hot water heater access panel, which is going to be somewhere along the outside of your RV. If you can’t find it, consult the owner’s manual for your specific model of RV.
  3. Once you have opened up the access panel, you’re going to want to find the on and off switch on the panel for your RV water heater. This is generally going to be located on the bottom and left.
  4. Now, simply turn the switch to the on position.

Keep in mind that this is just a general guide. Different RV’s and RV water heaters might have slightly different processes. Therefore, it is recommended that you consult the owner’s manual before doing anything.

If needed you can also revert to searching the manufacturer’s website for some more information, like Dometic for example.

Troubleshooting An RV Electric Water Heater

In case your RVs electric water heater does not turn on when you follow the above steps, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can follow to try and fix the situation.

  • First, make sure that the circuit breaker that supplies your water heater with power is not tripped. If the circuit breaker is tripped, flip it back into the on position. If you still have an older model that uses fuses, make sure that the fuse is not blown. If the fuse is blown, you will have to replace it.
  • If the unit is receiving power and the circuit breaker is not tripped, you are then going to want to reset the unit. There is generally going to be a reset button somewhere on the control panel on the water heater, somewhere near the on and off switch. However, exactly where this reset button is, and how a specific water heater is reset will depend on the unit in question, so always check your owner’s manual.
  • You are now going to want to use a Voltmeter or multimeter to check the on and off switch to make sure that it is getting 120 volts of AC power. If it is not getting 120 volts of AC power, there might be an issue with the wiring. Unfortunately, if this is the case, you may require professional assistance, as dealing with wiring can be dangerous and should only be done by professionals. 
  • If the wiring is not the issue, it could be the heating element itself. You will want to use a voltmeter or a multimeter to check to see that the heating element is working properly. If the heating element is not functioning properly, it will need to be replaced. This is likely something that will also require professional assistance.

How Do I Know If My RV Water Heater Is Gas or Electric?

The easiest way to tell if the water heater in your RV is electric or gas is by checking the owner’s manual to see what it says. 

If you can’t find the owner’s manual, you can always look at the model number that is located on the access panel. You can then use the internet to look up the model number and get the information that way. 

If you cannot find the information you need, you can always examine the water heater itself. See if it is plugged into electricity, or if it also has a gas line running through a propane tank. If there is a gas line running to a propane tank, then you know that it is a gas water heater.

Related: Examples of heater drain plug sizes.

How Do I Switch My RV Water Heater From Propane To Electric?

If you have a combination water heater, this means that it can function using propane or electricity. If you happen to run out of propane, then you will need to switch it to electric mode for it to function. 

Generally speaking, there is going to be a rocker switch designed for this exact purpose somewhere on the control panel, somewhere near the on/off switch. 

Exactly how it is labeled will differ from one model to another, but nonetheless, there should be a switch so you can go back and forth between propane and electric. There is also technically a way to convert a propane water heater to electric, although this is a whole different topic.

How To Make Sure Your RV Hot Water Tank Is Full?

To make sure that your hot water tank is full, first, make sure that your freshwater pump is on, and that you are connected to a water source, such as municipal water. 

You then want to turn on a shower or sink, specifically a hot water faucet, and let it run until water flows out continuously. If water sputters and spits, keep running the faucet until the water flows out smoothly. 

Moreover, if you have a hot water heater with a bypass kit, make sure that the valves are not closed. If the valves are closed, it will force water into the plumbing around the water heater, instead of into the water heater.

Madeline Cooper