We recently went camping in an RV with a tankless (on-demand) water heater, and our experience was mixed. There are aspects we like, but even more we don't like.

TANK Water Heater

We've had the same standard tank water heater in both of our RVs, which is the Suburban SW12DEL. We've been very happy with it, but we do have to purposefully plan hot water recovery sometimes, for example, when Tara and I both need showers or right after washing laundry in hot water.

But we've always been serious about the TANKLESS water heaters and their promise of unlimited hot water.

TANKLESS Water Heater

Tankless water heaters, as the name implies, have no tank of hot water. They, instead, heat water on the fly, which means as long as you have Propane, you have unlimited hot water!

But the luxury of unlimited hot water comes at a price: the time waiting for the water to get hot.

When you turn on your hot water, the water starts flowing immediately. With a Tank water heater, the hot water also starts flowing immediately, and you only need to wait for it to travel from the heater to the tap.

With a Tankless, the water needs to flow for a second for the heater to detect flow and start the fan and burner. This takes time, and during that time, more cold water is flowing from the tap. This is a big issue if you do not have sewer hookups because you're just wasting water.

Water conservation when camping without sewer is paramount. Schlepping to the dump is a huge pain! So, typically, when boondocking, people cycle water on and off to conserve. But, due to how the tankless water heater functions, it has to go through its warmup cycle every time you cycle the water off and on. This only exacerbates the wasted water problem.


Be sure to see the video for all of the tests we did and some recommendations when boondocking with an on-demand water heater.

For us, we will be sticking with our Tank water heaters.

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