Gas RV water heaters use propane as a heat source to provide hot water for the interior of your RV. But what if you want electric-powered hot water in your travel trailer & 5th wheel? What if you’re tired of having to worry about your propane tank running dry while you’re out on the road?
If that describes you, then it may be time to consider converting your RV’s gas water heater to an electric one!
Luckily, converting your water heater from propane to electric doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re a little intimidated by this process, don’t worry – we’ll walk you through it step-by-step.
How Do I Know If My RV Water Heater Is Electric?
Your RV’s water heater should have a data plate somewhere on the outside of the unit. It’s required by law, and it contains all the relevant information about your RV’s water heater, including:
- Manufacturer name
- Model number
- Serial number
- Input rating (gas or electricity)
This information should be enough to help you determine what type of RV water heater you have.
Also, check the connections on your water heater. If they are plugged in, then your water heater is electric.
You can also check the circuit breaker. The switch that controls your water heater will have a label with something along the lines of ‘water heat.’ If it’s on, you have an electric water heater! But if it’s off, your water heater might be gas or propane.
If you can’t find the circuit breaker, look for a flame. In case you see one, and it’s blue, that means you have a gas or propane water heater. However, if there’s no flame but the pilot light is on, then it’s likely an electric water heater.
How to Convert a Gas RV Water Heater to Electric?
There are two popular ways of converting a gas water heater to an electric one.
The first is to get a very special adapter that will fit into your current water heater and convert it from propane to electricity. However, it’s hard to find such an adapter.
The second way (best option) is to replace your entire water heater with a newer electric one. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Remove the gas access door located on the outside of the RV. Next, cut off the water line and remove the gas lines from the back of the water.
Step 2: Replace the gas valve with an electric heating element. You can screw most RV electric elements in place quickly and easily. However, some may have to be welded in place instead.
You can opt for a camper tankless water heater operation. It eliminates the need for a tank and heats the water only when needed. In addition, it offers significant energy savings.
Step 3: Next, create a pilot hole for the wire to zip through with a drill bit. Then, pull out the electrical cord from the outside of the RV. Secure the cord with wire nuts, electrical tape, or quick-disconnect terminals, depending on your preference.
Step 4: Afterward, install a circuit breaker and an RV monitor panel that will be connected to your holding tanks. For the monitor panel, we recommend KIB Monitor Control Panel.
Once your heating element is safely in place, reconnect your water supply pipe and test out each setting based on what works best for you.
Note: Converting an old gas RV water heater to electric requires prior knowledge of how a water heater works and how electricity works as well. Also, ensure to run the right gauge wire with a ground line when wiring your new electric element.
Also, if you‘re looking for the best water heaters for your RV, Forest River is the best place to start. In fact, many people who use Forest River hot water heaters are very happy with them. Atwood water pump heater is also another excellent choice.
How Do I Test My RV Water Heater Switch?
Is your RV electric water heater switch not working?
We’ll, testing the switch isn’t as easy as testing other components on your RV, especially if it’s not working. This is because RV water heater switches are completely sealed. So it’s not possible to test them by looking at them or touching them.
You should test the RV water heater switch for continuity. This is to ensure it creates a flow between two points in a circuit when turned on. You can do this with an ohmmeter or multimeter.
To test your RV water heater switch for continuity:
Step 1: Turn off the circuit breaker to the water heater.
Step 2: Loosen the screw holding the switch in place.
Step 3: Pull the switch from the hot and cold water lines and unscrew the ground wire.
Step 4: Turn the selector knob on the multimeter to ohms or resistance, depending upon your multimeter make and model.
Step 5: Touch one probe tip to one of the contacts on the water heater switch circuit board. Touch another probe tip to another contact on the water heater switch circuit board.
If it reads 0, then you have a good switch. However, if you get any other reading, it means you have a bad switch, which requires replacement.
RV hot water heater switch replacement
Assuming that you have a bad water heater switch, we are providing you a switch replacement guide as well.
Step 1: Make sure that the water heater is turned off. Turn off the circuit breaker on the inside of the RV. Test to be sure that there is no power on the water heater (to do this, turn on one of the switches and see if it turns on.)
Step 2: Unscrew and open up appropriate panels to access the hot water switch or switches. Keep in mind that RV electric water heater switch location varies.
For instance, the Atwood and Forest River water heater switch is at the back of the access panel. But for Suburban hot water heaters, the switch is at the front.
Step 3: Remove wires from the current switch after identifying which wire goes to which terminal (make a note on a piece of paper).
Step 4: Install a new switch in place of the old one (it should just screw into place). Ensure that it is aligned with the other components in its compartment so that you can shut and screw the access panel back over it when you are finished.
Step 5: Wire the new switch back up according to your notes from Step 3 so that each wire goes to its corresponding terminal. Or better still, you can refer to your RV water heater switch wiring diagram.
Step 6: Screw in the access panel and turn the water heater back on.
Should I keep my RV water heater switch on or off when not using it?
It’s not recommended to leave the RV water heater element on all of the time. You should set the water heater switch to ON only when you need to heat water. This will save electricity and allow the unit to keep up with your demands for hot water.
A good rule of thumb would be to turn your RV water heater switch on about 30 minutes before needing hot water.
Are Electric Water Heaters Safer Than Gas?
Electric water heaters offer a higher level of safety than gas heaters.
First, they don’t use combustible fuel sources; hence they don’t release any waste. Also, electric water heaters don’t require ventilation systems, making them ideal for homes and RVs with poor indoor air quality.
Converting gas RV water heater to electric may sound like it would require more money and effort. But as long as you know what you’re doing, this will save you a lot of time in the long run.
The only way that this could end up costing you more money is if you choose an electric water heater that is not powerful enough for your needs. Forest River electric hot water heater is a highly rated choice you might want to consider.
You’ll need to follow the directions above very carefully and make sure that you do not miss any steps. If you’re unsure about your ability to complete this task successfully, it may be best for you to hire a professional to do so.