How Long Should a RV Water Heater Run and be left on?

Many RV owners treat their water heaters the same as they would their home water heaters, and for the most part, it is okay to do so. RV water heaters work the same as the ones at home, but there are a few small factors you should consider if you want to leave it on continuously.

RV hot water heaters can be left on all the time as they have an element or gas burner that has a thermostat set to regulate when it must turn off. If you want to save on energy or the RVs water heater tank is low on water, it is wise to switch it off to prevent damage.

No one enjoys cold water, and if your RVs water heater is switched off, it is frustrating to take a cold shower or to wait for the water to heat up. In most cases, leaving the water heater running is fine, but you must consider it has limitations. There are numerous factors to consider before you let your RVs water heater run for too long.

Can An RVs Water Heater Run Continuously

Most RVs have small water heater tanks, and if it is not connected to a water source and you use it until it is empty, it may cause damage to the water heater element. You must consider a few factors to know how long you should run your water heater. The first is, is your water heater gas-powered or electrically powered, or both?

Instant Gas-Powered RV Water Heater

An RV water heater that works only on gas instantly delivers hot water as long as there is a gas supply. Gas water heaters are not subject to an element that need to heat the water and keep it warm until you want hot water. Gas heaters heat the water instantly as needed, so the water heater does not need to keep the water hot.

RV Water Heater That Only Uses An Electric Element

RV water heaters that only work with an element are subject to a few factors. First, it heats all the water in the RVs water heating tank and keeps it warm until you need hot water.

The element shuts down once the water reaches the temperature set by the thermostat, so it does not run continually. The element will shut down when the water is hot, normally about 180 degrees, and once the water goes below a certain point, the element will restart to get the water back to the set temperature.

The second factor is that the element will run dry and burn if you use hot water without supplying the tank with new water. If you have a constant supply of water in your tank, there is no reason why you cannot let your water heater run continuously. If you do not have a steady water supply to the water heater tank, consider switching it off when it is hot and full.

RV Water Heater That Uses Gas And Electric

Having an electric and gas water heater, also known as a hybrid water heating system, is by far the most popular water heater system available. The advantage to having both a gas and electric water heater is that if you are near a power source, you can run it off electricity and save gas. If you do not have electricity close by you, have gas as a backup.

The same principle applies to a dual water heater system as to gas-only and electric-only water heater tanks. If you have a continuous water supply to the water heater tank and want to save gas, you can run the electrical element without shutting it off.

The advantage of a dual gas and electrical system is that if you do not have a constant water supply to the tank, you can shut off the electrical element and run it off the gas. This advantage will prevent your electrical element from burning if the water supply stops and the tank runs empty.

If you ensure that there is water in the tank running a water heater for the whole day should not be a problem but consider the energy wasted and the potential damage. Most RVs have safety switches to prevent damage to the element if the tank runs dry, and rather be safe than sorry before the element burns.


If you have an electrical water heater that works with an element, you can run it without shutting it down as long as there is water in the tank. The element will heat the water until it has reached the temperature you set on the thermostat and will shut down until it needs to heat up again.

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