Water heater — electric or propane, or both?


gary-736Dear RV Doctor,
I have a Jayco trailer that has a dual electric/propane water heater. The propane heats the water faster, but the electric is at no cost to us when using the power that our state park provides. We don’t need hot water right away, so we have been using the electric mode for the first year we have used the unit. Is one method better for the long-term life of the water heater? And why? Thanks! —Larry G.

Dear Larry,
Well, as you use the electric heating element, over time it may fatigue slightly just from constant use. And as you operate the propane function to heat the water, those components will require some maintenance over the course of time.

wh-element-rv-doctor-760As to which is better for the heater itself? It probably makes no difference. In fact, it is entirely plausible to operate both the electric element AND the propane burner at the same time for a faster heating cycle and a quicker recovery rate. But the prudent thing to do is to take advantage of the free electricity and conserve the propane for the other appliances.

Other than keeping the connection clean, dry and tight, there is no maintenance to be concerned about using the electric element, but the propane components will need some cleaning annually. I say keep using the electric and save on propane costs! In fact, there is an aftermarket kit available that will convert your forced air furnace to operate on electric heat. Produced by RV Comfort Systems, the CheapHeat™ electric add-on kit enables the user to use electricity instead of propane to heat the entire RV, and then to switch back to propane when necessary. Check it out here.

##rvt760 #RVDT1223

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

10 months ago

I don’t believe FREE as it was used in this article meant you don’t have to pay for it, but instead meant that its already embedded in the price of admission
so you might as well use it as you have paid for it whether you use it or not.

Dalton Mccormick
10 months ago

you know everyone knows nothing is free, he was just asking about which one to use

10 months ago

The Electricity you receive from the power pedestal in a camp ground,IS NOT FREE, .. The electricity you use is already figured into the price of the camp spot…Since when is ANYTHING FREE ANYMORE…

10 months ago

When using the electric heating element you must make sure that there is water in the tank. Otherwise, you will dry fire the element and cause it to deteriorate much faster than normal.

10 months ago

Larry should use the propane method of heating the water about once a month to keep the burner system in good working order. If unused, the burner tube will eventually get plugged up from spider webs or mud dauber wasps’ nests, etc. They’re drawn to the propane smell. Otherwise, when he finally wants to use the propane heat, it won’t work & he’ll have to clean out the burner tube.

Scotty H.
10 months ago

Just a minor semantics correction… the electricity isn’t free at a campsite unless the campsite was provided for free. When you pay for a campsite, some of that fee goes towards the campground owner’s electric bill. My point is that as the campground owner’s electric costs rise, so will the fees to use the campground.

Gary Reed
10 months ago

One thing to consider when choosing electric or propane for the water heater is your electrical load.
If you are running your AC and electric water heater together and have a 30 amp system you could be close to your max amperage usage on a 30 amp circuit. This could cause undue resistance on your RV electrical connections, especially if there is any wear on the pedestal terminals or the RV plug has corrosion.

10 months ago
Reply to  Gary Reed

Gary – We snowbird and have to pay our own electric. It’s usually about 17-20 cents per kw. Is it cheaper to pay for the use of the electric or use our propane?