Do You Leave Propane Water Heater On in Fifth Wheel?

When it comes to the question of whether to leave a propane water heater on in a fifth wheel, there are several factors to consider, including safety, propane usage, and water temperature maintenance. This comprehensive guide will delve into the technical details and best practices to help you make an informed decision.

Safety Considerations

Safety is a paramount concern when leaving a propane water heater on for extended periods. RV water heaters can pose several potential hazards:

  1. Runaway Thermostats: RV water heaters are equipped with thermostats that can malfunction, leading to the water temperature rising to dangerously high levels, which can result in scalding injuries when the faucet is opened.

  2. Fire Hazards: Propane-powered water heaters, if left unattended, can become a fire hazard, especially in dry or cluttered environments.

  3. Instant Scalding: The high water temperature (typically around 130°F) can cause instant scalding when the faucet is opened, posing a significant risk of injury.

To mitigate these safety concerns, it is generally recommended to turn off the propane water heater when not in use, especially when leaving the fifth wheel unattended or when camping without access to electricity.

Propane Usage Considerations

do you leave propane water heater on in fifth wheel

Propane is a valuable resource in the RV lifestyle, and minimizing its consumption is crucial, especially when camping at sites without electrical hookups. Leaving the propane water heater on continuously can result in significant propane usage, which can quickly deplete your supply.

By turning off the water heater when not in use, you can conserve propane and extend the time between refills, ensuring you have enough fuel for other essential RV functions, such as cooking and heating.

Water Temperature Maintenance

RV water heaters are designed with a fixed thermostat setting, typically around 130°F. This temperature is dangerously hot for a closed system, as it can lead to increased pressure within the water heater and the RV’s plumbing system.

The high water temperature can cause issues with the relief valve, which is designed to release excess pressure, and can also potentially damage the plastic or PEX tubing used in RV construction.

To maintain a safe and comfortable water temperature, it is recommended to turn on the propane water heater only when needed, rather than leaving it running continuously. This approach helps to prevent the buildup of excessive pressure and potential damage to the RV’s plumbing system.

Best Practices

Based on the considerations discussed, the recommended best practices for managing the propane water heater in a fifth wheel are as follows:

  1. Turn off the water heater when not in use: When leaving the fifth wheel or when not actively using the hot water, it is advisable to turn off the propane water heater to ensure safety, conserve propane, and maintain proper water temperature.

  2. Turn on the water heater as needed: When staying at a campsite for an extended period and requiring hot water, turn on the propane water heater only when needed. This approach helps to minimize propane usage and maintain a safe water temperature.

  3. Monitor the water heater regularly: Periodically check the water heater’s thermostat and relief valve to ensure they are functioning correctly and that the water temperature is within a safe range.

  4. Consider alternative water heating options: For longer stays or when electricity is available, you may want to explore alternative water heating options, such as electric water heaters or tankless water heaters, which can provide more efficient and safer hot water solutions.

By following these best practices, you can ensure the safe and efficient operation of your fifth wheel’s propane water heater, while also conserving propane and maintaining a comfortable water temperature.

Technical Specifications

  • RV Water Heater Thermostat Setting: Typically around 130°F
  • RV Water Heater Heating Capacity: 250 watts per gallon, compared to a typical house water heater with 80 to 100 watts per gallon
  • Propane Combustion Temperature: Approximately 3500 degrees Fahrenheit