How Long for Propane to Heat Up RV Water: A Comprehensive Guide

Heating up water in an RV using propane can be a crucial task, especially when you need a warm shower or to do the dishes. The time it takes for the propane to heat up the water can vary depending on several factors, and understanding these factors can help you better manage your RV’s water heating system. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into the details of how long it takes for propane to heat up RV water, providing you with the technical specifications, troubleshooting tips, and a wealth of information to ensure you have a seamless experience.

Factors Affecting Propane Water Heating Time in RVs

The time it takes for propane to heat up RV water is influenced by several key factors:

  1. Water Heater Tank Size: The capacity of the water heater tank plays a significant role in the heating time. Larger tanks, typically ranging from 6 to 10 gallons, will take longer to heat up compared to smaller 6-gallon tanks.

  2. Propane Heater Power: The power output of the propane water heater, measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), directly impacts the heating time. Higher-powered heaters, such as those with 12,000 BTU or more, can heat the water faster than lower-powered models.

  3. Starting Water Temperature: The initial temperature of the water in the tank can also affect the heating time. If the water is already warm, it will take less time to reach the desired temperature compared to starting with cold water.

  4. Insulation and Tank Location: The insulation of the water heater tank and its location within the RV can influence the heating time. Well-insulated tanks and those positioned in warmer areas of the RV will heat up more efficiently.

  5. Water Heater Type: The type of water heater, such as a tankless or a traditional tank-style heater, can also impact the heating time. Tankless heaters, for example, can provide instant hot water, while tank-style heaters require a longer initial heating period.

Typical Heating Times for Propane-Powered RV Water Heaters

how long for propane to heat up rv water

Based on the factors mentioned above, the typical heating time for propane-powered RV water heaters can range from 15 to 30 minutes. Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

Water Heater Type Typical Heating Time
Suburban Propane Water Heater Around 15 minutes
Standard Propane RV Water Heater 20 to 30 minutes
Fast-Recovery Propane Water Heater 12 to 20 gallons per hour

It’s important to note that these are general estimates, and the actual heating time may vary depending on the specific make and model of your RV’s water heater, as well as the other factors mentioned earlier.

Troubleshooting Propane Water Heater Issues

If you’re experiencing issues with your propane water heater, such as longer-than-expected heating times or inconsistent hot water supply, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can take:

  1. Check Gas Supply: Ensure that your propane gas is running properly by turning on your RV’s stove and letting it run for a bit. If the stove works, the issue is likely not with the gas supply.

  2. Replace the Anode Rod: The anode rod in your water heater is designed to react with particles and minerals in the water, preventing corrosion of the tank. Over time, the anode will deplete and need to be replaced. A powered anode, such as the Corro-Protec RV powered anode, can eliminate foul smells and reduce sediment build-ups, improving the overall performance of your water heater.

  3. Inspect the Thermostat: If the water is not heating up as expected, the thermostat in your water heater may be malfunctioning. You can try adjusting the thermostat or, if necessary, replace it to ensure proper temperature regulation.

  4. Check for Sediment Buildup: Mineral deposits and sediment can accumulate in the water heater tank, reducing its efficiency. Flushing the tank or having it professionally cleaned can help improve the heating performance.

  5. Consider Upgrading to a Tankless Water Heater: If you’re consistently experiencing issues with your traditional tank-style propane water heater, you may want to consider upgrading to a tankless model. Tankless heaters can provide instant hot water and are generally more energy-efficient.


Understanding the factors that influence the time it takes for propane to heat up RV water is crucial for maintaining a comfortable and efficient RV experience. By familiarizing yourself with the technical specifications, troubleshooting tips, and best practices, you can ensure that your RV’s water heating system is operating at its best, providing you with the hot water you need whenever you need it.