Determining which water heater you should purchase for your Tiny House RV depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Cost vs. Reliability
- Power Availability (Propane vs. Electric)
- Tank vs. Tankless
- Size vs. Capacity
- Temperature Rise (with tankless)
- GPM (Gallons Per Minute)
- Venting (with propane)
Tank Vs. Tankless – A Few Things to Consider
- Tankless water heaters tend the be more efficient as the water is heated only when needed.
- Tankless vary in their heating capability (re: temperature rise and speed)
- Excellent article detailing how to select to correct size for your tankless water heater
- Tank water heaters vary is size and capacity (6, 10, 12, 16 gallons, etc)
- Tank water heaters keep the water hot within the tank at all times, which can use substantial energy
- Make sure, no matter which model you choose, that your heater is covered under warranty for DIY installation or hire a professional to install your water heater.
Electric Water Heaters & Solar Power
If you plan on powering your Tiny House RV with solar energy and prefer electric water heaters, your solar system needs to be able to accommodate your chosen appliance. Many of our solar customers choose to go with a propane RV water heater to conserve electricity.
Brittany Yunker’s Electric Water Heater in her Tumbleweed
Brittany’s Electric Tank Water Heater
Brittany Yunker owns a Tumbleweed Cypress with a six gallon RV tank electric water heater. This model retails at $270. In an effort to conserve energy, she switches her water heater on before showering and switches it off immediately after. It takes about twenty minutes to heat the water in the six gallon tank, therefore planning your hot water needs ahead of time is necessary with this method.
Jeff & Megan’s Electric Tankless Water Heater
Jeff and Megan from Room To Spare Tiny House just produced a detailed video on their compact tankless electric water heater: the Heatworks Model 1. This product retails for $469. The price, specs and size make this model a real option for Tiny House RVs. We can’t wait to hear how it’s working out for them.
Propane Water Heaters
Propane water heaters require propane tanks to be stored on the exterior of your Tumbleweed. One model that we recommend is the Precision Temp RV-550NSP, which retails at $1,150. The major advantages of this water heater, aside from its ability to heat water in five to ten seconds, is that it provides 80 degrees of temperature rise and has an internal function that prevents freezing (more on that below).
The Precision Temp Propane Water Heater in a Tumbleweed Cypress
No matter if you choose to have one propane appliance or more, we recommend storing at least two propane tanks on the exterior of your Tiny House RV – one in use and one as a back up. Maintaining full propane tanks requires some effort, but once you have a routine in place, it’s easy.
Pictured above is the Noritz Tankless Propane Water Heater mounted to the exterior of Art’s Tiny House RV. Art chose an outdoor model so that he could save space inside his Tiny House RV and because it doesn’t freeze in Louisiana, where he’s parked. This model retails for $620-997 depending on your GPM. The Nortiz indoor mounting models retail for $1,000-$2,000.
Venting & Cold Weather for Propane Water Heaters
Most RV propane water heaters require a side vent, which can be an eye sore on the side of your Tiny House RV. Venting to the outside means that some piping will be exposed to freezing temperatures. The water inside the pipes can cause the pipes to burst if frozen. This particular problem is usually not covered by the warranty. Some models need to be mounted outside the Tiny House RV and are even more prone to freezing.
The Precision Temp propane water heater has a built in thermometer (available optionally), triggering the unit to fire up when the temperature falls below freezing. It also vents through the floor, so the vent hole will be hidden from sight.
Tiny House Giant Journey uses the Precision Temp water heater in their Tumbleweed Cypress. Their solar powered Tiny House RV also features a propane stovetop and a propane refrigerator. With two people using these particular propane appliances, they need to refill one 15 lb propane tank every 4-6 weeks, which costs $15-$20.