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Old 08-07-2011, 11:58 AM   #1
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Default Do you need a water heater?

I replaced the failed water heater in my camper van this weekend. It should have been an easy job because I chose the same model number as a replacement. The job was difficult in my unit because I could not just slide the old water heater out from the outside of the van. The exterior hole was smaller than the water heater. So it had to come out from inside. When this van was built the water heater was installed first then the wall panel, then the seat/bed etc. Everything was cut tight so I had to remove some of the structure but ended up cutting a bit of the interior wall panel to make it bigger instead of removing the whole wall panel.

Old water heater had a flange around the perimeter - the new one doesn't have that flange.

Anyway, it is all finished and tested now. No water leaks, no propane leaks and it fires up on the first try.

In the US the water heater would cost $300+ and in Canada more like $500. That got me wondering if it was even needed for us. It is needed for comfortable showering but I doubt I'll shower in this van. It is easy to heat water in a kettle for doing dishes and washing up etc.

So, at $300 to $500 would you do without a water heater in your van or is it worth the cost to you?
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Old 08-07-2011, 12:46 PM   #2
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

I could probably due without the hot water but I'm not too sure about my wife. She likes the hot water on the outside shower to rinse the kids off and for doing dishes. She use to use the shower in our "C" motorhome once and a while so she likes to have that option available.

When I was a kid and our family went camping, we only had an icebox for a fridge and the propane stove in the camper. In all the years we camped, we never used the propane. My parents had a portable electric stove they brought and heated water and did all the cooking on. They also brought an electric kettle to boil water. They believed that if you're paying for electricity on the campsite, why not use it. It doesn't take long to heat water up in an electric kettle or on the stove top.
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Old 08-08-2011, 02:56 AM   #3
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

The things we don't use/don't need in our Class B:
1. Furnace: we tend to snuggle.
2. Shower & hot water heater: Nevertheless, we are clean.
The things we don't want to be without:
1. Propane: of course!
2. Fresh water: handy, but not really necessary.
3. 3-way fridge: nearly always on propane except when travelling.
4. Flush toilet: handy, but not really necessary.
We tend to camp without hookups, and without generator. We like it that way. Different stokes for different folks.
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:34 AM   #4
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

For showering in cold weather, a water heater is well worth it. You should have gotten a hybrid one that runs on propane or electric. Use electric when hooked up, saves a lot of propane.
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Old 08-08-2011, 04:08 AM   #5
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

I have to go along with JohnnyR. Matter of fact, I haven't used my H/W Tank in about three years - personal choice. We can heat it if needed, we go the coffee route, so we rarely need hotwater. Also, for about the last four years, I have filled the tanks thru the door cavity rather than hooking up the water hose - I've had to learn hot to cut down on some things and not fooling with the water hook-up and heater have help greatly.

Marko - could that flange be cut off to ease removal? You mentioned the flange and my mind started thinking what tools, not even knowing if the space constraints, etc., would allow this. You got to have an abundance of patience to made the switch out. Safe travels.
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Old 08-08-2011, 11:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

Re: Propane and electric - first tank I ordered had both but UPS dropped the tank on my stairs........... The manufacturer advised me to not accept the package. The large print words "Do Not Drop" on the box were a clue also. So on the do-over I opted to save the $70 + tax + wiring etc. price difference. I had propane + electric in my Roadtrek and in my Bigfoot and used the electric option. If I recall correctly I think I had to got outside to turn on electric at the water heater in my '04 Roadtrek. The Bigfoot had switch near the sink that I worried someone might turn on when my water heater was empty and burn out the electric element.

Re: the flange - with the right tool it could be cut but the hole in the van side would have still been to small. Maybe an 1/8 inch all around. The cuts I made to the panel on the inside do not show at all as it is below the seat/bunk.

So the consensus seems to be that for showering the water heater is necessary but its function is easily replaced with a kettle on the stove for most other needs. I remember reading of someone who used the microwave for warming up wet wash cloths for freshening up.

I added a bypass kit on my new water heater installation.

Maybe my $500 water heater expenditure will motivate me to fix up the shower in my van (water proof the area etc.) so I can get some use out of the water heater.

The old tank most probably failed because the anode rod was never replaced. Here is a photo of it:

This thread: has a photo of the three year old anode rod in my Roadtrek. It stlll looked pretty new.
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Old 08-21-2011, 02:48 AM   #7
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

I have never even used water in the RV. I usually boondock but not for more than two days in a row.
I have a 1989 Dodge XPLORER RV Class B - Purchased 10/15/10 IN CASH
Fiance' purchased a Class C (B+ ?) 2002 Dynamax Carri-go on 5/1/15 IN CASH
We've got the best of both worlds
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:07 PM   #8
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

I use everything in our B. I like the luxury in a small package and care not to behave as if it is just nothing but a hard shell tent. As for the water heater it gets more use in colder weather. Fire it up in the morning and it takes but about 15 minutes to heat the water. If you are doing nothing but just washing your hands and face it is a lot nicer than a does of ice water.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:06 PM   #9
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

In our RT, the water pump, valves and most of the water lines are in the same cabinet with the water heater. In cold weather, we can keep most of the lines warmed up, by using the water heater.
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Old 08-23-2011, 11:02 PM   #10
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

It makes sense to try it if you can. Not sure how effective it is, but I've done it on spec, and recommendations, myself.
It's not a sprint(er) (unless you make it one), it's (hopefully) a marathon.
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Old 08-30-2011, 06:03 PM   #11
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Default Re: Do you need a water heater?

We use our water heater for showers and wouldn't be without one. We just have the stock LP unit with no electric option. I do have plans to switch it to an instant on tankless model which runs a bit over $500 fits in the same hole but uses even less space inside the cabinet. I have been really taking things easy this summer overall, haven't gotten to almost any of the mods I have on my list. Too much fun fishing and digging into other hobbies so far. I suspect this winter I will be out in the garage a bunch though.

Hot Water == good!
Cold showers == EWWW!
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