Living as comfortably as possible is crucial when you live in a van. If you are in a place where the season has cold weather, there is nothing worse than having a cold shower or washing your dishes in icy water on a chilly morning. Installing a water heater will make your shower time and cleaning the dishes more pleasurable.
The Bosch Electric Mini-Tank, Camplux Pro, Suburban 5238A, EcoSmart ECO 11, Gasland BS158N, and the Gdrasuya 110V are the best water heater that you can add to your van life.
Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater: Top of the List
The Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater is a four-gallon electric water heater tank that is easy to install in your van. You can install this water heater under your RV sink and plug it into a 120-volt outlet. You can use a bracket to mount it on a wall, shelf, or floor. All you need to do is install it directly at the sink to provide hot water.
Aside from the easy installation, maintaining the Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater is also easy. It has a premium glass-lined material that can help provide long service life. The cord is 36 to 37 inches long, which is pretty long when you want it to be placed efficiently in your rig.
The Bosch Electric Mini-Tank water heater has a fast recovery rate where it eliminates long waits for hot water. It has a 98 percent thermal efficiency that will help reduce your fuel consumption. The temperature ranges from 65 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can adjust the temperature setting using a knob. It is great to get on-demand hot water whenever you need it and can supply up to two sinks at a time.
The best thing about this water heater is it is compact and lightweight. It also features a sleek and attractive design that can blend in with your rig’s decor.
The only downside to this water heater is it doesn’t have a digital thermostat. So, you would have to feel the water to ensure that you will get the best temperature for your hot water needs.
You can find the Bosch Electric Mini-Tank Water Heater on Amazon for $192.39.
Camplux Pro: Temporary Water Heater Solution
If you are looking for a temporary water heater solution, the Camplux Pro is the best water heater that you can purchase. You can say that this is the cream of the crop of tankless water heaters with a capacity of 1.58 gallons of hot water. It is best paired with the right 12-volt water pump, and you can sling this heating system outdoors whenever it is time for you to hit the showers or permanently mount it inside your camper.
The installation of the Camplux Pro is also easy, just like the Bosch Electric Mini-Tank. It will only take you a few minutes to install. There are heater lights when the water pressure is between 3.0 to 110 PSI. Now, low water pressure is perfect for van living since it will save you water.
This water heater has passed the CSA safety testing standard to make sure that it is safe for you to have in your van. It has plenty of safety features, such as a flame failure device, anti-freezing protection, and overheating protection to ensure that you are safe in your van.
It has an anti-freezing drain plug where it discharges the residual water to avoid freezing whenever you are in cold areas—this feature to perfect for the maintenance of the Camplux Pro water heater. The gas supply automatically shuts off the heater if it reaches 167 degrees Fahrenheit and above.
The Camplux Pro water heater is also power-efficient and energy-saving. This water heater has a maximum power output of 41,000 BTU per hour, so you can ensure that you will get instant, endless hot water wherever you may be. It is compact and lightweight with 11.5 percent energy-saving technology.
The propane water heater exchanger, as well as the main burner, are designed to have advanced consumption and burning noise. Now, to avoid any gas leakage that is caused by improper sealing of water, make sure not to twine the Teflon tape between the gas regulator and gas inlet pipe.
With the improper operation, the water heater can catch fire, so make sure to always check gas leakage before using it. Now, the only downside to this water heater is that it may not be the best permanent solution to your heating needs in your van.
The Camplux Pro is available on Amazon for $189.99.
Suburban 5238A: A Great Permanent Solution
There is no better permanent solution to your water heater needs than the Suburban 5238A. When you need to replace a stock water heater or have free space on your van wall, this is the best choice for you. You can hook this water heater straight to your water line for ten gallons of hot water an hour.
Now, the Suburban 5238A demands high amounts of energy as well as water. This water heater is only great for vans with a sturdy infrastructure capable of powering the hot water system. You should have a high-end RV battery set up in your van if you want to use this type of water heater on your van.
When you have the right van for this water heater and want hot water on demand for years, there is no better product in the market than the Suburban. Now, you may have to have a heavy initial investment with this water heater, but it will be worth it since it can last for decades to come.
You can hook the Suburban 5238A with a propane water heater underneath your sink, and it will instantly improve the hot water of your van. Aside from the price, this water heater unit also takes a while to reheat, so you may want to start running your water first to get the heat you need.
The Suburban 5238A is available on Amazon for $323.18.
EcoSmart ECO 11 Electric Tankless Water Heater: Small and Lightweight
When you are looking for a water heater that is small and lightweight, the EcoSmart ECO 11 is the perfect choice for you. Since it doesn’t use a tank, you can get instant hot water with about 99 percent thermal energy efficiency. You can have consistent hot water when you need it, and with this tankless water heater, it will never run out.
You can continuously monitor water temperature and controlled flow rates to make sure you get the efficiency you need and consistent performance within one degree of your selected temperature. Unlike the other van water heaters, the EcoSmart ECO 11 comes with a digital thermostat that will let you adjust the temperature as you need.
It can also deliver up to two gallons per minute of water, which is great for one showerhead and one sink on your van. This water heater is 90 percent smaller than the traditional water heater, and it can be installed on a wall or at the point of use.
With the EcoSmart ECO 11, you can save energy by only heating water when needed, not like a tank heater that maintains water temperature even when it is not being used.
Now, despite all these awesome features, the EcoSmart ECO 11 is susceptible to water leakage when there is too much water pressure on your pipes. However, they do make it up for the lifetime warranty they provide with the product on the electronics.
You can purchase the EcoSmart ECO 11 Electric Tankless on Amazon for $200.67.
Gasland BS158N Propane Water Heater: Best Portable Heaters
When you are looking for a portable tankless water heater, the Gasland checks all the boxes, it only weighs 14 pounds, and you can easily carry it around from your van to the campsite or to the beach. For such a small device, it punches the above weight with a maximum heat output of 41,000 BTU per hour.
The water heater works so fast, and you don’t even need to pre-heat the heater since you will get instant hot water. As soon as you turn on the tap on your van, the water flows with your desired temperature. It starts with a low water pressure with just 2.5 PSI of water pressure. You can get about 1.58 gallons per minute of on-demand hot water.
Just like the Camplux Pro, Gasland is CSA-approved, meaning it passes the safety standards in the US and Canadian areas. It also has a flame failure device, anti-freezing protection, and overheating protection for your safety. The heater automatically decreases the water pressure between 2.5 to 110 PSI.
The anti-freezing feature can discharge the residual water to prevent the heater from freezing in cold areas or in case of a long time of no use. It also has a high water temperature protection of over 167 degrees Fahrenheit. The automatic shut-off feature will shut off the gas supply automatically under unexpected flameout.
What’s great about this portable heater is you can use it for bathing your furry friend if you have one accompanying you on the road. All you need to do is hang it using the mounting bracket on the top or back of the gas water heater, and then you are good to go.
Thanks to its lightweight and compact design, you can get 11.5 percent energy savings. The propane water heater exchanger and leading technology can decrease gas consumption and burn noise. Rest assured that you will save more when you use this tankless heater.
Now, the only downside to this water heater is that it may not be ideal for high-altitude areas as you will not get the heat that you need for your water.
The Gasland BS158N Propane Water Heater is available on Amazon for $159.99.
Gdrasuya 110V Electric Water Heater: Budget-Friendly Choice
The Gdrasuya 110V Electric Water Heater is small and portable that will be great at supplying hot water for your van faucet. The maximum power of this water heater is 15000W, and the temperature can be adjusted from 130 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
This may not have a digital thermostat, and you can easily set it to switch off at a specific temperature automatically. The best part about this product is it can deliver instant hot water after a few seconds. With this feature, you can easily use it for washing your face, bathing, vegetable washing, as well as dishwashing.
You can install this water heater in the kitchen, bathroom, or any other place that you want due to its characteristics of small area, strong applicability as well as convenient installation process.
The Gdrasuya is a direct heating type water heater with high efficiency and low power heating tube, which will take advantage of the thermal energy maximally. You can set the automatic shut-off between 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The total power of 1500W and has different ways to install the product.
If you are the type of person who loves the environment, this is the best product for you. It uses green environmental material that is qualified for international standards and satisfies the difficulties of hot water supply while you are on the road.
You need to remember to fill the water on the heater for the initial installation. The machine should be energized when it is out of the hot water tap.
The Gdrasuya 110V Electric Water Heater is available on Amazon for $92.00.
Things to Consider Before Choosing the Best Water Heater for Your Van
Now, that you have read some great options, you would need to understand which style of water heater is best for your van life. There are different water tanks and energy supplies that you can choose from. As you may have noticed, there are different styles of water heaters that have their own weaknesses and strengths.
For you to know what is the best water heater tank for your needs, you will need to check off plenty of boxes to prove it can be the best supply of hot water for you. In the following section, I will talk about the different things you need to consider when choosing your water heater.
Check the Type of Power the Water Heater Uses
At most times, van water heaters have three different types of power sources. Choosing your ideal fuel source should be based on your energy consumption habits, van design, and hot water needs. Here are some of the different types of power that you can choose from when it comes to your water heater.
Propane: Can Run Water Heater Almost Anywhere
Propane makes it an ideal option whenever you are boondocking and enjoy a hot water supply when you have the means of electrical hookups. Also, propane gas is often more economical than using electricity to run your water heater.
The process of a propane water heater is it will have a small initial flame that is ignited to heat the water tank a few minutes until you get the desired temperature. Now, there are typically two types of propane heating systems, and they are direct spark ignition and manual pilot light.
The direct spark ignition will rely on the van’s 12-volt battery to automatically generate the flame. On the other hand, the manual pilot light will require you to ignite a lighter flame. If there are some spark ignition systems, the water heater will automatically shut down when the water becomes too hot. The same thing goes if there are any ignition malfunctions.
When you are using propane gas to run your water heater, you should have extra care since it poses more potential risks than other heating techniques in the market. Propane gas can also be noisy when you are running it in your van.
Electricity: Most Popular Method
One of the most popular methods when it comes to the water heater is through electricity. It is safer and quieter than using propane. This is the most convenient option when you rely on generator power or a campsite connection. You can also get your electricity supply from solar panels and batteries via an inverter to run the water heater.
At most times, an electric water heater system will usually have a separate element and a thermostat. All you need to do is flip a switch to turn the water heater on.
The downside to using electricity for your water heater system is it takes longer than propane to heat the water. It can also be expensive to operate over time rather than the one mentioned above. Now, a good solution to this problem is for you to use a hybrid water heater for your van that is powered both by electricity and propane.
Also, when you have a backup option, the water would warm up faster when you are using a hybrid water heater.
Van Engine: A Special Water Tank Will Be Needed
Now, if you don’t like relying on electricity or propane, you can use your van’s engine to get hot water instead. Using your van’s engine is a lot cheaper and environmentally friendly alternative since you won’t be relying on a power source outside.
You would need a calorifier or motoraid water heater setup to achieve this. It is a special type of water tank that is designed with an internal heat exchange coil that will be connected to a coolant line from your van’s engine. When you drive your van, the engine’s hot fluid will flow through the water heater system, back to the engine, and through the radiator.
For this to work, you should have enough coolant in your van’s engine and a clarifier tank; it should complete your water heater setup. One challenge that you would have to go through with this process is you need to drive at least 15 minutes for you to get hot water in your van.
Other than that, this is a clever solution when you are off-griding.
The Capacity and Tank Size of Your Water Heater
Now, most campervan water heater tanks have a capacity between six to ten gallons, and if you want something that is smaller or doesn’t occupy too much space, there is a four-gallon tank capacity. However, a four-gallon capacity is not convenient if you have more than one person living in your van.
If you want a bigger tank capacity, you could consider a 16-gallon tank, but most water heater tanks that are advertised with this gallon capacity are inaccurate. The reason for this is you will have to get ten gallons of hot water mixed with six gallons of cold water.
You also have to think about the recovery rate at this point. It is how long it will take for the water heater tank to recover when you have drained all of the water.
Full System or Portable: Important Choice You Have to Make
A full system water heater tank will have a bigger storage capacity, and they tend to consume more gas or electricity due to its size. On the other hand, a portable tank is easy to hook up and move around. It also doesn’t take too much space in your van.
If you have a medium-sized van with a bathroom, it is best to use a portable water heater for your convenience. It is best to use a full system water heater for a class C motorhome or a travel trailer.
Energy Consumption: A Critical Factor You Need to Consider
To know the energy consumption of your water heater, you need to take a look at the BTU (British Thermal Units) rating. A water heater system with a high BTU rating will use more energy than a heater with a lower BTU rating. Now, with a higher BTU rating, the water heater’s efficiency you will get.
The best water heater to get is a system that will have a BTU rating between 12,000 to 30,000.
Thermostat: Is It Important?
It is best to avoid water heaters with fixed thermostats since you can’t adjust the temperature with these types. Now, the good news is most water heaters today come with a digital thermostat where you can adjust to the specific temperature range.
Also, some thermostats are programmed to automatically shut down the water heater when the temperature gets too high. The best thermostats out there can even be programmed to adjust the temperature depending on the day you set it to.
Just a reminder, most dual water heaters are powered by using both electricity and propane, which means they will have two separate thermostats.
Freeze Protection and Flame Failure Device: Better Safe Than Sorry
Now, not every hot water heater can get you through the cold winter months. Freezing temperatures can make their way into your unit and break down the heating coils, which will leave you with nothing but cold water. It is best to look for products that come with anti-freezing protection when you are planning to stay throughout the winter season.
What’s common with propane heaters is that they add an extra splash of protection to ensure any complication doesn’t turn into disasters. Propane heaters rely on a pilot light that will give the gas life, but it is best to get built-in safety features.
These features will have an automatic shut-off where it turns off the water heater tank if everything is not working properly.
Tankless or Tank Heaters: Know the Difference
With a tankless water heater, there is no need to have a storage tank, but it uses a heat exchange to warm up the water instantaneously before it flows out of your faucet or showerhead. In van life, you want to save as much space as possible, so going the tankless route would be pretty smart.
You also don’t have to worry about heat loss inside the tank when you have tankless water heaters. Tankless water heaters are more efficient and cheaper to operate than the ones with tanks. Most tankless water heaters also use propane or electricity as a fuel source.
This is why tankless heaters are more efficient than those that use electricity, which I’ve mentioned above.
Now that you have everything you need to know about water heaters, it is time for you to pick the right heater to keep you warm while on the road. Make sure that you choose a water heater for your van that would fit the size and specifications of your rig. You also have to ensure that it is equipped with safety precautions such as anti-freeze or automatic shut-off features. With the right water heater, you can have relaxing and warm water, every time!