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That hot shower is the reason you’re able to enjoy all of the things that fill a day in the great outdoors, including a myriad of ways to get dirty. Of course in your travel trailer, the amount of water you can enjoy in your shower is limited - especially if you have a companion standing in line to shower after you.
Most travel trailers have a gas-fired water heater that works much like the one you may have at home, except that it typically holds about six gallons of water, instead of the 40 to 60 gallons you have at home.
While you use water from the water heater, it is constantly being refilled and topped off by your fresh water tank, and for many applications, the heat-and-refill process is just fine.
When it comes to showers, though, it’s not unusual for the “use rate” of the shower to exceed the “heat-up rate” of the water heater. Put another way, it’s quite likely you (or the person waiting in line behind you) will run out of hot water.
A tankless water heater eliminates that shortage of water for hot showers and other uses by taking a different approach. It eliminates the 6 gallon tank of water, and instead heats water while it is being used. Cold water flows into the heater across and through a heat exchanger that has been heated by a gas flame.
On its short trip through the heat exchanger, water goes from room temperature to 120°F or more. By quickly and continuously heating the flow of water, a tankless water heater can give you a quantity of hot water that is only limited by the size of the fresh water supply. If you’re hooked up to city water in a campground, for example, your hot water is virtually unlimited.
Tankless systems enable RVers to have accurate control over the actual temperature of water the heater produces, eliminating the widely variable temperatures delivered by tank systems that are constantly being filled with cold water while in use.
A tankless water heater can use less LP gas, too, because the gas burner is only used when hot water is being used. That’s in contrast to tank-style heaters, which use gas on an ongoing basis to keep the reservoir of water hot and ready all the time. Even though the gas heater in the tankless system is larger than the heater in a tank system, it is only used when it is actually needed. No gas is used to keep a tank of water hot when it isn’t needed.
Keep in mind, though, because the tankless system eliminates the hot water tank, (duh) you’ll have 6 or more gallons LESS fresh water on board.
When all aspects of water heating are taken into account, Tankless heaters are preferred by a huge majority of experienced RVers. That’s why they are one of the most popular upgrades made by RV owners, and are being installed as original equipment in Gulf Stream Coach RVs as of the 2024 Model Year.