RV Hot Water Systems
The RV hot water system begins at the water heater, obviously, and then becomes,
essentially, a totally separate system. Hot and cold water lines run to every sink and shower so adding hot
water to the RV water system basically doubles the plumbing.
Most manufacturers mark the hot and cold lines - some use a simple red ribbon to indicate the hot lines,
while others actually use a red colored tube to identify the hot lines and a blue one to indicate the cold water
lines. Older RVs had no indications of any sort.
Servicing the RV Water Heater
Water Heater Maintenance:
Your water heater allows the luxury of hot water in your home-away-from-home! Although it is not a high
maintenance item, it does need some regular maintenance to operate at its best. Follow these simple instructions
Drain the tank:
To drain the hot water tank, open the exterior access door and remove the drain plug (or open the drain
valve on some models) and then open the pressure relief valve located on the upper portion of the tank (or open a
hot water faucet at any sink).
Allow the tank to drain fully and replace the drain plug.
Flushing the tank:
RV water heater tanks accumulate deposits on the bottom of the tank from various impurities, minerals and
other debris that may be present in the water supply. The water heater should be flushed at the beginning of every
season or more often, depending on the quality of the water source.
After draining the tank, direct a stream of water from a garden hose nozzle into the drain opening for
several seconds - this stirs up the sediments and suspends them in the water flow. Allow this water to drain
Repeat this procedure until the drain water is clear of any sediments.
Inspect the anode rod:
If your water heater drain plug is a simple plastic (nylon) plug, you do not have
an anode rod. If your drain plug has a long metal protrution attached to it, you do have an anode rod.
What is an anode rod? ... an anode rod, when used in a
water heater, attracts corrosion causing products in the water. These products attack the anode rod instead of
the metal tank itself. The anode rod should be inspected yearly and changed when it is reduced to about 1/4 of
its original size. The rods are used in steel water heater tanks - an aluminum tank has an inner layer of
anode metal to accomplish the same thing. Anode rods should not be installed in an aluminum tank! Suburban
brand water heater use a steel tank and require an anode rod - Atwood brand water heaters use an aluminum tank
and do not require an anode rod.
What's that smell?
Sometimes you may smell a rotten egg odor from the hot water
taps ... the odor is caused by a small build up of hydrogen sulfide gas and this is an indication that the
water heater needs to be flushed. If flushing does not correct the problem you should have the water
system inspected for other problems.
Check the Burner:
Many insects are attracked to the smell of propane and will build nests inside the burner tube. Visually inspect
the burner tube for insect nests or other obstructions. Even an almost invisible spider web will deflect the
propane flame enough to cause a problem.
Don't forget to check your water heater at the beginning of the camping