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We are saddened to announce the passing of Gary Bunzer on April 17, 2020. We hope the RV Doctor website will continue to provide helpful information for you. Thank you for your interest and support for the RV Doctor - Debbie, Heather and Gretchen

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tankless RV Water Heater - Redux

I saw your comments about the tankless water heater. Five years ago I seriously considered getting one. I was going to replace my 10-gallon with a 5-gallon. I was floored when I saw the price of the unit. It was almost 3 times the price of the gas-electric-engine assist water heater I ended up getting. I figured I could buy a hell of a lot of propane with the price difference. You should have mentioned that fact to your readers. Most of the time I use the 110 volt feature and while traveling the engine gives what I need. When I boondock I just turn on the gas switch before I take a shower. Wilson S. (no city/state)

And a related question: 

I enjoyed your article on the tankless water system but it would be nice to know how much they cost and the approximate installation expense. Bob W. (Jacksonville, FL)

Wilson and Bob, as a general policy, I do not mention prices of the products we test and review; here’s why. With Internet shopping, plus varying retail levels at RV dealerships, stand-alone service centers, big box stores and discount warehouses, it would be impossible to establish an accurate price across the board. Even using a supplier’s “suggested retail price” is rarely accurate since some dealers will opt to take less of a profit margin just to make a sale. If I quoted any retail cost, someone will likely find it cheaper somewhere else. It really serves no purpose since it’s up to the buying public to actually set the selling price at the retail level. Due diligence and keen buyer awareness go much further than any dollar amount mentioned in an article. At least every retail outlet is on equal footing at that point.

But I hear ya! You have to weigh the cost vs. practicality in many instances. Not to defend the price of a tankless water heater, but it’s not just the cost of propane that fits into the formula. Less weight prolongs the life of RV tires, suspension components, etc. No tank eliminates maintenance costs. How far, how often you travel factors in, as does convenience. Some families might run out of hot water frequently if traveling extensively or living full-time in an RV. Endless hot water on demand just might be worth the extra cost for a family. Retail purchases, therefore, can be a very subjective decision. One of the great things about the RV industry! At least now you know why I don’t list prices in my product reviews!

Bob, the RV-500 that I installed was not a typical RV installation, but when replacing a standard RV propane water heater with the RV-500, the installation should probably take a certified technician no more than about two hours to install at the most. It all depends on how much alteration of the cut-out opening is necessary (if any). If replacing an electronic water heater, the 12-volt wiring should already be present. The propane gas line will likely need to be rerouted slightly as well. But that too, is already in the general vicinity.

I would suggest you download the installation instructions and take them to your local RV service shop. They’ll be able to provide you with a more accurate estimate after they read through the instructions and inspect your coach.


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