How to Switch RV Water Heater from Propane to Electric?

RV water heaters are a vital addition to your life on the open road, offering the convenience of hot water for various needs like showering, cooking, and cleaning, thereby enhancing your overall travel experience. While many RVs come with water heaters that rely on propane as their main heating source, some models provide the flexibility to transition to electric power. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the process of switching from propane to electric, and delve into the numerous advantages this conversion offers.

Understanding Your RV Water Heater

RV water heaters are typically either propane or electric, and sometimes they offer a combination of both. The propane mode is ideal when you’re camping off-grid or when you need a quick and efficient source of hot water. The electric mode, on the other hand, is more convenient when you have access to shore power or a generator.

 It’s important to understand the capabilities of your specific RV water heater and how to switch between propane and electric modes.

Reasons to Switch to Electric

There are several compelling reasons to switch your RV water heater from propane to electric:

  • Cost-Efficiency: Electric power is often more cost-effective than propane, saving you money in the long run.
  • Environmental Impact: Electric heaters are typically more environmentally friendly and produce fewer emissions.
  • Convenience: When you’re at a campsite with electric hookups, using the electric mode is more convenient and doesn’t deplete your propane supply.

Safety First: Precautions When Switching

Before making the switch, it’s crucial to prioritize safety:

  • Turn Off Propane: Ensure that the propane supply is completely turned off before beginning the conversion.
  • Use Caution: Be careful when working with electrical components. If you’re unsure about electrical work, it’s best to seek professional help.
  • Check Compatibility: Ensure that your RV’s electrical system is compatible with the electric heating element in your water heater.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

Gather the following tools and materials before starting the conversion:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Wrenches
  • Multimeter
  • Electric heating element (if not already installed)
  • Wiring and connectors
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Switch RV Water Heater from Propane to Electric

Follow these steps to make the switch:

Step 1: Turn Off the Propane Supply

To begin the conversion process, it’s vital to ensure your safety by shutting off the propane supply. Propane is highly flammable and poses potential risks if not handled properly. Locate the propane valve on your RV’s water heater, typically found near the bottom of the unit. 

Turn the valve to the “Off” position. This action will stop the flow of propane to the water heater, eliminating any chance of gas leaks during the conversion.

Step 2: Disconnect the Propane Line

Once the propane supply is off, carefully proceed to disconnect the propane line from the water heater. The propane line is the tube or pipe connecting your water heater to the propane source. Use an appropriate wrench or pliers to loosen the connection between the propane line and the water heater. 

As you detach it, be cautious not to damage the line or any other components. Removing the propane line is a critical step to prevent any propane from escaping or causing potential hazards.

Step 3: Find the Electric Heating Element

With the propane components safely turned off and disconnected, it’s time to locate the electric heating element in your RV’s water heater. In many RVs, the water heater comes equipped with both propane and electric heating elements. The electric heating element is usually positioned near the bottom of the water heater tank and is connected to the RV’s electrical system. 

If your RV already has an electric mode, the heating element should be present and ready for use. It’s essential to identify the location of this element, as it will be the source of hot water when switching to electric mode.

Step 4: Turn Off Electric Power

Before making any electrical connections or changes, ensure that the electric power to the water heater is turned off. This step is crucial to prevent any electrical accidents or damage to the heating element. You can typically control the electric power to your RV’s water heater through your RV’s electrical panel or circuit breaker. 

Locate the corresponding switch or breaker labeled for the water heater and turn it to the “Off” position.

Step 5: Connect the Electric Supply

Now that the propane components are off, the propane line is disconnected, and the electric power is turned off, you’re ready to make the switch to electric mode. If your RV’s water heater didn’t come with an electric heating element, you may need to install one at this point. 

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the electric heating element, including the necessary wiring and connections. Ensure that all the electrical connections are secure and properly insulated to prevent any electrical issues or damage.

Step 6: Safety Check

Before finalizing the conversion, it’s crucial to perform a safety check to ensure that all connections and components are secure and that there are no potential risks. Double-check the propane line to confirm that it’s completely disconnected and securely capped. Inspect the electrical connections and wiring to ensure they are properly attached and insulated to prevent any electrical hazards. 

Once you’re confident that all safety measures have been taken, you can turn on the electric power to your water heater and perform a test to ensure it’s functioning correctly. Verify that hot water is being produced through the electric heating element. This safety check will give you peace of mind that the conversion has been successful and is safe for use.

By following these expanded steps, you can safely and confidently switch your RV water heater from propane to electric, enjoying the benefits of cost savings, environmental friendliness, and convenience during your travels.

Electric vs. Propane: A Comparison for RV Water Heaters

CostPropane can be more expensive due to fuel costs.Electric power is often more cost-effective.
Environmental ImpactPropane produces greenhouse gas emissions.Electric heating is cleaner and more eco-friendly.
ConveniencePropane requires tank refilling.Electric heating provides a constant hot water supply without refills.
AvailabilityPropane may not be available in all locations.Electric power is widely accessible.
InstallationSome RVs come with propane water heaters.Electric mode may require an additional heating element.

This table provides a quick reference for readers to compare the advantages and disadvantages of propane and electric water heaters for RVs.

Benefits of Using Electric

There are several advantages to using the electric mode in your RV water heater:

  • Cost Savings: Electric power is often more cost-effective than propane, reducing your overall expenses.
  • Environmental Friendliness: Electric heaters produce fewer emissions and are more environmentally friendly.
  • Convenience: When you have access to shore power or a generator, using electric mode is convenient and efficient.
  • Longer Heating Times: Electric heating elements typically take longer to heat the water, which can be beneficial in preventing scalding.


1. Is it possible to switch back to propane if needed?

Yes, you can switch back to propane by following the same steps in reverse.

2. Are there any risks associated with the conversion process?

When done correctly, the conversion is safe. However, it’s essential to turn off all power sources and gas supplies before starting.

3. How can I tell if my RV water heater already has an electric heating element?

Check your RV’s owner’s manual or consult the manufacturer’s specifications. You can also inspect the water heater for an electric heating element.

4. What should I do if I’m uncertain about the conversion process?

If you’re unsure or uncomfortable with the process, it’s best to seek professional assistance to ensure safety and proper installation.

5. Can I use both propane and electric modes simultaneously?

In most RV water heaters, you cannot use both modes simultaneously. You’ll need to choose one mode depending on your needs and the available resources.


Switching your RV water heater from propane to electric is a wise decision that brings numerous advantages, including cost savings, environmental responsibility, and enhanced convenience during your journeys. With this step-by-step guide and a strong focus on safety, you can smoothly transition to electric heating and enjoy the benefits it offers. 

Keep yourself comfortable, save on expenses, and contribute to a more eco-friendly camping experience with this straightforward conversion. Making this switch not only benefits you but also the environment, as it aligns with more sustainable and efficient energy use for your RV. However, it’s important to note that laying a water heater on its side is not recommended, as it can lead to potential damage and safety hazards.

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