How to Turn On an Electric Water Heater in Your RV?

Your RV(Recreational Vehicle) is your home away from home, and having a functional water heater is essential for a comfortable journey. Learning how to turn on the electric water heater in your RV is a valuable skill every RV enthusiast should master. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of activating your electric water heater. 

You’ll find step-by-step instructions, safety precautions, and answers to frequently asked questions. So, whether you’re a seasoned RVer or hitting the road for the first time, let’s ensure you have a steady supply of hot water for your adventures.

Understanding Your RV’s Electric Water Heater

Before we delve into the steps of turning on your electric water heater, let’s understand how it functions. RV electric water heaters, though compact, operate on principles similar to their residential counterparts. They use electricity to heat a dedicated element within the tank, raising the water temperature to your desired level. 

Many RVs offer a dual-mode water heater, allowing you to choose between electric and propane heating based on your preferences and resource availability.

Benefits of Electric Water Heating

Opting for electric water heating in your RV offers several advantages that make it a popular choice among RVers:

  • Energy Efficiency: Electric water heaters are energy-efficient, making the most of the electricity available at RV parks and campgrounds.
  • Cost-Effective: Electric heating is often more cost-effective than propane, as it doesn’t require additional fuel.
  • Convenience: With electric heating, you won’t need to carry propane tanks, making it a hassle-free option.
  • Availability: Electricity is readily available at most RV sites, ensuring you have a consistent power source for your water heater.

Safety First: Preparations Before Activation

To ensure a safe and seamless activation of your electric water heater, it’s crucial to follow these essential safety precautions:

1. Turn Off the Power


Your journey to turning on the electric water heater begins with safety in mind. Before you proceed with any work, ensure that the power source to the water heater is turned off. This is typically done at the circuit breaker panel inside your RV. 

Find the corresponding breaker for your water heater and switch it to the “off” position. It’s important to cut off the electrical supply to prevent any mishaps during the activation process.

2. Access the Heater Compartment

In many RVs, the water heaters are securely installed in a dedicated compartment on the exterior of your vehicle. To access this compartment safely, make use of the necessary tools, which may include screwdrivers or latches. The compartment is designed to protect the water heater from external elements while allowing for proper ventilation.

3. Check the Water Tank

 Before proceeding with the activation process, it’s essential to ensure that the water tank is adequately filled. Having water in the tank before turning on the heater is not only crucial for its proper functioning but also to prevent potential damage to the heating element. Verify the water level to guarantee that there’s sufficient water available for heating.

4. Identify the Control Switch

Once you have safely accessed the heater compartment, the next step is to locate the control switch for the electric heating element. This switch is typically labeled as “electric” or “electric mode.” Depending on the make and model of your water heater, the control switch may vary. In some cases, you might also find the reset button on a hot water heater in this compartment.

The reset button is a safety feature that can trip if there’s a problem with the heating element or thermostat. If it has tripped, you can reset it to restore the heater’s operation. However, make sure to address the underlying issue that caused the reset before continuing with the activation process.

It can be a simple on/off switch, or it might have temperature adjustment settings. Check your RV’s user manual for specific instructions relevant to your water heater.

5. Activate the Electric Mode

With the control switch in sight, turn it to the “electric” mode. This step initiates the electric heating process. By activating the electric mode, you enable the heating element to begin warming the water in the tank. As you perform this step, ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines outlined in your RV’s user manual.

6. Safety Check

With all the previous steps accomplished, it’s essential to carry out a thorough safety check. Ensure that all the connections are secure and properly in place. This includes verifying the electrical connections, such as wiring and fuses. After everything is deemed secure, you can proceed to turn on the power source.

7. Monitor the Water Heater

After turning on the power source, closely monitor the water heater’s operation. Keep an eye on the unit to confirm that it’s functioning correctly. You can typically do this by observing the indicator lights on the water heater’s control panel. This observation helps ensure that the heating element is actively working to heat the water.

With these safety precautions in place and a thorough understanding of the activation process, you’re now fully prepared to enjoy a continuous supply of hot water during your RV travels. Your adventures are set to be not only enjoyable but also worry-free, as you bask in the warmth of your electric water heater. Safe travels!

here’s the informative table with the key points for turning on an electric water heater in your RV:

StepKey Points
Step 1: Turn Off the PowerEnsure the power source to the water heater is switched off at the circuit breaker panel.
Step 2: Access the Heater CompartmentOpen the RV water heater compartment using the necessary tools safely.
Step 3: Check the Water TankConfirm the water tank is adequately filled to avoid damage to the heating element.
Step 4: Identify the Control SwitchLocate the control switch for the electric heating element inside the compartment, usually labeled “electric” or “electric mode.”
Step 5: Activate the Electric ModeTurn the control switch to “electric” following your RV’s user manual for specific instructions.
Step 6: Safety CheckDouble-check all connections for security, turn on the power source, and monitor the heater’s operation for correct functionality.

This table provides a quick reference guide to help you safely turn on the electric water heater in your RV.


Q. Is it safe to leave the RV’s electric water heater on all the time?

 It’s generally safe to leave your electric water heater on, but for energy conservation, it’s best to turn it off when you don’t need hot water.

Q. Can I run the RV’s electric water heater and propane water heater simultaneously? 

RVs are usually designed to use either electric or propane heating, not both concurrently. You should refer to your RV’s user manual for specific guidelines.

Q. How long does it take for the water to heat up in an RV electric water heater?

The time it takes to heat the water depends on the water heater’s size and the initial water temperature. On average, it can take 20-30 minutes.


Owning a functional electric water heater in your RV is like having a slice of home with you on the road. It’s the epitome of comfort and convenience, allowing you to enjoy the modern luxury of hot water for a soothing shower, dishwashing, or simply unwinding in a cozy environment. With the knowledge of how to activate it safely, you hold the key to uninterrupted hot water throughout your travels.

With your water heater up and running, your RV adventures are poised to be more comfortable, enjoyable, and, most importantly, safe. So, here’s to happy travels and countless moments of relaxation with the luxury of hot water on the road. Enjoy every mile of your journey, and may each experience be filled with the warmth and convenience of your electric water heater.

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