RV Water Heater Propane Usage: How Much is Typical?


One of the essential comforts of RV life is a hot shower, and many RV water heaters rely on propane to provide that luxury. However, propane is a finite resource when you’re on the road, and it’s crucial to understand how much propane your RV water heater uses. In this article, we’ll delve into the factors that influence propane consumption in RV water heaters and provide an estimate of how much propane you can expect your water heater to use.

RVing 101 Guide: Water Heaters

Factors Influencing Propane Usage in RV Water Heaters

Propane consumption in RV water heaters can vary based on several factors:

  1. Water Heater Type: The type of RV water heater you have can significantly impact propane usage. Common types include tankless on-demand heaters and tank-style heaters. Tankless heaters tend to be more efficient and use less propane.
  2. Temperature Setting: The temperature at which you operate your water heater affects propane consumption. Higher temperatures will require more propane to heat the water.
  3. Usage Frequency: How often you use hot water in your RV plays a critical role in propane consumption. Frequent use will deplete the propane supply more rapidly.
  4. Water Heater Efficiency: The efficiency of your water heater impacts how effectively it converts propane into hot water. Higher-efficiency models use propane more efficiently.
  5. Insulation: The level of insulation in your RV can affect how well it retains heat. Well-insulated RVs will require less propane to maintain water temperature.

Estimating Propane Usage for Your RV Water Heater

Propane consumption for RV water heaters is typically measured in gallons per hour (GPH). Here’s a rough estimate of propane usage for common scenarios:

  1. Tank-Style Water Heaters: A standard 6-gallon tank-style RV water heater, set to 120°F, will consume approximately 0.4 to 0.5 gallons of propane per hour. This means a 20-pound propane tank would last around 40 to 50 hours of continuous heating.
  2. Tankless Water Heaters: Tankless, on-demand water heaters are more efficient. They use propane only when hot water is needed, which can significantly reduce propane consumption compared to tank-style heaters.
  3. Frequent Use: If you use hot water frequently for showers, dishes, and other tasks, it’s essential to factor in this usage when estimating propane needs. A higher frequency of use will result in quicker propane depletion.

Propane Conservation Tips for RV Water Heaters

To conserve propane while using your RV water heater, consider the following tips:

  1. Lower the temperature setting to the minimum comfortable level to reduce propane consumption.
  2. Use a tankless, on-demand water heater if you have the option to upgrade for increased efficiency.
  3. Repair any leaks or faults in the water heater to prevent propane wastage.
  4. Insulate your RV to reduce heat loss, making it easier for the water heater to maintain temperature.
  5. Schedule hot water use efficiently to minimize standby heating time.


Understanding how much propane your RV water heater uses is essential for planning your trips and budgeting for propane expenses. The amount of propane consumed by your water heater will depend on various factors, including the type of water heater, temperature settings, usage frequency, and efficiency. By estimating propane usage and implementing conservation tips, you can make the most of your propane supply and enjoy hot water in your RV while minimizing the need for frequent refills.

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