One of the biggest challenges facing van dwellers is keeping clean while on the road. Unless you own a fancy van with its own bathroom, you might not have access to a hot shower whenever you want one. A campervan tankless water heater can solve this problem in style.
Having access to on-demand hot water for showering, washing dishes, and doing laundry can seem like an unobtainable dream to many van lifers, and many people use solar showers, battery operated showers, and even DIY showers to keep things fresh.
One of the best ways to take things to the next level is to install a campervan tankless water heater.
Our Top Three Picks For Campervan Tankless Water Heaters
These water heating units are usually quite small, easy to install, and can provide instant hot water, without having a dedicated tank.
If you already own a camper van, or are getting ready to build out a van yourself, we’re sure you can imagine how nice it would be to have your own supply of instant hot water!
We’ve found some awesome and affordable hot water heaters for a van, and later in this article we’ll show you how easy it to install a camper van tankless water heater.
Here are our top three picks for best campervan tankless water heater:
Although this is the most expensive unit on our list, you’ll really get what you pay for, including almost endless hot water and a money back guarantee.
- Solid unit with an attractive design
- Can be wall-mounted
This is one of the best selling camper van water heaters on the market, and for good reason. We love that it’s really lightweight and has a safety shutoff when tilted to more than 45 degrees.
- Weighs a mere 8 pounds
- Really easy too set up and use
This best camper van tankless water heater comes from a company that specializes in designing products for camper van conversions, and we love that they provide 8 feet of shower tubing.
- Comes with extra long shower tubing
- Heats water to 150° Fahrenheit
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How A Campervan Tankless Water Heater Works
A tankless water heater makes an ideal choice for a campervan water heater because it’s small, portable, and easy to use.
These water heaters employ a simple design that utilizes pressure from a 12 volt pump.
A campervan tankless water heater sometimes comes with its own 12 volt pump, but usually you’ll need to use your own sink pump.
The water is heated using a propane tank, and is then pushed through the shower head. Controls on the unit allow you to adjust water flow rate, gas flow, and temperature.
Because a camper van tankless water heater doesn’t need it’s own dedicated water tank, you can easily hook it up to your own in-house water tank.
Things can get more complicated if you want to hook the camper van water heater up to a sink for hot and cold running water, but it’s still a fairly simple job.
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Things To Consider When Looking For The Best Campervan Tankless Water Heater
Although all of the units on our list offer similar features, there are notable differences, and in order to find the best campervan tankless water heater, you should be prepared to ask yourself a few questions.
These might include how hot you need the water to get, what kind of flow rate you’ll need, and how much water you can spare.
Here are some things to be aware of, when looking for the best tankless water heater for a camper:
How long you can use your camper van water heater is usually only limited by how much fuel you have, how much water is in your tank, and how much battery power is available.
The D Cell batteries used in most tankless water heaters last for weeks, but it’s always a good idea to carry spares.
Some camper van tankless water heaters do have an automatic shutoff function – usually after 20 minutes of run time – to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, and is a really big deal in the propane industry. BTU measures the consumption or deliverable power relative to an individual gas appliance.
Put simply, a campervan tankless water heater with a higher BTU rating will heat water more quickly, or to a higher temperature.
Minimum Water Pressure
Water pressure is measured in Pounds Per Square Inch, or PSI, and is a really important consideration when looking for the best tankless water heater for a camper.
All the tankless water heaters on our list have a minimum water pressure requirement needed to trigger the heater’s igniter.
For the most part, a 12 volt pump should provide enough water pressure to operate a camper van water heater.
Maximum Flow Rate
The flow rate of a camper van tankless water heater is measured in Gallons Per Minute (GPM).
If it’s a powerful shower you’re after, then look for a hot water heater for a van that has a higher GPM rating. Be careful, though. Unless you shower quickly, you’ll run through a lot of water!
All of the best tankless water heaters for a camper have dials to adjust temperature and flow rate, but some offer a wider array than others.
It can be easy to burn yourself with hot water over 150° Fahrenheit, and for this reason some tankless water heaters have a maximum temperature output.
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- Learn about the six major interior design considerations that lead to 13 secondary features in your design
- An RV plumbing chapter on pipes, fittings, tanks, pumps, water heaters, toilets, you name it
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- How to install blackwater, greywater and freshwater tanks in a campervan
- Fifty pages of information on designing an electrical system and wiring your campervan conversion
The Best Campervan Tankless Water Heaters For Van Life
We’ve found a variety of campervan tankless water heaters, each with their own pros and cons.
This camper van tankless water heater has a huge BTU rating of 41,000/hour, with non automatic time cutoff, meaning it can pump out really hot water for a long time!
Price: $130 – $170
Minimum Water Pressure: 2.5 PSI
The Gasland 6L can heat water to 167° Fahrenheit, which makes it one of the best hot water heaters for a van on our list, although it’s worth noting that temperatures over 150° Fahrenheit can cause skin burns.
This best tankless water heater for a camper has cool safety features, like a flame failure device, anti-freezing protection, and an overheating shutoff.
We love that this unit comes equipped with a fold down carry handle, and brackets that make it easy to hang just about anywhere.
The Triton tankless water heater is bigger and heavier than some of the other units on our list, and it needs much higher water pressure to operate.
Price: $150 – $200
Minimum Water Pressure: 25 PSI
Camp Chef is a company that really knows what it’s doing when it comes to designing products for campervan conversions.
A good 12 volt pump should be sufficient to provide enough pressure for this campervan tankless water heater.
The Camp Chef Triton is another hot water heater for a van that produces a good flow rate, and water up to 150° Fahrenheit that’ll be hot enough for even the coldest days.
Aside from the luxurious shower head with its multiple settings, what we love most about this campervan water heater is the extra long tubing which makes taking a van life shower just that little bit easier!
We love this camper van tankless water heater for its elegant design, solid construction, and outstanding performance. Although it’s the most expensive unit on our list, we feel that you really get what you pay for.
Price: $245 – $300
Minimum Water Pressure: 3.6 PSI
The Foruee weighs in at almost 20 pounds, making it quite a bit heavier than similar tankless water heaters, but it’s still quite portable and can be wall-mounted easily.
Like all the other units on our list, the Foruee F10 uses 2 D Cell batteries for ignition. For protection, this campervan water heater has an oxygen depletion shutoff, anti-freezing protection, and overheating protection.
The company seems to want happy customers, and provides not only a 1 year warranty, but also a money back guarantee for those dissatisfied with their purchase.
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Weighing in at only 14 pounds, this simple, aesthetically pleasing camper van tankless water heater is easy to use and unobtrusive when installed.
Price: $140 – $200
Minimum Water Pressure: 2.9 PSI
One of our favorite features of the EZ 101 unit is the independent controls for water flow, burners, and gas flow. These controls make it easy to tailor a shower to your van life needs.
The EZ 101 has an integrated ion flame sensor that cuts the gas supply in case the flame is extinguished unexpectedly. The unit also has low water pressure protection and an automatic shutoff after 20 minutes.
Although it’s hard to find any precise data, there are quite a few online customer reviews that mention very hot water!
The Camplux 5L tankless water heater is a really popular hot water heater for a van, and costing as little as $129.99, the price is right.
Price: $125 – $180
Minimum Water Pressure: 2.5 PSI
Camplux has decades off experience in the gas and electric industry, and their products are focussed on portability, energy-saving, and innovation.
This is perhaps the best tankless water heater for a camper with a modest water tank, because it has such a low flow-rate.
The unit works really well with a 12 volt pump, and the company recommends using a Surflow water pump.
Although the Camplux 5L heats water to only 115° Fahrenheit, it does have overheating protection.
There’s also a flame failure device, and anti-freezing shutoff which protects the fragile heating coils from becoming brittle and breaking in cold weather.
The Eccotemp L5 is a super light hot water heater for a van that weighs only 8 pounds, and delivers hot water at a maximum temperature of 140° Fahrenheit.
Price: $180 – $200
Minimum Water Pressure: 20 PSI
Although the Eccotemp L5 campervan tankless water heater needs a minimum water pressure of 20 PSI to operate, most 12 volt water pumps should be able to give it the pressure it needs.
We like the fact that this unit has a safety shutoff if it’s tilted to more than 45 degrees. It also has an automatic shutoff after 20 minutes of use.
Like the other campervan water heaters on our list, the Eccotemp L5 uses 2 D Cell batteries for ignition, and functions well when connected to a 12 volt water pump.
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The builder’s package gives you diagrams and tutorials on wiring, water, propane and floor plans. You can also buy each diagram separately depending on what you need.
How to Install a Campervan Tankless Water Heater
The first thing to consider when installing a campervan tankless water heater is positioning.
Any device that runs on propane needs to have good ventilation to prevent the buildup of potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide, and manufacturers advise against indoor installation of their tankless water heaters.
The best placement of a campervan water heater is near the rear doors, as you’ll most probably be showering outside anyway.
Never install a hot water heater for a van outside, though, as these units aren’t designed to withstand constant outside use.
Here’s how to install a campervan tankless water heater:
Check Connection Points
Your tankless water heater should have 3 connection points. There’s a cold water inlet, a gas line, and a hot water outlet. Check these and make sure they look clean and undamaged.
Attach Water Lines
First, make sure to turn off your water and gas. Begin by wrapping the water input connectors in Teflon tape, then connect the water lines. As added protection against leakage, you can use hose clamps.
If you end up needing longer lines, half-inch tubing is standard, and don’t forget to use CPVC tubing for the hot water lines.
Most camper van tankless water heaters use a couple of D Cell batteries to provide the power for the auto-ignition trigger. You’ll probably have to buy these batteries separately.
Start the unit to check for any leaks, or loose connections. You’ll be able to hear the ignitor clicking at this stage.
Turn the unit off again and remove the batteries before attaching it to the propane tank.
Attach the Gas Line
Begin by wrapping the gas input in yellow gas-specific Teflon tape.
Install the fitting, but pay attention not to over-tighten, as this can crack the regulator and cause a gas leak. You’ll smell a rotten egg smell if there’s a propane leak.
Attach the shower head, put the batteries back in, and connect to the power source. Most camper van tankless water heaters come with an attached 12 volt plug, which is the car cigarette lighter kind.
Now it’s time to get fully naked and enjoy your new camper van shower!
Finishing out your van? Take a look at these Van Life Essentials: 28 Top Picks for Campervan Gear.
Conclusion On The Best Campervan Tankless Water Heaters For Van Life
As we’ve seen, there’s no reason for anyone living the van life dream to go without a hot shower ever again!
A camper van tankless water heater is an an easy to install and affordable option for all van dwellers, and if you’re feeling especially ambitious you can even hook up one of these units to your existing sink.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the best tankless water heater for a camper. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments section below!
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Nicholas Marshall is a writer, photographer, and musician who currently lives in a ‘97 VW Eurovan with his wife and six-year-old daughter. Since selling their house and hitting the road, Nicholas and his family have meandered through the Western States. Van life has been everything they hoped it would be: challenging, rewarding, relaxing, and exciting.