/ / RV Water Heater Switch On Or Off: 4 Tips To Learn About Heater Working

RV Water Heater Switch On Or Off: 4 Tips To Learn About Heater Working

How to determine if the RV water heater switch on or off? I have been asked this question plenty of times as an experienced RV person. If you are also looking for an answer to this question, you are in the right spot.

Read on as I’ll provide you with 4 tips about heater working. Stick with me till the end to enjoy your RV traveling. Let’s get started!

RV Water Heater Switch On Or Off

It is a common dilemma for many people to leave their water switch on or off in their camping vehicle. As an experienced RV enthusiast myself, I understand the pros and cons of both choices. Here are some factors that can help you in making the decision:

  • For electric switches: If you have an electric control, you can leave it on without any problem. However, to avoid electricity usage, consider turning it off.
  • For propane gas: On the other hand, if you have a propane heater, you should turn it off as excessive gas operation could be dangerous. 
  • Keep the tank full: It is essential to fill the tank before turning on the heater. This will prevent the additional loss of energy to the heating element.
“When the electrical switch is on and you are connected to shore power, the water will get heated. On the other hand, if you are using the propane and also turn on the electrical switch, both will heat the water at the same time.”Jason, Electrical Engineer

Determining the Switch Power Status

A couple of years ago, I got a cast-off Jay Feather Micro, and it came with a pre-installed FOGATTI RV tankless water heater. To my demise, I don’t know about the on and off switch

Although I solved the solution, I found out that many people faced this issue. Here is a quick guide on how to know the on/off status of 4 types of water heaters:

Electric Water Heaters

On most modern RVs, there is an inside switch in the thermostat of the electric water heater. However, in conventional models, you can usually find them outside at the hot water access panel.

Credit: www.youtube.com @All About RV’s

There’s a probability of two switches on electric RV heaters:

  • One for 120-volt AC;
  • Another for 12-volt DC.

Ensure the 120-volt switch on the electric RV water heater is turned on if your RV is linked to an electrical outlet. By doing this, the hot water heater will use the 120-volt AC power source without problems.

If your RV is not connected, you might need to use the 12-volt DC supply to operate the heater by turning on the 12-volt switch.

Gas Water Heaters

If your RV water heater runs on gas, there will probably be a switch outside next to the propane tank. I found this switch, which regulates the Suburban heater specifically, next to the front passenger-side tire of my Cedar Creek Silverback fifth wheel. It has an indicator light that tells whether it is deactivated or switched on.

Credit: www.youtube.com @All Seasons RV

Recognize Your Switch’s Design

As I previously mentioned, some RV water heater switches are covered by access panels that must be removed to access the button. Moreover, try to spot a label on the heater mentioning “water heater” or “WH.”

Credit: www.youtube.com @Caper Camper

In my RV, the switch was marked “Water Heater” and featured an arrow indicating which way to turn it on. Additionally, I discovered particular models where the letter “O” referred to an off switch and the letter “I” to an on switch.

If you are suffering from issues like accidently turning on of RV water heater switch, watch this video to resolve the issue.

Consult the Owner’s Manual

If you still need help understanding the layout or need help finding the switch, you should look through the user handbook that came with your RV. If you don’t have it, you can search for the model number online.

A Handy Way To Find Out The Switch Position

The position of the switch in your RV heater depends on a couple of things:

  • Type of water heater;
  • The manufacturer’s preference.

Here are some familiar places to look for it.

  • Inside the RV: In some RVs, the switch is inside, typically behind a removable heater panel or next to the thermostat.
  • Outside the RV: Some models have the switch outside the vehicle, usually on the driver’s side. To find the button, you should remove the metal panel.
  • Adjacent to Propane Switch: On specific RV models, there might also be a propane switch adjacent to it. If the DSI light switch is on, your propane is not lit and isn’t heating your water. Nonetheless, there should be apparent markings on both switches.

I’ve also encountered a situation where the switch is hidden under a brass object, making it potentially difficult to reach if you have thick or large hands.

How Should You Proceed If the Switch in Your RV Heater Malfunctions?

Sometimes, even when there isn’t a problem with the heater, the switch can get stuck on or off. When this happened, I thought there was a heating issue because I could not turn the button. Thankfully, I discovered the issue was with the switch itself since it had corroded, which is typical for most RVs.

I used a small amount of WD-40 solution to lubricate the switch, and it started working correctly again. However, there might be further causes as well. Therefore, if the above solution doesn’t work for you, try one of the following:

  • Circuit Breaker Examination: Check your circuit breaker first because it might have tripped. You may need expert help to resolve this issue. 
  • Switch Replacement: Using a screwdriver, take out the switch to see whether there is any visible damage. If so, then replace the switch.
  • Wire Check: Inspect for any loose wires. This can be the cause of your switch’s malfunction. Swap out the damaged wires.
  • Gas and Electric Switches: Ensure the propane tank is complete if you have a gas water heater. Likewise, keep a check on the battery capacity for electric water heaters.
  • Troubleshooting: If you have an electric water heater, make sure the power source is operational. Check fuse boxes for blown fuse.
  • Blockage Inspection: Check your water heater for any obstructions hindering its operation.

Watch this video guide to find out the problems in your RV and solve them.

Crucial Highlights About RV’s Water Heater

Here, I have listed some facts about water heaters in an RV that you must know. Let’s check them out:

  • Manufacturers: Atwood and Suburban are the leading manufacturers of water heaters for RVs. If problems arise, advice from other RV owners might be universally applicable.
  • Tank Capacity: RV water heater tanks have a limited capacity ranging from 6 to 10 gallons. So, it’s essential to practice hot water conservation while traveling.
  • Power Source: RV water heaters can run on propane, electricity, or engine heat. You can select any source as per your preferences. 
  • Water Heater Types: Tankless and tank water heaters are the two primary varieties of RVs. Tankless heaters deliver hot water on demand and are more compact and energy-efficient. In contrast, tank heaters use gas or electricity to heat hot water stored in a tank.

Users’ Experience with the Switch of RV Heater

Now, I am going to share some of the reviews with you about water heaters so you can have an idea of how the people have experience: 

  • Confusion About Switch Location: Bixler was curious about why the switch was located in an outside compartment and didn’t work well. Consequently, he was seeking a craftsman to address and resolve this issue.
  • Power Source Concern: Jeff was perplexed as Cedar Creek Silverback 35IK’s heater only worked on electricity. He was in trouble as he was told there was a button to switch the modes, but he couldn’t find any.
  • Switch Present Outside in Suburban: Rockfordoo shared that he needed help with the location of the switch on the heater in his Suburban. Later, he found that it was on the outside.


Do you leave the water heater switch on in an RV?

You can leave your RV’s water heater switch on if it is filled with water. However, it is recommended to switch it off when not in use to preserve battery life and prevent any damage.

Is it possible to replace the switch with a new one?

Yes, you can replace your heater switch with a new one. It is advised to get a switch made especially for a particular heating appliance.

How do I reset my RV water heater switch?

To reset the water heater switch, locate your reset button near the control panel. Press and hold it for a few seconds to complete the process.

How to lock out an RV’s water heater switch?

You can lock out your RV’s water heater switch using a lockout adaptor or a mounting clip. This safety precaution lowers the possibility of mishaps and increases safety by ensuring the switch cannot be accidentally turned on.


Summing up RV water heater switch on or off, there is no harm when the switch is on electricity. On the other hand, avoid leaving the switch on if you are on propane. You must be familiar with the location of the switch and how it indicates the power condition to determine its status.

Normally, you can find it next to the thermostat or outside the vehicle as a separate propane switch. If you encounter any issues, you can reset the switch using a reset button present near the control switch. If you are unable to solve the problem, it is best to seek professional help.

Have you ever experienced any issues with your RV’s water heater Switch? Share your experience with me in the comments.

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