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How to install a hot water heater in a trailer

Camping trailers have come a long way, but they still have a long way to go.

Even though most now have water plumbed in and a sink, it is still common to find trailers that do not have hot water available.

A lot of people accept that this is just part of van life, but this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, installing hot water in your trailer is actually pretty easy. 

All you need to do is install a hot water heater, and if you choose the 12V option, then this is simple. So if you want to take the luxury of hot water out with you when you travel in your trailer, follow this guide.

We’re telling you all about hot water heaters and how to easily install them so that you always have hot water in your trailer while you travel. 

What is a Hot Water Heater?

In basic terms, a hot water heater is exactly what its name suggests, it is just a device that heats cold water and makes it hot.

It connects to the cold water supply for your trailer and warms it up so that you can access warm water to shower, wash your hands, cook, and clean within your trailer.

This heating process is usually completed using propane. There are quite a few different types of hot water heaters available. So let’s take a look at the different types of hot water heaters that you could use in your trailer. 

Types of Hot Water Heater

As we have said, when it comes to living in a trailer, propane is your best friend, and it is actually this type of fuel that will allow you to get hot water.

There are two main solutions to choose from, they are:

  1. Fully Portable Water Heater
  2. Tankless Propane Heater

Some people opt for a fully portable water heater because they are objectively the easiest to use. They are essentially a portable shower with a showerhead and a variety of pumps and taps built into their design.

These devices are a popular option among people who don’t want to do any plumbing work for their trailer, but they do come at a cost. That cost is that portable water heaters can only be used independently, they won’t fit with your 12V sink, and so you will not be able to get hot water directly into your sink. 

This is why tankless propane heaters are often considered the better option. They are slightly more complex than the portable water heater, but their basic principle is simple.

A tankless propane heater will use a pump to generate water pressure, it will then heat water using your propane tank, and then push the water out through the showerhead.

As you will probably expect, connecting your hot water heater to your trailer’s sink is a little more difficult than this, but it is still doable. So let’s take a look at how you install a hot water heater in a trailer. 

How to Install a Hot Water Heater in a Trailer 

So now let’s talk about how you can install a hot water heater in your trailer.

It seems like a daunting task, but you can actually get it done in just 5 steps, so let’s take a look at what you need to do. 

1. Find the Correct Placement

The first thing that you need to do is find the right placement for the system in your home. It should be placed in a well-ventilated area, and also somewhere where you can easily check the system regularly for gas leaks/water.

In an ideal world, you should place this system close to your propane tank and water system, but if this is not possible there’s no need to worry as you can use longer tubing to connect these.

2. Look at your Connections

After that is done, you need to take a look at your connection points. Tankless water heaters always come with three different connection points, these are an inlet for the cold water, an outlet for the hot water, and the gas line.

All of these are very important and might impact the way that you place the heater depending on where your water tank and propane tank are located in the trailer. 

Once this is done you can begin the install, but first, ensure that your water line and gas line are turned off

3. Attach the Water Lines 

Hot water heaters have an issue where they occasionally leak water, so to limit this you want to ensure a water-tight fit. You can do this by wrapping the connectors in Teflon tape before you do anything else.

Most propane heaters come with water tubing, but depending on the distance between your propane tank and water heater you might need to swap this out for a longer option. 

If you choose to buy new tubing, you need to choose one that measures 0.5 inches in thickness and is made of CPVC for durability. Once connected we recommend using hose clamps on both connection ends to prevent leaks. 

4. Batteries Not Included

Next, you need to insert 2 D batteries into your water pump and switch it on. This will trigger the piezo ignition on the heater so that you can then switch it on.

With the heater switched on, you should then check for any leaks along the line or dodgy connections. Once you have checked, switch the heater back on and move onto the next step. 

5. Connect the Propane

Finally, you should connect the gas line, but first, you should wrap this in Teflon tape like you did the water types, but ensure you use gas-specific Teflon. Once you have done that you can then connect your gas fitting, but be careful not to over-tighten as this can lead to very dangerous gas leaks.

Once that is installed, simply connect your shower head and the hose, and your hot water heater is good to go. As soon as you turn the gas line and water line back on, of course. 


In short, this has been a complete guide to how to install a hot water heater in your trailer, with absolutely all the information you need to do this job successfully. 

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