By Russ and Tina De Maris
Accustomed to “endless” water supplies at home, some new RVers are a bit taken aback when taking showers on the road. The typical RV water heater has a six gallon capacity – far, far less than a sticks-and-bricks home version. What’s to be done?
The luxury of long showers may be a thing of the past when you hop in your RV. But there are things that can be done. First, the limits of how long a shower can be are not just in the size of the water heater, but also the size of your grey water holding tank. When staying in an RV park site equipped with a sewer hookup, holding tank capacity isn’t a concern.
To “beef up” the hot water supply, some RVers have installed a larger (10-gallon) water heater, assuming you have the space available in your RV water heater cubbyhole. Many have asked about “instant” water heaters – after all, many residential homes have them. A few high-end coaches have a line called Aqua Hot, but they aren’t common in the average RV. There are after-market instant heaters, but they tend to be extremely expensive, and just haven’t received much acclaim by RVers.
Some RV water heaters have a “mixing valve” feature that allow the heater to effectively deliver more hot water than a standard unit. How this works is that the heater itself super heats the water in the tank, then mixes ambient temperature water with the super-hot water to deliver water at a safe temperature. In essence, a six gallon water heater effectively delivers nine gallons of hot water. Many RVers have reported lukewarm results: it seems the mixer valves are prone to problems and in the end, you often get less-than the correct temperature water.
Some RVers swear they get oceans of hot water by adding an electric heating element to their gas-fired RV water heater, then running both gas and electric at the same time. This is a definite no, no, according to heater manufacturers.
Where does this leave you? If you really have to have a long shower, you’re stuck staying at an RV park and using the “community” shower. You could pull into a truck stop and pay for a shower – these are probably preferable to many RV park showers as they’re individually cleaned before each use, and a towel comes with your purchase.
In the end, most RVers learn the way of conservation, the old “Navy Shower.” Step in the shower, set your water temperature, rinse off, then switch the flow off with the little button on the shower head. Soap up with the water flow stopped, then rinse off again. With time, most of us adapt to the conservative approach.