Water heater — electric or propane, or both?

gary-736Dear RV Doctor,
I have a Jayco trailer that has a dual electric/propane water heater. The propane heats the water faster, but the electric is at no cost to us when using the power that our state park provides. We don’t need hot water right away, so we have been using the electric mode for the first year we have used the unit. Is one method better for the long-term life of the water heater? And why? Thanks! —Larry G.

Dear Larry,
Well, as you use the electric heating element, over time it may fatigue slightly just from constant use. And as you operate the propane function to heat the water, those components will require some maintenance over the course of time.

wh-element-rv-doctor-760As to which is better for the heater itself? It probably makes no difference. In fact, it is entirely plausible to operate both the electric element AND the propane burner at the same time for a faster heating cycle and a quicker recovery rate. But the prudent thing to do is to take advantage of the free electricity and conserve the propane for the other appliances.

Other than keeping the connection clean, dry and tight, there is no maintenance to be concerned about using the electric element, but the propane components will need some cleaning annually. I say keep using the electric and save on propane costs! In fact, there is an aftermarket kit available that will convert your forced air furnace to operate on electric heat. Produced by RV Comfort Systems, the CheapHeat™ electric add-on kit enables the user to use electricity instead of propane to heat the entire RV, and then to switch back to propane when necessary. Check it out here