Ask the RV Doctor – Propane vs. Electric

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January 14, 2013

Q. Dear RV Doc, 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! –L. Giglio, Mesquite, Texas

A. Well Larry, 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. As to which is better for the heater itself? 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 electricity and conserve the propane for the other appliances. 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 a new aftermarket kit available now that will convert your forced air furnace to operate on electric heat. Produced by RV Comfort Systems, the Cheap Heat electric element enables the user to use electricity instead of propane to heat the entire RV, and switch back to propane when necessary. Check it out at:

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