Hot water is something that everybody takes for granted until they don’t have it. When you’re staying in a camping vehicle you’ll quickly realize that this is a luxury, not a right. But what’s the easiest way to heat the water in your van?
The simple answer is to invest in a caravan hot water system. This will allow you to have hot water whenever you want to take a shower or wash dishes.
But which one should you buy?
There is a wide range of systems available at staggeringly different price points. These will suit different camping vehicles and budgets.
Let’s find the best caravan hot water system for you!
Camec Digital Instantaneous Gas Water Heater
Suburban Nautilus On Demand Water Heater
Truma UltraRapid Gas Hot Water System
Truma Combi D6 Diesel Heater / Hot Water System
Suburban Hot Water System (SW5EA) 240V
~10.7 kW (36,500 BTU/hr)
~17.6 kW (60,000 BTU/hr)
1.2 kW (~4,100 BTU/hr)
6 kW (~20,500 BTU/hr)
1.44 kW (~5,000 BTU/hr)
3.3 L/min (37.7°C rise)
5.7 L/min (38°C rise)
0.5 L/min (45°C rise)
0.3 L/min (45°C rise)
320 (W) x 320 (H) x 380 (D) mm
317 (W) x 318 (H) x 465 (D) mm
383 (W) x 324 (H) x 360 (D) mm
535 (W) x 300 (H) x 450 (D) mm
320 (W) x 320 (H) x 450 (D) mm
Best Caravan Hot Water Systems Australia
Camec Digital Instantaneous Gas Water Heater
Camec’s caravan gas hot water system has many interesting features.
Unlike 240V systems, the Camec is extremely economical. All you need is a 9kg gas bottle and you’re away. This means that it can run for hours (on or off the grid!) without breaking the bank.
Meanwhile, it’s very easy to use. The digital control enables instant activation and sets the water to a specified temperature. At just over 12kg, this is also a relatively light system.
It also has cut-off functions to preserve the gas and prevent scalding. This is a great feature if you have children.
However, it’s worth noting that this caravan hot water system has mixed reviews. Some critics said that it failed to produce enough warm water to wash the dishes. Another said that they needed a low flow showerhead to reap the benefits.
Suburban Nautilus On Demand Water Heater
Best LPG/Gas Heater
One of the best caravan hot water system manufacturers, Suburban are experts at delivering efficient units.
If you have an RV and have decent water storage or regular access to mains water, this tankless system could be perfect for you.
Weight is always an issue in every camping vehicle. Tankless heating units like the Nautilus enable you to remove water from the equation. The system also only operates when you need hot water.
However, the downside is that a minimum flow of water is required before it starts to heat up. Ensure that you’ll be able to maintain this water flow to the unit otherwise it may unexpectedly switch off.
The price-point is also high and may put off some potential customers.
Truma UltraRapid Gas Hot Water System With Cowl & Cover
Truma is one of the most respected manufacturers of camping appliances. Their UltraRapid caravan gas hot water system is top of the range.
One of the benefits of having an onboard tank is the ability to take hot water with you wherever you go. You’ll need a gas bottle and a 12V connection to make it work. Then, you’ll have to wait at least 30 minutes for the water to heat up.
Some people may prefer an instant unit but the UltraRapid is easy to install. It’s also much cheaper than the two previous caravan hot water systems. It’s difficult to argue with a unit this reasonable.
The unit has a much lower instantaneous heating capacity than the previous two options, so it’s critical that you turn it on well before you plan on using it to give it time to heat up the water.
Once you deplete the water tank, you’ll be waiting a while for it to refill, so keep this in mind - no long showers if someone else is planning on using it after you!
Meanwhile, the cowl protects the system from dust and the elements while you’re on the road. Customers appreciate Truma’s fast delivery and excellent service.
Truma Combi D6 Diesel Heater / Hot Water System Kit
If you have a large motorhome, caravan or RV then look no further.
The Truma Combi D6 is a caravan diesel hot water system like no other. In addition to heating your water, this unit can also heat the air in your van.
It’s also very compact and light considering its specifications. This is great because it’s not intrusive. However, there is a slight cost here as the 10L onboard tank is quite small considering the price of the unit.
Speaking of which, there’s no getting away from the reality that the Combi D6 is almost twice the price of the second-most expensive system in this article. It’s definitely not a cheap investment but if you own an RV it could be right for you, especially when you consider the savings made by not having to buy a separate space heater.
To get the most out of the Combi D6 you’ll need a Truma air conditioner. This way you can select automatic climate control on the Truma digital panel. It’s a phenomenal system but it’s not cheap to set up.
Suburban Hot Water System (SW5EA) 240 Volt Only
Best Electric Heater
Now for something completely different.
This caravan electric hot water system works wonders for caravan, motorhome, and RV users alike.
It has almost twice the water tank capacity of the Truma Combi D6 despite costing just a fraction of the price. At just $500, it’s by far one of the most reasonable units on the market.
Now obviously, it’s the production of the hot water that makes the former more expensive. However, this Suburban system doesn’t fare badly at all. It stores hot water and heats it reasonably quickly.
You will need access to a 240V connection to make it work.
But the upside is that you won’t need to lug a gas bottle around. Storage space and weight are on the mind of every camper but you can take this out of the equation.
Things to Consider When Buying A Caravan Hot Water System
There are several factors to keep in mind when you’re buying a new caravan hot water system. It’s not as simple as buying the cheapest one that fits in your van. Let’s have a look at some important points.
The fuel source is one of the most important points to consider.
Gas units are so popular because they offer more flexibility. While you will need a 12V connection to ignite the burner and run the controls, your battery and/or solar panels will be sufficient for this. This means you’ll have hot water wherever you go.
However, if you know you won’t be going off-the-grid and will always have access to a mains supply, then electricity may be the best option. These systems tend to be a lot cheaper so you’ll save money.
Of course, if you’re stuck between the two, there’s a simple solution. Buy a combi heater. You can chop and change between the two fuel sources depending on where you are.
Another alternative is a caravan diesel hot water system. However, as we saw with the Combi D6, they’re extremely expensive so be sure that you’ll get plenty of use out of it before you get one.
Space is at a premium in every caravan. Unfortunately, some of these units tend to be quite bulky.
If space is an issue for you, consider getting a tank-free system like the Suburban Nautilus. The downside is that you will always need access to a water supply, but it means that the unit can be smaller.
However, reducing your overall load may make this a fair compromise.
Where Are You Going?
Many camping newcomers receive a nasty surprise when they travel across Australia.
They envision our sunburnt country as a hot place all year round. Admittedly, this is true a lot of the time. But winters can be cool or even freezing if you go into the alpine regions of NSW and other parts of the country.
If that’s the case then a powerful Truma system capable of heating both your air and water will suit you because they’re very reliable and do their job.
But if you know that you’re going to a campsite then maybe you don’t even need a heating system. Most decent sites offer hot showers and a dishwashing facility. It’s worth thinking about before you potentially invest thousands in a Truma Combi D6.
How Many People?
Another factor to consider is the number of regular occupants in your camping vehicle. The number of people will increase the amount and rate at which hot water will be consumed.
If you’re depending on a tank then this can be an issue. Everyone will have to space out their showers and give the system time to refill and reheat.
Instant hot water systems are another game-changer when there is a family. There’s nothing worse than forgetting to activate the heater and having to wait for half an hour. That’s where a system like the Nautilus really shines.
Just remember that if you are using an instantaneous system, you will need to make sure that your water pump is big enough to provide a decent flow to the shower.
Budget and Brand
The best caravan hot water system is the one that you can afford. But you don’t want to cut costs just for the sake of it. Think of your new system as an investment, not something to be bought and forgotten about.
It’s important to buy from a trusted brand like Truma or Suburban because they have great reputations and offer a strong support service. All of the top brands will offer lengthy warranties and help you if you run into problems.
Everybody has a budget but try to get the most reputable that you can afford. This way you’ll be less likely to encounter problems down the road and ultimately may save money in the long term.
Health & Safety
Don’t forget that you must hire a licensed gas plumber to install and service your caravan hot water system if it runs on gas.
This is a legal requirement and ensures the safety of all the van’s occupants.
Gas is very dangerous when it’s not ventilated properly. Carbon monoxide poisoning is an all-too-real outcome if you’re not aware of this.
A licenced gas plumber is not required for diesel heaters.
You want to get your hands on the best caravan hot water system possible.
This is likely to be one of the most significant retrofits that you make to your camping vehicle. They don’t come cheap but they are worth it if you’re a frequent traveller.
Decide the right fuel source for you and if you want an onboard tank or not. Once you have these points in mind it will become much easier for you to find the right system.
The Truma UltraRapid gas water heater system is one of the most popular on the market, and for good reason. It’s fairly priced and works efficiently. Furthermore, with Truma, you know that you’ll get the support you ask for.
However, if you want to save money or avoid using gas, the Suburban SW5EA is a great alternative. It’s incredibly cheap by comparison to the listed gas heating systems. The large storage tank is another bonus.
We only recommend Truma’s Combi D6 Diesel Heater if you need the space heating as well as the water heating. You simply won’t get the full value out of it otherwise. While it’s an excellent unit, it’s also incredibly expensive.
If you have any questions about water heaters or any of these products, please comment below!
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Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.