There are two main manufacturers of RV water heaters, Atwood and Suburban with the majority of RV water heaters and motor home water heaters being either one or the other. The RVs, which do not come with one of these water heaters, are typically in the higher priced range for motor homes which use instantaneous water heaters or some variety of engine assist water heater.
For those units that do have the Suburban water heater, you will typically find them with tanks ranging from 4 to 6 gallons with standard-mount doors. One of the main benefits of the Suburban RV water heater is their longer performance life primarily due to the two protective parts and systems, one of which is the anode rod that almost neutralizes the aggressive water action on the metal tank. The other protective element is the porcelain lining made of a corrosion resistant material to prevent the heated water from drastically harming your RV heating unit. Suburban Water Heaters are offered with a three-year warranty, but to prolong the unit life, proper maintenance is recommended.
The second brand and equally as good as the Suburban is the Atwood Water Heater. This style of water heater features a patented through-tube combustion chamber which utilizes the pilot flame to help maintain water temperature thus preventing heat energy loss. Atwood units are very lightweight and compact which allows them to fit into spaces as small as 121/2" x 16" allowing all controls to be accessible from the front for easy servicing. A large number of Atwood Water Heaters feature a heat exchange system that allows the water from the vehicles engine to be piped to the water heater and then returned to the engines cooling system as cool fresh water. For units that have this option the water in the heater storage tank is first heated by the waste heat from the engine while driving so you will use far less LP gas. The Atwood high-performance models deliver about 27% more hot water than standard water heaters. The mix of both gas and electric provides an increased recovery rate of 50% over the standard gas heater.
For both Suburban and Atwood units which are gas, they use either pilot light or direct spark ignition. RV Water heaters with ignition system with direct spark ignition are best in areas that typically see a large amount of bad weather so you can control the water heater and heating process with a remote switch from inside of the RV. For units that are equipped with pilot lights there is reignitor which keeps you from having to relight the pilot when it is extinguished or when the gas supply is turned off.
The RV’s and Motor homes that are equipped with the 6 to 16 gallon size of Suburban water heater are fast recovery units with 12,000 BTU gas input and provide as much as10.2 gallons per hour recovery and with a specially designed insulation jacket, more heat remains used and less heat loss. By utilizing both an electric heating element and gas burner at the same time it is possible to achieve an even faster recovery rate.
Since they are small in size, Suburban RV water heaters can be installed very easily and are convenient to use, operate and maintain. Even if you have an RV heating unit from other manufacturer installed it can be replaced and with Suburban accessories the installation is a snap.