That old Suburban RV water heater needs to be replaced, but what model do I buy?
Can a 10 or 12 gallon fit where my 6 gallon heater is?
Is the tankless really the best choice?
Well, keep reading!
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Suburban RV Water Heater Review Guide
If you’ve ever owned a recreational vehicle, trailer, motor home or 5th wheel – there’s a good chance a Suburban RV water heater was inside. Suburban is a major manufacture of RV water heaters and is a company that has been in business for many years.
They’re well entrenched in the marketplace with various partnerships with RV and trailer manufacturers and dealers. But they also sell to the general public, offering a wide variety of water heaters that perform admirably wherever the open road takes you.
A Mind-Boggling Variety Simplified
But like a lot of manufacturers, Suburban produces numerous different models identified mainly by numbers. This makes it somewhat confusing particularly for individual buyers who simply want a replacement water heater for their existing RV.
As we dug a little deeper, we were shocked by the number of variations in models that Suburban offers. We knew that a buyer’s guide like this one would be helpful to those looking for an ideal replacement for a water heater that is no longer functioning as it did when it was new.
Sorting It Out and Finding Your Best Match
We will begin this in-depth look with a brief discussion of the various categories of RV water heaters made by Suburban.
This includes their tankless water heaters, Motor Aid versions, and Advantage line. Plus, numerous models in each of the six, ten and twelve gallon sizes. Which happen to be the most common sizes for RVs trailers, motor homes and fifth wheels.
If you’re looking for a replacement water heater, you’ll want one that will meet your current and future needs and will fit in the opening where your existing water heater sits. Ideally, you’ll want a replacement water heater that slides right in and connects easily to the existing wires and hoses with minimal extra work.
All Suburban RV Water Heater Tanks Are Tested
Every suburban RV water heater meets strict quality standards. For example, all of their tanks are pressure tested – not once but twice – during the manufacturing process to ensure the integrity of the tank.
That’s reassuring, since the last thing anyone wants is a leaking hot water tank.
Where Suburban Really Shines
This is where a Suburban RV water heater becomes an obvious choice for consumers looking to replace their current system.
That’s because Suburban has standardized sizes and all their current water heaters are an identical size to early versions. This makes replacing the water heater in your RV or trailer a relatively simple task.
If you go to a larger size than your existing unit, you’ll want to be sure that your RV can accommodate your new water heater. Sometimes this requires making modifications to the opening, in order to fit a slightly larger water heater inside.
A Perfect Fit Every Time
One of the big advantages of going with the Suburban RV water heater as your replacement of choice is that the existing opening in your RV is likely a perfect fit for a brand-new replacement.
Suburban wisely made the decision to maintain standard sizes even though they’ve significantly improved in terms of functionality over the years.
So if you’re replacing a 15 year old 6 gallon Suburban RV water heater with a new Suburban – you can count on it being a perfect fit. All the screw and bolt holes line up perfectly.
And your electrical and plumbing connections are in the perfect spot making it the job of replacement that much easier.
A Sure Bet in a Sea of Possibility
The easiest possible replacement is to go with a new water heater of the same size. Therefore if your current water heater is a 6 gallon version, your easiest replacement is a new 6 gallon model – for example, the Suburban RV water heater SW6DE.
If you’ve already got a 10 or 12 gallon size, you can replace it with the same just as handily.
By the way, the 12 gallon models from Suburban are essentially the same overall size as their 10 gallon siblings. This means that if you want to increase the capacity of your hot water tank, you can easily do so.
Every 12 gallon model fits into any opening made for a 10 gallon Suburban water heater. The only difference is that they are a little bit longer, so you need a little more room on the depth.
All 6 gallon models are the same overall size. Just as it’s the same with all 10 gallon and 12 gallon versions in the Suburban lineup.
So it’s a matter of meeting your hot water needs, fitting into the available space in your camper, trailer, 5th wheel, etc., and giving you the functionality that you want – without breaking the bank. And Suburban can help in all these areas.
Understanding The Various Suburban RV Water Heater Models
Model numbers can be found on the inside flange of each Suburban water heater.
The most basic 6 gallon model would be identified as model SW6P. The SW presumably means Suburban Water heater. The “6” indicates the gallon size, and the “P” indicates Pilot (Light) only.
So, the most basic version of water heater suburban makes is fueled by propane and is ignited by a pilot light, which you have to start manually, on the outside of your RV or trailer.
The same functionality in a 10 gallon size would be identified as an SW10P and in the 12 gallon size as SW12P.
The next level of upgrade in a 6 gallon capacity is labeled SW6D. In this case the “D” stands for Direct Spark Starting.
With this option, you locate the switch (purchased separately, or re-deployed from your existing water heater) somewhere inside your coach. It’s a more convenient way of igniting the propane to heat your water, without having to step outside.
Next up (in the 6 gallon line) is the Suburban RV water heater SW6DE. This model features Direct Spark Ignition indicated by the “D”) as well as a 120 Volt heating element. This one is an even better version as it is both electric and gas powered water heating capability. So you can use propane or electric power – or both.
Using both simultaneously gives you the ability to replenish hot water noticeably faster than you can by using propane or electricity on its own. And with the electronic switch, you never have to go outside your RV or trailer to get the hot water flowing.
Note: the SW6DE has the 120VAC wire hooked directly to the water heater at the junction box. The control switch is located on the front of the water heater. Whereas, the SW6DEL uses a 12 volt relay and a second switch inside the RV to turn on the 120 volt power to the water heater.
You’ll Probably Need Extra Components Too
As a manufacturer, Suburban provides quality, reliable replacement RV water heaters. What they don’t provide is all the additional hardware you might need. They also don’t supply the switch (for electronic starting) the replacement door panel – all of which may (or may not) be necessary for a complete installation.
Presumably the reason is that the specific needs of one customer can vary greatly to the next. Some people have identical units previously installed and can swap out parts like brass fittings.
Some may even already have a switch located inside their coach which can be connected to the new water heater, while another will need to buy the switch as an add-on purchase.
And the door that you buy is going to be specific to your situation. Not all doors are the same so you’ll need to choose the correct one for your application.
Replacement Door Panels
As for door panels, Suburban provides them in 2 different colors – polar white and off-white – and in 2 different styles – standard and flush mount.
Standard doors are set out from the coach (about half an inch) and fold down.
The other style of door (flush mount) is set less noticeably on the outside of the coach, about 3/16 of an inch.
Flush mount doors provide a smoother side surface and a cleaner finish. You know that it’s a flush mount door by the two pins located on the bottom of the frame that holds the door. There are replacement door panels available for every size of Suburban RV water heater.
With the 6 gallon models, you can choose the door style you want. But the 10 gallon models all seem to require a flush mount door.
Overall, Suburban manufactures well designed and built RV water heaters. That’s something you’d expect from a brand that’s been around as long as Suburban has. Every water heater comes with a Standard warranty that covers two years on everything, plus a three year warranty on the tank itself.
Looking Under The Hood
All of Suburban’s tank-based water heaters are made of steel with an interior that’s coated in porcelain. Each tank is surrounded by foam insulation to help keep the water inside warm. They also come with large diameter drains and replaceable anode rods.
The anode rod is actually attached to the drain, so it’s easy to replace as needed. This is important since it’s the anode rod that takes the hit from hot water. With its porcelain finish, these tanks easily withstand the corrosive effect of hot water.
But heated water corrodes most metals. Therefore the anode rod should probably be replaced every year. That’s one way to ensure that your entire water heating system lasts longer.
These 6,10 and 12 gallon tank-based units have an input rating of 12,000 BTU’s per hour.
All models are efficient at recovering hot water to the preset temperature. Propane powered units offer recovery rates of about 10.2 gallons per hour.
Those Suburban RV water heaters with the additional electric element provide an additional 6 gallons per hour. That gives you a total of more than 16 gallons per hour when you have both electric and gas power activated at the same time.
Relatively Easy To Install Though Your Mileage May Vary
Generally speaking, these replacement water heaters are not difficult to install. Everything (electrical and plumbing) is where it should be. So it’s simply a matter of replacing your old unit with one of these new models and connecting it the right way. Suburban RV water heaters operate reliably and with little maintenance.
Suburban RV Water Heater Motor-Aided Technology
Model number SW10DEM has a motor-aided water heating system. That simply means that the vehicle’s engine cooling system (hot radiator fluid) flows around the outside of the water heater.
That pre-warms the water so that your water heater doesn’t have to work so hard. Resulting in more hot water at a lower cost.
Suburban Water Heater Buyer’s Guide – Our Top Picks
Number 1: Suburban Tankless Water Heater 5286A
So far we’ve mostly discussed the traditional tank-based water heaters. But Suburban also offers tankless too.
This tankless water heater measures 22″ (deep) x 15″ x 15″ and cranks out 60,000 BTUs of heat.
According to previous buyers, it performs reliably – and over a number of years. This tankless water heater also operates quietly, so it’s unlikely to disturb anyone in your RV.
This WILL fit in the opening of a 6 gallon heater. It’s shower time – Click Here
With this on-demand Suburban RV water heater, you can enjoy a longer, hotter shower or bath whenever you want. That’s because by gong tankless, you won’t be limited by the size of your hot water tank. So you can do the dishes and even laundry at the same time because there’s an infinite supply of hot water from multiple fixtures simultaneously.
As an RV or trailer owner you understand that weight is always a factor because you need to stay well below capacity. Since there’s no holding container full of water, this tankless system makes an excellent choice. It reduces your weight and it increases energy efficiency by only operating as the need for hot water arises.
This tankless water heater can replace any 6, 10, 12 or 16 gallon tank model, as well as 6 and 10 gallon aluminum tank water heaters.
It boasts 60,000 BTU’s plus two-stage modulating combustion system (MCS) which adjusts the flow of propane to provide consistent hot water for your comfort.
Suburban’s on-demand tankless water heater weighs just 36 pounds and is equipped with a freeze protection mechanism – an invaluable component when the temperature drops.
This Suburban tankless model also deploys high-tech direct spark ignition for reliable and safe operations every time.
But be aware that the intake and exhaust vent, as well as the exterior door or access panel and the wall control thermostat are all sold separately.
As with any on-demand tankless water heater, it needs a certain amount of water flow to function properly. If you interrupt the flow of water and it drops below the minimum level, the unit will shut down and you’ll experience temporary cold water. This can last for a few seconds until the flow is back up. When the flow of water is restricted, the system detects this and it shuts down the water heater.
That’s why it’s not a good idea to use a water saver type of showerhead in your RV if you go with a tankless water heater. The only time to use one of those showerheads is when you have limited water supply and you’re trying to conserve what you have.
- It’s excellent because you can set the temperature you like without using cold water
- Endless hot water – it’s a comforting feeling not having to worry about running out of hot water
- Enjoy hot and invigorating five to seven minute showers
- You don’t necessarily need to purchase a thermostat because the water is preset at 120°F
- Economical to operate (propane use is sparse)
- Quality build from a reputable brand
- Excellent price
- Easy to install (not so for all folks)
- Works really well
- All parts are not included (you get the water heater itself, but you may need to buy other components to complete the installation the right way)
- With some shipments, the manual seems to be missing
- It’s not instant hot water (It takes about seven seconds to get warm water when you’re close to the water heater and about 10 seconds to get the temperature as hot as you need it for a good shower. But for the water to travel 15 feet to the other end of the RV and flow as hot as you like – it can take about 20 seconds or more.)
Number 2: Suburban SW6PE Water Heater (6 Gallon 5118A)
This one scores 4.6 out of 5 possible stars from nearly 175 actual customer reviews, which is quite impressive, particularly in such a competitive marketplace.
It’s a basic but reliable unit that uses liquid propane as the heat source, with a pilot that gets ignited manually.
This means going outside in order to ignite the pilot light to get the water heating up.
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It features a 6 gallon steel tank coated with porcelain and surrounded with thick foam insulation. It also comes with a large size drain and replaceable anode rod which absorbs any corrosion, thereby helping to maintain the integrity of the tank itself.
Overall dimensions measure 12 11/16 inches high by 12 11/16 inches wide by 19 3/16 inches deep. There’s a one-piece housing supplied that is designed to protect the controls and connections, while at the same time, provide easy access.
You adjust water temperature by controlling the flow of gas at the valve. The more you open the valve, the more gas will flow and the hotter the water will get.
Some consider this to be an old-fashioned type hot water heater with a pilot light and propane as the heat source. On the upside, there are no electronics that can break down and you never have to worry about a dead battery. As long as you have propane – you should be able to enjoy plenty of hot water.
- Simple, straightforward and smooth installation (rest assured you can install this without a lot of hassles that you might fear would come up – particularly as a retrofitted water heater on an older RV)
- Reasonably energy-efficient hot water
- Reliable performer
- Excellent functionality (works exactly as it should)
- Easily fits into an old RV to replace a hot water heater of the same size
- Once the pilot is lit it starts running and you can enjoy a lot of hot water once it gets to the right temperature
- Fits perfectly into the existing opening (even the screw and bolt holes lineup perfectly)
- Pilot is easy to light and it stays lit
- Sometimes the pilot light goes out (it’s annoying to wake up wanting to shower, only to discover you have to go step outside to ignite the pilot again)
- Doesn’t come with the panel cover or electric start – these are extra accessories
This one delivers 12,000 BTUs and 1500 Watts of power.
Overall, its dimensions are as follows: height is 12 11/16, width is 12 11/16 and the depth is 19 3/16. When empty, this water tank weighs 36 pounds.
This design is a combination unit offering both liquid propane and 120V electric as your source of energy. You can use one or the other -or both – for increased efficiency.
Since it’s electronically controlled, it’s a little more convenient to operate. The switch is located on the water heater.
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If you’re looking for a Suburban 6 gallon RV water heater that will do the job, you just found it. This one is designed as a replacement and therefore, everything lines up perfectly.
- It works consistently well
- Gets the water nice and hot
- Fits perfectly in the existing opening originally established by the manufacturer of the trailer
- Heats up quickly (in just 30 minutes, you can have plenty of hot water for a hot shower, shave, or to wash a full load of dishes)
- Easy to control with the flip of a switch (no more manual lighting of the pilot)
- If you lack experience with water heaters, you may want to hire a professional to do the installation for you which can add significantly to the total cost
Number 4: Suburban SW6DEL RV Water Heater #5240A With Direct Spark Ignition and Electric Heat
This water heater captures a solid 4.6 out of 5 stars from nearly 250 actual customer ratings. That’s a sizable number of happy customers and worth taking note of.
The SW6DEL model is another 6 gallon water tank with 12,000 BTUs. Overall dimensions of the SW6DEL water heater are as follows: 12 11/16″ x 12 11/16″ x 19 3/16″.
It weighs just 32.9 pounds and it comes with a 12 Volt DC direct spark ignition, propane gas and an electric element heating system.
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This 6 gallon Suburban RV Water Heater utilizes both propane and electricity to heat the water – which can be very helpful at times.
With this one, you get all the elements and design you’d expect from Suburban. This includes the porcelain-lined steel tank, replaceable anode rod, exterior gas line connection that makes it extra convenient, plus the one piece housing to protect your controls.
The replaceable anode can help you get two or three times the life expectancy from your water heater.
With faster recovery times, you’ll get more hot water as you need it. This one has a recovery rate of 10.2 gallons per hour which is among the fastest in the RV water heater industry.
This water heater also has the electric element that runs on 120 volts. The gas burner requires 12 volts to operate the igniter. You will have a switch inside the RV to turn on the 120 volt power. If you are at a campsite you can use both gas and electric. This will give you plenty of hot water and a faster recovery rate.
But if you happen to be somewhere without an electric hook up you can still get a good supply of hot water using propane as your heat source.
It’s nice to have the ability to heat your water with both propane and electricity on those cold mornings by simply flipping a switch. This helps you enjoy your time a little more – whenever you’re out and about in your RV or 5th wheel.
- You control it with a switch that is mounted inside your RV for convenience
- It’s a perfect fit as a replacement water heater (slips right in without making any cuts in the wall, and gas and water fittings line up perfectly)
- Heats water fast and maintains the temperature quite well
- Offers both propane and electric heating capability which can be used together or independently, whatever the circumstances warrant
- Installs exactly where the old water heater was and with relative ease
- At minimal additional cost you get two different ways to heat your water, so you’re never stuck without hot water
- You can save buying additional parts by reusing fittings and wires from your previous water heater
- You can enjoy terrific 20 to 25 minute long hot showers without worry
- It’s a good-quality water heater. Ruggedly built water tank
- Works well consistently
- Some slight design improvements over earlier models
- If you’re installing this in an old RV, you may have to run an independent 12 Volt power line to the heater – that’s the only way the DSI system will work
- You have to buy a new cover panel or reuse your old one
- There’s no groove in the insulation for the gas line to run – so the line can get kinked – particularly for an inexperienced installer
- It’s a little pricey for a 6 gallon water heater
- It’s somewhat noisy (though it works well)
Number 5: Suburban Model Number SW6D (5238A) 6 Gallon With Direct Spark Ignition
This one rates 4.8 out of five stars from almost 100 customer reviews. That’s an admirable score from a statistically valid number of buyers.
Overall dimensions are as follows 12 11/16″ high by 12 11/16″ wide by 19 3/16″ deep. That means you require a rough opening of about 12 and three-quarter inches square as your minimum opening.
Gas input is measured at 12,000 BTUs and the net weight while empty is 33.3 pounds. When it’s full of water, this one weighs 81.9 pounds.
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This model is propane fueled only, with a 12 V electronic direct spark ignition. You will need to purchase the switch (or reuse one you already have) as that’s how you control your water heater.
Suburban doesn’t include all the fittings, connections and hoses that you may need. For example, they don’t include the two brass fittings where your hot and cold water connects. Perhaps they assume you can reuse the fittings that are already there. But it’s important to know that you may need to replace them to complete the installation.
- Does a great job keeping up with the demand for hot water – even from a family of five who want to take one shower after another
- It’s easy to switch to this one as a replacement for a worn-out unit
- Everything fits perfectly
- Having the ability to flip a switch and have enough hot water in your RV ten or fifteen minutes later is wonderful
- Once done, you can then shut the propane off to conserve energy
- Meets the demand for hot water for many trailer, 5th wheel and RV owners
- Good value for the money
- Consistently delivers when called upon
- Faulty electronics can mean a circuit board does not last and needs to be replaced
- Would be helpful if there was a slight indentation in the insulation to accommodate the gas line (it’s difficult to work in such a tight space – especially for the inexperienced)
- Its price seems somewhat high (but that seems to be the case with whatever water heater you buy)
- It can require someone who is pretty handy or crafty and experienced with tools in order to install this correctly (It’s always best to have your water heater installed by a competent professional. It adds to your cost – but gives you a whole lot of peace of mind)
Number 6: Suburban SAW6D Advantage Water Heater (5321A)
Although only two buyers have rated this as of this writing, they gave it a 4.0 out of 5 possible stars.
This water heater is part of the Advantage line of water heaters by Suburban.
It features a direct spark ignition for quick and reliable starting on demand.
At 10,000 BTUs, it is said that Advantage RV water heater by Suburban delivers 12% more BTUs per hour input than aluminum tank models.
Includes the Incoloy electric heating element. Check It Out – Click Here
It also offers quick recovery rates. Using propane, recovery is listed as 8.4 gallons per hour. And while using electricity only, the hot water recovery rate is stated as 6.1 gallons per hour.
Combined, you get an increased recovery rate of 14.5 gallons per hour. That’s probably more than enough for most family’s needs.
Advantage RV water heaters by Suburban are designed to replace aluminum tank water heaters.
As with the other models by the same brand, this one is made from steel and coated with porcelain. It’s constructed in a similar fashion to most residential tank-based water heaters, complete with an anode rod that protects the tank from corrosion.
You can use a generator or campsite power to deploy the Incoloy electric element tank accessory. This is an added option (at additional cost) and as of this writing, does not come standard with this particular model. Although some sellers do include it.
It’s always a good idea to have your water heater installed and/or serviced by qualified service technician, rather than trying to do it yourself. That’s the safest way to go about it, unless you yourself are experienced and capable of going it alone.
By the way, having your water heater professionally installed is the only way to be fully protected by the warranty. Doing it yourself voids the warranty, as it does with most manufacturers.
Number 7: Suburban Direct Spark Ignition 6 Gallon Advantage Water Heater SAW6DEL (5322A)
Provides almost 2 more gallons per hour than the SAW6D (listed above)
This 6 gallon Suburban model includes the Incoloy electric element – giving you propane and electric power to heat your water – wherever you set up to camp.
However, it does not include the 12 Volt on/off switch that is required to control the gas and enable quick ignition.
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This Advantage model replaces aluminum tank water heaters and boasts 1440 Watts of power and 10,000 BTUs of heat.
Its recovery rate is listed as 8.48 gallons per hour, using liquid propane alone. Deploying the electric element instead provides a recovery rate of 6.1 gallons per hour. And to achieve a faster recovery rate, you can combine both propane and electricity and by doing so gain 16.2 gallons of hot water per hour.
Ignition of the propane is controlled by a switch that you mount inside of your RV at a convenient location. But this model of water heater also allows you to utilize generator power or a campground electrical hookup to heat your water.
Dimensions for this model measure 16 1/8″ wide by 12 1/2″ high by 17 5/8″ deep.
- Efficient water recovery means you don’t have to wait long to get a full tank of hot water
- It’s a reliable RV water heater
- It’s a Suburban RV water heater – so it comes from a company with decades of experience
- It’s not exactly cheap
Number 8: Suburban SW10PE – 10 Gallons Gas and Electric Combo (5123A)
If what you’re looking for is a replacement 10 gallon RV water heater, than you’ll want to check out this Suburban RV water heater.
It scores a respectable 4.6 out of 5 possible stars from just under 10 customers reporting.
Like the other suburban models made specifically for RV’s we’ve looked at, this one makes an excellent replacement for a worn-out hot water system.
If you’ve got the space for a 10 gallon unit – this water heater can provide an abundance of hot water whenever you need it.
It offers a higher recovery rate, 12,000 BTUs of heat, as well as a porcelain-coated steel tank that’s surrounded by foam insulation.
You also get a large diameter drain and replaceable anode rod designed to absorb any corrosion and preserve the tank.
There’s also a one piece housing that protects the controls and connections while at the same time, making those connections readily accessible.
- Top-level customer service
- Everything installs smoothly (It’s like a perfect replacement water heater)
- Works consistently and heats water fast
- Plenty of capacity means hot, comfortable showers for everyone
- Doesn’t ship with the panel cover or switch (you have to purchase those separately)
- Some consider it a little pricey
Number 9: Suburban SW10DEM With Motor-Aided Heating. 10 Gallon Gas and Electric Water Heater (5145A)
Only a couple of actual buyers have rated this water heater as of this writing. But collectively, they give it a 4.5 out of possible stars. So the ratings for this product are headed in a positive direction.
This RV water heater measures 16 7/32″ high by 16 7/32″ wide by 20 1/2″ deep.
As with all of Suburban’s tank-type water heaters, this one is porcelain-lined steel and comes with a replaceable anode rod to absorb the corrosion.
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It’s a solid choice as an RV water heater – no matter where your travels take you. This thing is well-engineered and built. In fact, you may be able to get double or triple the life expectancy from this hot water tank system, which can save you significant costs over the years to come.
The “DEM” designation in the model number indicates that this is a direct spark ignition with electric element and Motor Aid. What this model enables you to do is use your engines cooling system to heat the water as you drive. It’s a brilliant concept and an environmentalists dream.
It contributes heat, thus reducing energy demand. Heat from your engine’s cooling system is not enough on its own to provide you with the hot water you like for your shower – or to wash dishes with. But you are never without hot water because this one uses both propane and electricity as primary sources of heat.
We have to admit that that Motor Aid system is pretty cool. It deploys heat exchangers to circulate the radiator coolant from the engine through a tube that surrounds the wall of the water heater. It’s an efficient way to boost the temperature of that water and thereby reduce the energy you need to bring it up to the temperature you want.
As with other models from Suburban, this water heater is controlled by a switch which you need to purchase separately.
You can use propane or take advantage of any campground’s electrical supply, or your own generator to heat the water with 1440 Watt Incoloy electric element. Heating by electricity provides a recovery rate of 6.1 gallons per hour.
If you want to reach the maximum recovery rate 16.2 gallons per hour you need to use both gas and electric simultaneously.
Empty, this tank weighs 60 pounds – so it’s no lightweight. When full, it weighs in at 143.4 pounds. This motor aided system is an environmentally friendly and efficient RV water heater from Suburban.
- It’s a clever and efficient way to pre-heat water
- Makes a good choice for anyone concerned about the environment
- Good hot water capacity so you never run out
- Perfect replacement for an older 10 gallon model
- A little pricey (though it does things other water heaters don’t do)
Number 10: Suburban SW10DE – 10 Gallon Direct Spark With Electric Element (5243A)
This one scores a stellar 4.7 out of five stars from almost 200 actual customer reviews.
With that kind of favorable rating, it’s no surprise that this model is Amazon’s choice for “RV water heater”. For a prospective 10 gallon Suburban RV water heater buyer – that’s a good thing.
It’s a sizable hot water tank with a 10 Gallon capacity and it heats water fast when using propane – with 12,000 BTU’s of heat.
Empty, it weighs 45.5 pounds. And when filled with water, it tips the scale at 126.5 pounds. The overall dimensions are 16 7/32″ by 16 7/32″ by 20.5″.
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You’ll need to purchase the switch separately, but you’ll be glad you did because it gives you incredible convenience of switching between electronic and propane power without having to leave your coach. If you’ve ever used this kind of water heater before, you likely would not want to go back to a manually lit pilot system.
When you turn the electric switch on, it will use electricity to heat your water. In colder weather camping, it’s a good idea to leave the switch activated and turn the gas on as well so you can use both systems simultaneously. This way you’ll be able to get that hot water you want for a good shower, more efficiently.
10 gallons is an ideal size tank for just about any RV. And purchasing a 10 gallon model can save you about $100 (over a comparable 12 gallons version).
You’ll have a water heater that delivers about the same recovery time in the same physical space as a 12 gallon model would take. And 10 gallons is more than enough – in the majority of situations.
Of course, if those extra 2 gallons are important to you, than by all means you should opt for the larger version.
- Heats water up quickly – whether on electricity or propane
- Ideal fit in the opening and a perfect replacement
- Easy to install with color-coded wires
- Entire installation can take less than an hour (if you’ve got some experience with a 10 gallon RV water heater like this one)
- Reasonable price means you’re getting good value
- It’s easy to connect and easy to operate (it’s basically plug-and-play)
- Gas valve fits exactly onto the propane connection easily
- Water gets really hot, which is what you want from a water heater
- It runs relatively quietly
- You can now enjoy a lengthy hot water shower in your RV without turning the water off and waiting for it to reheat
- The quality of this water heater is excellent
- With a 10 gallon capacity, there’s plenty of hot water to go around
- This does not come with a door or frame for the door – you need to order this separately (unfortunately, it is not clearly explained upfront that the cover does not come with the system and this can delay getting an RV or trailer back to running hot water)
- Some say it’s a little costly – like most water heaters are
Number 11: Suburban SW10P – 10 Gallon Water Heater With Pilot (5122A)
This is a basic unit from Suburban in a larger size. It offers liquid propane as the fuel source with a pilot light, which needs to be ignited manually from the outside of the RV.
You won’t need a secondary pump because these water heaters are pressurized by the water supply they’re connected to. Water flows from the source you’re using and fills the tank.
Once activated, it heats the water by using liquid propane.
- Proven reliable water heater that supplies hot water as needed
- Easy to maintain
- Makes a good replacement water heater that fits right in
- Has a fast water recovery rate (so there’s not a lot of waiting around)
- It works great
- This one can save you considerable money (versus a more expensive model or competing brand)
- If this is your first ever replacement water heater, prepare to spend more time installing it and getting it just right
Number 12: Suburban SW12DEL – 12 Gallons Direct Spark Electric (5248A)
This one rates 4.9 out of five stars from an admittedly small sampling of less than 25 customer reviews. Still, that’s a very high rating. So clearly this product has so far delivered satisfaction.
Input BTUs measure 12,000 and the SW12DEL boasts 1440 Watts of power.
Recovery time in propane gas mode is 10.1 gallons per hour. In electric mode, it recovers at a rate of 6.2 gallons per hour. Combined, both power sources can deliver more than 16 gallons in one hour.
Inside mounted switch control of the heating element. Click Here
Suburban water heaters are long known for their dependability and longevity. And this model is no exception. But as with other models by the brand, this one does not come with the indoor controls or the door panel you may need to complete the installation.
Should you need those pieces, you will have to buy them separately. But you might have these already in your RV. If you save them, you may be able to reuse after the new water heater is installed.
- Relatively easy installation
- Works very well and provides an abundance of hot water in the RV
- Fast recovery times means less waiting for hot water
- Fits into the existing opening like a glove and connected just as easily
- The 12 Volt relay switch makes life so much easier (It lets you control the water heater’s gas ignition and power from the comfort of your RV)
- Good value for the money
- The pressure relief valve can leak
- A little on the expensive side (as are most water heaters)
- Seems to burn through propane at a rate that’s greater than the same size water heater it is replacing
Number 13: Suburban SW12DE 12 Gallon Direct Spark Electric Element Water Heater (5247A)
This Suburban RV water heater scores an impressive 4.7 out of five stars from nearly 60 buyers reporting.
The hot water recovery rate in gas mode is 10.1 gallons per hour and an electric – 6.1 gallons per hour.
Combined, that’s 16.2 gallons per hour – enough to supply the daily needs of RV enthusiasts everywhere – including “lifers”.
Replace that old 10 gallon with this 12 gallon – It fits! Click Here
It features a direct spark electric ignition and has all the advantages of the popular SW10 gallon series – with an increased water capacity of 2 gallons.
This 12 gallon capacity tank measures 16 7/32″ high by 16 7/32″ wide by 22 1/4″ deep.
It’s essentially the same size physically as the 10 gallon model, so you can fit it in the same size opening. The only changes that you need are an extra one and three-quarter inches in depth, compared to the 10 gallons tank model and typically, that’s not a problem in most RV applications.
- Has a pressure release valve built-in on the top side (which is easily accessible from outside the RV and allows water to drain from the tank when emptying and it allows air to escape when filling the tank)
- Provides plenty of hot water
- It’s basically a plug-and-play installation because everything lines up beautifully
- You won’t run out of hot water while using both gas and electricity
- Water supplied is very hot
- This is a good quality, well-made product
- Only using electricity, you can take a hot shower for as long as you want (without fear of running out of hot water and experiencing sudden, bone-chilling cold water)
- Seems to produce more hot-water than most users need
- Provides a quick recovery rate (even with back-to-back showers)
- Somewhat inefficient (this water heater seems to burn propane at a rate that’s almost double that of the hot water heater it replaces)
- Pressure valve can leak after only a couple of months
- Doesn’t burn propane nearly as effectively at higher elevations (reportedly it struggled at 8000 feet above sea level where the air is thinner)
- A little on the expensive side
The Verdict On The Suburban RV Water Heater
If you’re looking for the right replacement for a broken down water heater for your RV, trailer, motor home or fifth wheel, consider one of our Suburban RV water heater selections featured here.
Chances are, the water heater you’re looking for is one that will fit right in where your old water heater is, and install with relative ease. That’s what you get from Suburban.
They offer a wide range to suit every need and have proven to be a reliable brand for years.
We’ve selected the best models and showcased them here. Choose one that fits your space and meets your hot water needs and you can’t go wrong.
We highly recommend these Suburban RV water heaters and are sure you’ll be equally thrilled by their performance.
Best 6 gallon Suburban RV water heater: Suburban Sw6Del (5240A)
Best Suburban Advantage RV water heater: SAW6DEL (5322A)
Best 10 gallon Suburban RV water heater: SW10DE (5243A)
Best 12 gallon Suburban RV water heater SW12DEL (5248A)
Further reading about Atwood RV water heaters