How to Know Your RV Water Heater Switch On or Off?

RV water heaters undoubtedly add to the enjoyment of camping. However, some often lead to more problems than they solve; like don’t even let you know when they are on. Something similar occurred with my new Cedar Creek Silverback fifth wheel that required some trial and error to resolve.

So how to know whether your RV water heater switch is on or off? It depends on the heater type (electric or gas-powered or both), the location, and the design of the switch. Switches may have clear labels or be hidden behind panels. And, of course, you can also check your faucet for hot water.

Let’s find out how to determine if your RV water heater switch is on or off, and what to do in different situations.


How to Know if Your RV Water Heater Switch Is on or Off?

Determining whether your RV’s water heater is on or off is easy once you locate it. You should, of course, check the faucets first to see if there is hot water. If not, and you’re unsure whether it’s working fine, you should try the following.

Electric Water Heaters

Modern electric heater switches on RVs are usually located inside the thermostat. However, they’re typically found by the hot water access panel outside on traditional models.

Electric RV water heaters may have two switches: one for 120-volt AC and one for 12-volt DC. If your RV is plugged into an electrical source, the 120-volt switch will be on, and the water heater should work. If not, then the 12-volt switch may need to be turned on.

Gas Water Heaters

If you have a gas water heater, there will be a switch on the outside of the RV near the propane tank. I found mine on my Cedar Creek Silverback fifth wheels Suburban heater by the front passenger-side tire. The switch may have an indicator light that shows whether it is on or off.

However, the switches on other models may be different. Some may be behind a panel, so you will need to look for it. 

Read Also: 7 Easy Solutions For RV Water Heater Igniter Not Clicking

Understand the Design of Your Switch

As I mentioned, some RV water heater switches are hidden behind access panels that you must remove before operating the switch. But hidden or not, most usually come with labels. If you can’t find the switch, look for a label that says “water heater” or “WH.”

On my RV, the switch was labeled “Water Heater,” and it had an arrow that showed the direction to turn the switch on. I’d also found some models where the sign “O” indicated that the switch was off, and “I” meant that it was on.

Check the Manual 

If you can’t find the switch or are still confused with the design, try checking the user manual that came with your RV. If you don’t have it, you can look up the model number online and find it that way.

What to Do If You Can’t Find the Switch?

Sometimes you may not find the switches at all, and this can be very frustrating. 

The only way to check or turn the water heater on or off if the switches are really missing is to open the water heater case and remove the heater plate and then operate manually as instructed in your owner’s manual.

It is also important to fill the tank before the switch is manually turned on. Unless you do this beforehand, you risk destroying all the elements.

Read Also: Why Is The Dometic RV Water Heater Not Working On Electric?

Can You Leave Your RV Water Heater Switch Always On?

Yes, you probably can. Leaving the switch on for convenience is a common practice, especially if the switch is difficult to reach. And it seems to make sense since the heater is only powered when there is electricity or propane connected to the RV, whereas keeping the switch on reduces wear.

However, you must ensure water is always available in the tank since empty tanks are a leading cause of RV water heater burst pipes. Also, if you don’t use the heater for an extended period, you should at least open the pressure relief valve to prevent the buildup of too much pressure.

Yet, I recommend against it when powering the heater with an inverter since it will put extra strain on the battery. Besides, the large load may trip the circuit breaker.

The best you could do is turn it off while driving and then turn it back on when camping. By doing so, you will save some power, and the battery won’t be overworked.

Read Also: What Size Socket Is The Best For Water Heater Element

What to Do When Your RV Water Heater Switch Stops Working?

Sometimes, the switch may become stuck on or off despite there being no malfunction within the heater. I once had a situation where I couldn’t turn the switch on and thought the heater was broken.

Fortunately, I found that the problem was with the switch itself, which had become corroded, the usual case for most RVs. The solution was to use a little WD-40 to lubricate the switch, and it started working again.

However, there could be some other reasons as well. So, if my above solution isn’t for you take one of the following actions:

  1. The first thing you should do is check the circuit breakers since they may have flipped.  
  2. Check if there is a loose wire. This could be the reason why the switch isn’t working as it should.
  3. Pry out the switch using a screwdriver and check if there is any obvious damage. If so, you may need to replace the switch.
  4. If you have a gas water heater, check the propane tank to see if it’s full. 
  5. If you have an electric water heater, check the power supply to see if it’s working. You may have to go to the fuse box and check if there’s a blown fuse.
  6. Check the water heater for any blockages that may be preventing it from working.

Read Also: 5 Common Reasons Why Your RV Water Heater Won’t Shut Off

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, I have answered a few frequently asked questions related to RV water heater switches.

How do I reset my RV water heater switch?

There is usually a button alongside the switch that you can press to reset it. However, if that doesn’t work, you may need to disconnect the unit from the main power supply and then reconnect it.

How to lock out an RV’s water heater switch?

You can lock out your RV’s water heater switch by using a mounting clip or a lockout adapter. This will prevent anyone from accidentally turning on the switch and causing an accident.

Is it possible to replace the switch with a new one?

Yes, you can replace the switch with a new one. It’s recommended to purchase a switch that is specifically designed for the particular heating unit.


Knowing whether your RV’s water heater switch is on or off is crucial to prevent potential damage. And as you know now, the key to determining it is to know where the switch is located and how it indicates its power mode.

Hopefully, this article has provided you with enough information to do just that besides the relatable troubleshooting tips. That being said, the next time you are wondering about your RV water heater switch, I bet you will know exactly what to do.

Read Also: All About RV Water Heater (9 Things You Should Know)

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