Portable water heaters are slowly becoming a camping staple for many wilderness enthusiasts. These water heaters are way more compact, portable, lightweight, and require less maintenance than your traditional tank water heaters.
And since the central power hookup is interlinked with batteries or a propane tank, it comes in handy when there is no electrical hookup.
People enjoy these portable water heaters to have a refreshing shower in the wilderness, warm up the body after a cold swim, wash dishes, or keep their furry friends clean on outdoor adventures. Thus portable water heaters bring you the luxury of on-demand hot water on the go.
This comprehensive guide will lead you to understand the concept of portable tankless water heaters in detail. Moreover, the article will also help you make an informed buying decision.
Table of Contents
What is a Portable Water Heater?
As the name suggests, a portable water heater is a highly compact mobile device to carry around from one location. This energy-efficient water heating unit is also called an on-demand water heater because of its ability to produce hot water constantly.
The other main difference is the ease of setting up compared to a traditional tank water heater. Users can very easily attach their portable heater to a fuel connection and a water source to enjoy the luxury of on-demand warm water.
One significant difference between tankless and tank water heaters is the tank. A storage tank heater fully functions with a huge tank that contains gallons of water, while an outdoor tankless water heater (see also ‘Everything You Need to Know About Outdoor Water Heaters‘) does not need any tank to store water.
Unlike tankless water heaters that usually heat a vast reservoir of water for 24 hours a day, a tankless water heater activates the temperature as and when needed. Most portable water heaters use propane as their primary source of energy.
The availability and green burning efficiency of propane is undoubtedly the main reason for its popularity. However, you can also find many portable water heaters with multiple power hookups for a more secure and smooth operation.
The water heater market is now flooded with configurations where people can manipulate the device according to their budget, choice, and personal preferences. Many portable water heaters use a simple hose (see also ‘Best Water Heater Hose: Find Your Best Connector‘) to supply hot water, while a few models use a mini tank or pump that one needs to place within a bucket.
These units usually have a gas regulator, hose, shower head, built-in easy-to-use handles, on/off nozzle, and a few accompanying hardware. Users can hang these devices from a post, tree, RV ladder, hooks, or simple handlebars.
How Does a Portable Water Heater Work?
The best portable water heaters can heat water in a considerable amount without using a bulky storage tank. When one turns on the hot tap, cold water travels through the pipes inside the unit.
The power hookup can either be gas-powered or electric, depending upon the model and preference of the user. The process happens relatively quickly, thanks to the unit’s sensor, valve fan, heat exchanger, and power source. The sensor soon activates the power source, and the burner starts to heat up. As the water passes through the heating system, it gets hot within a few seconds.
The burner then automatically shuts off as soon as the water flow seizes. Portable water heaters can very quickly heat icy cold water to 100 degrees in 5.10 seconds. These water heaters that power via batteries or propane can efficiently run without needing a pilot light. The result is a steady stream of constant hot water supply at any time of the day.
Uses for Portable Tankless Water Heaters
A portable tankless water heater is primarily used outdoors. The most classic uses of portable water include:
- Use the water heater for a camping trip so you can enjoy a hot shower outdoors.
- Use it as a permanent hot water heater (see also ‘Water Heater Dimensions: Finding The Right Water Heater For A Tight Space‘) in your RVs.
- Using the water heater for rinsing off horses in ranches.
- Using it as a backup to heat water during a power failure or HVAC issues.
- Using portable water heaters for a permanent hot water source in Off-grid houses.
Pros and Cons of having a Portable Water Heater
Many people love the idea of having access to uninterrupted hot water in the outdoors, but many overlook its significant cons.
Therefore we highly advise going through all the essential pros and cons to figure out if owning a portable tankless water heater is genuinely worth it or not.
These portable water heaters are incredibly straightforward and do not require power tools, pipes, and connections. Since they are designed for outdoors, the entire system is easy to mount or unmount.
You can hook the portable water heater through a propane tank and connect the other end with a water source. If your outdoor locale has an electricity hookup, you can easily connect the device with electricity and run it.
Unlimited Price Range Options
Cheaper range models are perfect for people who do not wish to burn a hole in their pockets but still want to enjoy hot water on the go. You can pick up a reliable portable tankless water heater within $200-$300.
The more technologically equipped portable heater you buy, the higher the prices, but the base price is always comparatively affordable.
A tankless water heater is designed to be repaired, so if a part malfunctions, you can very easily swap the faulty part with a new piece.
But if your tank water starts to leak, there’s a good chance that the manufacturer will ask you to replace the entire system. Therefore tankless water heaters are easily repaired no matter the extent of the damage.
The compact size speaks volumes when you are traveling light or have small storage space. These tiny water heaters are primarily compact while weighing less than the average water heater. They can be easily packed in small storage spaces without taking up much space.
A Constant Flow of Hot Water
Since these tankless water heaters heat the water on the go, you can enjoy your hot water showers without any interruption.
Greener and Emit Fewer Pollutants
Portable water heaters are incredibly green and do not use fuels that cause harm to the environment. Since they do not need a constant electric hookup, they are highly effective and save money. Propane hooked water heaters are the greenest and less fume emitting models.
Easy to Wrap Up
Portable water heaters are extremely easy to wrap and unplug as compared to traditional tank water heaters. You would need to often drain the entire tank before unplugging the system, but portables only need a few minutes and simple action of unplugging.
Reckless Setups Can Be Fatal
The setup of these portable water heaters is effortless; however, you mustn’t over-tighten the connection for any airflow pockets. Users should always use Teflon tape on the gas connectors to prevent any dangerous gas leaks.
Limited Flow Rate
Limited flow rate is the most crucial drawback of owning a portable water heater. A small portable tankless water heater is bound to produce a lesser flow than a traditional tank heater. You can satisfactorily enjoy your shower routine, but it won’t be as powerful as the home shower, nor can it connect to multiple taps with a standard flow.
Portable Water Heater Buyers Guide
Before investing in your mobile water heater, you must analyze a few essential technical terms and requirements that will help you narrow down a list of perfect water hearts from the pool of thousands.
We highly recommend going through these points to choose an ideal unit that works adeptly for your needs.
Most portable hot water units either use propane or electricity as their primary source of energy. If you plan on using your new water heater outdoors and indoors, then going for an electric model will be a better option.
The other most popular method of running a water heater is using a battery-powered water heater. These heaters do not require an ounce of electricity to start. You can use a hybrid of battery and propane to increase the life of your water heater. Buyers can choose the type of power source according to their choice and requirements.
If you plan on living off-grid, then a propane-powered water heater will be a good choice. A 20-pound liquid propane tank can give you approximately 18-19 hours of showers in total.
Tankless or Tank
Portable tanks are highly known for their portability; therefore, most users buy tankless water heaters for their hot water needs. The capacity of these tanks will determine the amount of water the units can hold.
On average, a 2-gallon water tank is ample for doing dishes and general cleaning, but you will require a bigger tank of 10 gallons for showering. However, if your requirement is a better flow rate, opting for a tank water heater can work.
Many water heaters come with anti-scale accouterments to reduce the mineral scale buildup. These anti-scale devices are more prominently seen in tank water heaters.
You can also find many tankless water heaters made of shelling to increase the life of their body and inner pipes. We highly recommend looking at all the protection devices in a specific model to increase its longevity.
On average, users tend to purchase a device below 20-22 pounds. This feature is critical as portability is a very vital criterion for many backpackers and outdoor adventurers.
Therefore water heater buyers should pay extra attention to the size and weight of the unit before buying. Do not forget to calculate space in your vehicles and how often you wish to carry out the task of setting up the unit.
One should always look up the BTU rating before purchasing their portable water heater. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, in which you can easily calculate the speed and efficiency of your water heating process inside the water heater.
The higher the BTU rating of your heater, the better and quicker it will warm up your water. Buyers should always strive to find a portable tankless water heater with the highest BTU ratings.
This point is a pretty standard requirement that buyers should pay attention to. Manufacturers usually give out a three-year to 12 years warranty on the unit.
Some manufacturers even bifurcate the warranty for parts, service, and overall hardware. Therefore, pay attention to the warranty and find the manufacturer with the most extended warranty on the market.
The flow rate is the total number of gallons a water heater can deliver every minute. It is also calculated by gallons per minute or GPM. Portable water heaters with the highest BTU tend to have a higher flow rate.
Therefore, if you’re searching for a mobile camping unit for showers, then look for the device that has the highest BTU. Higher BTU will always give a more pressured and robust flow rate. The GPM is permanently stamped directly on the unit, so finding the actual number is not that difficult.
If it isn’t written on the body, you can calculate the GPM using this formula: 60 divided by the total number of seconds it took to fill a 1-gallon container.
Digital displays can be an excellent way to find out all the unit’s setting levels and propane force. Most recent models tend to have digital displays that help you set up your preferences and water temperatures.
You will also find a few electric water heaters with an inbuilt vacation mode to keep the unit fully functioning even when the heater’s not in use. Buyers should always strive to find models with a clear digital display for a more clean user experience.
If you want an outdoor tankless water heater, you will need accessories for a complete showering experience.
Consider looking for a device already equipped with a showerhead and hose; if not, we highly recommend buying them along with your portable water heating unit. Additional accessories include installation kits, a propane tank, gas regulator, charging gadgets, and batteries.
Hikers, campers, and cabin owners who stay on high altitudes should pay attention to this point as the system’s efficacy deteriorates as soon as you travel higher altitudes.
Most portable water heaters are not designed to work above 2000 ft above sea level. Therefore you must check the unit’s operating elevation for a smoother experience.
Camplux 6L Portable Propane Water Heater
- Manufacturer: Camplux
- Type: Liquid Propane Tankless Water Heater
- Power Source: Battery-powered
- Size: 11.61 x 4.33 x 17.32 inches
- GPM: 1.58 Gallons Per Minute
- Weight: 14 pounds
This Camplux portable propane water heater is a perfect companion for off-grid adventures, camping, and various hot water-related activities. The outer shell of this unit is aesthetically pleasing and has a very sleek design all around.
Its wall mounting feature is excellent for keeping the floor space empty for unrestricted movements. Besides, the heater’s folding handle is ideal for hanging the device on a tree or a hook for quick showers. 2 D cell batteries fully power the device, and the unit is equipped with gas connections and regulators for propane hookups.
This tankless water heater weighs 14 pounds and can deliver 1.58 gallons of hot water per minute. The unit has a maximum power output of 41,000 BTU. Apart from the general features, the device has various safety features to keep you safe even during compact spaces.
Its main focal point is its flame failure device and anti-freezing protection to keep the unit safe from any temperature-related mishaps. Another feature called the ‘oxygen safety shutoff protection’ cuts off the gas supply if the water temperature exceeds 167°F. This 6L portable water heater is perfect for people who wish to carry a tiny device that serves their purpose of hot water consumption.
You will find various units in this particular model that lines up with GPM from 1.32 to 4.22. However, buyers should pay attention to the elevation level as this device is not suitable for elevation above 2000 ft above sea level.
- Operates well even with low pressure
- The water flow is instant once you turn on the heater
- Highly portable, compact, and lightweight
- Enabled with an automatic shutoff system
- Uses propane energy to heat the water
- The device does not operate above 2000 ft above sea level
- The unit tends to leak in a few devices
We hope our comprehensive guide helped you understand all you need to know about portable tankless heaters in detail.
A portable tankless water heater is easy to set up and use and will supply you with endless hot water. This makes them perfect for use at home, washing pets, camping trips or in an RV, or even on a boat. In fact, in any situation where you need hot water but don’t have access to mains power.
With the rise of tiny homes and people living in off-grid cabins, these devices are becoming more popular than ever before. Kindly keep the buying guide’s critical components in your mind before selecting a final model.
The Camplux model we discussed above is an excellent example of one of the best portable water heaters on the market that double-checks all the columns of your buying expectations.