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Ahhh! How to Get the Perfect RV Water Temperature Without Wasting Water

| Updated Oct 17, 2013

One of the challenges of showering in the camper is adjusting the water temperature for your shower.  It seems that we always end up wasting a lot of water trying to set the temperature.  At four (navy) showers per gray water tank, we can’t afford wasting water adjusting the temperature.  There is an easy solution.  And it works great for washing dishes.  And it saves on propane.  And it is easy – you can do it too.

Water Heater located. the pipe looping between the top white valve and the bottom white valve is the bypass for winterizing
Water Heater located. the pipe looping between the top white valve and the bottom white valve is the bypass for winterizing

Buy a meat thermometer.   The kind with an alarm.   With an extra long probe wire – ours is 6 foot.    Then find your hot water heater.  In our case it is located under the passenger side dinette, next to the furnace.  It conveniently shares a door with the storage compartment next to it (easy access to the bypass valves for winterizing).

Meat thermometer probe inserted into opening into water heater styrofoam jacket
Meat thermometer probe inserted into opening into water heater styrofoam jacket

Insert the probe into the Styrofoam jacket of the water heater where the hot water pipe exits the tank.    Then run the probe wire to a convenient location to mount the display.  We mounted the display on the back of the clothes cabinet above the passenger side dinette.  Buying a longer probe wire makes it easier to find a good spot

Thermometer display is mounted on the wall. This shows water temperature at 78 and the alarm is set to 112 degrees
Thermometer display is mounted on the wall. This shows water temperature at 78 and the alarm is set to 112 degrees

 Now all we have to do is set the alarm for the temperature we desire and turn on the water heater.  When the alarm goes off we turn off the water heater and take a shower (or do the dishes), turning on only the hot water.  No need to waste water mixing to get the correct temperature.  If we are both taking shower, we will check the water temperature between showers and turn the water heater back on to bring back up to temperature if needed.  Somewhere around 108 to 112 degrees seems to work well for us.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2013-10-17

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

30 Responses to “Ahhh! How to Get the Perfect RV Water Temperature Without Wasting Water”

September 19, 2015at11:39 pm, Lynne said:

I absolutely love this idea! This is my BIGGEST complaint about any of the RV’s we’ve had. We’ve always been big on conserving water. Until I read this I was trying to find a bathroom tap, like the kitchen tap, that could help adjust the temperature faster. Trying to fiddle with both taps to find the perfect temperature was so frustrating!! I have ordered our “meat thermometer” and will try installing next weekend. Another GREAT idea from you two. And yes we have the same shower head and love it!!

October 08, 2014at7:42 am, Gary Shepard said:

They must have a much larger hot water tank than I do. Beside how long does it take to turn on hot then turn on the cold…..15 seconds…..

October 07, 2014at5:08 pm, Karen Griswold Horton said:

Great idea and looks like a somewhat normal person could do.

October 07, 2014at4:54 pm, Danielle Rooney Mariani said:

Brilliant! Thank you!

October 07, 2014at4:47 pm, Christine Mayorga Holloway said:

William Holloway check this out

August 24, 2014at2:42 am, Tom Smith said:

I might just go for the minutes and adjust accordingly. Should have it down after a few showers. Chuck which Roadtrek do you have? I think mine might be lava hot after 12 mins but not sure.

August 23, 2014at11:15 am, Bobby Likes said:


September 08, 2014at10:59 am, Lynn said:

You are right about the shower head. The Oxygenics shower head goes a superb job of good pressure with less water. The somewhat noisy water pump lets you know just how much you are using. Lengthening the space between the “bburp . . bburp” to “bburp . . . . . bburp” is a good thing.

August 23, 2014at10:34 am, Brian Fihn said:

This is a great idea.

August 23, 2014at10:04 am, Jim said:

Ok , this really does not work….when you turn the water heater off and take a shower the water heater immediately fills with cold water decreasing your temp as you shower…the longer you shower, the colder it gets….common sense folks, think about it.

August 23, 2014at12:14 pm, Lynn said:

Works fine – we do it all the time. A “navy” shower uses about 1 gallon of water, maybe a bit more if you are wasteful. As mentioned, if two people are showering, turn the heater back on between showers until it reaches temperature. If you are using a lot of water while showering, you are probably hooked up to both sewer and water, and conserving water (the focus of this article) is hardly your concern anyway.

August 23, 2014at9:10 am, Chuck Zipper Head Massie said:

Since I live by myself I just turn my water heater on for 12 minutes. What’s the perfect temperature for a shower. No wasted water. I just set my kitchen timer for 12 minutes. Well it works good for me anyway

August 23, 2014at12:17 pm, Lynn said:

A timer works fine if your starting water temperature is always the same. But it does vary with the outside temperatures and the last time you used the water heater. Glad it works for you.

February 17, 2014at1:42 pm, John Benson said:

So, does this mean you only turn on the hot water heater just before a shower or doing the dishes? The rest of the day, the hot water stays cold? How many minutes does it take to bring the water up to 112 degrees?

February 17, 2014at3:34 pm, Lynn said:

The hot water tank is well insulated and hold heat for a long time. So although we only turn it on when we want hot water, it might well already be at 85 or 90 degrees from the last time we had it on. It is is really cold out, the starting water temperature will be lower. It is hot, then it will be higher. So it probably takes 5 to 15 minutes depending. If we turn it on before sitting down to eat, the alarm usually goes off before we finish eating.

February 17, 2014at3:44 pm, John Benson said:

Thank you. That makes so much sense. I would think it should be an option offered by RoadTrek. If they go for it, you should get a commission on every sale!

February 17, 2014at5:05 pm, Lynn said:

We appreciate your kind words, but the idea of using a temperature probe was not original to us. We first saw it on Andy Baird’s website. He is a fulltimer in a Lazy Daze Class C. He has an excellent collection of ideas for RV improvements at

October 21, 2013at8:40 pm, Marty said:

We make a waterproof seatcover for bikes used widely by RVers. Please see our website.

October 18, 2013at4:57 pm, James Rice said:

Hello Roadtrek Corp. Are you listening? Looks like something that could easily be installed as standard equipment on all RTs. Certainly a worthwhile item for all RT campers.

October 17, 2013at7:39 pm, Charles said:

I am curious as to whether you and campskunk use gas or electric water heaters? I enjoy reading all the blog updates everyday. Happy travels!

October 18, 2013at1:30 pm, Lynn & Roger Brucker said:

Charles – we have the standard Suburban 6 gallon propane water heater that has been used in the 170/190/200/210 Roadtreks for years. There was a year or two when Roadtrek supplied the Suburban dual propane/electric water heater. It is really only useful if you spend a lot of time sitting in one place plugged into shore power. The bigger problem is forgetting to turn it off when not plugged in – it is quite a power drain.

October 17, 2013at5:47 pm, Barbara K said:


October 17, 2013at3:04 pm, Campskunk said:

i LIKE this approach! this way, there’s exactly six gallons of shower water. certain unnamed persons tend to take longer showers using much more water, since our water is usually pretty hot, and a 50/50 mixture with cold is about right. the prospect of a cold rinse might speed certain unnamed people up during their ablutions.

October 17, 2013at11:26 am, Stu said:

Great ideal, thanks for sharing.

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