Are you a new or beginner RVer wondering: where is the water heater bypass valve on an RV? You may feel silly for not knowing where the bypass valve is located, but trust us – you’re not alone!
The chances are your RV water heater bypass valve is hidden from sight inside your RV. Today, we’ll help you find it. Once we help you find your RV water heater valve, we’ve rounded up a few videos to explain how to use your bypass valve so you can prepare your RV plumbing system for winter.
Ready to find that water heater bypass valve? Let’s go!
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Where Is the Bypass Valve In the RV Water Heater?
The access panel to your RV water heater will be on the outside of your RV. Your RV water heater is typically in a square or rectangular compartment with a pull down panel for easy access.
From the outside of your RV, you will be able to access the front of your RV water heater. This is not where your RV water heater bypass valve is located! Your RV water heater bypass valve is located at the back of your water heater – inside your RV.
The front of your RV water heater is where you will find your water heater anode rod and drain. This is where you’ll do the majority of the work when you are flushing out your RV hot water heater for the winter [more on that later].
To locate the back of your hot water heater – head inside your RV to the other side of where the water heater is in the front. The backside of your RV water heater will not be readily visible, but instead it will likely be contained under your kitchen stove (or other appliance).
To access your RV hot water heater bypass valve you will likely have to use a screwdriver or drill to unscrew and remove paneling and/or part that is hiding your hot water heater. Once you remove the paneling, you will see the back of your RV water heater – and be able to locate your RV water heater bypass valve.
It is important to note that on some models of RV – you will not be able to access the back of your RV water heater bypass valve by simply removing the paneling. You may need to remove a drawer or adjacent panel in order to access the back of your RV water heater.
Why Do I Need A Water Heater Bypass Valve In My RV?
The main purpose of the water heater bypass valve is that it prevents anti-freeze from going into the heater tank when winterizing your RV water lines. From both a practical and cost perspective, there is no need to put anti-freeze in your RV hot water heater during the winterization process. The tank is not at risk of freezing or expanding to cause damage to your water heating system.
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When you bypass your hot water heater, the cold going into the water heater is routed to the hot water plumbing line (“bypassing” the water heater). Most RVs have a water heater bypass valve installed. Depending on the model of water heater, you can have one, two or three bypass valves.
Bypassing your RV water heater is a faster and more cost-effective way to winterize your system. Rather than filling your entire RV water heater tank with gallons of antifreeze (which is ineffective anyway) you simply bypass your hot water system so the antifreeze only goes to the water lines which require the anti-freeze.
Rather than putting anti-freeze in your hot water system, you will descale, rinse and drain your system to properly maintain it for winter. We recommend that you clean and drain your RV hot water tank at least once a year to remove any limescale and other buildup that can affect your heater’s performance.
Winterizing Your RV Plumbing & Cleaning Your RV Water Heater
Now that you’ve located your RV water heater bypass valve, it’s time for the fun part – winterizing your RV plumbing system! Rather than go into a lengthy explanation on how to winterize your system, we’ve gathered a few extremely helpful videos to show you how to do the job.
Our favorite video is from RV Habit. In this video you will learn how to bypass your RV water heater when winterizing your RV plumbing system:
The second video by RVGeeks is a great step-by-step instructional on how to clean your RV water heater. They use a boroscope to take an inside look into the RV water heater tank to show you the buildup inside your tank – and why it is so important to flush it out when preparing for winter.
Here is one last video from Just Plain Common Sense that walks you through a step-by-step process of how to clean your RV hot water tank. We like it because it offers a few additional tips to ensure you are checking all your boxes when cleaning your heating tank:
We hope you are now able to find your water heater bypass valve on an RV. Don’t feel bad if you can’t find it at first – you are definitely not alone. RVing is all about learning, and before you know it you’ll be an expert and showing other beginners your RVing tips and tricks!
If you have any questions or comments on the RV water heater bypass valve location, we’d love if you left them below. Thank you so much for reading!