Do Houseboats Have Hot Water? How Do They get It?

*This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Having hot water is something many of us take for granted. We expect to jump in the shower and have hot water in seconds. But if you are in a houseboat will you have hot water? 

Most houseboats will have hot water on board. Some houseboats have tankless hot water systems while others have propane or even electric. Not every houseboat will come equipped with hot water tanks so it is important to double check before you go. 

Hot water is quite an important thing for laundry, showers, dishes, and even to help cook while on board. In this article we will go into detail about each of the three main hot water options that are on board.

1. Tankless Hot Water System

In recent years this type of system has become all the rage in homes and businesses all over the US and even houseboats aren’t immune to this new idea! Tankless systems are quite ingenious in that they allow you to have hot water almost instantly while not taking up the space of a normal hot water tank. 

One major downside to tankless systems on a boat is that most of them require 15-20 amps to operate which can cause issues if your generator can’t handle a load that large.  Some older houseboats can barely handle that large of a load even when they are plugged in at the dock. 

How much electricity it pulls is a super important fact to know for a houseboat as the last thing you want to do is blow all your fuses while you are in the middle of the water on a trip! Always be sure and check the amps that the tankless systems you are considering uses so you can make sure it will work with the electricity on board. 

Related Post  Where Can Houseboats Go?

2. Propane Water Heaters 

This one isn’t near as common as the other two that I will talk about but enough people use it that I wanted to mention it. Most of the time a propane water heater will also be tankless as well. 

It will use propane to heat the water but doesn’t have a storage tank like a traditional water heater that people have in their homes. Propane water heaters are normally quite portable and can be used for camping, fishing, and even off the grid. 

One of the downsides to a propane water heater is that it requires you to have another fuel (propane) on board your boat that you have to keep track of and make sure you don’t run out. With water heaters that use electricity you will only have to keep fuel on board for your generator and your generator will power the water heater. 

Another downside to propane water heaters is that most of them have issues if used or mounted inside. You have to run a flue to get rid of the excess fumes and they have issues with producing excess heat as well. 

If you have an outdoor shower on your houseboat and are ok with hauling the water a little ways to the kitchen when you need it then a propane water tank could be exactly what you need on board. If you are looking to have hot water at the top just like in a normal house than tankless or a standard electric water heater will be a better choice. 

3. Electric Water Heater Tank

This is the type of water heater that the majority of people in the US have. They will come in sizes such as 30 gallons, 50 gallons, 80 gallons, and many other variations. 

Related Post  How Often Do Houseboats Sink?

For a houseboat the most common size is a 10-20 gallon hot water tank. If you have a larger houseboat with more people on board you might have a larger tank but the bigger tank you have, the more electricity it will take to keep all of the water in the tank warm. 

These electric hot water tanks will put a drain on your generator as well as they normally will use 1,500-2,000 watts of electricity when they are running. Of course they won’t run all the time but they will run often enough to keep the water in the tank hot. 

The smaller of a tank you have the less electricity it will use. Of course that also means you won’t have as much hot water if you have a smaller tank as well. For most people a normal tank hot water heater makes more sense to have on a houseboat than having tankless ones at every spot that you need hot water. 

With only needing to buy one hot water heater vs one for every sink or shower where you want hot water, you will normally save money by going with a traditional tank water heater as well. 

When choosing a tank water heater you will want to get one that fits your needs the most while still being as small as possible to save on electricity. For most houseboats a tank around 10 gallons is enough to use for 1 long shower (8-10 minutes) or two showers of half that time. 

If you only have a couple people on board than this tank size should be fine. If you have more people on board than moving your to a larger tank size would be a good idea. The extra electricity used will be worth it when you don’t have to hope to have hot water after a couple of people shower. 

Related Post  Are Houseboats Pet Friendly?


If you are planning on buying a houseboat, renting a houseboat or are just curious, I hope this article has been helpful to you in learning about hot water on board a houseboat. 

If you are renting a host for a trip or vacation you might not need to know what type of hot water tank to choose but it is important to know which one is on board the boat so you know if you will always have hot water (tankless), if you have to change the tanks (propane), or if you only have a certain amount of water that will be hot (electric tank heater). 

Knowing what kind of hot water system is on board will help you plan your days while also making sure that everyone has hot water when they need it. 

If you have an electric hot water heater and don’t have the generator running and aren’t plugged in at the dock then your hot water will begin to cool quickly in the tank and won’t refill with hot water until you start your generator. Knowing this can help you from calling someone to repair something that isn’t actually broken. 

As Always, 

Happy Boating 

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

Recent Posts