I have long advocated Precision Temp’s RV-500 Tankless Hot Water Heater, however as of late I have realized that I can no longer do so.

I don’t usually write product evaluations, but the RV500 is a popular item among small home dwellers and is one that many would-be builders want to add.

I so decided to share my story here.

To be really honest, the only way the RV550 and the 500 vary is that the 550 vents out the bottom through a pipe while the 500 vents out a side panel.

They are almost similar, with the exception of the vent technique, despite some minor technical changes.

Since the 550 is only a product variety of the same series, the majority of people aren’t familiar with it.

For this reason, I’m evaluating this under the RV500 label since that’s what most people will seek for.

Finally, the review.

In 2013, after completing extensive study on the item, I made the purchase.

My choices seemed to be this unit or an Atwood variation, neither of which looked like a very appealing choice.

In addition to the device, I bought the 110V to 12V converter, which enables you to connect the device directly into a regular power outlet.

When the item first came, I was inspecting it as I heard a strange noise when I took it up.

When I listened more closely, I realized it wasn’t simply a check valve or some rattling wires as I had initially assumed.

I made the decision to take my brand-new device apart, and I’m pleased I did.

The primary vent hose had come loose, and the hose clamp was rattling about in the base of the machine, I discovered.

I understood that this was a severe situation since, had I not looked into it and built the vent, exhaust would have been forced into my home’s interior.

Very perilous.

As a side note, I subsequently received a replacement unit, and after seeing how securely that vent host was fastened, I’m speculating that it was never really connected, rather than just wriggling loose during shipment.

When I saw it was brand new right out of the box, I requested a replacement unit since I wasn’t sure I could repair it.

I immediately repack it in the box, just as they had done when they shipped it to me.

When I called, they sent me a new one and requested me to send the old one back; their customer service was excellent.

What was bad was that once they got the unit back, one of their employees wrote me a snarky email informing me how the device was scratched but had no problems.

He then started arguing with me, saying that I was mistaken since “every unit is tested before it is released.” Even if they had tested the item, it would have functioned flawlessly; it was just not venting through the vent tube.

Don’t forget that I sent it in the same packing that they had given it to me in.

The email was impolite and nasty, but what worried me more was that even though I could see that the unit wasn’t put together properly as a layperson, the corporate employee failed to detect that a 4 inch vent pipe was so loose that it wasn’t even seated on the connection.

Although the person’s unprofessional actions irritated me, I eventually understood that all that mattered was that my unit was functional.

When I first opened my new unit to examine the insides, everything seemed to be in working condition.

After some time, I finally put the device in my home.

I didn’t install it myself since I don’t enjoy dealing with gas lines.

Instead, I had a professional plumber come in.

Until we had to turn the device on, the installation proceeded without a hitch.

When the appliance turned on, the vent fan wouldn’t turn on.

The vent fan eventually started to run, but it wouldn’t illuminate.

After calling Precision Temp repeatedly, I finally gave up.

He instructed me to un-ground the device by cutting the green wire.

The device immediately started operating after being switched on.

Because you’re meant to ground the device, as you can see in the screen photo from the setup documentation above, this greatly irritated me.

The support representative said that since 12 volt is so sensitive, problems might arise if it is grounded.

All of this is accurate, yet their installation manual states that green goes to ground.

In the end, I didn’t really care since I had hot water and taking hot showers was wonderful.

Later that year, when winter arrived, I discovered that even in North Carolina’s mild winters, the unit was unable to heat the water enough for my showers.

Never hot, but consistently warm.

This disappointed me since I love hot showers—I think they’re one of the nicest things in the world.

I balanced this with the knowledge that the device could only raise the water’s temperature by a certain amount since it had an internal heating capacity of only around 55,000 btu.

I was really impressed with the unit’s efficiency.

With only one 20-pound propane tank (the same kind you use for your grill), I could enjoy hot showers and cook meals on my gas range for around 4 months.

That was extremely lovely; I purchased four tanks, which would provide me enough water to cook and take showers for a whole year, plus one extra.

Then Everything Turned To Ash.

About a month ago, I was having a shower, and when I was through, I walked outside to dry off.

I saw that the tankless continued to run the burner rather than turning off.

In an attempt to get the water to turn off, I switched the water back on, but nothing happened.

Nothing after trying the sink.

I disconnected it, but nothing happened.

What I was unaware of was that when the unit built up steam pressure and the safety pressure release valve failed, the unit suddenly tore itself apart.

Because of the unit’s excessive steam pressure, one valve’s wall was actually shattered, while another’s threads were practically torn out.

Fortunately, when it burst, all the steam and debris was contained within the case, which made me feel barely alive.

Within a few seconds, my floor was drenched with water and the air was heavy with propane as water started to gush out of the unit and propane started to bubble through into my home.

I dashed outdoors to switch off the gas and the water.

Water was dripping from every angle of my home as I turned around.

I let the gas leak out before starting to mop.

The water would have inundated my whole house for hours if I hadn’t been at home, and this was the last straw for me.

What if I had removed the lid so I could examine it face-on as it burst?

After cleaning up, I phoned a plumber to arrange for the installation of a tankless hot water heater of a different manufacturer.

I had had enough of the Precision Temp unit.

I’ll write a post shortly on what I choose to replace it with.

Final Observations

The device is, in my view, far more costly than it ought to be.

On two distinct units, I have personally seen two manufacturing failures.

Of course not.

It’s a significant problem if a safety valve fails.

Updated on

Written by Bob Matsuoka
Bob Matsuoka is a blogger and founder of RVing Beginner blog. He has been blogging for over five years, writing about his own family’s RV adventures, tips for people who are interested in buying an RV or taking their family on an adventure by RV.