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  • What Does DSI Mean in an RV Water Heater?

    A recreational vehicle is a great option for those who enjoy spending time outdoors but don't want to give up the creature comforts of home, including warm water. Most RVs come equipped with a propane gas water heater. Some RV water heaters must be lit manually using a match or other fire source, while others have a direct spark ignition (DSI) switch.
    What Does DSI Mean in an RV Water Heater?

    Direct Spark Ignition RV Water Heaters

    If your RV's water heater is equipped with DSI, that means that it has an automatic ignition system. The water heater itself will have a push-button switch that you'll press in order to turn on the unit when you are ready for the water heater to start doing its job. For proper use, make sure there is water in the tank before igniting your RV's water heater. 

    Manual Ignition Camper Water Heaters

    If your RV does not have a DSI water heater, then your water heater does not have an automatic ignition switch. Instead, you will need to use a match or a striker to manually ignite the water heater's pilot light in order to have access to hot water in your camper. 

    Function of a DSI Water Heater Switch

    The DSI switch activates the burner, which heats the water until it reaches a predetermined temperature. The burner does not stay engaged constantly. Instead, the burner will go out once it reaches this temperature. It will only re-ignite when warm water is used inside the camper.

    Safest RV Water Heater Option

    Direct spark ignition is safer and easier than using a pilot flame as the circuit board closes the gas valve immediately upon reaching the predetermined temperature. Most RVs are manufactured with this technology, though you'll often find manual systems on lower-end models. Be sure to find out how the water heater has to be lit on any RV you are considering purchasing. .

    DSI Water Heater Types

    Many RVs are equipped by the manufacturer with Atwood or Suburban direct spark ignition water heaters, as they are the two largest producers of water heaters for campers. Most DSI camper water heaters vary in size from 6 to 10 gallons, which is sufficient for sink and shower usage in an RV.

    RV Water Heater Safety Considerations

    Safety is an important consideration. It highly recommended that the DSI switch remain in the off position during travel, as well as when your RV is being stored between trips, and other periods of non-use. Always turn the water heater off before departing from a campsite. Verify that it is off when you park your camper after your trip, and check again before setting out on another trip to be certain that it is not turned on. It is also advisable to drain the water out of your RV's water heater when it will be out of use for a while. 


    Article Written By A.C. Bauer

    A.C. Bauer is a seasoned adventurist with explorations spanning four continents, including hiking Machu Picchu, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, running the Ice Age Trail and road biking out of her front door. She has written marketing materials for eight years and worked for Red Bull, Disney and Dick's Sporting Goods, and received a master's in recreation and sport science from Ohio University.

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