Keystone RV Hot Water Heater Bypass: How To Work

Your Keystone RV has many standard features that make living on the road much more comfortable and enjoyable. Creature comforts such as showers and hot water are all thanks to your RV water heater.

The Keystone RV company is not the only one with a water heater as a standard feature. But they are one of many with a water heater bypass as one of their many features.

A water heater bypass is great because it allows you to go around the water heater in times when you don’t want to fill your tank. This is especially helpful when you want to do things such as winterizing your camper. But where are the water heater bypass valves in a Keystone? And how do you operate them? This post will review how to work your Keystone RV hot water heater bypass, including:

  • Location of your heater bypass
  • Operation of your heater bypass

Whether you have a travel trailer or a fifth wheel, the below guide functions the same and will help with any rig.

Table of Contents


First, let’s start by finding the location of your water heater bypass. The most common location for the water heater bypass is in the living area, specifically near the kitchen sink. Most RV’s locate the water heater tank within a few feet of the kitchen sink.

Look behind cabinets near your sink. Also, look for an access panel. The access panel is often just a flat piece of cabinet wood with two or four screws holding it in place. If you see these screws, carefully unscrew them with a hand screwdriver. The wood is very thin, and using a drill motor could cause damage to the panel. It usually doesn’t take much to unscrew them.

The access panel is usually near the kitchen sink.

Once you remove the panel, you should see a styrofoam or insulated box, almost the size of a small cooler. This is the outer insulation of the hot water tank. You may also see the water pump. This is typically near the sink and hot water tank.


Looking at that styrofoam box, you should see your water lines going to it. It will have a cold water line and the hot water line. These lines are plastic around a 1/2″ in diameter. Sometimes referred to as PEX piping.

Besides a valve for the cold water and one for the hot water, you will have a short section of pipe, about 1 foot, in between them. This is your bypass hose that will route the water away from the tank and loop the water lines together.

Water Heater Bypass Valve

The purpose of the heater bypass valve is to bypass the water heater and allow the water to flow throughout the remaining piping. Without a bypass valve, two things could happen:

1) During winterization, your hot water tank would fill with antifreeze. Since the tank capacity can be around 3 to 5 gallons, that is a lot of antifreeze that is not needed. Causing you to spend unnecessary money.

2) Anti-freeze would not flow through the hot water lines. If you just turned off your cold water valve to stop filling the hot water tank, the antifreeze would stop there and would not go through the remaining pipes, including the hot water lines.

Operation of Bypass valve

To bypass your hot water tank, you must operate the valves to either the ON or OFF positions.

RV valve operation.

Here is your step-by-step guide on how to operate these valves:

Step 1: Turn the cold water valve to the ON position

Rotate the handle to parallel the water line (not pointing to the hot water tank). Turning this valve to the on position stops the water flow INTO the hot water tank and allows it to flow in the bypass hose.

Step 2: Turn the hot water valve to the ON position

Turning this valve to the on position stops water flow INTO or OUT of the water tank. As we will see in the next step, if we don’t turn on this valve, it will allow water to enter the tank.

Turn the valve to parallel with the water line.

You have now separated the water lines from the water heater. The hot and cold water lines are now acting as one line.

If you want to winterize, now go to the next step.

Step 3: Turn the bypass valve to the OFF position

You will want to go to the water pump to winterize your trailer in this step. Again, this is usually very close to the water heater, so look around, and you should find it.

This valve controls either water coming from the freshwater tank or diverting from a separate hose, which can be connected to your antifreeze jug.

Valve in bypass position to allow antifreeze jug connection.

To bypass, turn this valve so the handle is perpendicular to the cold water line. This now closes the water supply from your freshwater tank and now will take the liquid from the connected hose (in this case, from your antifreeze jug).

There you have it; you have bypassed the water heater. When you want to use your water heater again, do the process in reverse order, and you can get your water heater back online.

Final Thoughts

The hot water heater bypass feature in your Keystone RV offers exceptional convenience. While not unique to Keystone, this feature sets it apart by allowing you to redirect water flow, bypassing the heater when necessary, such as for winterization. Whether you own a travel trailer or a fifth wheel, mastering the simple process of manipulating the cold water valve, hot water valve, and bypass valve empowers you to manage your water system efficiently.