We hesitated to install a draft beer system, but we finally installed a pressurized water system instead. Here are the main features:

  • Easy to winterize, easy to rinse & drain
  • Pressurized (55 PSI)
  • 25 gallons fresh water tank
  • Grey water is dumped in a 4 gallons Aqua-tainer
  • Portable Propane Shower

 

 

TIME SPENT ON THE JOB

40 hours (this is very approximate, as we lost track of time…)

 

TOTAL COST

1100$ USD approx (including the Mr Heater Portable Shower)

 

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click and commit to buy one of the product linked, we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not. Buying through our affiliate links is a great way to say thanks if we were of any help in your van conversion! Alternatively, you can visit our Say Thanks! page.

 

 

MATERIAL

 

TOOLS

 

RESOURCES

 

PRE-REQUISITE

 

HERE IT IS!

*Disclosure: You will see a bunch of hanging electrical wires in the pictures below; these wires will be secured and protected a bit later. This is temporary as we progress…

 

First, we had to make some room. The tank is installed above the wheel arch:

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (11)

The Tank Support (it’s attached to the bed frames)

 

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (6)

The Tank Support Supporting the Tank!

There is a “bumper” at the forward and rear of the tank (so it stays in place in case of sudden braking) and it’s attached with a strap (for now) so it can be easily taken out of the van for draining or rinsing.

 

Fresh Water Tank

The tank (http://amzn.to/2o9rVBw) holds 25 gallons and the dimensions are 8″ x 16″ x 48″. There are more sizes to choose from: 10,12,15,20 gallons and so on, check them here: amzn.to/2ntzEaf

The tank comes with all the fittings built-in the tank: 1¼” fill hole, ½” FPT vent, ½” FPT drain or pump connection in the back and ½” FPT drain or pump connection in the front. The fittings are female-threaded, but you will have to drill them depending on which one you plan on using (hey that’s easy to do).

Water-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(12-marked)

Holes in the back of the water tank. We’re using the bottom hole as a drain hole.

 

Water-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(3-marked)

Hole in the front of the water tank. We’re using the hole for the pump.

 

 

Hardware

Some hardware is required to connect the pump, the water tank and the faucet: high-pressure braided hose 1/2″ I.D. (http://amzn.to/2mYVt5p), ½ MPT Sureflo fittings straight with wingnut (http://amzn.to/2nulnKk) or elbow with wingnut (http://amzn.to/2nqWFtq), ½ MPT plastic fittings (http://amzn.to/2ou2oAn) and hose clamps (http://amzn.to/2nufFrT). DO NOT USE METAL FITTINGS as you will damage the (very) fragile plastic threads in the water tank.

 

Installation Tips for Plastic Fittings

  • Do not use Teflon tape or Teflon paste! These are lubricant, not sealant, and will promote over-tightening.
  • Don’t over-tighten: finger tighten plus one or two turns (because the threads are tapered, over-tightening will make the female fitting crack)
  • Use plastic-safe thread sealant (not lubricant) such as LA-CO Plato-Joint (http://amzn.to/2nFhT70)

LA-CO Plasto-Joint. Buy from Amazon

 

We carry a 25′ food-grade (edit: we will swap it for a 50′ length…) water hose (http://amzn.to/2nFgmOd) to fill the tank through the fill hole:

Camco 25 feet Hose

Camco 25 feet Food-Grade Hose. Buy from Amazon.

(we first looked for an expandable hose, but we could not find one that is lead-free)

 

To increase our chance of finding water while we’re on the road, we carry a neat Water Bandit. It can be fitted on almost any tap thanks to the rubber side, then a hose can be connected to it thanks to the “garden-hose-fitting” on the other side:

Water Bandit

Water Bandit. Get one on Amazon.

 

Following this post, many of you recommended us to get a Sillcock Key. Apparently, this tool can open water supplies of several rest areas, campgrounds, corner stores, etc. We’ll give it a try! Here is the tool:

Cobra Products PST154 4-Way Sillcock Key

Cobra Products PST154 4-Way Sillcock Key. Buy from Amazon.

 

The fill hole is plugged using a Test Plug (http://amzn.to/2nIEWj8):

Water-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(plug)

Test Plug. This one fits perfectly in the fill hole: Buy from Amazon.

The changing volume of water in the tank must be replaced with air; this is achieved through the filling vent. To prevent water spillage, we connected a 3/8″ I.D. clear hose (http://amzn.to/2nu7wnq) via a 1/2″ MPT to 3/8″ barb fitting (http://amzn.to/2oLeDI9 ) and raised it a few inches above the tank (shown on the first picture in this post).

To drain the tank, we installed a PVC ball valve (http://amzn.to/2nr1mni) attached via a few elbows and straight fittings (http://amzn.to/2nLColM) (shown in the first picture in this post). We can connect a hose to it when we want to drain the tank.

 

Water Pump & Accumulator

We chose to install the Shurflo Revolution 4008 water pump (http://amzn.to/2kFINP8), because it’s been around for a while and it can be trusted. It delivers 3 gallons per minute at 55 PSI. It’s a diaphragm pump, meaning there is no on-off switch; it’s pressure sensitive. The pump will turn on when the pressure in the hose drop below 40 PSI, that is when we open the tap at the faucet. The pump will turn off when the pressure in the hose raise above 55 PSI, that is when there is no demand for water. It is self-primed and can be run dry, neat!

This pump has an internal bypass to prevent rapid-cycling. This is when the pump will turn on-off-on-off-on-off very rapidly; it occurs generally when a very low volume of water is demanded at the faucet. That being said, after reading some reviews on the internet, we still decided to install an accumulator (http://amzn.to/2kFQ6q8) to prevent rapid-cycling. It might not be required, but it can apparently improve things a little.

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (10)

Pump (on the left) & Accumulator (on the right)

 

The pump and accumulator are protected by a box and can be turned on/off easily with this switch. We  HIGHLY recommend an easy-to-access switch to prevent spillage or to turn off the pump when leaving the van…

 

Think inside the box:

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (4)

Inside the box. Not much to see here…

 

We use the following switch for the water pump and for the cargo lights; we really like the design and the “feel” of it:

JR Product Switch ON-OFF

Turn me on! JR Product ON/OFF switch (Buy from Amazon)

 

Sink

We splurged on a very nice Dometic sink with integrated folding faucet & folding glass lid (model VA7306, Buy from eBay). We already covered the installation into the cabinet in our Sink & Stove Cabinet article. The sink comes with two ½” MPT fitting (one for cold water, one for hot water), but we’re only using the cold water fitting (make sure to plug the unused fitting with an end cap to prevent spillage! Yes, we learnt that the hard way…).

Folding Sink in action!

 

IMG_20170419_170959-01

Notice the end cap on the unused sink fitting…

 

Grey Water Tank

We went for a modest installation that suits our modest needs: just a 4 gallons Aqua-Tainer (http://amzn.to/2kFK58U) that we empty every other day or so. The Aqua-Tainer is connected with a Camco Water Drain (http://amzn.to/2kFOH2Q) and a garden hose quick-release (http://amzn.to/2oEe1rr) for quick & easy dumping.

Super-Simple-Grey-Water-Management

Super Simple Grey Water Management!

 

 

We have running water!

Sink-Animation-(small)

 

Hot Shower

We wanted to have a tank-less solution for the shower, for energy efficiency sake. We went for the Mr Heater BOSS XCW20 portable propane shower (http://amzn.to/2oD3JIy) because:

  1. It is very well rated
  2. It is very safe (gas is cut if it tips-over)
  3. It is portable (it has an internal battery and can be operated with 1 pound propane cylinder)
  4. Output temperature can be controlled with the digital panel
  5. It has a faucet on the side
Mr Heater BOSS XCW20

Mr Heater BOSS XCW20 Portable Propane Shower. Buy from Amazon.

The Mr Heater BOSS cannot be integrated to a pressurized water system; it has to pump water from a jug (such as the aqua-tainer we’re using). That’s fine with us.

 

Winterizing

Frozen water causes damage to the pump, accumulator, pipes and Mr Heater BOSS. Our system (or any other system if that matter) must be winterized if temperatures are below freezing. It seems that there are two types of anti-freeze:

  1. Ethanol
  2. Propylene/Glycol

We’re not expert on the topic, but we read that ethanol based anti-freeze is very flammable, could damage the seals of the components and could affect the taste of the water. Propylene/Glycol based anti-freeze is not combustible, help to lubricate the seals of the components and is tasteless. I guess we will use Propylene/Glycol based anti-freeze…

 

 

ON SECOND THOUGHT

Our system is working great, we’ll see how it performs in the long run!

We already have some improvement in mind: we will add some kind of spray nozzle for a shower / bike wash at the back of the van. (the idea is to bypass the Mr Heater for cold showers & bike wash). Wait for it…

 

 

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ABOUT US

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine, a couple dreaming of being on the move and we’re seeking for the ride of our life. We bought a Ford Transit van, we’re converting it to a campervan and we are now selling our house to make our dream a reality. We are sharing this in hope of inspiring and helping others to follow their dreams too!

 

 

CHEERS!

 

 

 

13 comments

  1. Comment by Wes Greenwood

    Wes Greenwood Reply April 19, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Hey Antoine!

    Quick question?

    What made you choose the boss water heater over the eco temp l5 overall?

    I’m leaning towards the ecotemp but I am also installing 40 gallons of water storage capacity as well.

    Are you planning to have the boss water heater pull water from still sources such as a lake since it has an integrated pump?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply April 19, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      I only heard good things about the Eccotemp L5 and it’s much cheaper than the Mr Heater. We leaned toward the Mr Heater for the portability: in summer we will shower outside, in winter inside. The Eccotemp L5 claims 30-35 degrees rise VS the Mr Heater up to 45 degrees rise (i did not verified that). The Eccotemp L5 can be incorporated into a camper water system, the Mr Heater cannot (as we mentioned in our post). That was the majors Pros/Cons I think.

      There is no clear winner/loser here… decisions, decisions, decisions…

      P.S. The manual of the Mr Heater proscribe from using the unit from a lake or any source that might contain particles/dust/debris… I guess we could have some kind of filter.

  2. Comment by Wes Greenwood

    Wes Greenwood Reply April 19, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    Thanks for the reply! I liked the fact the L5 can plug right into the vans water system and the cheaper cost. I believe that will be the model we will go with but its open to change as we haven’t ordered a water heater yet.

    Looks like you are getting close to the finish line with your build! Super exciting. Im looking forward to seeing the final product rolling on to the start of your adventure!

  3. Comment by Diego

    Diego Reply April 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

    Very nice and inspiring. Using this setup, are you able to connect the heater to the pressured water system? I wonder how you did the heater connections. Thanks!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply April 20, 2017 at 8:06 am

      Hi Diego!
      Are you referring to the Mr Heater (shower)? If so, no it cannot be connected to the system. The Mr Heater (shower) uses its own pump, so water is pumped from a jug such as the Aquatainer http://amzn.to/2pG1PUP. If you wish to connect a tankless water heater, look for the Eccotemp L5 (or similar): http://amzn.to/2o7qPYb.

      Antoine

  4. Comment by Tom

    Tom Reply April 20, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Have some direction for you as far as outdoor shower is concerned. I went a little more hardcode on the bracing and the strapping, and I’d recommend the same. 20+ gallons of water sloshing around is a TON of momentum force.

    I got the shower off Amazon too (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B019F81FQ0/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) and here it is installed. It’s pretty great. I also went with a little more robust drain than a PVC valve. You don’t want something accidentally hitting it and cracking it. Lastly, if you install a nice beauty panel on the back like I did, you can get a pretty water inlet (with vent hole too) here https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C5SOXNU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    https://goo.gl/HVARDe

    https://goo.gl/xpIOCC

    https://goo.gl/XOR9fs

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply April 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      Nice, your build look super clean! Well done!
      Can you adjust the spray on your shower? I’d like to have a small, high-pressure spray for the bikes..

      Thanks for the tips!
      antoine

      • Comment by Tom

        Tom Reply April 20, 2017 at 5:07 pm

        You cannot, it’s sort of a low pressure-ish spray. But it’s actually PERFECT for the bikes. You don’t want to use a small high pressure spray to wash bikes and smoosh water into all the bearings/etc.

        Speaking of bikes, I 100% stole your bike rack idea and it’s awesome. Thanks for the links and detailed writeup. You mentioned about some sort of protection for the floor of the tray. I originally tried a vinyl drawer liner and it looked pretty decent, but was peeling up/etc. Kinda meh. So I painted the whole thing gray to match my wall panels and decided to start sticker bombing the tray portion. Totally worked and I’ve been loving it.

        https://goo.gl/VwFlx4

        https://goo.gl/ucPObL

  5. Comment by Tom

    Tom Reply April 20, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Derp, can’t edit my post. I also added an extra metal strap front to end since I took those pics. I do REALLY like the quick release for your grey water tank. Going to totally steal that, as right now I have a garden hose attachment on mine and it’s a pain to unscrew.

  6. Comment by Andre

    Andre Reply May 18, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    As always, awesome post! We received our tank today and it has a noticeable “bow” on both sides, length wise. Looking at your picture it does not appear that way. It wouldn’t be a huge problem except where I plan to mount it. Did yours bow out after use?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply May 19, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      Now that you mention it, yes, ours “bow” too. Like, a few inches on each side near the center of the tank. That’s why pressurized tanks have cylinder shape! In my case, one side of the tank leans against the wall, the other side is strapped; i don’t mind that it bows.

      What is it in your installation that cause problem with that? Just curious.

  7. Comment by Andre

    Andre Reply May 22, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Antoine, I was hoping to mount it between the bike tray and wall on the driver side. That way to utilize as much of the dead space as possible and leave the passenger wheel well side open for more storage. Since the tank is bowed out a couple extra inches on each side, it would hit the bikes so that is a no go. We ended up mounting it on the passenger side. Didn’t feel like moving the bike tray, it worked out in the end. I am disappointed in the bowing and overall craftsmanship of the tank (“wrinkling” along the bottom base). We are working with tank 2 which is worse than tank 1, which we sent back last week. Planning to connect all the fittings and try it up tonight, hopefully no leaks! The reason I am sticking with it for now is the dimensions – I love the lengh twise geometry compared to width wise of other tanks. It fits perfectly along the side of the van leaving more space for open floor storage. Not to mention more weight directly over the wheel for traction :). I plan to mount the AGM battery over the other wheel well. Thank you again for your insights and this website, its truly an inspiration and source of excellent info. Cheers!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply May 22, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      I’m sorry you’re disappointed with the quality of the tank. Maybe it’s a question of expectation? Being less than half of any similar product, it fulfilled my expectations. I’m sure there are higher quality tanks around, but the price will vary accordingly.

      Thanks for the compliments on the website!
      Good luck with your tank installation.

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