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.

 

We upgraded the straps for heavy-duty BoatBuckle Kwik-Lok Tie Down 2″x4′ (amzn.to/2tm6KzC). They’re super strong and easy to install/remove. They are attached to Stainless Steel Tie-Down “D” Ring (amzn.to/2tbkMAe):

Tank Straps

Hold On

 

When the tank is full, there is noticeable “bow” on the unsupported side of the tank; we therefore added a wood support to counterbalance the bow (the straps alone won’t help). Note that the wood support must go across the entire height of the tank (from bottom to top) to be effective (otherwise the strap will flex):

Water Tank Bow Support

 

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 50′ food-grade (lead free) water hose (http://amzn.to/2tbmAct) to fill the tank through the fill hole:

Camco 25 feet Hose

Camco 50 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 Amazon). 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.

 

Bike Wash // Filling Station // Quick Shower

After using the van for a few occasions, we installed a spray nozzle (amzn.to/2tlT7k5) in the back. It is quite convenient to quickly wash our legs and feet (after a muddy ride), to fill water bottles or wash the bikes (yeah let’s pretend we have unlimited water reserve).

Bike Wash Van Conversion

Clean bike = Happy bike!

To add it to our existing water system, we split the hose right after the accumulator and added a 1/2″ Barb x 1/2″ Barb x 1/2″ MPT Tee, a straight-stop-valve and a SHURflo 234-2926 1/2″ FPT X 1/2″ Barb Straight Swivel (amzn.to/2kFSdWU):

Hose-Split

 

We kept a simple approach to install the spray nozzle (amzn.to/2tlT7k5):

 

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 the following 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):

Spray Nozzle

To be added soon… Buy from Amazon.

 

 

 

WANT MORE?

Check out our Build Journal, learn everything about The Van, join us for The Ride, or if you’re new to this start by reading The Prologue.

 

 

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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, converted it to a campervan, sold our house and hit the road full-time to make our dream a reality. We are sharing this in hope of inspiring and helping others to follow their dreams too!

 

 

CHEERS!

 

 

 

25 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.

      • Comment by Don

        Don Reply August 2, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        Hi Antoine,

        I noticed you said you were going to use the Mr Heater shower “inside” in the winter. How are you planning to do that? Do you have some kind of shower tub in the van? If so, how do you drain it?

        Thanks!

        • Comment by Antoine

          Antoine Reply August 2, 2017 at 7:11 pm

          Not sure how well this will work, but here is the plan:
          – A Plastic drain pan (http://amzn.to/2wmZ7pW)
          – A shower curtain
          – velcro
          – 1/2 PEX tubing

          And it should look like this:
          shower transit

          (we will connect a drain hose to the pan and drain it outside, somehow)

          We will work on it next week or so!

  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.

    • Comment by Brad

      Brad Reply June 11, 2017 at 1:32 am

      Digging your build as well. Do you also have a site with info up on how you went about setting up the shower? Do you have pressurized water running to a sink as well or just to the shower? Trying to figure out in Antoine’s photos I see that a “pump or drain” option on each end – if one needs to go to the actual water pump, I assume that’s “pump”… does the same apply for the shower line? I guess I’m just a little confused as to what happens if I drill out both of those holes and connect one to the pump and one to a shower line how do I prevent the water from filling in the shower line (or does it just fill with water and I have to just make sure the nozzle is on an “off” setting)?

      Thanks all!

      • Comment by Antoine

        Antoine Reply June 11, 2017 at 7:33 am

        Hi Brad,
        We still have to install the shower; for now only the sink is functional (apart from the Mr Heater BOSS which is independent of our pressurized water system). Since it’s the pump the build the pressure into the system, we will add splitter (a “Y”) after the pump (in fact, after the accumulator): one hose will run to the sink, the other hose will run to the shower/bike-wash (http://amzn.to/2rZuXIi).
        In other word, you don’t have to drill an extra hole in the tank to add a shower! You just add split the hose after the pump.

        Hope that helps!

  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.

      • Comment by Andre

        Andre Reply May 30, 2017 at 2:39 pm

        Installed the fittings and turned up the water system this past weekend. Everything worked well! All said I am happy thus far with the tank, pump/accumilator setup. I went with an Eccotemp shower/water heater. I plan on splitting the accumilator outlet to a sink when I get to that point. One question, I did a quick and poor rinse job on the inside of the tank prior to installing it. We had another 5 gallon tank for drinking water this weekend and used the 25 gallon tank for showering. I noticed a slight plastic taste to the water from the 25 gallon tank. Any tips on how to properly rinse the tank? As always thank you for your help. Hope all is going well with life and finalizing the build! Cheers

        • Comment by Antoine

          Antoine Reply May 30, 2017 at 3:46 pm

          Glad to hear your system is up and running!
          We just rinsed our tank with water 2-3 times before using it, that’s all.
          There are some product to sanitize the RV Plumbing and Tank, but i don’t know much about them: http://amzn.to/2rRtgiE

          Good luck with the conversion! Don’t hesitate to drop a line!
          antoine

  8. Comment by Terri

    Terri Reply July 11, 2017 at 10:19 am

    I have a question about your gray water jug. Is there any vent? It seems like the sink would drain sluggishly or not at all without a vent.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 11, 2017 at 10:24 am

      Yes, there is a vent! The aquatainer comes with a small vent on top surface in the back, similarly to a gas jerry can.

      Have a good one!

  9. Comment by Terri

    Terri Reply July 22, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Are you happy with the garden hose quick connect? Do you attach a garden hose and tip it to drain it or do you take it outside and remove the lid to pour? How did you attach the quick connect to the aquatainer?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 24, 2017 at 6:43 am

      There is a short garden hose length that we just slide into the aquatainer; we “sealed” it with silicone, but it just detached so we’re looking for something stronger. Maybe epoxy?

      To empty it, we detach the quick connect and we take the aquatainer outside (and remove the lid).

      So far we’re happy with that setup, except that we have to find a better way to attach it the the aquatainer lid.

      Cheers!

  10. Comment by Tom

    Tom Reply July 29, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    Hi Antoine,
    You can disregard me e-mail if you respond here first. Just wondering why you used a 3/8 tube for the vent instead of 1/2?? Seems like it would be easier just to deal with size hose for everything and use 1/2 for the vent too. Thanks for all your great work…amazing website!!
    Tom

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 29, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      The 1/2″ hose is quite bulky and not much flexible. The 3/8″ can be routed more easily, that’s all!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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