Water System Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion

Camper-Van-Water-System-(Heading-1920px)

Water System Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion

Here is our guide on how to build a DIY water system in a camper van conversion. Having running water and a hot shower draw the line between “van camping” and “van life”, so it’s well worth the efforts. To design a van’s water system is much more simpler than an electrical system, a few items will do the tricks: a water pump, fresh & grey water tanks, a sink and some plumbing hardware. Let’s build stuff!

LAST UPDATE: APRIL 2020

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait

1- Campervan Water System In A Nutshell

The role of the water pump is to create and maintain the pressure in the system at all time. As a result, opening one (or multiple) faucet(s) will get you water immediately. But taking water out of the system lowers the pressure… that’s OK because the water pump is pressure-activated; there is no ON/OFF switch. When the pressure drop because a faucet is opened, the pump senses it and starts pumping to bring back the pressure and will continue pumping until the full pressure is restored. 

The accumulator creates a pressure buffer. A larger volume of water has to be taken out of the system in order to lower the pressure. As a result, the water pump starts less often and the pressure is more constant. Note that the accumulator is optional.

The grey water tank collects water from the sink. We opted for a relatively small, portable grey water tank (there’s a handle on it) that is connected to the system via a quick-disconnect; so it’s very easy to dump it. Note that we also have the option to dump grey water through the floor, depending on where we’re parked.

We do not need a black water tank, because we have a composting toilet. At last, we added a propane instant hot shower and a bike wash to the system. The final result looks like this:

Faroutride Van Interior (1200px)
Sink.
FarOutRide Garage Van Conversion
Hot shower and bike wash.

1.1- Water System Diagram

Hover your mouse on components to learn more and click to follow the link!
Tap on components to learn more!

1.2- Items List

ComponentDescriptionQuantityBuy Link
MAIN
Fresh Water Tank25 Gallons1Amazon
Test PlugTo plug the fill hole of the water tank1Amazon
Water Tank Filler with valveTo fill the water tank1Amazon
Fitting: 1/2″ MPT to 3/8″ BarbTo install the vent hose1Amazon
Hose: 3/8″ I.D. clearThat’s the vent hose1Amazon
Fitting: 1/2″ MPT to 1/2″ PEXTo install the drain valve1eBay
Valve: 1/2″ PEXTo drain the fresh water tank1eBay
Fitting: Shurflo 1/2″ MPT to 1/2″ Hose BarbTo install the vinyl tubing for the drain1Amazon
Tubing: 1/2″ Braided Vinyl ClearFlexible drain that can be folded away1Amazon
Shurflo Water PumpDiaphragm Pump, 3 gallons per minute, 55 PSI1Amazon
Shurflo AccumulatorTo reduce cycling1Amazon
Shurflo StrainerPrevent damaging the pump if crap enters the system…1Amazon
Shurflo Silencer KitReduce noise from pump vibration1Amazon
ON/OFF switch“Emergency” water pump switch1Amazon
Fitting, “Tee”: 1/2″ PEX to 1/2″ PEX to 1/2″ PEXTo split the PEX pipe for sink & shower1eBay
Valve: 1/2″ PEXWe turn this valve off in winter and drain to prevent freezing (we don’t use the shower or bike wash in winter)1eBay
SINK AND GREY WATER
Dometic VA7306AC SinkThe sink…1Amazon
Swivel Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEXTo connect the PEX pipe to the sink1eBay
End Cap: 1/2″ FPTTo cap the unused hot water sink fitting (essential!)1Amazon
DrainThe sink does not include the drain, so make sure to order this!1Amazon
Camco Flexible Drain 1Amazon
Wye & ValvesTo direct grey water into aqua-tainer or through-floor1Amazon
Quick-ConnectTo easily detach the aqua-tainer for dumping1Amazon
Garden Hose 1Amazon
Hose Clamps, Worm-typeTo ensure the garden hose doesn’t slip out of the aqua-tainer1Amazon
Aqua-Tainer4 gallons grey water tank1Amazon
SHOWER
EccoTemp L5On-demand propane shower1Amazon
Swivel Elbow Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEXTo install the water valve1eBay
Valve: 1/2″ PEXWater Valve1eBay
Valve: 1/2″ FPT to 3/8″ FlarePropane Valve. See our Propane System article for more.1 
BIKE WASH
Spray Faucet with coil hose 1Amazon
Swivel Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEXTo connect the PEX pipe1eBay
End Cap: 1/2″ FPTTo cap the unused hot water sink fitting (essential!)1Amazon
OTHERS
Fitting, “Tee”: 1/2″ PEXThis is required if, like us, installing both the shower & the bike wash1Buy on eBay
Fitting, Elbow: 1/2″ PEXThe PEX pipe can bend 5″ radius max. For tighter turns, use this elbow.As RequiredeBay
Bend SupportThis has less restriction than an elbowAs RequiredeBay
PEX Tubing, 1/2″a.k.a. pipe, hose…As RequiredAmazon
Fitting, MISCWe can’t possibly list all the fittings you might need for your installation! Here is the complete SharkBite catalog. SharkBite Catalog
PEX CutterPEX tubing can be cut with a carpenter knife, but this tool will make your life easier1Amazon

2.1- Fresh Tank Anatomy

Fresh-Water-Tank-Anatomy-Description
Fresh Water Tank

2.1.1- Fill Port

You guessed it, the fill port is used to to fill the tank. While motorhomes and most pro-built campervans have a port outside the van to fill the tank, we don’t because we don’t want the van to look like a RV; we like our van to look like a normal cargo van from the outside (people refer to that as being “stealth”). So here’s how we fill:

Faroutride Third Month Vanlife (15)

Because the hose end may be too large to fit in the fill port of the water tank, the use of this neat “Water Tank Filler” from Camco is handy. Plus, the Water Tank Filler has an integrated shut off valve, so the pressure can be turned off instantly when the tank is almost full (no spill), nice:

Camco Water Filler with shutoff valve 1
Camco Water Filler with shutoff valve

The tanks we recommend (see “Water Tank Links” table above) have 15/16″ inner diameter fill hole (no threads). We plug it using this test plug:

Water-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(plug)
Water Tank Vent and Fill Hole Plug

2.1.2- Water Pump Port

The tanks we recommend (see “Water Tank Links” table above) have 1/2″ NPT female outlet port (so a 1/2″ NPT male fitting is required).

Fresh Water Tank Van Pump Connection

2.1.3- Drain Port

The tanks we recommend (see “Water Tank Links” table above) have 1/2″ NPT female outlet port (so a 1/2″ NPT male fitting is required).

2.1.4- Vent Port

When pumping water out of the tank (or filling the tank), the water volume has to be replaced with air. That’s the role of the vent port. To prevent water coming out of the vent port (when braking or on steep or rough roads, for example), a hose is connected to the vent port and we installed it about 15 inches higher than the tank.

The tanks we recommend (see “Water Tank Links” table above) have 1/2″ NPT female vent port (so a 1/2″ NPT male fitting is required).

See section 1.3.1 for picture.

2.2- What Size?

It totally depends on your usage and how many days autonomy (without having to fill) you want. As a rough guideline and to help you make your calculations, here is our usage living full-time in the van:

  • One shower (one person) uses a little less than 3 gallons of water. (that’s being very careful not wasting water, i.e. turning shower off when soaping, etc.)
  • We dump between 2-4 gallons of grey water from the sink every day. (we cook a lot, so we wash a lot of dishes; you might dump less than that)

That being said, we fill our 25 gallons tank every 4-5 days in summer (depending on showers). Every 7-10 days in winter (we shower in aquatic centers or gyms and try to fill our 1L water bottles as often as we can in public places).

When choosing the size of your tank, remember that water is not a luxury it’s essential! Having to search for water frequently is no fun, so make sure to select a tank that gives you plenty of autonomy!

Water Tanks

SIZEBUY LINK
7 gallonAmazon
10 gallonAmazon
16 gallonAmazon
21 gallonAmazon
25 gallonAmazon
30 gallonAmazon
40 gallonAmazon

2.3- Inside or Outside the Van?

By installing our tank and plumbing inside the van, we can use our system even during skiing season, nice! We tested it in temperatures as low as -24F (-31C). Of course, having the tank inside occupies precious space in the garage but that’s a compromise we are happy to make.

If we were to use the van exclusively in summer, we might consider installing our tank outside the van, underfloor. Installing the tank underfloor frees garage space AND improves the van handling because it lowers the center of gravity.

If we were to start over, now that we know that we use much less water in winter, we would consider installing a tank inside AND a tank outside the van. The idea is to maximize water capacity without occupying too much space in the garage:

  • In summer, we would use both tanks (extra capacity for showers)
  • In winter, we would winterize the outside tank and use only the inside tank
  • Remember, this extra precaution is because we use the van below freezing temperatures! If that’s not your case, there’s probably no point on doing this.
  • That’s food for thoughts, we don’t have any installation layout/details for that…

2.4- Wheel Well Water Tank

Wheel well water tanks were not a thing when we built our van, but we’d definitely consider it for our next van! They’re designed to fit over the wheel well and as a result, they optimize space and lower the center of gravity. Neat. 

Wheel Well Water Tank Van Sprinter Transit
Wheel Well Water Tank Van Sprinter Transit 2

The tanks from Northwest Conversions caught our attention. We like the variety of models available and the fact that ports are located both in the front AND in the back. There is also an additional port on top for filling or for installing a sensor to monitor the level. Each tank is spec’d as follows:

  • (2) 1.5” NPT ports (needs to be drilled out) on either end.
  • (2) 1/2” NPT ports on either end.
  • (1) 1.5” NPT port (needs to be drilled out) on top or fill or level sensor.
  • Designed to fit Sprinter and Transit vans (might fit other vans as well).
  • Can be placed either driver or passenger side.

20 Gallon Offset

44.5” long, 13” deep, 16” tall
*On these models, the ports are located on (1) end only.

20 Gallon

44.5” long, 13” deep, 16” tall

22 Gallon

45” long, 13” deep, 16” tall

32 Gallon

48” long, 16” deep, 16” tall

3- Grey Water Tank

Grey water is what comes out of the sink drain (and shower, if we had one): water from washing dishes, washing our hands, brushing our teeth, etc. There are no excrement or chemicals in grey water.

Grey-Water-Valve
Our take on the grey water system!

3.1- What Size?

That depends on how often you don’t mind having to empty it. As a guideline, we empty our 4 gallons grey water tank almost everyday:

  • Washing dishes is what uses the most water. We cook a lot, so we wash a lot of dishes! You might get less grey water than we do.
  • If we use our hole-in-the-floor, we don’t have to empty our grey water tank everyday…

3.2- Inside or Outside?

Because we use the van for skiing in winter, we had to install our grey water tank inside the van so it doesn’t freeze. It uses some space under the sink, but we’re happy that we can use our sink during winter!

The lower temperature we experienced so far is -31C (-24F) and we could still use the water system! 🙂

4- Black Water Tank

We don’t have a black water tank and we don’t need to go after RV Dump Stations. Neat! How is that? Because we installed a Nature’s Head composting toilet 🙂 And we’re SO GLAD we did! We talk about our composting toilet here (how it works, how it’s emptied, what frequency, etc):

5.1- Diaphragm Pump

A diaphragm pump keeps the water system pressurized at all time. It’s like having running water, just like at home in a house. 

The pump has no on/off switch. It starts automatically when the pressure drops and shut-off automatically when the appropriate pressure is reached. For example, using the sink (or shower or whatever) creates a pressure drop; the pump senses it and runs until the pressure goes up again. 

One of the most common and reliable diaphragm pump out there is made by Shurflo:

Shurflo Revolution 4008

  • Shut-Off Pressure: 55 PSI
  • Re-Start Pressure: 40 PSI
  • Recommended Fuse: 10 amps
  • Flow: 3 Gallons Per Minute

5.1.1- Connecting The Pump

The Shurflo Revolution 4008 has one 1/2″ NPS male inlet and one 1/2″ NPS male outlet. Because the pump produce quite a lot of vibration, it’s better to connect the pump using flexible pipes. We recommend using the Silencer Kit from Shurflo:

It’s also a good idea to install a strainer at the inlet port of the pump, so debris can’t find their way through the pump and damage it:

5.1.1- Electrical Wiring

By now we understand that a diaphragm pump doesn't require an ON/OFF switch... However, we recommend adding one to manually shut the pump off. It'll prevent the pump from running indefinitely when the fresh water tank runs empty (it'll happen!). 

The pump has to be connected to the electrical system. Don't worry, we also have a guide for that 🙂

5.2- Manual Pump

To keep things really simple and to save on electricity, a manual pump can be installed:

6- Accumulator

If installing a diaphragm pump (like the Shurflo we recommend), you might consider adding an accumulator. The accumulator contributes to longer pump life, less noise, less amperage draw, and reduced water pulsation. And also reduces cycling (the pump starts less often), nice.

Per manufacturer: “The most efficient use of the accumulator occurs with the accumulator pressure set at the same pressure as the pump’s re-start setting.” (Hint: it’s 40 PSI for the Shurflo Revolution 4008 pump). We tested different pressures and we prefer to set it to 30 PSI as the water volume capacity is greater at that pressure (therefore the pump cycle less).

The pressure can be checked with a normal tire gauge (you have one in your glove compartment, right?) and adjusted with a bike pump (it’s a shrader valve), it’s super easy. When checking or adjusting pressure, just remember to turn off the pump and to open the sink faucet (this is to read the static pressure). The accumulator comes unpressurized.

Shurflo Accumulator

7.1- For Pressurized System

Pretty much any sink will do. We like the Dometic VA7306AC sink because it’s compact, foldable and looks great. If your counter space is limited, it’s a great way to optimize it. Be aware that it’s a high-quality product with a high price tag. The only downside we found is that the foldable faucet is in the way when washing/rinsing large items (such as full size plate or pot/pan); we wish it was located further back so we don’t have to swing it around.

Dometic Sink

7.2- For Manual Pump

If going for a manual pump, keep things simple!

8.1- Nope

We don’t have hot water in the sink and we’re totally OK with this: we just use our kettle to heat water. That’s the most economical way (water and gas) for sure! The most annoying part is that it’s not really practical to rinse the dishes using the kettle, so we rinse using cold water; that makes drying the dishes more difficult. For everything else, we don’t mind.

Kettle With Thermometer

8.2- Propane

8.2.1- Tankless Water Heater (On-Demand)

As the name suggests, a tankless water heater has no tank. Water is heated instantly on-demand, so it can provide a continuous flow of hot water. It’s super efficient since it doesn’t have to keep water hot all day.

Mr. Heater BOSS

This is what we used for the first 10 months in our van. But then we realized we don't need to have a portable system. It is quite bulky and cannot be integrated to our water system. So we decided to try something else...

Eccotemp L5

We've been using the Eccotemp since 2018 and we're super happy with it. It's good, cheap and easy to install. It can be integrated to a pressurized system, it's not bulky and the water is surprisingly HOT.

8.2.2- Water Heater With Tank

Atwood have a wide range of water heater models, but the one that catches our attention is the G8A-6E model:

  • Tank Capacity: 6 gallons
  • Water Temperature: 100F to 150F
  • Energy: Propane
  • Recovery: 11.6 gallons per hour
  • Dimensions: 16″ high x 12.5″ wide x 18″ deep

Make sure to check Atwood website for all their available models: http://www.atwoodmobile.com/water-heaters.asp

Atwood 6 Gallon Water Heater

8.3- Diesel

If budget is not an issue, you might consider the Webasto Dual Top Evo. It’s an air heater (similar to ours: faroutride.com/air-heater-installation) AND water heater combined. It works with diesel and has a 11 liters water tank integrated. Fun fact: it’s over $3K…

Webasto Dual Top Evo

9- Bike Wash

Washing a bike uses quite a lot of water, so we obviously don’t use it very frequently. But there are some occasions where the bike wash is a real life saver; removing a layer of mud from the down tube by hand is no fun!

Now, can someone explain why Antoine is CONSTANTLY walking in dog poo while Isabelle is not??! We’re thinking of renaming it for “Dog Poop Wash” as it has become the primary use…

Exterior Spray Faucet

10- Pipes & Fittings

10.1- Pipes

Let’s get straight to the point, PEX tubing is what you want.

  • PEX tubing has become the standard for houses and RV.
  • It’s cheap and readily available in any hardware or RV store.
  • It comes in red/blue color to differentiate hot/cold side (both colors have the same properties).
  • It resists freezing (but fittings might crack, don’t let it freeze!) and high-temperature.
  • It’s easy to cut, easy to connect, easy to route (flexibility: 5″ minimum radius for 1/2″ diameter PEX).
  • It won’t corrode.
  • Note that PEX is NOT UV resistant and should not be installed under constant sun exposure.

PEX tubing can be cut with a carpenter knife, but a PEX cutter will make your life easier:

10.2- Fittings

10.2.1- Clamping

This is the method we recommend for permanent, leak free connections. It’s easy, fast, fun (yep!) and there is very little chance for error. It’s also good to know that a clamp tool can clamp any ring size (as opposed to crimp). Here is how it goes:

  1. Insert the clamp ring on the outside of the PEX tubing.
  2. Insert the barbed fitting into the PEX tubing.
  3. Using the Clamp Tool, compress the clamp ring. The clamp tool will not release from the clamp ring unless a properly-secured connection has been made; therefore GO/NO-GO gauge is not required!
pex-crimp-fittings-pex-pipe-fittings-images

PEX Clamp Tool

For 3/8" up to 1" rings

PEX Clamp Rings

1/2"

10.2.2- Crimping

Crimping is very similar to Clamping; a crimp ring is used instead of a clamp ring. Both methods give as good results, except a GO/NO-GO gauge has to be used for crimping to ensure the crimp ring was sufficiently deformed. Crimping is the cheapest method for large projects.

pex-crimp-fittings-pex-pipe-fittings-images

PEX Crimp Tool

For 1/2" rings

PEX Crimp Rings

1/2"

10.2.3- Compression Fittings

The disadvantage with clamp/crimp is that it might be impossible to operate the tool in tight spaces. In that case you could use Flair-it compression fittings as they require no tool for installation. We personally haven’t tried them, but they’re quite popular in the RV industry. Flair-It fittings come in a variety of shapes and functions:

10.2.4- Push-To-Connect Fittings

Push-to-Connect fittings are almost too good to be true. Just push the PEX tubing into the fitting and voilà! …In fact, maybe they are indeed too good to be true. We tried them and when we pressurized the system, many fittings had slow leak.

  • Slow leak are the worst because they’re hard to notice and could create damage in the long run… Why had we a slow leak? The Sea Tech fittings rely on an O-ring that goes on the outside of the PEX tubing (not inside); the surface of the PEX tubing must be scratch and damage free. These fittings are “reusable”, but the action of disconnecting create scratches on the outside surface of the tubing…
  • O-Ring dries and loose efficiency in the long run.
  • Some people reported having no issue at all after many years, but we think they are too sensitive to installation, outside tubing surface condition and O-ring deterioration. We’re not 100% confident so we pass. (we would be OK with them for temporary repair or outside installation).

10.2.5- Threaded Fittings

For all threaded plastic fittings:

  • Do not use Teflon tape or Teflon paste! These are lubricant, not sealant, and will promote over-tightening = cracks = leaks.
  • Don’t over-tight: finger tighten plus one or two turns.
  • Use plastic-safe thread sealant (not lubricant) such as LA-CO Plato-Joint. Don’t worry it’s not permanent; it’s a paste that does not dry and can be removed easily.
  • We did not use thread sealant on the Shurflo fittings attached to Shurflo appliances (pump & accumulator).

La-Co Plasto-Joint

11.1- To Winterize

When water turns from liquid into ice, its volume expands by approximately 9%; as a result, any water trapped into a component that freezes will crack the said component.

In an RV, it is almost impossible to completely drain the water from everything. The best way to achieve this would be to use an air compressor to blow the system, but it’s not guaranteed to work… That’s why most people winterize their water system with antifreeze.

Our water system, however, is quite simple; there are few components and these components are all accessible. So we believe it can be winterized by draining all the water and without adding antifreeze. Empty the water tank completely and, with the pump activated, open each faucet independently (sink, hot shower, bike wash) for a rough “pre-drain”. Then, disconnect the water pump, the accumulator, the hot shower (Eccotemp) and the bike wash. Water will come out, so have a large bowl and some towels ready! If you can, take all these appliances inside your house for the winter (hey, the removal should take a few minutes of your time it’s not that bad!). If removing them is not possible, blow compressed air to drain them well. Be extra careful with the hot shower (Eccotemp), it’s much more harder to drain because of the heat exchanger (we’d really take this one inside the house for the winter..).

11.2- Or To Not Winterize

Since we live full-time in the van and all our components (pipes, water heater, fresh water tank, etc) are located inside (warm-side), we can use our water system ALL-YEAR, sweet! We even used it when it was -24F (-30C). We only take the precaution of winterizing the bike wash / shower at the back of the van; this area can freeze occasionally (it’s far from any heat source) so we don’t take any risk and drain it.

Seventh Month on the Road (1)
-15F (-25C) outside, water still works so we can still do our things!

12.1- Water Bandit

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. We're using it occasionally.

12.2- Sillcock Key

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. After a few years on the road, we actually only used it once, and we're happy we had it!

13- Monitoring Tanks Level

13.1- Keep it simple!

For a majority of people, monitoring the level of the tanks just by looking through them does the job. That’s what we did for the first year or so we lived full time in our van; it worked just fine and it’s the cheaper solution.

13.2- Simarine Pico

After a year or so living full time in our van, we decided to upgrade for a fancy monitoring system. The Simarine Pico is not only sexy, it is also packed with cool features: battery monitoring, tank level monitoring, temperature sensors, inclinometer, etc. We appreciate the tank level feature (fresh tank, grey tank & Nature’s Head liquid tank) and the low/high level alarm, it would be hard to go back after getting used to it…

14.1- Tank Installation

The tank is installed above the wheel arch:

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (11)

The tank is secured with BoatBuckle Kwik-Lok Tie Down 2″x4′ (Buy on Amazon). They’re super strong and easy to install/remove. They are attached to Stainless Steel Tie-Down “D” Ring (Buy on Amazon):

Tank Straps

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

14.2- Water Pump, Accumulator & Plumbing Installation

Water pump & accumulator:

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (10)

We build a “shield” for the pump and accumulator and installed the switch on it:

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (4)

It looks like this with the “shield” on:

Water Pump Hidden

This is the tubing near the pump and the accumulator:

(Note that our tank has a water pump port at the back, but unfortunately this tank is not made anymore… The tanks we suggest have all ports on the same side)

Water-Flow-Direction-1

And this is the tubing where it splits toward the bike wash / shower:

Camper-Van-Water-System-(9)

14.3- Sink and Grey Water Tank Installation

The sink installation into the cabinet in covered in our Sink & Stove Cabinet article: faroutride.com/sink-stove-cabinet

Camper Van Water System (4)

This is our grey water tank:

Grey-Water-Valve

Meanwhile in China:

Garden Hose Under the Van

14.4- Bike Wash Installation

Camper Van Bike Wash
Spray Nozzle Bike Wash Camper Van Conversion

14.5- Hot Shower Installation

To connect the cold water (blue PEX tubing), we used a swivel-elbow adapter (eBay) followed by an elbow (eBay); this way the valve (which act as the shower handle) is easily accessible and is routed around the propane valve (see also following picture for a different view angle).

Camper Van Hot Shower PEX
Connections (left to right): Propane, hot water, cold water. They’re all 1/2″ NPT.

When not in use, the shower head is stored using a Quick Fist Clamp mini (Buy on Amazon):

Eccotemp L5 Camper Van Conversion Hot Shower

The shower head holds in the window using a suction cup adapter (Buy on Amazon):

Eccotemp Shower Camper Van Conversion

And that’s our exterior shower setup. We documented how we built it here: faroutride.com/exterior-shower

Exterior-Shower-Campervan-Conversion-7

15- On Second Thought...

  • October 2017 : One month living full-time in the van! We talk about the water system in our “First Month on the Road” article: faroutride.com/first-month/
  • December 2017: We modified our grey water system so we can dump water directly through the floor (or in the grey water tank).
  • June 2018: We traded the Mr Heater BOSS for an EccoTemp (see justifications above in this article). We also re-plumbed our system using PEX tubing instead of braided vinyl tubing (because that’s the proper way to do it).

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about us

Nice To Meet You.

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

115 thoughts on “Water System Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion”

  1. Hi Antoine,

    First, thanks for sharing all the knowledge! Couple questions about installing the water pump. It comes with 16 AWG but the manual recommends using 12 AWG. Did you crimp the two different size wire gauges together? Also, it looks like the wire that comes with the Shurflo is aluminum but we’re using copper. Did you crimp aluminum and copper wire together, or remove the default wire that came with the pump?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Great Overview, definitely helped me.

    One thing I found: The tanks you recommend no longer have a 1-1/4″ fill hole, they switched to 1/2″ and 1-1/2″. So might save people time/money if you update it!

    Also if you ordered everything and its not fitting together, Home Depot has a ton of fittings that aren’t on their website, so just go in person.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the heads up and sorry for the confusion. Following you comment we updated the page (and diagram) with a tank (same manufacturer) that has all 1/2″ NPT ports, except the fill port has 15/16″ inner diameter. We updated the test plug accordingly to fit the fill port and added a Camco Water Tank filler. That should do it.

      Again sorry, and good luck with your build!
      Antoine

      Reply
  3. I purchased the Shurflo 4008 Pump and it says there is no need for an accumulator since it is a bypass pump. Have you tried using it in this way? Thanks

    Reply
    • Indeed, the accumulator is not REQUIRED. But we like that with the accumulator, the pump doesn’t run as often; you can use a little bit of water without the pump having to run.

      But if you don’t want it for some reason, it’ll work just fine!

      antoine 🙂

      Reply
  4. I plan on using my Eccotemp L5 as my shower and faucet out the back of the van. You mention in your review of the Eccotemp I believe that it can also be used for cold water, but you have a separate plumbing system for the bike wash. Can I actually pump water through the Eccotemp without warming it? Also, I bought the 10 gal water tank you linked me to from Amazon. I plan on having a water hose running into it to fill it up, with a hose coming out of the other top port that would allow air to flow and excess water to come out if it got over filled. Is there a reason this would not work?

    Reply
  5. How did you integrade that brass fitting that connects the quick connect to the lid of the 4 gallon aqua tainer? Did you drill a hole in the cap and thread it? Also, what is that brass fitting called?

    Reply
    • It’s a garden hose quick-connect: https://amzn.to/2GCdKg4

      We fitted a garden hose to the quick connect, routed it through the hole of the aqua-tainer lid (it’s the right size, I don’t think we drilled. we just unscrew the original spigot), then installed a worm gear clamp to the hose inside the aqua-tainer (so the hose can’t slip out).

      It’s basic and it’s not 100% sealed, but we never had any spill. Hope that makes sense!
      Antoine

      Reply
  6. I installed a similar system into a small house (no hot water heater/bike wash) and I am dealing with rapid cycling out of the Shurflo pump. Have you dealt with this at all?

    Reply
  7. Thanks for a thorough explanation of water set up options! Curious, how do you typically refill your fresh water tank? A photo above looks like you hook up a hose to the water source and then the other end to your fresh water tank. However, the tanks you recommend for purchase say not to hook up water hose as it could explode the tank. Would love to install a larger fresh water tank but want to ensure I have a mess-free and back-saving way of filling it back up.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Bethany,
      We simply fill it with a hose, like you would fill a bucket or something. It does not create pressure this way (which, like you mentioned, should be avoided). The downside is that it’s pretty much a 2 persons process (one to operate the faucet, the other to hold the hose in the tank) and if you forget to put back the plug, water would spill inside the van. “Traditional” van setup includes a fill port outside the van AND an overflow port; we didn’t go that route because we don’t want anything outside the van.

      Reply
    • From our Winter Vanlife Guide (https://faroutride.com/winter-vanlife/#heat):

      “WE NEVER LET THE INTERIOR OF THE VAN FREEZE. Indeed the plumbing would crack, the walls would be painted with booze, our food supplies and household products (liquid dishwashing soap) would become unusable, and so on.

      To prevent the van from freezing, no need to run the heater 24/7 (it is not recommended for gasoline/diesel heater as this could lead to carbon buildup issues. It wouldn’t hurt a Propex heater though.). At night or when we go out skiing, we turn off the heater for a few hours (the shutoff can be delayed using the timer feature of the Webasto Multicontrol HD) as it take a while before the temperature to drop near freezing level. We program the heater to start a few hours later, thanks to the programmable controller (Webasto Multicontrol HD). How long can we leave the heater off before it freezes? There is no specific answer; it depends on your insulation and layout, the outside temperature, if the sun is out or not, etc. Don’t worry, you’ll learn and adapt!”

      Reply
  8. Winter is coming! I got a similar set up to you guys, and I’m in the van pretty often, but temperatures do get below freezing when I’m out and about.

    How do you make sure the tank inside doesn’t freeze as well as the pipes when you go out for the day during the winter? Also what do you do about your electronics? Laptops might break if it goes under 0 degrees

    Reply
    • Because we live full time in the van, we never let the temperature go below freezing (even when we’re out skiing). It would make a mess with our food, booze, etc…

      Reply
  9. The test plug you recommend for the fill hole fits the 1.5″ hole without any leak? Also this is a fresh water tank, for drinking is it okay to have the rubber stopper in there or is there a better option?

    Reply

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