Water System Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion

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

Water System Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion

Here’s 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 “home on wheels”, so let’s do this! It’s not that hard, we’re here to help 🙂 Here is how it goes:

  • PART A (THEORY): we talk about water system in general; it’s the basic stuff.
  • PART B (OUR SYSTEM): we talk about OUR water system.

 

 


DISCLOSURE:

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

Portrait
Buying through our product links is the best way to say thanks if we were of any help for your conversion! Thanks for supporting us and for keeping this website alive 🙂

 

Alternatively, you can visit our Say Thanks! page.


 

 

 

PART A: THEORY

Before we go any further, remember that we’re not building a motor home here; we will focus on components and systems that we think are more appropriate for a camper van conversion rather than a RV.

 

1. Fresh Water Tank

1.1- 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 (Buy on Amazon) every 4-5 days in summer (depending on showers). Every 7 days in winter (we shower in aquatic centers or such and drink much less water).

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 Tank Links:

SIZE Buy Link
10 gallons Amazon
15 gallons Amazon
20 gallons Amazon
25 gallons Amazon

 

1.2- Inside or Outside?

By installing our tank and plumbing inside the van, we can use our system even during skiing season, nice! It works in temperatures as low as -15F (-25C). Of course, having the tank inside occupies precious space in the garage but that’s a compromise we are happy to make.

Winter-Vanlife-Heading-(1200x627)

 

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…

 

1.3- Tank Anatomy

RV-Water-Tank-Anatomy

1.3.1- 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 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 (people refer to that as being “stealth”).

Filling our Fresh Water Tank

 

The tanks we recommend (see “Water Tank Links” table above) have 1-1/4″ diameter fill hole (no threads). We plug it using this test plug (Buy on Amazon):

Water-System-Installation-Camper-Van-Conversion-(plug)
Test Plug. Buy on Amazon.

 

Water Tank Vent and Fill Hole Plug
Fill Port (right) and Vent Port (left)

 

1.3.2- Outlet Port

The outlet port is used to connect the water pump.

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
Outlet Port

 

1.3.3- Drain Port

The drain port is used to empty the tank for winterizing or for maintenance.

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

 

1.3.4- 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 breaking 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. 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
Our take on the grey water system!

 

2.1- 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 (see “Our System” section below), we don’t have to empty our grey water tank everyday…

 

2.2- 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!

 

3- Black Water Tank

Black water is what comes out of a toilet; there are excrement and/or chemicals in black water. It must be emptied at a RV Dump Station:

RV Life Dump Station
RV Life… (photo credit: sanidumps.com)

 

3.1- Yay or Nay?

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):

 

4- Water Pump

Pump up the jam.

 

4.1- Diaphragm Pump

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

Shurflo Revolution 4008 Water Pump
Shurflo Revolution 4008 Diaphragm Pump. Buy on Amazon.

 

4.1.1- How it works

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.

 

Shurflo Revolution 4008 Specifications:

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

 

Resource:

 

4.1.2- 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:

Shurflo Silencer Kit
Shurflo Silencer Kit. Buy on Amazon.

 

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:

Shurflo Strainer
Shurflo Strainer. Buy on Amazon.

 

4.1.3- On / Off Switch

We just mentioned a diaphragm pump doesn’t have on/off switch, true. But adding one is a good idea. Indeed, if the water tank runs empty (which happens sometimes, you know…) the pump will run indefinitely and could be damaged. Also, if there was a leak somewhere in our system (which happened when we installed the Sea Tech push-to-connect fittings; we then got rid of them…), we could turn off the pump quickly and prevent a major mess.

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 on Amazon)

 

4.1.4- Electrical Wiring

The pump works on 12V DC and has a negative and positive wire. It doesn’t get easier than this! We wrote an in-depth article about campervan electrical system:

 

4.2- Manual Pump

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

 

RV Hand Pump
Hand Pump. Buy on Amazon.
RV Foot Pump
Foot Pump. Buy on Amazon.

 

5- 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.

Water Accumulator Tank
SHURflo 182-200 Pre-Pressurized Accumulator Tank. Buy on Amazon.

 

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.

 

Resource:

 

6- Sink

6.1- For Pressurized System

Pretty much any sink will do. We recommend 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 casserole); we wish it was located further back so we don’t have to swing it around.

Dometic VA7306AC Sink
Dometic VA7306AC Sink. Buy on Amazon.

 

6.2- For Manual Pump

If going for a manual pump, keep things simple!

Telescoping Faucet
Spout. Buy on Amazon.
SS Sink
Stainless Steel Sink. Buy on Amazon.

 

7- Hot Water

7.1- Nope

We don’t have a water heater (for 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.

Gator Kettle
Super Simple hot water system. Buy on Amazon.

 

7.2- 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 Evo Top 6
Webasto Dual Top Evo. Manufacturer Website.

Resource:

 

7.3- Propane
7.3.1- Tankless Water Heater (on-demand)

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

Mr Heater BOSS

This is what we used for the first 10 months of our trip. It’s super safe, efficient, portable, but cannot be integrated to a pressurized system (it has its own pump). We really enjoyed using it and highly recommend it, but we finally installed an EccoTemp instead because:

  1. After 10 months we realized we don’t need our shower to be portable.
  2. We also realized finding water is fairly easy, so we don’t really need the extra 7 gallons Aqua-Tainer.
  3. Having to connect the propane and water each time is a little irritating.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with the Mr Heater BOSS if it answers your needs. Here is our full review:

Resources:

 

Eccotemp L5

After 10 months on the road, we finally replaced the Mr Heater for the EccoTemp (see justification above). It’s a popular option with a reason: it’s good, cheap and easy to setup. It can be integrated to a pressurized system (diaphragm pump, like ours) or it can be ordered with a standalone pump. Be aware that the manufacturer does not approve it for interior permanent installation. That’s why:

  1. We installed ours near the rear doors (so it’s fully vented).
  2. We installed a valve for propane AND water (so we can shut it off after each use).
  3. We drain it after each use (per manual).
Eccotemp L5 Camper Van Conversion Hot Shower
Eccotemp L5. Buy on Amazon.

 

Here is our review:

 

Resources:

 

7.3.2- With Tank Water Heater

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

  • 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 G6A-8E Water Heater
Atwood G6A-8E. Buy on Amazon.

 

8- Misc (Pimp my System)

8.1- Bike Wash (a.k.a Dog Poop 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 (a.k.a Bike Wash)” as it has become the primary use…

Spray Faucet RV Water Exterior
Dog Poop Wash (a.k.a Bike Wash). Buy on Amazon.

 

9- Plumbing

9.1- Pipes

Let’s get straight to the point, PEX tubing is probably 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 color as 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 where is sees constant sun exposure.

Nice!

PEX red blue
PEX. Get it from your local hardware store or from Amazon.

 

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

PEX Cutter
PEX Cutter. Buy on Amazon.

 

9.2- Leak Free Connection
9.2.1- 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:

pex-crimp-fittings-pex-pipe-fittings-images
Photo Credit: halvorsonhouse.com
  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!
SharkBite Clamp Tool for 3/8″ up to 1″ rings. Buy on Amazon. (the third handle allows one-hand operation.)
SharkBite Clamp Ring
SharkBite Clamp Ring 1/2″. Buy on Amazon.

 

9.2.2- 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.

SharkBite Crimp Tool
SharkBite Crimp Tool for 1/2″ and 3/4″ ring. Buy on Amazon.
SharkBite Crimp Ring
SharkBite Crimp Ring 1/2″. Buy on Amazon.

 

9.2.3- Compression Fittings

The disadvantage with clamp/crimp is that it might be impossible to operate the tool in tight spaces. In that case we suggest Flair-it compression fittings as they require no tool for installation:

Flair It How To
Photo Credit: americansupplyandairproducts.com

 

We personally haven’t tried them, but they’re very popular in the RV industry and they’re tried and tested. Flair-It fittings come in a variety of shapes and functions: Buy on Amazon

 

9.2.4- 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!

sea tech push-to-connect installation
credit: Sea Tech.

In fact, maybe they are indeed too good to be true. We first used these fittings to make our water system and when we applied pressure, 2 fittings disconnected and 2 had slow-leak.

  • We’ll take the blame for the fittings that disconnected. We probably made the mistake of not pushing them enough. But we’re all human and we all make mistakes… in our opinion, a good design is a design that doesn’t allow to make mistake.
  • 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).

 

9.2.5- 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. Buy on Amazon

 

10- Winter

10.1- To Winterize

Don’t EVER let your water system freeze. Freezing water expands and components (fittings, spray nozzle, water heater, etc) will crack and leak. Prior freezing, drain water from all the components.

 

10.2- Or 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 -15F (-25C). 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.

-15F (-25C) outside, water still works so we can do our things!

 

11- Hacks

11.1- 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:

Water Bandit
Water Bandit. Get one on Amazon.

 

11.2- 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. 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 on Amazon.

 

 

PART B: OUR SYSTEM

12- Identifying our Needs

Before designing or building anything, we always take the time to identify our needs. Here is what we want:

  • Pressurized System
  • 4-6 days autonomy
  • Hot Shower
  • Spray Nozzle to wash our bikes occasionally (why not?!)
  • Use year round, but easy to winterize if required
  • No Black Water

 

By making the list above, we know where we are heading. (we are heading to section 13- below, keep reading!)

 

13- Water System Diagram

The water system diagram below answer our needs! You might have different needs and come up with a different diagram and that’s totally fine 🙂

 

13.1- Interactive Water System Diagram

This is an interactive diagram: hover/click on products for more!

 

13.2- High-Resolution Water System Diagram

Download a high-resolution, printable, pdf file of our water system diagram. You will get two things:

1- High-Resolution Water System Diagram (printable pdf):

 

Water-System-Diagram (V1, rev A, 800px)

2- Our “Water System Tutorial in 17 Steps” that contains additional hints on where to apply sealant and how to test the system for leaks 🙂

Water-Tutorial-Animated-GIF-(450px)

 

What’s in it for you:

  • Save hundreds of hours of research;
  • Skip the “please review my diagram” on discussion forums;
  • With over 250 downloads, it’s safe to say it’s a tried-and-true design! Build your system with confidence.

What’s in it for us:

  • Buying this diagram and using the product links throughout this website is the best way to say thanks if we were of any help to you 🙂

 

WE GIVE BACK 10% OF THE STORE PROCEEDS TO THE TRAILS AND TO POW!

(Click here to learn more)

10-percent-back,-FarOutRide-Logo

 

 

14- Material List

To replicate our Water System:

  • click on any product in the diagram above.
  • or use the table below:
Water System
Component Description Quantity Buy Link
MAIN
Fresh Water Tank 25 Gallons 1 Amazon
Test Plug To plug the fill hole of the water tank 1 Amazon
Fitting: 1/2″ MPT to 3/8″ Barb To install the vent hose 1 Amazon
Hose: 3/8″ I.D. clear That’s the vent hose 1 Amazon
Fitting: 1/2″ MPT to 1/2″ PEX To install the drain valve 1 eBay
Valve: 1/2″ PEX To drain the fresh water tank 1 eBay
Fitting: Shurflo 1/2″ MPT to 1/2″ Hose Barb To install the vinyl tubing for the drain 1 Amazon
Tubing: 1/2″ Braided Vinyl Clear Flexible drain that can be folded away 1 Amazon
Shurflo Water Pump Diaphragm Pump, 3 gallons per minute, 55 PSI 1 Amazon
Shurflo Accumulator To reduce cycling 1 Amazon
Shurflo Strainer Prevent damaging the pump if crap enters the system… 1 Amazon
Shurflo Silencer Kit Reduce noise from pump vibration 1 Amazon
ON/OFF switch “Emergency” water pump switch 1 Amazon
Fitting, “Tee”: 1/2″ PEX to 1/2″ PEX to 1/2″ PEX To split the PEX pipe for sink & shower 1 eBay
Valve: 1/2″ PEX We turn this valve off in winter and drain to prevent freezing (we don’t use the shower or bike wash in winter) 1 eBay
SINK AND GREY WATER
Dometic VA7306AC Sink The sink… 1 Amazon
Swivel Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEX To connect the PEX pipe to the sink 1 eBay
End Cap: 1/2″ FPT To cap the unused hot water sink fitting (essential!) 1 Amazon
Drain The sink does not include the drain, so make sure to order this! 1 Amazon
Camco Flexible Drain 1 Amazon
Wye & Valves To direct grey water into aqua-tainer or through-floor 1 Amazon
Quick-Connect To easily detach the aqua-tainer for dumping 1 Amazon
Garden Hose 1 Amazon
Hose Clamps, Worm-type To ensure the garden hose doesn’t slip out of the aqua-tainer 1 Amazon
Aqua-Tainer 4 gallons grey water tank 1 Amazon
SHOWER
EccoTemp L5 On-demand propane shower 1 Amazon
Swivel Elbow Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEX To install the water valve 1 eBay
Valve: 1/2″ PEX Water Valve 1 eBay
Valve: 1/2″ FPT to 3/8″ Flare Propane Valve. See our Propane System article for more. 1
BIKE WASH
Spray Faucet with coil hose 1 Amazon
Swivel Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEX To connect the PEX pipe 1 eBay
End Cap: 1/2″ FPT To cap the unused hot water sink fitting (essential!) 1 Amazon
OTHERS
Fitting, “Tee”: 1/2″ PEX This is required if, like us, installing both the shower & the bike wash 1 Buy on eBay
Fitting, Elbow: 1/2″ PEX The PEX pipe can bend 5″ radius max. For tighter turns, use this elbow. As Required eBay
Bend Support This has less restriction than an elbow As Required eBay
PEX Tubing, 1/2″ a.k.a. pipe, hose… As Required Amazon
Fitting, MISC We can’t possibly list all the fittings you might need for your installation! Here is the complete SharkBite catalog. SharkBite Catalog
PEX Cutter PEX tubing can be cut with a carpenter knife, but this tool will make your life easier 1 Amazon

 

15- Installation

15.1- Tank Installation

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)

 

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
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

 

15.2- Water Pump, Accumulator and Tubing Installation
Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (10)
Pump (on the left) & Accumulator (on the right)

 

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

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (4)
Think inside the box. Not much to see here…

 

It looks like this with the “shield” on:

Don’t pay attention to the tubing; see next picture for that.

 

This is the tubing near the pump and the accumulator:

 

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

 

15.3- Sink and Grey Water 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)
Under the hood

 

Grey Water Installation
Grey Water Installation.

 

Garden Hose Under the Van
Meanwhile in China.

 

15.4- Bike Wash
Camper Van Bike Wash
PEX routing to the bike wash
Spray Nozzle Bike Wash Camper Van Conversion
The spray nozzle holds with a Quick Fist Clamp (Buy on Amazon).

 

15.5- 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

 

There are 3 connections for the Eccotemp L5 (all of them are 1/2″ NPT male):

  1. Cold Water Input
  2. Hot Water Output
  3. Propane Input (faroutride.com/propane-system)

The unit fire-up (and shut off) automatically when it detects water flow. The ignition is powered by two “D” batteries; no permanent 12V required.

 

This article covers the DIY shower curtains:

Exterior Shower for Camper Van Conversion

This article covers all about the Eccotemp L5 (installation, operation, review, etc.):

Eccotemp L5 Tankless Water Heater – Review

 

 

16- Resources

  • We were inspired (a lot) by Traipsing About. Check them out they’re awesome!

 

 

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). You will find our “old” Water System article here: faroutride.com/water-system-2017

 

 

 

 

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ABOUT US

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!

 

 

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

  1. Antoine,

    After reading the manufacturers website for the Eccotemp L5 I ran across some language regarding the use at high elevations (above 5,000′) not being recommended. Have you had any issues using this product at elevations higher than 5,000′?

    “The Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless Water Heater has been tested for use at elevations up to 2000 feet. Installation and use of the Eccotemp L5 Portable Tankless Water Heater above 2000 feet may effect overall product efficiency and performance. Installation and use of the Eccotemp Portable Tankless Water Heater above 5000 feet is not recommended.”

    Thanks,
    Nick

  2. “When pressure filling with a garden hose it is very important to have adequate venting at the top so air can escape. Otherwise the tank can be come pressurized, expand, and induce a great deal of force on the surrounding structure. A few psi over a large area is quite significant.”

    This makes me nervous and I’m not sure how to know when the pressure is too high! When filling with garden hose do you have to only open the city valve a little bit/fill slowly? Does water ever unexpectedly come of the vent, or only when the tank is full? Any other issues we may not be anticipating?

    • If you install a vent (like we did in our own system & diagram), you can’t possibly build pressure in your tank. To create your vent, use a 2′ hose and attach one end in the tank, bring the other end 1.5-2′ above the tank; there’s no way water will spill out.

      Good luck!

  3. Bonjour à vous deux, Je suis à planifier la position de ma tank avant de décider, j’aimerais connaître votre expérience au sujet de la position de votre tank d’eau. Notamment, comment la conduite du véhicule a changer après l’installation de votre tank sur le dessus de “wheel well”.
    Merci pour vos précieux partages

    • C’est difficile de quantifier l’impact de la tank spécifiquement… Tout s’additionnent: la tank, battery, armoires, etc… Il faut garder le centre de gravité bas, dans la mesure du possible a travers la conversion. En fin de compte, notre van se comporte bien!

  4. I have a question about the on/off switch that you guys linked to for your water pump. I bought the same one from the link but it looks like the back of the switch has two spades instead of a positive/negative wire. How did you hook up the on/off switch to your water pump?? It was hard to tell from your pictures exactly what kind of connections you made from the switch to the pump and back to your fuse box.

    • I believe you will just want to put the switch inline on your positive wire coming from your battery. So it will come from the battery to one spade on the switch. Then from the other spade it will connect to the water pump’s positive wire.

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