Water System Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion

Last Updated: October 19, 2021

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 draws the line between “van camping” and “van life”, so it’s well worth the efforts. Designing a van’s water system is much simpler than the electrical system. A few items will do the trick: a water pump, fresh & grey water tanks, a sink, and some plumbing hardware. Let’s build stuff!

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.


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 times. As a result, opening one (or multiple) faucet(s) will produce 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 drops because a faucet is opened, the pump senses it and starts pumping to bring back the pressure, and it 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)
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
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 valve1Amazon
Valve: 1/2″ PEXTo drain the fresh water tank1Amazon
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 & shower1Amazon
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)1Amazon
Dometic VA7306AC SinkThe sink… Campervan-HQ
Swivel Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEXTo connect the PEX pipe to the sink1Amazon
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
EccoTemp L5On-demand propane shower1Amazon
Swivel Elbow Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEXTo install the water valve1Amazon
Valve: 1/2″ PEXWater Valve1Amazon
Valve: 1/2″ FPT to 3/8″ FlarePropane Valve. See our Propane System article for more.1 
Spray Faucet with coil hose 1Amazon
Swivel Fitting: 1/2″ FPT to 1/2″ PEXTo connect the PEX pipe1Amazon
End Cap: 1/2″ FPTTo cap the unused hot water sink fitting (essential!)1Amazon
Fitting, “Tee”: 1/2″ PEXThis is required if, like us, installing both the shower & the bike wash1Amazon
Fitting, Elbow: 1/2″ PEXThe PEX pipe can bend 5″ radius max. For tighter turns, use this elbow.As RequiredAmazon
Bend SupportThis has less restriction than an elbowAs RequiredAmazon
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’s knife, but this tool will make your life easier1Amazon

2.1- Fresh Tank Anatomy

Fresh Water Tank

2.1.1- Fill Port

You guessed it, the fill port is used 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 an 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)

We carry a 50 feet hose (lead free and BPA free) to fill our fresh water tank. If we had to start over, we might consider carrying two 25 feet hoses, because 25 feet is what we need 95% of the time and using a longer hose slows down the process (more length adds flow restriction). So for the rare cases when we need over 25 feet, we could connect the two hoses together...

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), making the fill process a one-person job:

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 holes (no threads). We plug it using this test 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 ports (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 ports (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 ports (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 of 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 gallon 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

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 (-31°C). 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 the van 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 in doing this.
  • That’s food for thought, we don’t have any installation layout/details for that…

2.4- Wheel Well Water Tank

Wheel well water tanks are a thing now, and we wish that option existed when we built our van! As the name suggests, wheel well water tanks are shaped so that they embed over the wheel well. We see several benefits over the “old-school” rectangular tanks:

Space Optimization

Decrease the waste of space, increase the living/storage space. That’s the name of the game when building a van!

Lower Center of Gravity

The fresh water tank carries a significant weight; lowering the center of gravity will improve the handling of the van.

Simpler Installation

No need to build a raised shelf to clear the wheel well.

Where to buy

Northwest Conversions has the largest offering of wheel well water tanks, and it’s almost certain you’ll find a size and shape that suits your needs. Here are a few examples:

20 gallon.
32 gallon.
Weight distribution on point!

Sizes: 20, 21, 22, 24, 28, 30 & 32 gallon.

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 is no excrement or chemicals in grey water.

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 gallon grey water tank almost every day:

  • 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 every day…

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 lowest temperature we have experienced so far is -31°C (-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 search for 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 times. It means 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 it shuts-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 pumps 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 produces 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 its way through the pump and damage it:

We connected the silencer to the strainer with this fitting (to save some space):

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. It 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 cycles 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 schrader 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 have 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. The only downside we found is that the foldable faucet is in the way when washing/rinsing large items (such as full size plates or pot/pan); we wish it was located further back so we didn’t have to swing it around.

Edit 2020: Looks like Dometic is now making this sink square (VA8005 model) instead of round (VA7306AC model):

Dometic Sink

(Faucet is sold separately, see product description)

A newer option that recently caught our attention! It looks super classy, yet functional. We would love to see one in person (if you have one, please send us your feedback!)

  • Made from 3mm stainless steel coated with a thick layer of oil-free nanotechnology coating resistant to staining.
  • Folding faucet (included).
  • Removable cover (can be used as a cutting board!).
  • Cold & hot water fittings: 1/2″ NPT.
  • Drain size: 3-1/2″ fitting (strainer not included).
  • Exterior dimensions: 450mm x 390mm (17.72″ x 15.35″).
  • Interior dimensions: 380mm x 347mm (14.96″ x 13.66″).
  • Cutout: 420mm x 365mm (16.54″ x 14.37″).
  • Depth: 238mm (9.37″)

Tec Vanlife

Ships to USA and Canada. More photos on TecVan.ca

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 it: 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 into a pressurized system, it's not bulky, and the water is surprisingly HOT.

8.2.2- Water Heater With Tank

Atwood has 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’s 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 an 11 liter 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 the “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 RVs.
  • 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, and 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’s 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, a GO/NO-GO gauge is not required!

PEX Clamp Tool

For 3/8" up to 1" rings

PEX Clamp Rings


10.2.2- Crimping

Crimping is very similar to Clamping; a crimp ring is used instead of a clamp ring. Both methods give equally 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 Tool

For 1/2" rings

PEX Crimp Rings


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 leaks.

  • Slow leaks are the worst because they’re hard to notice and could create damage in the long run… Why did we have 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 creates scratches on the outside surface of the tubing…
  • O-Rings dry and lose efficiency in the long run.
  • Some people reported having no issue at all after many years, but we think they are too sensitive to install, to outside tubing surface conditions and to 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, designed for metal fittings and they will promote over-tightening of plastic fittings = cracks = leaks.
  • Don’t over-tighten: finger tighten plus one or two turns.
  • Use non-hardening, plastic-safe, non-toxic thread sealant (not lubricant). It’s a paste that does not dry and can be removed easily (not permanent).
  • We did not use thread sealant on the Shurflo fittings attached to Shurflo appliances (pump & accumulator).

Thread Sealant

Compatible with plastic fittings (PVC, CPVC, ABS, Nylon). Non-toxic (OK for potable water). Non-hardening. See product info (pdf).

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 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 out 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 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”. 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 only take a few minutes of your time it’s not that bad!). If removing them is not possible, blow out with compressed air to drain them well. Be extra careful with the hot shower (Eccotemp), it’s much 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 usually 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 (-30°C). 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 avoid taking any risk and drain it.

Seventh Month on the Road (1)
-15F (-25°C) 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 we get a Sillcock Key. Apparently, this tool can open water supplies at some rest areas, campgrounds, corner stores, etc. After a few years on the road, we actually only used it once, but we're happy we had it!

13- Monitoring Tank Levels

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- How to sanitize the Water System

Because we live full time in our van, our water system is constantly refreshed (we fill our tank approximately every 4 days). Therefore, we sanitize our tank every six months. If you must leave your van alone for a week or two without draining the system, consider sanitizing before using it (especially in a hot climate!). 

1- Prepare a bleach solution

2- Sanitize

3- Rinse

15.1- 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 Downs 2″x4′ (Buy on Amazon). They’re super strong and easy to install/remove. They are attached to Stainless Steel Tie-Down “D” Rings (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

15.2- Water Pump, Accumulator & Plumbing Installation

Water pump & accumulator:

Water System Installation Camper Van Conversion (10)

We built 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; unfortunately this tank is not made anymore… The tanks we suggest have all ports on the same side)


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


15.3- Sink and Grey Water Tank Installation

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

Camper Van Water System (4)

This is our grey water tank:


Meanwhile in China:

Garden Hose Under the Van

15.4- Bike Wash Installation

Camper Van Bike Wash
Spray Nozzle Bike Wash Camper Van Conversion

15.5- Hot Shower Installation

To connect the cold water (blue PEX tubing), we used a swivel-elbow adapter followed by an elbow (per our water diagram); this way the valve (which acts 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 temporary mounts 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


16- 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



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!

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

  1. Bonjour Isabelle et Antoine !!!
    merci pour vos informations si généreusement diffusées!
    J’ai suivi vos conseils relatifs au système d’eau. Il semble qu’Il n’y ait aucune référence à une prise d’air pour l’évacuation de l’eau de l’évier. À tout le moins, je ne l’ai pas trouvée.
    Or, j’ai de la difficulté à éliminer l’eau de l’évier que je l’achemine directement à l’extérieur par le plancher ou dans le réservoir d’eau grise.
    Bonne route à vous, merci et à un de ces 4 !

    • Effectivement nous n’avons pas de prise d’air pour l’évacuation de l’eau. L’évacuation se fait un peu plus lentement, mais pas assez pour que ça nous cause du soucis.

  2. Hi guys,

    “we usually live full-time in the van” and the water doesn’t freeze. Okay.
    The design of your system puts some critical components deep in the garage, the coldest area of the van. In our van that area does occasionally gets close or below freezing, usually when the outside temp is below -10C and the inside temp is +10C, sleeping at night.
    I was wondering what at temp you sleep at night in the winter and if you have had many close calls?


    • For a good night of sleep, we keep the “bedroom” temperature above 12C (54F) during the night. With that, we never got issues with components freezing.
      Do you have a wall or something between your living area and your garage? If so, you might get more issue with the garage freezing (and moisture). Personally we have a curtain between our living area and the garage, so when it’s REALLY cold outside (like below -15C or such) we leave the curtain open, so there’s a better air circulation to the garage (keeps the garage a bit warmer).

      • Well, not a wall, but our refrig is where your closet is. There is a bit of an opening aside of the refrig, maybe 8 inches, going along the water tank. Plus, since I wrote that above, I am learning that our thermostat might be 2C cold, so then it might be more like 8C at night. So, we could turn up the heat a little. I should mention that our batteries, which are in a similar location to yours, get even colder, but at least they can’t freeze, and I I think they will allow charging down to -3 or -4C if we need.

        One thing different about your garage is that there is more solid stuff in your, ours is not as organized what with everything flopping around on the floor. So you might have a bit of thermal mass back there to even temps out, and not our big volume of cold air which quickly gets cold.

        Anyway, also since I last wrote, I tried an experiment, wedging a piece of foam over the piping at the back of the water tank, between the tank and the propane locker, which for us is about 4 or 5 inches. The idea is to trap some of the “heat” from the water tank to keep the piping above freezing, and that seems to have worked for two nights (-9 and -8 outside, +8 inside, and the water pipe temp only dropped to about +3 both nights, much improved). Now the temps are up again, so no more testing!

        I will keep you updated, but the final test might not be until next year!!

        It seems that drilling a new port on the _front_ of the tank might simplify and protect the whole system bettor.

        Cheers, Don

        PS, How is your new build going! Need an update!!

  3. How would you connect a tank inside together with an outside tank?
    I live in Hawaii. I have a 21 gallon spare tire from NW conversion and a 40 gallons from Amazon.
    I could pump from under to above to fill in the upper tank again.
    How would you design it. Happy to pay for your services.

  4. Please be aware thar bleach can attack stainless steel. Better to use puriclean. Also fitting a drain point on the cold water system will avoid frost damage to pump, heater etc when not in use during freezing conditions. Great article otherwise with really helpful advise.

  5. Hello,
    I am getting ready to buy my water tanks and am finding that the rectangular tanks fit my build better than the wheelwell style. The wheelwell style are kind of naturally baffled to minimize water slosh because of their shape. Did you find the effect of slosh noticable with your 25gal tank? Thanks in advance!

      • I wasn’t so worried about the sound as the inertial force of the water on stopping/brakes that I’ve read about with large water tanks
        Sounds like it’s a non-issue for you! Thanks for the reply.

  6. Hi quick question!
    Is the tank shown in the photos the same one as the one in the 25g water tank link?
    I want the orientation of the tank to be as you have it but that would mean the fill port would have to be 1/2″ not the 1.5″ port. Unless the photos on Amazon are different than actual tank.

    • Sorry, our current water tank has been discontinued and is not available anymore on Amazon. The tank we link to has a different configuration.

  7. Hello! Love this site, has been a godsend for my buildout. 2 quick questions for you:
    1. how concerned were you with weight distribution between the passenger / driver side? The plan for my current set up will result in the driver side have the kitchen (fridge + stove), sink (+ 20gal freshwater tank), overhead storage, as well as a back dresser alongside the wall near the bed like yours. While the passenger side will have the electrical system, I worry that the driver side will have way more weight on it which may cause problems. Did you guys think about this / how seriously did it impact your decision making? (FYI I’m going to be way under the payload capacity for my van so no worries there)
    2. One solution to this challenge is I could put the freshwater storage tank in the garage on the passenger side, and route the hose to the sink on the driver side by lining the bottom of my bed platform with the freshwater line. It seems odd to have a freshwater line of ~7-10 feet, but a good solution to the weight distribution challenge. Based on your experience, would a set up like this be possible (e.g., still hold water pressure)? Do you see any big issues in doing it that way?

    Thanks a ton!!!!

  8. Hello!
    I have a quick question about the tank, I am not knowledgeable on this subject, so I’m confused about something. The tank that you provide an Amazon link to says the following on the specs:

    “NON-PRESSURIZED TANK: tank must be vented allowing air in and out during use. DO NOT make a sealed connection with a garden hose directly to tank, this is a pressurized connection and will cause tank to explode causing damage. For filling tank it is recommended to use a fill dish or other gravity process.”

    But you guys say you do fill yours with a hose. In addition, in section 5.1 Diaphragm Pump – you say your system is pressurized at all times. Are you using the same 25 gal. tank that you provide a link to? If so, how are you able to use a hose to fill it? It’s probably something simple, forgive my ignorance on the subject, I just want to make sure I order the right thing and the tank doesn’t explode or leak when I fill it. I would be very grateful to hear your thoughts, so I can use your link to make a purchase. Thanks so much!!

    • In our system, the fresh water tank is NOT pressurized. The pressurized section is what comes AFTER the pump.
      When we fill our tank, we simply insert the hose into the tank and fill it, in the same manner you would fill a bucket; this DOES NOT pressurize the tank.

      Hope that makes sense!

  9. Hola thank you for the nice write up~

    I am strongly considering installing 1/2” PEX plumbing with the steel clamping tool. Did you ever break a plastic/ polypropylene barbed connector while installing? This is my sole concern~


  10. Thank you do much for posting all this info. Just finished roughing in my camper/sprinter and found your easy to follow diagrams so helpful. Can’t wait to start on the plumbing system.

  11. We have a question about the accumulator. We have found that when changing altitude the accumulator seems to function differently, which makes sense. We first noticed that the pump was constantly on (but very low) when at altitude from sea level, since the pressure was probably higher than the pump could maintain. We were able to take some air out of it but then the fill valve broke so we ordered a new one. We were wondering if you ever change the accumulator pressure and if so how often you do. Thanks!

  12. Hi,
    Question for the silencer kit. I notice in the diagram it looks like you install the silencer directly around the strainer and accumulator, yet in your build photo you have a white elbow bend part installed before the silencer tubes. Do you have a name for that part? I’m trying to shop for it but don’t know the proper description. Your site has been a tremendous help for building our van. Thank you so much!

  13. Just a note – I wouldn’t recommend the Plasto-Joint Stik Plastic Thread Sealant. On the label it says “Non-Potable Water Applications Only”.

  14. What is the adapter you’re using to connect the quick disconnect to the grey water tank? I purchased both recommended products and my quick disconnect seems to be a different thread count than the cap on the grey water tank so it won’t screw in nicely. Thanks!

  15. Have you had any problems with your splitter for the grey water ? Does it clog sometimes since the valves are small?

    • Excellent point! I added this to the page:
      “We carry a 50 feet hose (lead free and BPA free) to fill our fresh water tank. If we had to start over, we might consider carrying two 25 feet hoses, because 25 feet is what we need 95% of the time and using a longer hose slows down the process (more length adds flow restriction). So for the rare cases when we need over 25 feet, we could connect the two hoses together… ”
      Link to hose: https://amzn.to/3fTHaro

  16. The Shurflo pump I bought off your site says accumulator not needed. Would you still add one for extra protection? Thanks

    • It not about protection. The accumulator creates a “pressure buffer” in your system, so the pump cycles less (i.e. less noise). We like it, but it is optional.

  17. This post was incredible and I hope you got some affiliate sales through my purchases. Today I begin the plumbing system (which is the last and final piece other than the interior design)!

    Using it for Bessie, a 24 ft. Box Truck conversion from a surveillance police unit.

  18. On your water tank, what are your thoughts on a roof rack flat bladder tank that could reside under the solar panels? I want to free up inside space and reduce load on water heater. For the grey water tank, how do you collect if you have a full shower? Gravity doesn’t seem to be an option since the tank would sit above the drain.

  19. Hi, I bought the domestic sink and didn’t come with a faucet. Did you have to get the specific dometic fold down faucet or will any fold down faucet work as long as it fits the sink?

  20. So, if you have an EcoTemp in the van, it seems like having hot water to your sink should be easy.
    Issue 1 might be the fact that it is exhausting into the van when water is demanded. But that is no different than heating water on the range, and I bet more efficient.
    (One question I have is on the operation of the EcoTemp unit, can it just sit for hours “on” and remain functional?)
    Issue 2 is your comment that there would be a heating lag like in a house. The water in my house moves about 100 ft to get to the kitchen sink (I think it goes thru the neighbor’s garage two houses down), so yes, it takes a while. But what is the distance in a van? 10 feet max? That’s two cups of water, depending on pipe size.
    We are not planing on an EcoTemp at the moment, but if we did, hot water to the sink…

  21. Great post! I was wondering how you mounted the quick connect garden hose connection in the white cap of the blue aquatainer?
    Thank you!

    • Im wondering the same thing too! The thread counts are different so they won’t connect even though the diameter is the same.

      • I think they have a short section of garden hose going through a hole in the cap, with a hose clamp on the hose on the inside of the cap to prevent it from coming out.

  22. Hey Antoine and Isabelle, amazing information as always! you are making my build very easy because you have done most of the reaserch for me! 🙂 I am wondering how you attached the quick connect hose fitting to the white cap of the blue aquatainer? I am also curious if you used the “test plug” to plug the fill hole on your water tank at all times except when filling or what? thank you for your response and all the work you have put into your helpful website!

  23. I purchase the 25 gallon recommended fresh water tank from Class A Customs but the holes look different from the picture you have on your site. 2 holes are larger, not threaded and closed. Am I suppose to drill through this to create a hole for the fill up top. And on the bottom same larger hole that’s plugged. Not sure if I should drill through this and use for drain or water pump? Please help

  24. Question about the L5. First of all, 11% 1-star ratings on Amazon with legitimate complaints, yet you say you love it. Promaster forum and Amazon ratings both mention this thing not working above 4K feet elevation yet from your snow photos you do a lot of traveling above that altitude. Living in the Southwest I will spend almost none of my life below 4K feet. I currently live in Albuquerque at 5500 feet and have never been able to keep a Mr.Heater lit for the same reasons people mention about the L5. So what is your experience, which I trust, about using the L5 at elevation? Thanks.

    • As you said, we have a positive experience with the Eccotemp L5; a few of our full-time-vanlifers friends as well. I feel like some of the negative reviews are from people how didn’t installed it properly. I’ve seen a few of these installed OUTSIDE of skoolies… hint: they’re not designed to be installed outside… That being said, it doesn’t feel like a very high-end product, but it’s doing what it’s suppose to.

      To be honest, I can’t really recall using it at very high elevations… I’m pretty sure we used it a few times up to 6000-7000ft and it worked, but it’s been a while. So I can’t comment on that, sorry. But like any combustion device, high-altitude is a challenge. Not just for the L5, all of them. What’s the solution? Going electric, but it’s not really an option for a van (off-grid). I think changing the orifice size is the solution in general; a few manufacturer seems to offer that option for household appliances. But I doubt Eccotemp (or equivalent) offer that…

      • Isotemp is a solution, or any heat exchange solution. I’ve read people can get a full 24 hours or more of hot water after running the engine. Electric backup doesn’t seem too bad if the water is warm still. I bought one but haven’t installed yet. I was all ready to go the Eccotemp or similar route, but I was talked into the Isotemp on the Promaster forum, and after reviewing installation it seems pretty straightforward. If I check back here in a couple months I can report.

  25. Hi there – This guide is really helpful – we’re probably going to copy 90% of your system! Quick question – what fittings did you use to connect the water pump to the accumulator? I see some 1/2″ barbs in the photos with a pipe in between (PEX? Hose?) but couldn’t figure out if that was a whole unit or had to be assembled.


      • Thanks! We bought the SeaFlo accumulator so it didn’t come with that fitting. We ended up making something similar though with the wing nut-looking fittings, a short length of braided hose, and some pipe clamps.

  26. “For all threaded plastic fittings:”

    One handy thing to do for female NPS plastic fittings is to put a SS hose clamp around the fitting to prevent its eventual spitting. I did that on all of those female tank fittings, especially the ones where I had used copper fittings.

    • I installed my water system yesterday with Plasto-Joint on the plastic fittings. It wasn’t until I had finished my system did I take the time to read the label that says “not for potable water. ” I pulled up the safety sheet from the markal website (the manufacturer) and there wasn’t anything concerning on it. I just called the markal tech support to confirm that there are no known hazards associated with it. The rep wasn’t knowledgeable enough and gave me a half answer that “Plasto-Joint just isn’t certified for potable use.” The rep said she’d look into it and email me back. I’m probably going to still use it based of what I could find on the internet so far. Faroutride is still alive so that’s a good sign.

  27. What measures do you have in place to make sure you’re getting decent water for your tank? I worry about the water from some spigots.

    Also – I made the mistake of not washing out the inside of the tank with dish soap and rinsing before initially installing it. It made all the water taste like plastic at first 🙂

  28. Your design is SO helpful, and I followed it almost completely. The only thing I did differently was use pex fittings from Home Depot instead of the Shur Flo. It saved me a lot of money and let me make mistakes then redo without it costing much.

  29. Looking to convert a transit and been reading your conversion and it helps me trying to figure out what I need/want. So no need 2 way fridge anymore? A 12v fridge will run well 24/7 with a solar panel even in BC winter rain?

  30. I love your website so much!

    My boyfriend and I are in the very beginning stages of planning our van adventure and I’ve learned so much from y’all!

    I’m planning on pretty exactly copying your water set-up, except my tank will go above the wheel well on the driver’s side/left side of the van, which is the same side the sink will be on. We also aren’t planning on getting an extended van because we plan to go to some rather wild places and want the improved handling of a shorter base.

    Do you think it would be possible to run a line from the water heater to the sink so we can have both hot & cold water in the sink? Thanks for reading!

    • You could, but I think it’ll waste a lot of water because of the distance (to warm up the pipe, like in a house where the hot water tank is located far away). On top of that, the tankless water heater performs better for long use (e.g. shower); for short burst it’s hard to get constant temps.

  31. Do you have any sort of filtration system for your water to get out particles/bacteria when filling from random spots and to make it taste better?

    • We don’t use any filtration system when filling. We did tried the Camco RV Water Filter (amzn.to/3ovFyGL) and haven’t seen/tasted any change and thought it was bulky to use and stopped using it. If we have any doubt about the water not being safe, we simply don’t fill our water tank. Most of our water sources are listed on iOverlander or are official water filling stations.
      However, a Drinking Water Hose (search as amzn.to/2VDVMl0) will make the whole difference for your water taste! Using a regular garden hose might give a weird taste as some people reported to us.

  32. Your system has really set me back. Bought same pump and fittings. But I have added a 4 gallon water heater, filter and a UV light filter. Anyway it doesn’t work because the fittings are to small for the pump. It clearly states on the first page of the pump installation and preparation to use a minimum of 1/2 inch I.D. plumbing. It may be functioning for your basic system but probably poorly and the pump life will be short. I built a complete system that will now need to be torn out and replaced with the proper plumbing. My fault for not reading the instructions same as you. Maybe change the info here so no one else has to suffer the same pitfall.

    • We recommend 1/2″ tubing and the fittings we recommend are the Shurflo that comes with the pump… So our system is exactly as you describe it should be. Would you care to explain what’s wrong? Did you purchase 3/8 tubing?

      • All the fittings you recommend measure 3/8″ ID, the valve’s, t’s and elbows. . I’m sorry but 3/8 ID fittings make your system a 3/8″ and not 1/2″. I should have contacted Shurflow to verify what they mean by 1/2″ ID plumbing. The pump manufacturer should clarify this in their instructions because they caused a lot of confusion stating that this wasn’t sufficient. This was the only thing I could think that would of caused my problem, but after replacing all my tubing and fittings with 5/8″ ID fittings and 3/4″ tubing I had the same problem. After completely redoing ,disassembling and reassembling 3 or 4 times and losing my mind twice. I found the shower hot cold valve in the handle was completely not functioning on the hot side. Sorry I blame you for a lot of my heartache but in my eyes your information is wrong and you should still put some clarification somewhere about the discrepancy. Or Shurflow should change their instructions to include 3/8′ ID fittings.

        • While the information that was posted, it is your responsibility to always ensure you are putting the correct size tubing and correct items in place correctly. Blaming someone else for something you did, is not doing your due diligence. Any posted information you find should always be used as advice only and not as 100% correct set ups. This is a guide and should be treated as such.

  33. Hi there,

    You don’t seem to mention anything about water sanitation, maybe I missed that bit.
    Differently from a house that draws sanitized water from the mains, in a van you have a lot of water that can stand still for days, especially with a big tank. This could become a problem even if the water you put in is potable water.
    What do you do to keep bacteria from growing in your freshwater tank and pipework?

  34. Hiya! First off, let me just say you guys were a HUGE help with my initial van build last summer. I couldn’t have gotten through the electrical without your diagram. I hired someone to double check my work so I didn’t catch on fire in the middle of the night and he was seriously impressed. He only made a few tweaks that were specific to my setup. Anyhoo, I thought I’d stop by again since I’ve ripped out everything to insulate and put up proper walls. I normally live at the beach in SoCal and I just didn’t need to do it before because we don’t get extreme temperatures there . But I have my own woodworking shop now so I’m able to make some serious upgrades. My question is about the grey water drainage hose. I’ve done everything possible to keep critters out of my van and I’m wondering if anything has ever been able to enter through this hose. I thought about putting a screen on it but that would trap food particles. Thanks so so much! ~Sasha

  35. I used the Reliance 5.5 gallon container for the freshwater, with the gray water going into a 7 gallon Reliance Aqua-tainer. The trick part though, was how to connect the Camco Drain to the water container lid. In other van builds, it looks like they were able to mate the threads and thread it into the lid. This did not work at all, and I sat around scratching my head for a while before coming up with an alternate solution. Then it came to me. Since the drain hose wouldn t thread to the water container lid, I d route the hose through the lid itself. There was one more modification I had to do to make it work though the end of the drain piece needed to be resized so the lid could thread over it. Out came the Dremel, and some time later I was able to attach the two pieces.

  36. Hi Antoine,

    Great site and thank you for all the help. Does the grey hose to “China” hurt your insulation during winter time? Any recommendations or things you’d do differently on your next build?

  37. Hi Antoine,

    Did you guys consider running a hot water line from your shower to your sink? Do you think that would be a feasible solution?


    • The instant hot water system takes a few seconds to get hot, and the pipe would increase the time for the water to get hot… It’s fine for showers, but for the sink I feel like that’s a lot of wasted water. I’d probably consider a water heater with a mini tank if I wanted hot water in the sink.

  38. Hi Antoine,
    Awesome site and information. Very much appreciate all the work and organization. Quick question. Did you drill the hole for the gray water hose to “China” before or after you installed the floor? If you drilled the hole after the floor was installed how did you treat both sides of the hole to protect from rust?

  39. Hi, thank you. You noted you did not use sealant on the Shurflo stuff. I DID (oops?). I put LACO’s Slic-tite sealant paste, recommended by the company-LACO. Is this ok? And, also, for the water hose connector to the sink faucet (we got the same one you use), I used this same LACO product and hand-tightened only (since there are two “O” rings on the connector. Is that OK?

  40. Hi there! Your diagrams have been extremely helpful in understanding how to build my van water systems. One question I have is regarding the vent for the water tank – on your page there is a reference to section 1.3.1 – do you have any pictures of this set up? Can you explain any further why this is necessary?

  41. Do you think the wheel well water tanks are more prone to freezing? Your aft part of your tank has some garage space below it.

  42. I see much of your tank is out in the van’s garage area. Do you think the wheel well water tanks would be more prone to freezing if you are a snow chaser?

  43. Hi there, wondering how long it takes to pressurize using the accumulator. I just put water in the system and fired it up. The pump isn’t shutting off after I run it for a couple minutes. Wondering if I need to wait longer or if there is an issue.

      • Thanks for the quick response!

        I had the faucet open while pumping the accumulator up. Then closed the faucet and turned the pump on. Am I supposed to leave the faucet on when I turn the pump on?

  44. Hi! Did you use 1/2 inch barbed brass fittings or the black plastic barbed fittings with PEX and the clamps? My local plumbing store has the black plastic barbed fittings but claimed they will crack if used with a PEX clamp. Can you confirm? Thanks a lot!

  45. It would be difficult to make a water-tight connection down there on the aquatainer (which is a bit oddly shaped). We’d have to use a “square” permanent tank, and being able to grab the grey tank and dump it into to wood is a mandatory feature in my opinion.


  46. Why don’t you run a hot water line to your sink?

    I’m learning a lot from your site, so thank you!
    I ran a line from my instant hot water heater to the hot water line of my sink and it has very, very occasionally been a nice to have.

    • Riley:

      Just curious how you ran the hot water line from your hot water heater to the hot water line in your sink as I want to do the same? Did you just put in a T off the heater to run back to your sink? Thanks, Jim

    • I have no experience with it, but I doubt it would prevent freezing for skiers like us (-20C is not unusual, we went as low as -31C). Maybe for occasional sub-freezing temps it would be ok? And what about the plumbing going from the tank into the van? This would have to be heated as well somehow…

      Just food for thoughts!
      Cheers, antoine

      • Hey there,

        I love your breakdown and detailed pics and instructions. As a powder chaser, figuring out water in subfreezing temps is taking some ingenuity and engineering for my MiniMod Ambulance. I’m using your blueprint build as a guide but also trying to avoid the tank taking up interior space.

        Where do you shower in the winter with mass powder days and cold storms? It looks like your shower must be with the back doors open and uncovered…looks cold. Do you ever have any issues refilling the water tank in winter months? (closed campgrounds or rv parks, etc?)

        Lastly, here’s a quick link to a vid install of the water heater as mentioned by Doug. Hope some people have some positive feedback as to how well this idea works.

        Thanks for all the great guidance and keep your amazing adventuring spirit!

  47. 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?


  48. 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.

    • 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!

  49. 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

    • 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 🙂

  50. 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?

  51. 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?

    • 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!

  52. 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?

  53. 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.


    • 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.

    • 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!”

  54. 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

    • 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…

  55. 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?

  56. Hi!

    I recently purchased the water tank that you now suggest to use. The only issue I am having is that all the connections are on one side of the tank (there is no valve in the front). There are also two 1/2in fittings and two 1 1/2 in fittings, so I think I will need to find different adapters for those larger holes. Would it be okay to run the line that goes to the pump across the tank if the fittings are facing toward the back (for filling up and draining)? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for helping me through a difficult part of the build with this post.

    • Hi Ryan,
      Yeah they don’t make our original tank (had fittings in the back & front) for some reasons. Anyway, yeah of course you can run the line across the tank. If you can, install your pump near the fitting (to keep the line between the tank and the pump short) so it’s easier to self-prime.

      Hope that makes sense.
      Good luck!

      • Thank you Antoine! Makes sense. I just wasn’t sure if there was an issue in distance since it will be pumping water from the back of the van to the front and up to the faucet. Appreciate the suggestion!


  57. Wow amazing post. I am just starting to think about building a water system for my E250 van. You have provided an amazing amount of knowledge. I really appreciate your post.

  58. Hey! Great guide. Was wondering how you guys kept the system fresh and prevented black mold from growing all over the components?

    • Because we live full time in the van, we’re “constantly” using the system (we fill every 4 days approximately) so we don’t get any mold. We would drain the hole system if we wouldn’t use the van for a while. Have a good one!

      • For sure. When I use my camel back, mold still grows inside even though I’m constantly putting water inside.

        Does it not grow because of the plastic or something? I based my water system off you guys so I really want to avoid any potential mold that might build up

    • Thanks for letting me know! I’ve updated the links.

      Looks like the one you suggest gets good reviews. Please let me know your opinion when you get it 🙂


  59. Thank you Antoine! I used the crimper and they work very well. Yesterday we finally put together the kitchen and connected all the components. Tonight we integration test for leaks 🙂

  60. Hi, I bought and connected all the parts for the Main and Sink sub systems. For all the Sharkbite PLASTIC PEX barb connector’s, how do you tighten/seal PEX to the barbed connector? Can you use the Precision Brand M8P Micro Seal Worm Gear Hose Clamp? Or do you need to use the clamp/crimping rings and tools (or are those only for metal connectors)? If you do use the cramp/crimping tools, is there a risk of breaking the plastic barb connectors?
    Thank you!!!!

  61. Thanks for the write-up! I see that the silencer kit was used on the inlet of the pump and outlet of the accumulator. Can you please tell me the details of the connection between the pump and accumulator?


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