Water Plumbing

1. Drinking Water

Freshwater can be held in large tanks (link) somewhere inside or under the vehicle in a recessed area. It can also be stored in portable tanks (link) that can be easily removed for quick fill-ups. Portable tanks should be strapped down with ratchet straps (link) to something secure so they can’t fly around in the unfortunate event of a car crash.

I installed a faucet filter (link) in case I obtained water from a questionable source, there are also options to have a water filter at the filling source (link).

As far as pumps go, there are electric ones, manual hand pumps, and manual foot pumps. Hand pumps (link) are common in dwelling vehicles, but I’ve heard poor reviews since it’s hard to wash dishes while cranking away with one hand. Electrical pumps (link) are loud when they run, and flow can be finicky unless you use it with an accumulator to regulate flow (link). However, they’re the most convenient and are necessary if you plan to have a shower. Foot pumps (link) allow easier regulation of water flow and leave your hands free to wash dishes.

Pump on the left, accumulator on the right

To connect the tank to a pump, sink, or shower, the most common piping in vehicles is food grade vinyl tubing and PEX. If you plan to have piping between a water heater and a sink or shower, use PEX (link).  Vinyl tubing (link) is only meant for cold water, but is easier to work with since it’s very flexible.

2. Sink Installation

Installing a sink involves marking out a template and cutting out a section of countertop to fit a drop-in sink. After seeing if the sink fits, clamp it to down with sink clips and seal the edges with clear silicone caulk (link). A sink typically has two holes for hot and cold water; a soap dispenser (link) complements a cold water faucet well.

Two wrenches are needed for installing a faucet (link) onto a sink (link). Make sure to use plumbers tape (link) over all threaded connections.

The drain for a sink should have a trap so that odors from the wastewater tank don’t come up through the sink drain. This drain hose (link) connects to standard sink drains and includes a trap at the sink connection. There are also waterless traps (link) that can be installed in any orientation and don’t require water to create a trap, like a standard S-trap or P-trap (this water can be sloshed out while driving).

3. Toilet

A common option for toilets is to have a portable toilet (link) with a removable holding tank which can be emptied into a flushing toilet. Most RVs have a small toilet (link) that drains into a separate blackwater tank.

There are also composting toilets (link), although they are much more expensive and include installing a vent to the outside of the vehicle. The upside is that you don’t have to deal with crap when the tank is full, it turns into compost. This involves routinely adding peat moss or sawdust to the holding tank.

Another alternative is to keep a bucket in your vehicle and use a lugaloo lid (link) and use the garbage bag-lined bucket as a toilet. There are bags that are pre-filled with moisture absorbing materials (link) that can be used for this purpose to reduce odors.

4. Shower

The simplest option for showering is to not have one in your van; get a cheap gym membership (ie. Planet Fitness is $10 a month and there are locations all over). One way to have pressurized water for a shower without the fuss of installing a pump is to use a garden sprayer (link). Another option is to use a solar heated shower. This involves either installing a large PVC pipe on your vehicle roof and painting it black or buying a solar shower bag (link) and leaving it in the sun before taking a shower.

An indoor shower can take up a lot of space, so it should be used for additional storage. I keep my wardrobe in it on hanging storage organizers that can slide out on ceiling tracks. Another way to make it space efficient is to make a swinging shower curtain that increases the shower space when it’s needed. Construction of a shower closet is covered in Carpentry and Cabinetry; installation of a propane tankless water heater is covered in Gas Plumbing.

If you have an indoor propane water heater, make sure to vent the area when it’s in use.

If you want to have an indoor shower that you can stand in, the wastewater or graywater tank (link) would need to be underneath the vehicle to be lower than the shower drain.

5. Laundry

If you want to have an indoor shower that you can stand in, the wastewater or graywater tank (link) would need to be underneath the vehicle to be lower than the shower drain.

There are non-electric portable washers (link) that you manually spin or electric ones (link) with separate wash and spin-dry cycles.