Running water, who doesn’t want that wherever they are? To fill up a glass of water when you’re thirsty, or to do the dishes after dinner, it’s so simple yet incredibly convenient.
Installing your own simple water system in your camper van is actually quite easy to do. It took us only an hour or so to install ours, and we will explain just how we did this below.
We’ve chosen to go for a simple drainage system without hot water.
Things will get more complicated if one wants to install a mixer tap and have running hot water, but we won’t not go into that today.
Our drainage system consists of a cold water tap with a small 32 liter sink. Below the kitchen countertop we have a 125 liter fresh water tank adjacent to a 25 liter grey water tank. Lastly, we’ve used a simple submersible pump, to pump the water into our sink.
One thing that we did not install – and which most campers do have – is a water inlet on the outside of our van. Although we do recon it can be very handy at times, we personally weren’t fussed about taking the trouble to install one.
You actually don’t need a lot of stuff to install your own cold water drainage system. Here’s a summary of the items we used in our camper van build:
- water tap
- fresh water tank
- grey water tank
- submersible water pump
- fresh water tube
- grey water tube
- tube clamps
- drain plug
- water hose connector
- electrical wire connector
Whether you’ll need a connector for your water hose and electrical wiring actually depends on the water tank you’ll buy. Some water tanks already come with these built in, or have the option to buy a lid which includes them. This makes things a lot easier.
Our water tank sadly didn’t have either of these options. We therefore had to install our own.
Fixing down the sink and tap
A sink and tap are actually installed in a similar fashion as those in a regular house.
For the sink, all you have to do is cut a hole in your countertop, lower the sink through the hole, and attach it to the countertop with the included clips.
Our sink, oddly enough, did not come with any clips. We therefore chose to use adhesive to connect the sink to the countertop instead. Until now, it seems to be working just fine. A downside of this method is the fact that removing the sink will be quite difficult if we would ever desire or need to do so.
We measured the hole in our sink, and ordered a drain plug that perfectly fit this hole. We used a drain plug that is made especially for use in a RVs. The end of the drain plug has a connector onto which a waste water tube fits perfectly.
This drain plug was easily installed in to place by screwing the bolt at the bottom of the plug. The included rubber in-between the bolt and the sink makes it fully water tight.
When installed, you can use some watertight sealant to seal off the edge of your sink to protect it from water seeping through.
The tap can be installed similarly. We used a speed drill bit to drill a hole for our tap, lowered the tap through the hole, and fixed it down by screwing the nut on the bottom of the tap.
Two types of water pumps are generally used in campers. Either a simple submersible pump or a self-priming water pump. The latter are usually a bit stronger and can pump water at a higher rate. A downside of these however, is that they tend to make a bit more noise and are more expensive.
As our sink is rather small, we do not need a high flow rate. We therefore opted for a submersible pump. If we currently set our tap fully open, the water still splashes on our countertop a little. The submersible pump is more than strong enough for our small kitchen.
Installing the water pump and tank
A submersible pump has to be put directly in to your water tank below the surface of your water in order for it to function properly. If it runs dry, the water pump can get damaged irreparably.
Attached to the submersible pump, are an electrical cable (which cannot be removed) and a water tube. The electrical cable comes attached to the submersible pump, while you have to attach the water tube yourself. The water tube can be connected either with a tube clamp, or with a connecting piece that comes delivered with the water pump.
To install our pump, we drilled two holes in the top of our water tank and installed two connectors for our water tube and electrical cables. The connector we used for our electrical cables is slightly larger than the cables themselves. We’ve chosen to do so to create a small gap for air to flow into our water tank when pumping water out and preventing it from creating a vacuum.
The connector for the electrical cables is basically just a hole through which we have led our cable. For the water tube on the other hand, the connector has a ridged side on both ends. We attached a water tube on both ends by use of a tube clamp. One of the tubes is connected to our water pump and the other is connected to our tap.
If your water tank has the possibility to use a special lid which includes these connectors, that would of course be the preferred and easiest way to go!
The final tube that we had to install was that of the waste water. We attached this to the end of our drain plug, using another tube clamp. The other side of our waste water tube came connected to a lid that fits our our waste water tank.
Connecting the electrical wiring
The electrical wiring of the submersible pump and the cold water tap should be installed in the following manner:
- Connect the plus from your leisure battery to that of your cold water tap.
- Connect the minus from your cold water tap to the plus of your submersible pump. Letting the plus cable run via your tap causes it to act as a switch, similar how a light switch is installed.
- Finally, connect the min of your submersible pump to that of your battery (or chassis if that is your preferred method for your min).
Fixing down your tanks
It is important that both your water tanks are properly fixed down. Nobody wants to find their camper van fully covered in water after a quick drive to the grocery store.
For some brands of water tanks, we’ve seen that you can buy specific accessories to fix them down. Some also fix their water tank at the bottom of their van, which is a whole other story, but it can be useful if short on space for example. Water tanks can be quite huge!
Our water tanks are located directly beneath our kitchen countertop. As the structure of our kitchen is quite sturdy, and we have fixed it down to our flooring on multiple places, we chose to fix our water tanks to our kitchen structure. We’ve attached this by use of straps, which we have bolted down to our kitchen structure. Our gas canister is attached similarly.
Doing it yourself?
If you’re in the process of building your own tiny home on wheels, or hope to do so in the future, we recommend heading over to our camper van conversion page. Here, we list all blog posts related to our camper van conversion in order from start to finish.