Van Conversion Plumbing

This post will cover my water tanks, pump, filters, faucets, sinks and everything in between.

I suppose I should follow the flow of water and start with the fill hatch. I installed a gravity fill hatch so I could use either a water hose or a jerry can to fill it up. Amazon Link: Polar White Gravity Water Dish

fill hatch close up

The water drains into a water 42 gallon water. I shopped around for water tanks based on dimensions. I made sure to find one with at least three connection spots (fill, air hose, and pump). I found the best price here. I installed it by screwing some wood to the floor and secured it with a strap.

frest tank and hoses

The smaller hose is for the air vent.

vent hose

fresh tank mounting fresh tank strap

After the fresh water tank, the water passes through a manual valve and then the Shurflo Pipe Strainer. The manual valve is important for when I need to disconnect the pump or do maintenance. The pipe strainer protects the pump by catching large particles before they reach the pump. I attached it directly to the inlet of the pump.

manual valve pipe strainer

The pump I selected was the Shurflo 4008-101-E65 3.0 Revolution Water Pump. If you find the A65 model for a better price, it’s the same pump. I’m really happy with the performance and volume of this pump. I found that by not screwing it down, it is much quieter. The hoses are stiff enough to keep it in place. The water pressure is great and I never use it on full blast. This is their newest line of pumps. The older ones are cheaper, louder, and harder to find. I was torn between the 2.3 gallons per minute version, or the 3 GPM version. There is only a 2 amp difference in energy use, so I Just went with the 3 GPM version. I can always limit the flow rate with the faucet. You can also run these pumps dry without damaging them.

This pump does seem to need an accumulator tank like the SHURflo 182-200 Pre-Pressurized Accumulator Tank. Every few days I have to adjust the cut-off pressure for the pump or it will keep cycling. It easy to do with an allen wrench so I’ve just gotten used to it. If I adjust it just right, it’ll never turn on unless I use the faucet. An accumulator tank should prevent the cycling permanently. I might get one in the future.

The shell of the pump is metal so it must be grounded. I just found a screw on the shell and wired it to the grounding bus bar. I wired the pump to a switch next to the light switches and to the 12 volt fuse box.

water pump

All water is then pumped into a carbon block sediment filter. I purchased it from RV Water Filter Store for $45. I got the package that came with a standard canister, mounting bracket, filter changing tool and the F5 filter. It’s a carbon block filter that removed any sediment bigger than 5 microns. Carbon filters also remove most taste and odors.

From there, the water either goes to a faucet, or another filter for the drinking water. The normal faucet is used for anything aside from drinking. I purchased it here from amazon. I have the chrome version. The installation was explained in this post. I’m extremely happy with it. It allows me to use lots of water conservation techniques by quickly controlling the flow rate and turning it off with one hand. It’s out of the way and gives me plenty of room to work in the sink.

DSC00517

The filter I use for drinking water is a Doulton Ceramic filter. I went with a ceramic filter because…this. Their Ultracarb candle product removes heavy metals, micro organisms down to 0.2 micron at 98% efficiency, and some organic compounds. I ordered the HIP DIY kit that comes with the basic chrome faucet. They were out of stock and promptly emailed me offering to upgrade my order to the QT100 at no extra charge. It uses the same filter, but it’s supposed to be more user friendly with filter changes. I call that good customer service. Check out their website for more info on the technology, test results, and their certifications. It seems like they’re top of the line when it comes to filtration. They even have some gravity filters.

filters

The sink I used was the Mustee 11 Utility Sink. Stainless steel sinks are way too expensive. I like this one because it’s 10 inches deep, but doesn’t take up much counter space. Perfect for what I needed. Installation was explained in this post.

Utility sink installed

The sink is compatible with a standard 3.5 inch drain assembly. I ordered this one. It’s pretty basic at a decent price. Then it drains into a HEPVO Waterless RV Trap. This replaces the typical P-trap used in houses. P-traps don’t really make since in RV’s and they take up too much space.The HEPVO uses a membrane that acts as a one way valve. Gas and liquids can go in, but they can’t come out. This also replaces the need for an air admittance valve. The best part is that it takes up very little space. I installed mine horizontally.

hepvo

Finding a spot to run the hose through the floor was a challenge. I went right next to the right wheel well. I used some expanding foam sealant to close up any gaps in the hole. I should have planned this hole placement out before building the kitchen counter.

hose through floor

Everything drains into a ten gallon tank mounted underneath the van. I ordered it from the same place I ordered the 42 gallon tank from: PPL Motor Homes. The price was right and the dimensions were right. I couldn’t find an actual gray tank with the dimensions I wanted and I didn’t want to get a custom one made.

I mounted it  by using two straps screwed to the floor with L brackets.. Bolting it would have been a better option because screwed will vibrate loose. Unfortunately, it was too late to bolt it. Again, I should have thought ahead a little better. I’ll just have to keep an eye on the screws.

gray tank straps mounted gray tank

There are four holes in the tank. It vents out of one of the top holes. I glued a screen to it to keep out bugs. This also serves as an overflow port. The sink drains into the other top hole. The urinal drains into a bottom hole. This is to create a gas trap using the water in the tank. Most of the gases will vent out of the top hole instead of through the urinal. I’ll explain the urinal in a different post, but it’s basically just a funnel clamped to a hose. The other bottom hole is used for draining. I have a manual drain valve and an electronic drain valve. The electronic drain valve is a 12V solenoid that is closed when off. I ordered it from amazon here. It’s nylon so I don’t have to worry about rusting. I wired it to a button I added to the dash. It doesn’t need much power so I just wired it to the engine battery by tapping into an existing wire I found in the dash. I should have just ordered one of the sprinter dash buttons.

UPDATE 12/23/2016: I replace the nylon solenoid valve with a brass one from the same company. The nylon one kept failing. Some of the amazon reviews mentioned this. So far the brass one has worked great. I’ll update again if it starts to fail.

solenoid valve

solenoid valve button

After planning and ordering all the major components of the plumbing system, it was just a matter of connecting it all with hoses, fittings, and hose clamps. It’s like putting together a puzzle. Initially I tired to get some push fittings from Lowe’s. They all leaked and I returned every single one. I ended up ordered everything from United States Plastic Corp. They had everything I needed and nothing leaked. I’m not sure if this will help anyone because every plumbing system is unique, but here’s a list of everything I ordered:

Item # Item Description Qty Qty U/M Item Price Disc % Disc Price Extended Price
60895 3/8″ OD Tube LIQUIfit™ Union Y 1 Each $3.01 $3.01 $3.01
64801 1/2″ Tube ID x 3/8″ NPT Black Nylon Threaded Adapter 1 Each $0.65 $0.65 $0.65
27212 1/4″ Schedule 80 Gray PVC Threaded Plug 1 Each $1.59 $1.59 $1.59
28562 1″ Schedule 40 White PVC MIPT x Socket Male Adapter 1 Each $0.35 $0.35 $0.35
27225 1″ Schedule 80 Gray PVC Threaded 90° Elbow 1 Each $2.90 $2.90 $2.90
61151 Nylon Tube And Hose Fitting 1″ HB x 1″ NPT 2 Each $1.02 $1.02 $2.04
60703 1/2″ ID x .750″ OD Reinforced Clear PVC Tubing w/Polyester Braid 20 Foot $0.67 $0.67 $13.40
60705 1″ ID x 1.3″ OD Reinforced Clear PVC Tubing w/Polyester Braid 20 Foot $1.52 $1.52 $30.40
62288 3/8″ Hose Barb x 3/8″ MNPTF Par-Barb® Polypropylene Elbow Ball Valve 1 Each $7.08 $7.08 $7.08
62239 3/8″ MNPT x 1/4″ FNPT Nylon Reducer Bushing 1 Each $1.16 $1.16 $1.16
22196 2-Way Straight 638 PVC Ball Valve 3/8″MNPT x 3/8″FNPT 1 Each $4.07 $4.07 $4.07
64306 1/2″ Tube ID x 3/8″ NPT Black Nylon Elbow 1 Each $0.72 $0.72 $0.72
27025 1/4″ Pipe x 7/8″ Length Close Threaded Pipe Nipple 1 Each $1.34 $1.34 $1.34
27035 3/8″ Pipe x 1″ Length Close Threaded Pipe Nipple 1 Each $1.46 $1.46 $1.46
27217 3/8″ Schedule 80 Gray PVC Threaded Tee 1 Each $2.94 $2.94 $2.94

A few things I learned:

  1. Fittings from Lowe’s are horrible quality.
  2. Don’t put metal inside of plastic. It’ll expand and break the plastic.
  3. It’s important to think about how the water will flow and where the gases will go.
  4. Accumulator tanks are probably worth it.
  5. Writing about plumbing takes way longer than writing about electricity somehow.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate Links. HurriedYear.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

  • Richard Hauser

    Glad to here you found someone. I’ve done two really long drives and it was crazy how lonely I got.
    PS I just put the down on a Sprinter on eBay, so my adventure is beginning also. I needed four seats and windows so I waited for a crew because I would never get around to installing windows. I took your advice and went with a 3500 though I am worried about driving something this big as a daily driver. Yes, I will be selling my Subaru and using this as a daily driver. I’ll have to start a blog to track the build. My wife is freaking, but I think once she sits in it and sees that this won’t be a money pit she will calm down. I’m even thinking of installing a shower and parking it at work so I can ride my bike.

    • Joe

      That sprinter looks great! Your wife will come around. It’s a good daily driver once you get used to it. Let me know when you start your blog!

      • Richard Hauser

        Thanks. It has 250k but I think mostly highway miles shuttling between warehouses. I’M going down to look at it and know to look for the leaking injectors and to check drive shaft seals. Anything else I should look at?

        • Joe
          • Richard Hauser

            The Sprinter is interesting. I’m all legal now after finding out that it doesn’t need to be inspected. The length is a little daunting and I desperately need a backup camera, but it is going well. Got about 25MPG coming home from NC pickup point. Used it twice this weekend to move large items and find the ride improves significantly with the addition of a couple hundred pounds of weight.

          • Joe

            I got mine inspected in PA. I just assumed it had to be inspected. This is the first time hearing otherwise.

            A backup cam would be nice. I’ve gotten pretty good at backing up without one.

          • Richard Hauser

            I brought it to be inspected. I was a little worried as I have an intermittent glow plug light that the previous owner replaced all the glow plugs trying to solve and then just decided to live with it. But if the motor is warm it never comes on, so I drove down, got in line but when I got to the front the guy told me I was exempt because it was a diesel in a specific weight range. He gave me a paper to show anyone I asked and sent me on my way. NJ just checks emissions so I guess with a diesel they don’t have much left to check. NJ is a mess.

        • Richard Hauser

          One other thing I wanted to mention was the warnings I’ve read about excessive idling. One of the purposes I was looking at for the van is as a backup generator for the house. I was even looking at putting in an actual generator http://www.harborfreight.com/10000-watts-max-7200-watts-rated-belt-driven-generator-head-45416.html and then put in a device to raise the idle to correct the frequency, so the van could be an efficient backup generator, but it seems that idling causes a lot of soot to build up in the EGR valve. I think my solution will be to continue anyway, include cleaning the EGR valve as part of my periodic maintenance. They say the soot issue is mostly resolved if you raise the idle, though that burns a lot more fuel. Some Sprinters even come with a switch on the dash which raises the idle. This was also important as they said that at idle most of the elec power produced is used running to motor and little is left for charging anything.
          Just something to think about if you end up idling a lot due to traffic or whatever.
          Everyone says the key to not going broke with a MB is to keep up with maintenance.

  • I tried looking around your site to figure out why you went with the ceramic filters. Why do you like them so much? It looks like you have to replace the filters every 600gal and they’re pretty expensive. Thanks for the website!

    • Joe

      I think the Doulton website sold me on them. They are pretty expensive, but for me 600 gallons is like two years. I only use it for drinking water. check this out: http://doulton.us/

  • I have a few questions about the greywater tank in your undercarriage. So your gets mixed up in there? How has that worked out for you? Wouldn’t that make the pee smell waft out of the vent hole and make your area around your van stinky?

    Also, have you had any problems with the water tank being in the undercarriage? If I did this the best spot for my van would be fairly close to the exhaust pipe, and I’m worried about the high temperatures. I’m also worried about it getting damaged by rocks getting kicked up while driving.

    Are you happy with your straps/L-bracket system (other than using bolts)? The sloshing liquid doesn’t make it move around? How about the 42-gallon tank, it doesn’t jump out of the wood frame when you hit a big bump?

    • Joe

      Nah I don’t smell it in my van at all. The vent for the tank isn’t really directly under the vent for the floor. I haven’t had any trouble with the exhaust because I wrapped the hose with some reflectix. The fresh water tank is strapped down pretty well and it doesn’t move at all. I’m happy with how I mounted the gray tank, but I would probably use LockTite on the screws just for peace of mind. It hasn’t fallen off yet!