Plumbing, ya’ll. Plumbing was a little scary. Luckily, before Zach had to go full-fledged plumber in the van he was able to get a little bit of experience by working with my dad to put in the outdoor shower at the house. To be honest, though, he still had to figure a lot of it out by just getting his hands dirty. I wanted to go into depth about everything we did with our plumbing system since we are now celebrating the fact that we have a working shower!
I am including all the links for the products we used on this part of our build for your convenience, and just so you know if you click an Amazon link and make a purchase we might make a small commission from it.
Let’s start from how the water comes into the van. We have a mains inlet that allows us to hook up to any water source with a hose. There is a valve that allows us to decide how we want the water to proceed from here:
Option 2: A valve can allow the water to bypass the tank and water pump, allowing us to use the water pressure already existing within a city hose hookup.
Having this option allows us to cut down on the usage of our water pump if we happen to be stationary and have a hookup, saving us a little bit of solar power that we can use elsewhere.
We decided to go with a 40 gallon tank for a few reasons. We will have a shower in the van, which automatically ups our water usage, but we also want to be able to be off-grid for as long as possible. Having the most water feasible gives us the flexibility of being away from “town” for a few extra days.
Both our water pump and accumulator are hooked up using flexible hoses as opposed to the pex piping we used elsewhere in the van just to cut down on any possible vibrating noises while we’re on the move.
From the water pump and accumulater, water pipes will tee off. One pipe going into our tankless water heater and the other bypassing the heater and moving directly towards the faucets.
Our heater runs on propane, and requires a vent to the outside, which is accomplished with this water heater door. Cutting the big square in the side of the van was definitely nerve racking, but it turned out great! You’ll want to make sure to caulk around the door really well to avoid any leaks.
Pex piping will run the hot and cold water pipes up underneath the bed frame and around the bottom of the shower pan.
We made sure to put the pipes on the outside/bottom of the shower pan but within the insulated area to avoid freezing.
The pipes then tee off again, two going straight up and into the (future) sink, and the other two going up into the shower valve or mixer, where one last pex pipe goes up to the shower head.
We decided on this specific shower head because of the hook connection in the back. We didn’t want the traditional shower head connection or a magnet because with such a small bathroom we would be either running into it all the time or knocking it down constantly. We wanted it to be super easy to grab it off the wall to rinse off without fussing with it, but also for it to stay put when we’re on the move.
Trying to find a super low profile valve trim was really hard. We wanted something where it would be easy to know exactly where the right mix of hot/cold water was so we didn’t waste any precious water. We chose this valve trim because it was simple, matched our shower head, and had a fairly low profile close to the wall. Also we can decide which way the handle moves to minimize hitting it and turning the shower on ourselves.
A few notes on the shower: We chose the smallest shower pan we could while still being able to fit our toilet in there with room to maneuver around. We found this 24″x32″ one that was made for an RV and it gives us plenty of hallway space outside the shower, but also enough room to move inside the shower even with our Nature’s Head toilet installed.
We will be installing a retractable shower door in order to maximize space outside the “bathroom” and Zach built us this awesome little shower shelf so we can set shampoo/conditioner, etc. on it. We will be adding a system to secure them so they don’t move when the van does.
After the water is used in the shower, it will go straight down into our shower drain which has a built in bug trap, and into our (future) grey water tank.
Even though we had absolutely no idea what we were doing with plumbing to begin with, we were able to test the shower and it works! I understand that a lot of this can feel very scary at first, but it’s totally do-able. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below!