Introduction: Endless Hot Van SHOWER and Water System

About: Semi-retired, like to fish, ride Mountain and Road bicycles, make stuff, hike, and hang out with the family... 3 kids and 5 grandkids

After a good day of ______________ (camping, fishing, shopping, surfing, biking..whatever) nothing says "Clean" like a good hot shower! While "Hi top" is tall enough for an inside shower, but outdoors is easier.

Inside can be accomplished with a shower curtain and mortar mixing pan, but, for now, this outside shower is fine. I just slap on a pair of quick drying shorts and take a rubber mat off the floor, and shower.

The following steps take you through the water system. You can use a hose (if it were sitting in the sun, and hook it to the water system, or be off-grid with the 16 gallon water tank and pump. The water heater is tankless, propane powered and was about $120 on-line. The propane tank is mounted underneath the van and the propane is transferred through 3/8 copper tubing where each joint was inspected, under pressure, with sprayed soapy water.

Step 1: Water

I wanted to mount the water tank underneath the van. The tanks I could buy just didn't quite fit. So, for the time being I decided to buy a cheap 16 gallon tank ($35 about) and get the system working. As luck would have it, it just fit under the workbench (now a counter) next to the wheel well, and came pre-plumbed for a 1-1/4" fill tube and 1/2" FIP (Female Iron Pipe) threads. The pump on-hand, however, had an intake fitting with a barb, so I converted to barb and bought tubing at a hardware store to fit.

The 12V Shur Flo pump had a 1/2 MIP output, since 3/8 tubing was used, the 1/2 was converted to 3/8 compression as I has a bunch on-hand. The output side of the pump has a check valve to stop the reverse flow of water through the pump when a hose is connected (typical for RV pumps). The pump switch was wired to the battery with 12 ga wire with a 10 amp fuse in-line, then directly to the pump. I used a push-pull switch due to the power needs of the pump. The 3/8 compression tubing went to the sink cold water and a T (3/8 compression) supplies the water heater with cold water. The water heater hot water output has a T to supply the sink with hot water...Please see the water heater Step.

To fill the water tank, a garden hose (the white supply hoses don't have the hose taste) is attached at the water heater "Cold" side and the valve is turned "On." The tank 1-1/4" fill tube (green and white) is filled through the sink faucet. The water has to flow directly without a dip or else it may "Burp" belching water on you. You can see the hose fitting on the water heater T, on the net step.

Step 2: Hot Water....NOW!

The on-demand water heater is mounted on the left (usually fixed) door of the double doors.

The reasons for mounting here are:

1) It's easy to get to from outside, or inside.

2) When open, the water heater vents perfectly to the outside...when closed, the vent with fan above can vent the exhaust.

3) When I hook up a garden hose to the water heater (cold side T), any water can drip outside. (The cold side T with the hose hooked up is how the reservoir is filled, through the sink, so no exterior hole has to be cut in the van skin.) You'll want to make sure the hose fitting has a washer..I carry them with me and am careful to make sure one is in the female hose side before tightening the hose. There is a valve on the hose fitting so that water doesn't squirt out when you are using the pump to supply water to the system.

When installing the water heater, it's a good idea to support both sides of the joint, meaning put a wrench on the fitting you are turning, but also a wrench supporting the other side so you don't break the water heater pipe or fitting. The water heater instructions usually state this as well.

Propane supplies the water heater is transmitted using 3/8 copper tubing and compression fittings. Since the water heater moves, a flexible gas was fabricated at a hose supply house, Oxnard Hose. They helped me with some of my connection issues on this and other projects. The gas valve in the picture is for disconnecting gas and the cap is for the propane stove connection. When the door is closed, all of the water heater items clear the connections, etc. on the nearby wall.

The water heater has water flow and gas flow valves, as well as automatic sparking for ignition. For some reason the water flow has to be towards the low end to ignite. For the igniter to work, water has to flow by either turning on the hot water at the sink or at the shower head which is connected to the water heater hot side.

This and many small water heaters connect the shower directly to the hot water outlet. You can change the temperature by moving the gas or water valves or by moving the shower head farther away. (If you hook it to a hose that's been in the sun you might get very hot water.)

In my search for the water heater I noticed that some of the cheaper ones did not have US pipe threads, but imperial threads. So be wary about the connections. This one was around $120, delivered, on line. It is small enough to fit and big enough to supply a good stream of water.....102 degrees F.

This water is T'd to the sink hot water. The sink drip goes directly outside. If need be, it can be captured with a bucket and disposed, since there is no grey water tank. If one is required where I go I'll figure it out then.

The shower head supplied with the water heater is on a flexible hose so you could even clean kids or pets.

Showers are nice and hot and cold water really makes this useful for van life work, or play.

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