Endless Hot Van SHOWER and Water System




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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    5 years ago

    Hi that looks good ! i need to run a electric motor for about 3to 4 hours at a time . how many panels i will need !


    Reply 3 years ago

    Depends upon the size of the motor. Check the motor amperage and voltage. a 10 Amp x 120v motor draws 1200 watts at load, a little more at startup and a little less when freely spinning. If that big, you'd be better served by a small quiet generator. This system would run that motor for 1 hour...200amps @ 12 v = 2400 watts/2 (50% capacity) =1200 watts
    To run 4 hours you would need 6 more 100 Amps batteries and good sun for most of the previous day and current day.
    The two panels should charge at 135 watts, or 270 watts per hour, x 8 hrs/day = 2000 watts/day, you'd also need 3 more panels, minimum, since you'd be using 1200 wattsx4hrs = 4800 watts per day. It's just arithmetic.


    Reply 5 years ago

    The size of the system to run a motor depends on the volts and amps of the motor and how much load is put on the motor Deep cycle batteries provide the immediate power to run the motor. The solar panels charge the batteries, through a charge controller. The inverter changes the battery 12 volts to 120 volts to run the motor.

    Here's the math....If you were to run a 5 amp, 120v motor 4 hours, you would use 4 times the use at one hour.......5 amp/hour at 120v, or 600 (5w x120v) watts/hour at battery voltage of 12 volts would would use 600/12, or 50 amps at 12volts. If you had 1-12v 100Amp battery, you would use 1/2 its total capacity in one hour, which is about all you should expect.....So, to run that 5 amp, 120v motor 4 hours you would need 4- 12v, 100amp batteries, in a perfect world. In reality, you could loose 20-25% so you'd need another battery.

    Each 100 Watt solar panel seems to charge my batteries about 5 Amps at 12 volts.. It's not efficient...math says it should be more. At 5 Amps/hour charging 5 hours a day, you'll need a lot of panels.