Running water is an absolute luxury that we all take for granted when living at home and is a game-changer when living in a van. Taylor and I converted a 2015 Mercedes 170” Cargo Sprinter Van, into a tiny home on wheels and ensured we have all of the essentials that we have in a house, like electricity, heat, and plumbing! This post covers all there needs to know about our plumbing system sharing diagrams below.
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Van Plumbing System Diagram
Tools Needed To Build Van Plumbing
Now that you checked out our van’s plumbing system diagram above, I want to talk about all of our van tools and required fittings to make this a success! My recommendation is to really think through your plumbing system for your build ahead of time, before buying all of your parts. Also, try to create a diagram and get it as detailed as humanly possible!
This helped me tremendously saving me several trips to Home Depot and Lowes!
Core Plumbing Components
To start here are our critical water components making up our plumbing system.
Hot Water Heater
Some of the essential tools needed (especially if you’re using PEX, which I highly recommend) include the following.
- The PEX Pipe Cutters – essential to ensuring you get a clean cut
- SharkBite Deburring tool – essential to smooth out the edges ensuring a strong connection with a SharkBite Push Connect
- Blue Monster Pipe Thread Tape – to ensure you are water tight
For PVC (which we used for our supply spout)
Part 1 of building out the plumbing system, includes building out the water compartment next to the van’s garage and securing the water pump, water tank, and hot water heater in place. I also started to run the PEX cold and hot water lines to the shower of the van as well as the kitchen.
We’re using a mixture of Braided Vinyl Hoses and PEX pipes throughout the water compartment.
We used the following Vinyl Braided Hoses for:
- 3/8″ ID Vinyl braided hose for our pressure line of the water tank which runs from the top left spout of the tank allowing air to escape or fill the tank as water is entering/exiting.
- 1/2″ ID Vinyl braided hose for our line running from the bottom of our tank into the water pump and from our water pump to a tee barbed fitting leading to our hot water heater as well as our cold water supply
- 3/4″ ID Vinyl braided hose for our supply line to fill our water tank.
Tube and Hose Fittings
We used a mixture of SharkBite push to connect fittings as well as plastic barbed fittings to lock our tubing in place. For our braided vinyl hoses, we used barbed fittings including, tee barbed fittings, barbed MPT, and barbed 90-degree elbow MPT and FPT fittings.
Honestly, it was pretty hard to find all of the necessary parts in one place. We found some of the fittings in Home Depot and Lowes but we also found a lot of great deals on Amazon sometimes finding cheaper deals here.
Barbed Plastic Fittings
Here’s the breakdown of what was used where:
- MPT 1/2″ 90 Degree Elbow Barbed Fitting: Main barbed fitting leading to the water pump from the bottom of the water tank.
- FPT 1/2″ 90 Degree Elbow Barbed Fitting: Fitting used to connect the supply line for hot water heater from the water pump
- MPT 1/2″ Barbed Fitting: Fitting used to connect the vinyl braided hoses to ball valves
- 1/2″ Tee Barbed Fitting: Tee barbed fitting was used to connect the line coming from the water tank to the water pump or to a ball valve that allows the tank to drain.
I did not put J-B Weld on the fittings yet but plan on doing so to ensure I have a strong water seal.
From a PEX perspective, I used Push to Connect SharkBite Fittings for everything. Below are the different fittings used.
- 1/2″ Push to Connect to 3/4″ MPT
- We used this fitting to connect our hot water drain line from the pressure release valve of the hot water tank
- 1/2″ Push to Connect Tee Fittings
- We used this to split the cold water line to our outdoor shower, split the cold water line leading to the shower and kitchen, as well as the hot water line leading to the shower and kitchen
- SharkBite 1/2″ Push to Connect Ball Valve
- We used 2 SharkBite ball valve’s in the water compartment area to turn on our hot water valve as well as the line to our outdoor shower.
- 1/2″ FPT Ball Valve
- We used two ball valves that were not SharkBite.
- One for the drain line if we want to winterize or replace the water in the water tank
- One for the cold water line to connect the braided vinyl tube to the cold water PEX line
Summary – Van Plumbing
Like I mentioned above, the most important part of building your van’s plumbing system starts with the plumbing diagram! Without it, you’re basically guessing what should go where and you will likely end up doing trial and error to figure out how everything should lay.
We prioritized quality over price for our plumbing system using parts that are on the expensive end. However, I wanted to build the plumbing system in a way that makes it easy to fix if anything were to go wrong. That’s why I chose to use PEX tubing and push to connect SharkBite fittings, it makes life a lot easier without the need to worry about soldering in tight spaces in your van.
If you’re interested in other van build posts, check out the following:
- How To Install Windows:
- Roof Installations:
Before we decided to buy our own van we rented one to test the waters! This helped us realize it’s something we really want to do since buying a van and converting it is a lot of money and a lot of effort! We rented a van in Portugal and absolutely fell in love with van life!
A heads up: This blog post is a review of the van we rented, not really a van life video.
If you have any questions about how to install side panel bunk windows to your van, drop a comment below! If you’re interested, please follow our van build series where we will document every step of the build process as well as our youtube channel!
As always, thank you for reading/watching our content!