So last post I covered the electrical systems, which I am comfortable with. I’ll be doing a post soon outlining the parts lists I have developed for doing a full gut/refub of a trailer that will highlight some of the cool products I found for that system, but this time I’ll be focusing on water systems – the fountain of life and happiness on the road.
As much as I love taking showers in public bathroom sinks, I’d much rather have a nice supply of water. To do that, we need to get it all contained and flowing. The main components are: tanks, pump, water heater, the fixtures, and (optionally) sensors.
For some reason, I expected something much more expensive, and much bigger. Why? Dunno. I used to keep fish, and even a 50 gallon all in glass was under $100. PPL has a bunch of tanks (listed above), the biggest of which is 42 gallons, dimensions are 14″x18″x39″ and they’re already fitted with all the ins, outs, and tubing bits.
Let me back up. First you have to get water in to the system. I found a nice diagram by Mark Nemeth that I’m dropping here:
So, water fills tank, tank supplies
In order to enjoy the same kind of water pressure (although a little less) that we have at home, you need a pump pressurizing the lines. It’s a little 12V pump running off of the previously mentioned 12V systems. It keeps everything flowing strong and has no problem running dry if that should happen. Alternately, you bypass the fresh water tank and water pump, straight to the city line (off of some friendly person’s house, or the campground water supply). The input panel for water often has a separate water input, or just a switch to choose lines. Mr. Nemeth suggested putting a pressure regulator on the city water in just in case it runs high and decides to blow up all your hoses. Good idea, cheap – I’ll do it!
Fresh water, either pumped or citied, is distributed to the various fixtures. Our trailer will be like the above, but without that 2nd sink. A sink in the bathroom seems like a waste of space – the kitchen works just find and it’s all of 5 feet away. Replace that in the diagram with an outdoor shower (for the nudist/exhibitionist in all of us).
THE WATER HEATER
Or hot water heater… Heats up the cold water so we all stay cozy and warm. These are those standard little square vents on the side of any trailer – they’re these little tanks that hold about 5 or 6 gallons – enough for a quick shower – and heat it with your propane. They run about $300 new, not bad, but a little pricey (or so I thought).
I like the idea of on-demand water heaters. They only heat water as needed and turn on automatically when when water flow is detected. Great in theory and practice – I’ve had them in past apartments. There’s one company that makes the standard RV sized on-demands, but they’re almost $1000 and don’t have great reviews. Other models are maybe $600, still twice as much as the standard tank style, and aren’t quite designed for RVs. I fear a little bit for my safety, and I’m not sure where to put one. Maybe we’ll add that to the “upgrade” pile and see if something new comes out in the future. Tank all the way for me.
THE (OPTIONAL) SENSORS
It’s nice to know the levels in your tanks, but apparently not necessary. Supposedly:
- If you can see water when you flush, black water’s full.
- If your shower don’t drain, grey water’s full.
- If your water runs dry, the fresh water’s empty.
Simple! But we’re in a digital age with digital gauges - I need something that tells me exactly what I have and when and the temperature and what the media thinks about it. I really like the Tech Edge sensors – they are Coast Guard grade, have a full tank measure, and can even check your LP levels.. lot of info, you pay. $300 or more for the system. Maybe put that in “when I get that bonus, I’ll buy it” pile.
When it’s full, you gotta dump it. Hook up hoses to the dumping hole, throw open the black water tank, then the grey to chase it. There are some thick, sort of rigid hoses that empty in to sewer holes at RV parks and dump stations. I’ve been advised that this is NOT a place to be homemade or skimp – you do NOT want to be cleaning up leaks and spills. There are also some nifty flush devices that you drill in to the side of each tank and use a hose to get anything clumpy (shudder) moving. Worth the $15, if you ask me.
That’s it. Not as scary as I thought. Just gotta make sure everything is connected tightly and you will not have any issues. It’s also more expensive than the power systems, but also very important to happy living.
Next time, I’ll go over some specific equipment related to these two systems, plus some appliances. I also want to explore the whole Tiny House movement and why some of those trailer houses are nay so smart.