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Camper Van Water Pumps (Types & Install Guide)

Water pumps are essential when installing a camper van’s plumbing system. Without these pumps, you could not draw water from your storage tanks and send it to the faucet and/or shower. Installing a camper van water pump might feel daunting, but this post provides intuitive diagrams to help you finish your plumbing project quickly and accurately.

In addition, we also list all the components and accessories you will need to complete the water pump installation process. These are all products we use in our camper van and have successfully helped provide us water during our 4+ years on the road.

So, if you’re ready, let’s get to it.

Types of Camper Van Water Pumps

There are two primary categories of water pumps for camper vans and RVs: electric and manual pumps. We review both below and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Electric Water Pump (12V DC)

Electric pumps typically operate on 12V DC power and can provide a strong water flow of up to 3.5 gallons per minute. We have been using the Shurflo water pump for over four years and have been happy with the quality. While electric pumps do require additional wiring compared to manual pumps, this isn’t overly complicated to do if you follow our diagrams.

Top Pick
SHURFLO Water Pump

Compact electric water pump for camper vans & RVs. Can be installed in any direction and comes with attached wires to connect to the leisure batteries. Pair with filter, accumulator, and silencing kit to complete installation.

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Manual Pump

Manual foot and hand pumps provide a popular alternative for those on a tight budget, prefer simplified plumbing, or do not have the space to store an electric pump. These manual pumps can deliver a surprisingly strong flow rate if operated correctly.

Top Budget Pick
Whale Manual Foot Pump

Popular manual foot pump option. Small footprint, but delivers up to 2.2 gallons per minute of water. Popular alternative to electric pumps for water conservation.

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How To Install a Water Pump in a Camper Van

In this section, we show you how to install an electric water pump and connect standard accessories to the pump, like a filter and accumulator. Afterward, we detail how to wire an electric pump to the leisure batteries.

Required Tools: We will be using PEX pipe during various parts of this pump installation guide. We love using PEX because it’s lightweight, easy to cut & connect, and more affordable than traditional copper pipes. We recommend the below PEX starter kit, which comes with tubing, fittings, clasp rings, and all the tools you’ll need.

PEX Pipe Kit (1/2")

Convenient all-in-one plumbing kit. Includes blue & red 1/2" PEX pipe, ring clasps, brass fittings, and assembly tools. Everything you need to get started ASAP.

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Throughout our plumbing diagrams, if you see thick blue or red lines, we are referring to this PEX tubing.

Step 1: Understand Pump Water Flow Direction

Before installing the RV water pump and connecting any accessories, knowing where water enters and exists in the pump is essential. This way, you can connect the components in the correct location. The diagram below shows where water enters and exits in this “Shurflo” branded pump.

Graphic indicating water flow direction within a Shurflo water pump
Water flow direction for Shurflo water pumps

We will eventually connect the “water in” half of the pump to the freshwater tank. The “water out” half will lead to the water faucet and shower head.

Step 2: Connect the Water Pump To Accessories

Though you could connect the pump directly to the water tank and faucet, we recommend installing the following four accessories for a better experience and to extend the life of the water pump.

  • Pump Silencer Kit: Reduces pump noise and vibration during operation.
  • Filter: Prevents particulates from entering the pump.
  • Female-to-Female Adapter: Allows for connection to accumulator.
  • Accumulator: Maintains water pressure and reduces pump cycling for smoother water flow.

Refer to the below diagram to see how the pump connects to these four accessories. For a tight fit between components, we recommend using plumber’s tape.

Diagram connecting 12V water pump to the pump strainer, adapter, and accumulator
Water pump accessories

Materials

Step 3: Connect the Water Pump To the Switch & Batteries

The last step involves connecting the water pump to the leisure batteries. You’ll need the following components to complete this part of the installation.

  • 14 AWG Wire: Recommended wire size to connect the pump to 12V fuse panel
  • Butt Connectors: Connects 14 AWG wire to existing pump wires
  • Switch: Turns pump on and off
  • Spade Connectors: Connects 14 AWG wires to switch
  • #8 Ring Connectors: Connects 14 AWG wire to fuse panel
  • Fuse Panel: Distributes 12V power from batteries to all 12V devices

In the diagram below, we show how to wire the water pump to a switch and then to the 12V fuse panel. This fuse panel is then wired to the leisure batteries. For more details regarding the following steps, read our 12V electric guide.

Wiring 12V water pump to switch and fuse panel
Wiring water pump to switch and fuse panel

Materials

Connecting Water Pump to Water Tank

Once you have selected a water pump for your camper van, you must connect the pump to a water source. In most cases, you have two water storage options:

  • Portable water containers (i.e., jerry can)
  • Fixed water tanks

Below, we show you how to connect a water pump to a portable container and a fixed tank.

Option 1: Connect to Portable Water Container

If you select a portable water container as your water storage solution, we recommend using the Reliance 7-gallon ‘Aqua-Tainer.’ This is because the container cap has a threaded spigot hole that you can use.

Reliance Aqua-Tainer water container cap indicating the center threaded hole
Reliance ‘Aqua-Tainer’ cap with threaded spigot hole
Reliance 7 Gallon Water Container

This removable 7-gallon tank lasts us ~4 days. Because the tank can be removed, it is easy to fill and clean. Useful cap design for attaching a PEX straw to draw water. Hard rigid plastic is durable for van life.

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The diagram below shows how to connect the camper van water pump to the container. Notice the two parts of the “Quick Release” component: the bottom half and the top half. This component easily separates in two, allowing you to remove and refill the water container with water.

Connecting the water container to the water pump
Water container to pump

In the images below, you can see how the “1/2″ PEX to 3/4″ NPT” fitting inserts through the container cap’s threaded hole and connects to the bottom half of the “Quick Release” fitting. The red PEX tubing acts as a straw and draws water from the bottom of the water container.

Showing how to connect PEX pipe to a water container cap to create a straw
Showing how to insert a metal plumbing fitting through the water container cap

Materials (Part 1)

Materials (Part 2)

Option 2: Connect to Fixed Water Tank

If you choose to use a fixed water tank, refer to the below diagram to see how to connect the tank to the water pump. Note that there are four port openings in a fixed water tank to take care of, but in this diagram, we only show the “water out” connection.

Tank Recommendation: If you get a fixed water tank, we highly recommend getting the ‘spouted’ water tanks from Class A Customs.

Recommended Fixed Tank
Class A Customs Spouted 20 Gallon Water Tank

We also use a water tank from Class A Customs and love the strong, rigid plastic build. We recommend getting a 'spouted' water tank, which simplifies the water inlet installation process.

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Connecting the fixed water tank to the 12V water pump.
Connecting fixed water tank to pump

Materials

Haven’t selected your water containers yet? Read our camper van water tanks post to learn about all your options.

Connecting Water Pump to Water Faucet & Sink

By connecting the water pump to the faucet, you can finish the flow of fresh water from the tank to the sink. Refer to the diagram below to help you. From the previous section, you should be able to connect the RV pump to the silencer tube. The materials we list below will start after the silencer.

For more details, read our camper van sink installation guide.

Water Supply Lines: The blue and red dotted lines are the faucet’s hot and cold water supply lines. These lines are included with the faucet and connect to the pump via the adapter valve.

Diagram connecting water pump to water faucet
Water pump to faucet

Materials

Need a faucet recommendation? Ready our van faucet review and why we love ours for van life.

Connecting Water Pump to Hot Water Heater and Shower Head

You can also connect a camper van water pump to a water heater and shower head to take hot water showers. This is a great option to reduce reliance on public showers, gyms, and paid campsites. Refer to the below diagram to see how to connect the pump to a shower head via a water heater.

For more information, read our camper van shower plumbing guide.

Electric Connection: To use an electric heater, you will need a minimum 3000W inverter and we recommend at least 200Ah (12V) of lithium batteries. Read our electric guide to learn more.

Connecting the 12V water pump to an electric water heater and a shower head.
Connecting pump to heater and shower head

Materials

Water Pump FAQ

How Much Power Does a Camper Van Water Pump Use?

When in use, a 12V water pump will require roughly 60 watts of power, or 5A. Assuming a dishwashing session requires 3 minutes of water pump run time, the total power demand is approximately 3 Watt-hours.

What Is the Best Water Pump for Camper Vans?

The Shurflo water pump is perfect for camper vans and RVs. The pump runs on 12V, requires minimal power, and is easy to wire to the leisure batteries. The unit is also compact and space-efficient, making installing directly under the sink easy.

What Size Water Pump Do I Need for My Camper?

Aim for a water pump that can deliver 3-3.5 gallons per minute (GPM) or 11-13 liters per minute (L/min). This is enough water flow for dishes and showering but is still water efficient for camper vans and RVs.

Conclusion

We hope this post taught you about the basics of water pumps for camper vans. If you have any questions regarding the installation process and how to connect a pump to a water tank, faucet, or shower, please post a comment in the section below.

Happy plumbing!

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