Classic (DL) Water/Plumbing Improvements

Quick connects for hoses.  After many scraped knuckles from trying to screw the water hose onto the camper inlet in a tight space, we gave up and opted for the same kind of "quick-connects" we use on our garden hoses.  We tried several different models before we found ones that fit inside the water access door, and had to remove the handy-dandy grippers on the connectors, but the results were well worth it.  We used Teflon plumbing tape for leak-proof joints.  Both ends of our water and utility hoses, as well as the spigot "Y", are now easy and quick to connect. 

New faucet.  The factory-supplied faucet was awful.  It was either full-on or off and splashed like crazy.  I replaced it with a Shurflo folding faucet from Boater’s World.  I knew nothing about plumbing when I started the project, but the more I learned, the easier it became.  The final plan was a lot simpler than my first conception.  Click HERE to read what I learned about plumbing. 

New sink drain line:  First, I loosened the sink, which was fastened with 4 wing nuts under the counter.  Before I could lift it out, I had to remove the gray corrugated drain line.  It was just shoved on the sink-drain barb and sealed with LOTS of caulk!   After I dug the caulk loose, I worked the hose off the sink barb and pulled the whole line out by removing the barbed drain connector in the floor (from the outside).  Because the old line was not clamped at the floor end either, there was actually a bit of dampness where water had seeped out.  I pulled the old corregated line off the barb and replaced it with an extra-long piece of smooth vinyl hose.  The floor hole was not big enough to get a clamp through, so I just pushed the new hose on the connector and shoved the whole business back up through the floor (from the outside), then re-screwed and caulked the outside connector.  From the inside, I was able to slip a hose clamp over the new drain hose and work it down to the floor.  With a very long screwdriver, I could just reach between the wheel well and fridge cabinet to tighten the clamp around the barb.  It was a very awkward place to reach, but the drain is now watertight. 

After disconnecting the hoses and removing the old faucet, I drilled two 1” holes for the new faucet tailpieces.  I needed a plate that would cover the old hole - a blank stainless-steel electric faceplate was just the right size and made a nice base for the faucet.  I masked the front of the plate with tape and screwed it upside-down to a scrap of 2X4.  I marked the location of my new holes, used a punch to dimple the centers, and drilled the first hole with a 1” hole bit.  It cut just around the fastening screw, which I then removed and replaced with a roofing nail – the nail head caught the edge of the first hole to keep the faceplate secure while I drilled the second hole.  I used a rat tail file to smooth the edges, and with dots of superglue I set 1” O-rings on top as gaskets.  I rolled a “snake” of plumber’s putty to make a watertight seal under the edge of the plate.  Once the faucet and plate were in place, I found that the plastic tailpiece nuts provided with the faucet didn’t leave enough exposed threads to attach the water lines.  Electric conduit nuts were perfect substitutions and fastened the faucet firmly to the countertop.

For the cold-water side of the faucet, I bought a 12” flexible plastic faucet supply.  I cut off the compression fitting and used a brass barb-to-barb connector with hose clamps to join it to the (shortened) original camper city-water hose.  For the hot-water side of the faucet, I connected a 3-way bypass valve.  I can switch the valve to draw water from hot water heater when we’re connected to utilities, or from the storage tank when we have no hookups.  One leg of the bypass valve is a barb for the hose from the storage tank.  The other leg has a compression fitting for a braided stainless-steel faucet supply.  The other end of that supply is connected to my new hot water heater. 

The valve in the photos is a “Flair-It” water-heater bypass valve, which I got from an RV dealer.  It makes tight connections, but has to be used with PVC or PEX pipe, and compatible fittings are hard to find.  If I were doing it again, I think I would use a brass water-heater bypass valve – they’re less expensive and more readily available online or from an RV store.

Before I reset the sink, I turned on the water and checked each connection for leaks.  After an hour under water pressure, everything was still watertight.  I made more plumber’s-putty “snakes” to put under the rim of the sink before I tightened it down.  I also added a hose clamp to the sink end of the new drain line.  Everything works beautifully, and I love the new faucet!

Water Heater.  Although it was easy enough to heat water on the stove or in an electric pot, I thought it would be convenient to have hot water available from the faucet.  Convenient, yes ... but a real challenge to figure out!   Click HERE to read more about my plumbing education.

Prepping the WH:  A 2.5 gal “point-of-use” water heater (WH) from Home Depot was just right – about the same size as a 20# propane tank.  It has a drain, an adjustable thermostat, and an electrical plug. The water inlet and outlet are female pipe threads in the top of the HWH; I put a 1/2” male-pipe(MIP) x female-pipe(FIP) elbow in each one.  On the inlet side, I added a 1/2” MIP x 3/8”compression adapter, and on the outlet side I added a 1/2” MIP x male garden hose adapter.  That was the hardest part of the whole project – getting those connections watertight!  I worked in the basement and used our washer hoses to test the connections.  It took 3-4 turns of Teflon tape on the male ends (wrapped in the direction of the threads) and a lot of muscle with the pipe wrench before they were sealed.  I bought a standard PVC pressure-relief valve (PRV) pipe, cut it to reach to the edge of the HWH, added an elbow and another piece of pipe to reach the bottom of the heater.  It was awkward and fragile, so I replaced the downward pipe with a piece of large heat-shrink tubing.  The tubing doesn't get caught like the pipe did, and vented water is still directed to the ground.

Mounting:  To mount the WH on the tongue, I had to move our single propane tank to one side.  It was originally secured through cross braces with 2 threaded rods.  I drilled a new hole in the cross-brace for the inner rod, but the outer rod now hung slightly over the side of the tongue.  A galvanized 2X4 hanger just fit up under the tongue and the flange gave me the fastening hole I needed.  The rod wasn’t quite long enough to reach, but I was able to extend it with two rod-extender nuts and more threaded rod from Lowe’s.  The longer rod is now tightened with a wing nut under the 2x4 hanger.  The WH sits on a Lynx leveling block that just fits the space next to the propane tank (plywood would work, too).  There is a piece of non-skid shelf pad on the Lynx block.  Two rubber bungees are criss-crossed over the WH and hooked to the tongue, making it secure for travel.  Since none of this is permanent,  we can always leave the WH at home and move the propane tank back to its original location. 

Electric:  From the outlet behind the refrigerator, I added an appliance (A/C) extension cord which I wired to an outlet on the dinette side of the refrigerator cabinet.  I use another appliance extension cord to connect the WH to that outlet.  That extension cord is stored in the battery cabinet, and simply pulled through the old battery vent hole to the WH.  Since the WH is on the same circuit as the the sink-cabinet outlet, it's a simple matter to pull the inside plug if we use the sink outlet for another heating appliance, such as a coffee maker or electric kettle.  No need to throw the breaker!

Cover:  The propane tank and WH are both protected with a zippered vinyl double-tank cover in polar white. I replaced the original propane hose with one long enough to go under the cover to the regulator.

Water lines:  Getting cold water to the WH was the easy part.  I used a brass Y with a male leg connected to the water inlet in the side of the camper.  The female end of the Y accepts the campground water hose, and the other male leg connects to a 10’ reinforced 1/2” hose with a barbed female hose adapter on one end, and a barbed 3/8” female compression adapter on the other.  The compression end of the 10’ hose screws to the 1/2” FIP end of a 2’ braided stainless steel faucet supply with a 3/8 compression fitting that is fastened to the WH inlet compression adapter.  The 10’ hose is the only water line I need to connect when setting up the camper.  The 2’ supply stays with the WH; a male nylon cap screws into it to keep it clean during travel.

Getting hot water inside the camper was a lot more complicated.  To run through the camper frame instead of under it, I took advantage of an existing hole near the propane line.  I used a hex male-hose x 1/2” MIP fitting (which fit through the hole) and an O-ring on the front side of the frame, screwed it to another hex male-hose x 1/2” FIP fitting on the back side, then wrenched them together.  That gave me a secure connection through the frame, with male hose threads on both sides.  From the WH outlet, a 3’ braided stainless-steel washer hose connects to the fitting on the front of the frame.  A 4’ hose connects on the backside of the frame, and is fastened with cable ties to the propane line under the camper. 

I didn’t want to drill a new hole in the camper, so I removed the plastic drain cap and used the existing floor hole behind the fridge.  An inexpensive camper water-inlet fits there - just barely.  I drilled a few small holes around the edge of the inlet plate to maintain some drain.  Because the fridge fittings forced me to set the inlet off-center in the floor hole, I could screw only one side of the plate to the camper bottom.  On the other side of the plate, I used a longer screw into a piece of scrap wood set on the floor across the hole.  With both screws tightened, and the outer edge of the plate caulked, the inlet is secure.  The outside of the inlet has female hose threads to which I attached a male-to-male hose adaptor for the female end of the under-camper washer hose.  The inside inlet threads are 1/2” FIP to which I added an adapter for the 3/8” compression end of a 12” braided stainless faucet supply.  The other end of the short supply is connected with an MIP x MIP adapter to the FIP end of a 30” dishwasher supply.   (NOTE: I had to connect 2 supplies because no one makes a 42” supply.  My other choice would have been to cut a 60” dishwasher supply to the right length and use a barbed fitting for the inlet in the floor.) 

The compression end of the 30” supply goes through an existing electric-wire hole in the fridge wall (which I enlarged a bit, after digging out the foam insulation), behind the furnace at the level of the wheel well, and into the sink cabinet.  It connects with a 90-degree compression adapter to a barbed PEX adapter on the bypass valve under the sink.  It sounds more complicated that it really is – everything went together beautifully.  What a treat to have running hot water! 

Gray water jug.  As old tent campers, we thought we could just let our gray water run to the ground.  But we found that most campgrounds require it to be collected.  The standard wheeled blue containers were big and expensive, and we don't generate that much waste water.  A 5-gal Blitz diesel jug from Wal-Mart just fits under the camper and is light enough to carry away from the campsite to empty. 

Buckets.  We have found that square buckets are a better "fit" for the camper than round ones.  We use our utility hose to fill a large square wash bucket with cooking, dishwashing and rinsing water.  Our dishes fit in a rectangular bucket I found at Camping World.  Small paint buckets from Lowe's, even though they're round, are small enough to fit in the sink under the stock faucet.  NOTE:  With the installation of a Shur-Flo folding faucet, I can now fill a 3-gallon bucket in the sink!