The day before we left on this trip, we were finalizing the kitchen sink plumbing and decided we really didn’t like the set-up, so decided to abandon our original plan. And for several weeks it had been all too easy to put it off since there were plenty of other things that were more interesting; yes, anything was more interesting than fixing our plumbing. We finally came around to completing it in Parry Sound, also out first test of handyman work in a Home Depot parking lot.
In Parry Sound we found 5-gallon water tanks that (randomly and luckly) fit perfectly into our bottom cabinet so we stopped at the next Home Depot and got to work. The system is pretty simple. As I mentioned, we already had both the faucet and sink set into the counter, using silicon to reinforce the edges and seams to seal off any potential leaks between the sink / faucet and the counter. Here is our set up for the grey water:
Grey Water Set-up: We had very limited space the sink to attach the plumbing so traditional plumbing solutions just didn’t seem to work for us. The sink has a 1-½ inch drain, and we used 3 PVC pieces that connect to a vinyl hose. We used rubber cement to combine the PVC pieces and plumber’s tape to seal any threads. Because of the shape of the elbow connector, we filled the PVC with some epoxy to prevent grey water from pooling. From the PVC, a ½inch inside diameter clear vinyl tube runs to the grey water tank.
Fresh Water Set-up: Our choice of faucet require ⅜ inch inside diameter hose, which we attached with a simple hose clamp. We had to make sure the hose had ample length to reach the bottom of the fresh water tank. We also needed to allow for air flow to replace the pumped water but prevent any spills. Our water tanks had ¾ inch threads, so we attached a vertical piece of PVC pipe (made up of 2 pieces from the hardware store), which the vinyl hose loosely runs through, to the bottom of the tank. We played around with the idea of adding weight to the bottom of the fresh water hose, but the system works fine without.
In addition to the 5-gallon tank connected to the faucet, we carry a 6-gallon canister in the trunk and a 2.5 gallon container with a spigot (which Nikki really likes). So in total we have 13.5 gallons of capacity.
If we could do this on the spot in a Home Depot parking lot with very limited tools, anyone can do it! We were laughing that it had taken us so long to get motivated. So far, so great! Having a sink in the van is a game changer, especially when stealth camping. Now if only we had a toilet…
As we’ve been traveling, we’ve been debating getting an electric water pump for convenience. It wouldn’t be a drain on power, and probably very little work, but the hand pump is fine for now. We’re wondering which of the two would result in more efficient water usage. The other thought is to install a second 5-gallon freshwater tank for a quick switch.
Note: We originally were planning to use only 1.25-gallon tanks and attach them almost directly beneath the sink behind the fridge. In hindsight, this seems like a ridiculously foolish idea given our water usage. The 5-gallon tanks fit perfectly under the other side of the cabinet and allows us to use the sink for dish-washing, drinking and cooking water needs, as well as brushing teeth etc. The lost space that is taken up by the larger tanks, we realized, wasn’t ideal for storing of frequently used materials, so figured it was good space to use up with larger water tanks.
- We are using about 2 gallons / day. So we have to refill the tank attached to the faucet every 2-3 days. Our full system (13.5 gallons) needs to be refilled roughly once a week. Canada and the US have been really easy for fresh water access (and for free!), so we may need to make adjustments depending on the country.
- Grey water tanks fill up at about half the rate that fresh water empties out. Half our freshwater is used for drinking and cooking, the other half for dishes and cleaning.
- Grey water tanks get dirty fairly quickly, although we haven’t noticed any smells from the sink. We bought some grey water tank cleaner that we fill in the sink occasionally, but results have been mixed. We tend to wash out the grey water tanks every now and then.
- If leaving the van standing for multiple days (without using the sink), always empty out the tank to avoid residue buildup.
- The sink is fine for our purposes – it’s big enough for dishwashing, although inconvenient for larger items. We do like that it’s deep and has a flat bottom (you can leave stuff in the sink while driving). If we were to do it again, we may pick a wider sink – we certainly wouldn’t go smaller than what we have right now.