A real hot water shower inside a standard height cargo van, sounds impossible doesn’t it? A standard height cargo van isn’t known for having an over whelming quantity of space when it comes to setting up house inside. Once you have a decent bed installed and stash a few personal belongings, before you know it open floor space is a thing of the past.
With that in mind this is how to install a reasonably comfortable sit down shower stall, complete with all the hot water you need to take a really good shower.
With a regulation twin sized bed reaching down the long wall almost to the rear doors, there is a space just over 2′ wide between the head of the bed and the bulkhead that separates the driving compartment from the living quarters. Building a shower that is 2′ wide and 3′ long is just big enough to allow the average person enough movement to get in a good shower.
For the pan, or base of the shower an inexpensive black plastic utility tub was used. Sold at most home centers, they are designed for mixing bagged cement. Measuring 2’x3′ with 10″ side walls, it will contain and hold the water from your shower. To empty the tub a sink drain was installed that included a stopper. Hooked to a length of plastic hose, used water can either be directed into a container or just drained out onto the ground.
By having a stopper, if you’re parked somewhere that you can’t immediately drain the tub, you can wait and drain it at a different location. Best would be to drain it into a sealable jug so it doesn’t slop out of the tub.
1″ PVC plastic pipe was used (with elbow fittings) to build the rectangle shaped curtain rod for the shower. Installing it as close to the ceiling as possible will reduce the amount of water over spray that escapes the shower enclosure. Sitting on a small plastic step stool will have you quite close to the ceiling, so use care when showering or you will have water everywhere.
Hot Water Heater:
An Eccotemp L5 tankless water heater provides all the hot water instantly. Mounting the water heater on the rear door gives you flexibility in how you use it. A short hose and shower spray handle is included with the Eccotemp L5, but it’s not recommended that you use it. The factory website suggests using a length of garden hose with a pistol grip sprayer.
Interestingly the supplied hose and sprayer are NOT the same thread type as the fittings on the water heater. Being cheap plastic you can probably get by with them any way, but a 25′ x ½” garden hose works perfectly and the garden hose brass fittings are included with the water heater.
The nice part of using a 25′ hose and mounting the water heater on the rear door is you can shower inside the van if you choose, or set up a full height stand up shower outside. A light weight portable shower enclosure makes this both easy and private. You can even wash your van with this handy pistol grip sprayer because 25′ of hose will reach all the way around to the front.
The water supply can come from a garden hose if you have that option available, or you can have it all on board. A 6.5 gallon water jug from Northern Tool gives you more than enough water for a good hot shower. The manufacturer of the water heater also recommends a Flojet 12 Volt water pump rated at 2.9 gallons per minute at 50 PSI. My own experience confirmed this arrangement does an excellent job. A handful of fittings and some plastic tubing will have you hooked up in no time.
For my initial trial I just grabbed the tank off our BBQ. For a more convenient size I plan on purchasing an 11# refillable bottle that will sit just inside the back door.
Setting up this wonderful shower will cost you a few bucks, though not nearly as much as you might think. The breakdown is as follows:
Eccotemp L5 Tankless Water Heater $120 Ebay
Flojet 12 Volt RV Water Pump $55 Ebay
6.5 Gallon Water Jug $14 Northern Tool
25’x½” RV Water Hose & Sprayer $20 Home Center
Assorted Fittings and Tubing +-$20 Home Center
11# Propane Tank $45 Home Center
For about $274 you can have a super efficient complete hot water shower setup in your van. That’s about than the price of a 6 gal RV water heater that will continually be using propane while it keeps that 6 gallons of water hot. Whether you’re using water or not, and you still have to buy all the other stuff too.
The Eccotemp L5 tankless water heater is NOT designed to be used INSIDE. Mounted on the door as this one is requires that the door be OPEN DURING USE.
Having the ability to take a hot shower whenever you want is priceless when it comes to making life living in a van workable. Whether you hang out miles away from civilization, or hide in plain site in the middle of the city, this is the perfect answer when it comes to keeping a body clean.