Some things are easy to love as you prepare for your first (or next) RV trip. Looking at destinations (nice), imagining downtime (oh, yeah!), and mapping out how to get there (gonna make such great time)—those are the most fun parts to plan.
But RV travel takes more than a map to get from point A to point B. At least comfortably. Ensuring you have a good, reliable source of quality water and a quiet yet efficient RV water pump is vital to not just your enjoyment but to your survival. In fact, a reliable supply of water is one of the most important things you’ll need whether you’re in an RV, trailer, motorhome, or campervan.
Most units come equipped with an RV water pump. But, like everything, these pumps can wear out. They can be loud. Or they can flat-out fail to deliver the efficiency or performance you prefer. (And you may even want a second pump.) Or, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer who’s building up or refurbishing your rig, you’ll need to decide on what type of water pump you want to start with for your camper.
Choosing the right RV water pump for your unit and RV lifestyle, though, can be challenging. Why? Choices, my friend. So many choices. But we can help you pick the right one for your RV and your preferred camping style.
What Is an RV Water Pump?
Let’s start with the basics. A water pump is necessary to take the water from the tank into the water pipes in your RV. It not only makes sure you have clean water when you want it but that you have the correct flow and pressure.
While most RV parks come with hookups, when you’re traveling (and especially if you like to take the road less traveled or get off the beaten path), you’ll come to rely on the water from your tank. Depending on the size of your rig, you’ll likely have a tank that holds from 50 to 200 gallons, and is usually found in the base of your RV or trailer.
RVs typically have three different tanks: one for fresh water (which you’ll use for drinking and washing up), gray water (which is used water from the sinks), and black water (which is from the waste/toilet) that will need to be disposed of.
The RV water pump pulls water from the clean water tank up to the faucets. While 12-volt electric pumps are most common, you can also find a few options that run off gas power as well as others that use a manual hand or foot pump.
Water on Demand
The best thing about having a water pump for a camper or RV is that you have water on demand. Just turn on (or manually pump), and you have a source of flowing water for your sink(s) or shower. Typically, water pressure is set for around 30 psi, though some are adjustable, so you can increase or decrease the water pressure.
Once the water pump is turned on, it will pump water until you close the valves that release water (faucets, showers, or even on outlets on the outside of your RV ) or once the water pressure has reached the set limits in the pipes. If the pressure drops when you’re running water, the pump will turn back on.
Many of the more modern RV water pumps have automatic shut offs for an electric pump when you turn off the faucet or water outlet. This can be helpful and convenient, as you’re less likely to leave a pump running, which can lead to problems—like your pipes bursting and your RV flooding.
Types of RV Water Pumps
Manual RV Water Pump
Like getting way off the beaten path and into the backcountry? Prefer something that’s both easy to install and most affordable? Then a manual fresh water pump may be right up your alley. These are inexpensive, typically easy to install, and don’t use any outside power (gas or electricity). They also help prevent you from wasting water as you pump only what you need. They’re ideal for those who want to spend some time off-grid or looking for a nearly silent option for a camper water pump.
The biggest drawback? You do have to work for your water, though most are very easy to use and take little effort. You may also experience lower levels of water pressure, and they may only be efficient for using in a sink (rather than a shower).
Some examples of hand water pumps include the Valterra Rocket Hand Pump. If you prefer to go hands-free or want more power, you can also look at a foot pump. While these devices are typically used for boats, they work well in many RVs and are especially popular with folks who prefer to decrease their reliance on electricity and want to save water.
Foot pumps can be a little more expensive than hand pumps, though. And you may also need to switch out your faucet or increase tubing and connections. Whale Water Pumps include a few different types that are popular.
12-Volt Electric RV Water Pump
One of the most common and popular ways to ensure a consistent and reliable water supply is to use a simple 12-volt electric RV water pump. This is the version that’s most standard in RVs. When combined with a hot water heater, these little units can even be installed for comfortable showers on the road.
They aren’t as easy to install, but they do only necessitate a few parts and enough electricity to run. Their biggest upsides are more consistent water pressure and ease of operation. Plus, just turn the switch on, and you have water on-demand.
These types of pumps are typically connected to both the cold water and the hot water heater, so you can easily adjust the temperature of your water just like you do in a typical home.
Unfortunately, some of the electric water pumps can be quite noisy and use more electricity than expected. Some also provide water pressure that’s choppy, though not as much as a manual pump.
If you are replacing an older unit with a new RV water pump, be aware that some pumps need more electricity than others. Your newer pump may burn more (or less) battery life, depending on amperage, than your old version. So, you may need to also install new wiring if you replace an older unit.
One of the more popular units is the SHURflo 4008 due to its long-life and higher performance. It’s also known for being quieter with lower vibration than other similar units, even while pumping. If you want maximal water flow and have water to spare, then the SHURflow 4048 is another popular option.
Another company that offers recommended camper water pumps is Aquajet. For example, they offer a variable speed unit that provides a high enough volume even if you’re using more than one faucet.
Other recommended brands include Flow Max, ProGear, and SEAFLO. To pick the best RV water pump for you, you’ll want to find one that’s simple to install, fits your space, and has a quiet motor.
An optional accumulator can help with a variety of pumps. This device provides a place to store pressurized water, so you can still get some water, even when the pump is turned off (such as late at night when you don’t want to wake family or friends). Even when using the pump, the accumulator can help smooth the flow of the water, so it’s a steadier stream.
24-Volt Electric RV Water Pumps
For bigger RVs, trucks, or buses, you may need increased water pressure. That’s when you step up to a 24-volt water pump.
These bigger units allow for higher flow to more outlets. The downside is that they’re both more expensive to install and more expensive to run—both in terms of water usage and electric bills.
Choosing the Best RV Water Pump for You
To determine the best RV water pump for you, you’ll need to answer some questions, such as:
- GPM. That is, how many gallons of water per minute can your system handle? You’ll likely find this information in your owner’s manual. Avoid getting a camper water pump that’s too powerful for your system, which can suck too much energy from your battery as well as waste water, which could leave you high and dry if you aren’t near a refill station. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid one that doesn’t have enough GPM to deliver to all of your water outlets if you have more than one faucet.
- PSI. What’s the recommended pounds per square inch for water pressure for your camper? Typically, you’re looking for a water pump for your camper that’s between 40 and 70 psi to optimize water pressure and flow. If it’s over 70, you could cause damage or even burst your pipes, leading to leaks and other problems. If it’s lower than 40, then you likely won’t have enough flow to meet your needs.
- Size. Where are you mounting your RV water pump? In campers of all types, every square inch is optimized for space and storage. If you’re replacing an older unit, make sure your new water pump will still fit into the space you have available.
- Noise. While virtually all RV water pumps make some noise, some can be really noisy and vibrate every time they’re turned on. This can be annoying, especially in a small space. Fortunately, some water pumps have better vibration dampening to cut down on the noise.
- Thermal protection. If the water or motor gets too hot, water pumps with thermal protections will automatically shut off to protect the motor and reduce the risk of a fire.
- RV water pump reviews. Before determining the best water pump for a camper or RV, seek out real reviews from people you know and trust. Consider also reading through online RV water pump reviews. For the most honest answers, skim over the 1- and 5-star reviews and read through those that are in the middle (2 to 4 stars).
Other considerations include voltage, energy efficiency, and, of course, how easy it is to install.
If you have running water in your RV camper, you need a water pump, especially when you aren’t (or can’t be) hooked up to a water supply. Not all options will be right for your camping style or rig, so take the time to consider your needs and do your research rather than buying the first (or the cheapest) one you find.
Once you’ve got your water pump sorted, you can get back to the fun stuff—like deciding on your next destination and enjoying the journey.