From the pages of I RVing: Winter 2023

Pump Up Your Water System

Everything you need to pick the perfect water pump for your RV.

“Where there is water, there is life.” As campers, we know this—even if every science fiction movie hadn’t told us. We wash, clean, cook, and flush with water. We drink it too. So, ensuring you have a reliable source of water is a huge quality of life issue when you’re living on the road. Which makes RV water pumps either springs of life or authors of agony. Truth be told, all too often the unit that your RV is equipped with leaves something to be desired. Maybe the pump wears out … or is loud … or lacks pressure or efficiency. If that’s the case, it’s probably time for a replacement. Sure, the different types and models can seem to daunting, but knowing the basics can help take off the pressure—or, even better, get the pressure just right.

Learn the Water Pump Basics

You might have guessed that an RV water pump pulls water from the freshwater tank up the pipes to the faucets. That means clean water—including its flow and pressure—is reliant on your pump. On the road, you’ll come to rely on the water from your tank—especially if you take the road less traveled. Depending on the size of your RV, you’ll likely have a freshwater tank that
holds anywhere from 50 to 200 gallons. Having a water pump in your camper means that you have water on demand. Just turn it on (or manually pump it).

Typically, water pressure is set for around 30 PSI, though some are adjustable, so you can increase or decrease the water pressure (which is helpful if you’re trying to conserve water). Once the pump is turned on, it will pump water until you close the valves that release water (like your faucets, showerheads, or even on outside outlets), or once the water pressure has reached the set limits in the pipes. If the pressure drops, the pump will turn back on. Many modern electric water pumps have automatic shut-offs for when you turn off the faucet or water outlet. This can be helpful since you’re less likely to leave a pump running, which can lead to problems like burst pipes and flooded campers. (No, thank you.)

Determine Your Flow State

Picking out a water pump for your RV starts with an honest assessment of your camping style—and, yes, actual is better than aspirational. Your access to water while camping has a direct relationship with how much water you want to conserve. If you like to glamp with a full hookup, you might prefer a pump that’s primed for comfort.


Like going off the beaten path? Prefer something that’s both easy to install and affordable? Then a manual freshwater pump may be for you. They’re inexpensive, typically easy to install, and don’t use any outside power (gas or electricity). They also help prevent wasting water, as you pump only what you need. That makes them ideal if you want to spend some time off-grid and want a quieter option. The biggest drawback? You have to “work” for your water, though most are pretty easy to use. You may also experience lower levels of water pressure, and they may only be efficient for using in a sink (rather than a shower). One example of a hand water pump would be the Valterra Rocket Hand Pump, but foot pumps are in the market too, although they can be a little more expensive. 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.


One of the most common 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 only require a few parts and a little electricity to run. The advantage is more consistent water pressure and ease of operation. Just turn the switch on and voila! Water. These pumps are typically connected to both the cold water and the hot water heater, so you can easily adjust the temperature.

Unfortunately, some of the electric water pumps can be noisy and use more electricity than expected. 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. Remco also offers 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 (like 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. 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 a 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 and electric usage.

Circle Points of Comparison

To determine the best RV water pump for you, you’ll need to be familiar with some key terms and factors that will impact your decision.


That is, how many gallons (of water) per minute can your system handle? Avoid water pumps that are too powerful for your system and suck energy from your battery (as well as wastewater). At the same time, you’ll want to avoid a pump that doesn’t have enough GPM to provide for all water outlets if you have more than one.


What are the recommended pounds per square inch for water pressure for your camper? You need to know before you shop. Typically, most pumps are 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. If it’s lower than 40, then you might not 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 fit into your available space.

NOISE. Virtually all RV water pumps make some noise, but some can be really noisy and vibrate every time they’re turned on. In a small space, that’s annoying. Look for water pumps with better vibration dampening that cut down 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. Which is a nice feature to have.

REVIEWS. Get real feedback from people you know and trust, and read up on online 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). See what folks say about the voltage, energy efficiency, and ease of installation. Very simply: If you have running water in your RV camper, you need a water pump.  Not all options will be right for your camping style or rig, so take the time to consider your needs and do your research instead of buying the first, cheapest, or shiniest one you find. Any Southwest snowbird could testify: It’s too important to just go with the flow.


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