RV Plumbing System Basics
Putting together a set of RV necessities for the plumbing is one of the first and most basic tasks for RV living whether it be a motorhome, 5th wheel, or travel trailer. It is very important to keep a healthy and working plumbing system from the city water hose connections all the way through to the holding tanks and having the proper RV hookup accessories is essential.
As a side note, also make sure you have the proper RV tools to utilize, change and maintain this system as well as the others.
Talking about water hoses and black tanks is not exciting, but it is important!
Let’s dive in, shall we?
What Every RV Needs For The Plumbing
There are a few plumbing related RV gadgets that are “must haves.” You need to bring water into the system or freshwater tank, and you need to dispose to the water from the gray and black tank. And you need to do all of this safely and in a sanitary manner.
Water Supply RV Necessities
1) Water Hoses: An essential RV accessory, make sure you get one that is rated for potable water. Typically these are white or blue in color. These drinking water hoses are also used for filling the fresh water tank when boondocking.
2) Water Filter: As you move from site to site, state to state, it is difficult to know exactly how good the water supply is. A water filter is one of those RV necessities that ensure you are getting good clean water to your faucet. City water supplies vary quite a bit and some of the more rural campgrounds will have well water which is typically high in minerals.
3) Water Regulator: The same thing applies to water pressure. RV’s typically have plastic pipes and are not capable of handling as much pressure as the pipes in sticks and bricks. So a water pressure regulator is a necessity to keep your RV plumbing safe. Regulators come in an adjustable style or non-adjustable.
4) Shower Head: Many times as you travel site to site, the water pressure will be less than optimal. There is nothing worse than a lousy shower so a good shower head is an RV necessity. This shower head is specially designed to increase the pressure at the head, ensuring that you get a really good powerful shower no matter what the water pressure.
5) Hose Splitter: A typical site will include only one water spigot for hooking up your water supply hose. If you plan to use a flush system to clean your tanks, a hose splitter is an essential accessory so you don’t have to disconnect your fresh water supply every time you dump the tanks. With the splitter, you can hook up both hoses simultaneously and control the water flow with the built-in valves.
Tank Flushing RV Essentials
6) Tank Flush Hose: When dumping the black tank, it is always advisable to flush it out. Over time built up solids can cause MAJOR problems so a little bit of due diligence is in order. A second flush water hose is a necessity. You should never use your fresh water supply hose to flush the tank as there is always the possibility of getting bacteria (poop) into that hose. Keep them separate. A grey tank hose is usually grey in color and will be marked as such.
7) Sewer hose kit: this is also a must-have RV accessory. This hose is used to connect your dump valve to the sewer connection. A kit includes the hose as well as accessories to properly (and tightly) connect each end. You don’t want a poop explosion- trust me!
8) Tank Flush Valve: If your rig is not equipped with a built-in tank flushing connection, a check valve with a flushing hookup is truly a must-have gadget. I have a built-in system but I use one of these as well from time to time if things are not flowing smoothly. It can be a real life-saver.
9) Toilet Paper: If you are not using septic safe toilet paper- you are playing a dangerous game. We strictly use Scotts 1000. It is a single ply but does a fine clean-up job. It dissolves right away in the tank and will really help keep your black tank free from an issue. Whether you are full timing or just on a weekend RV trip, proper TP is a must have RV essential.
10) RID-X: I have seen so many recommendations on tank products. I have tried a few. I have done some reading about some odor products that cause gunk to build up in your tank. This happened to me and I had HUGE problems for quite a while. Some tank “deodorizers” will actually turn your solids into a goopy sludge that will plug up your whole system. That happened to me. I used Rid-X and a Flush Valve to fix the problem- it took several weeks. Now I ONLY use Rid-X and I highly recommend that you do as well. It had been around forever, it works, and it does help control odor over time. I won’t use anything else. I use it in my grey tanks as well as it cuts grease and sludge and will control odors if used regularly.
11) Clear Drain Section: Gross as this can be, it is really helpful to see how the tank is draining and when it is clean. Once you see how much waste is left behind and become obsessed with the need to get it all out, you’ll get over watching poop flow and a clear connection will become one of your rv essentials.
“Honey The Poop Tank’s Burping”
Yes, RV living is the ONLY lifestyle where THAT phrase is acceptable.
Now that you have the goods on the RV plumbing necessities, let’s look at best practices for dumping your tanks. After all, having the must-have RV accessories is only as good as their use, right? Whether hooked up or using the dump station, it is important to get your tanks flushed right to avoid problems down the road. After over 3 years on the road, we have gotten down to a pretty good system.
The first thing you want to do is to dump the black tank. We prefer to call it the poop tank because we have little kids and they think it’s funny (me too.) Dumping the poop tank first allows you to run the relatively cleaner grey water through the hose last, cleaning it out. Always check the connections on your sewer hose to make sure they are connected properly and pointing in the right direction. A LOT of poop comes out through that hose quickly and you don’t want to find out too late that the hose was loose- TRUST ME!
This is especially important at the dump station as it is easy for the drain end of the hose to get turned sideways spewing poop juice all over your feet! TRUST ME!
Once the tank is “empty” it is important to give it a good flushing to clear out any solids that did not make it out during the dump. Otherwise, these solids can build up over time and create a real problem.
Proper Flushing of the Poop Tank
My rig has a built in flush system. If yours is similar, you simply can hook up a Grey Water Flush Hose to flush. DO NOT use your fresh water hose for this purpose! I wait until the tank has fully emptied on its own to turn on the flush. This ensures that any “floaters” are on the floor of the tank and can get pushed down the drain. I then watch the clear elbow (RV must-have) in my waste line to see what comes out. It is always surprising to see how much is left behind when you think the tank is empty. I will run the flush until the water runs relatively clear and then turn it off, allowing the tank to drain again. Then I repeat the process until there is no more solid waste to be found.
Every couple of dumps I will fill the tank a couple of times with clear water using the flush system and drain it just to make sure it is getting cleaned out well. This is a dangerous process as it takes a few minutes and it is easy to get distracted. DO NOT GET DISTRACTED!!! There is nothing worse than hearing your wife screaming and looking up to see poop water pouring out from your roof vent because you forgot to turn off the flush hose. (We’ve had that happen twice) Even though I use a hose splitter to hook up both hoses, I religiously disconnect the flush hose after each use. That way I can always see if I have forgotten something.
Once the flushing is done, let the flush hose run water into your tank for about 30 seconds to a minute. That way you start the new tank with a bit of water in the bottom. Then add a bit of Rid-X into all of the tanks to start the process. It doesn’t take a lot- one box should last a couple of months.
While just some of the basics, there is nothing worse than having water or tank problems on your RV camping trips. These RV essentials and practices will help make sure your next excursion “flows freely.” Sorry, not sorry!
Did we miss anything on the list? If so please share below in the comments.
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