On Board Hot Water Install for Shower

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Jan 24, 2008
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Location
Pasa Bernardino, California
On past trips that lasted more than a few days, I would bring a Colman hot water heater for showers. This worked great but it took up precious cargo space and was clumsy to operate while taking a shower.

I know of two models that use the hot engine coolant to heat water (heat exchanger). Helton and Twine. I chose the Helton Hot Water Kit because the all the hose inputs and outputs are on the same side.

The goal was to have a shower where the water heater, water pump and water were all on board the vehicle. I wanted to use the system without opening the hood.


The hardest part of the install was finding a place for mounting the heat exchanger in the engine compartment that allowed convenient connection to the existing heater hoses. I finally found a great spot under the relocated window washer bottle (relocated with Slee Kit). The heat exchanger is the red device. Bolted to the inner fender:


Heater hoses and fresh water hoses routed. Connected directly to the heater valve, the flow of the coolant can be adjusted from the heater controls on the dashboard. I found about 3/4 into the red on the heater control was perfect:


The water containers are in the rear of the truck so the electric fresh water pump (Jabsco Variable Speed Water Pump) mounted under the shelf in rear cargo area (drivers side). A hole was cut in the floor to route the tube that goes to the front of the truck:


The first flow of hot water can be scalding since it's been sitting in the exchanger so I included a cold / hot water mixer anti-scald device. This also allows more control of the warm water temperature. This is plumbed like at your home, both hot and cold water flows to the valve and can be adjusted. In addition, a valve at the top to control the flow. Opened about 1/4 of the way allowed for a good shower while reducing the water usage:


Here is the system setup last month in Arizona next to Canyon de Chelley:


The input hose to the electric water pump in one of the 5 gallon water containers:


This system makes it very easy to take a shower. Just drive into camp. Put input tube into fresh water. Setup shower tent (with AstroTurf for the floor). Connect shower hose. Run engine at 1000 RPM. Enjoy hot shower :D

I ordered many of the plumbing parts from West Marine. Some of the needed parts:
3 Barbed Hose Reducer, 3/8" to 1/2" Part: SEAFIT 139952 - Helton uses 3/8" connectors. Needed to adapt to 1/2"
1 Barbed Nylon Hose Tee, 1/2" Part: SEAFIT 139960 - To allow cold water to mixer
Series 162 PVC Tubing, 3/8"ID Part: SHIELDS RUBBER 116-162-0386 - Water To / From Helton heat exchanger
Series 162 PVC Tubing, 1/2"ID Part: SHIELDS RUBBER 116-162-0126 - All water line to / from electric water pump
Brass Male Pipe Thread to Hose NPT 1/2 - For mixer, anti scald device connection to tubing
Brass Female Pipe Thread to Hose NPT 1/2 - For mixer, anti scald device connection to tubing

A few issues:
1. I need to add a valve to completely drain the system. If water freezes in the heat exchanger, it could cause it to crack and create a leak in the engine cooling system.
2. The tubing that was attached to the shower sprayer was not strong enough to withstand the pressure from the electric water pump. I replaced it with 3/8" tubing from West Marine.
3. The standard hose clamps on the fresh water system under the hood, appear to loosen with the cycle of heating then cooling which causes very small leaks. Re-tightening fixes it, but I need a permanent solution.
4. I need some type of quick connect for the shower hose to the truck.
5. Need to install manual throttle.

Full install description:
http://www.unwiredadventures.com/un...hot-water-install-for-shower-for-camping.html
 
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Really nice hot shower set up. Your rig is one of the 80s here I get ideas from. Great links.

Off topic. Where did you get your roof rack gutter mounts and is it at the lowest point to the top of the roof? Thanks.
 
Very nice setup, I am going the Coleman route for the time being but if I ever get more hardcore I may have to go this route.
 
I am working out the plans for my shower system (only way the fiancee will go camping).
I have read through quite a few installs, but this is the only one that said where the coolant lines were hooked up (cars heater lines). Are all shower systems like that, or do some pull coolant going to the radiator?
 
Just a quick question, I was wondering why you didn't just get this from Cruiser Outfitters? Did you save money by finding your own parts?

Nice set up thought. :clap:

Cheers
 
nice setup Frank!
Saw your truck on Lake again :)
 
Frank nice setup

If you install it here, you can use the in cabin temp controls to modify the water temp

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I am working out the plans for my shower system (only way the fiancee will go camping).

If it's more than one night, it's the only way my :princess: will go.

I have read through quite a few installs, but this is the only one that said where the coolant lines were hooked up (cars heater lines). Are all shower systems like that, or do some pull coolant going to the radiator?

AFAIK, all use the heater lines.

Just a quick question, I was wondering why you didn't just get this from Cruiser Outfitters? Did you save money by finding your own parts?

I bought mine from Cruiser Outfitters.

nice setup Frank!
Saw your truck on Lake again :)

Driving or parked? If parked, that's my office. Stop in sometime, I'd like to see all the changes to your 80.

Frank nice setup
If you install it here, you can use the in cabin temp controls to modify the water temp

Thanks, I reviewed your install many many times while pondering my installation. Mine is plumbed the same as yours. On the Helton, all the input lines are on one side of the unit. I couldn't figure out a sturdy mounding solution on the firewall so I mounted it on the inner fender. I can adjust in the cabin and at the mixer valve.
 
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Thanks, I reviewed your install many many times while pondering my installation. Mine is plumbed the same as yours. I can adjust in the cabin and at the mixer valve.

Ahh, I didn't catch that
 
You if so inclined and handyman extraordinaire
Can make your own hot water system . Start with
a short piece of PVC pipe 4-6 in in diameter, 3/8
Copper refrigeration tubing 9 ft coil the refrigeration
tubing inside the PVC pipe like a spring and exit the
Main pipe on one end. Install end caps on pipe, drill holes
For tubing to exit, drill two holes for fresh water fittings in and out
install fittings for your hoses, tap into
The heater system in the vehicle and connect to the copper
fittings. Add valves for isolating the system from normal use
Use quik disconnect fittings (pressure washer style) for your hoses from
Source of fresh water pond or jug or barrel. Add pump, sure flo , flojet
Inline, add throttle control (bicycle gear shift ) to control engine speed,
Your expenses about $90.00 labor 4 hours. Any questions 818 522 2654.
I've done it and it works .
 
Do you have any pics and how exactly do you tap into the heater system? I'm still mulling over what to do about hot showers on my expedition rig. But mines a 05 4Runner, not an 80...not sure if that changes things. Thanks!

~Daniel

Sent from deep in the mountains of Honduras using only sticks and rocks.
 
That is a nice unit and I like the garden hose fittings. As long as the unit can handle sitting in an engine bay and doesn't mind coolant going through it then it should work.
 
I know this is an old thread, but is there any chance coolant can get mixed in with the water?

Looks like the hoses are completely separate, but you never know..

After using it a while, what parts are prone to failure?

Thanks. I am 80% on pulling the trigger on this kind of set-up.
 

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