Let’s face it: nothing gets prepping a caravan or RV for the summer off on the wrong foot quicker than discovering you have a freshwater pump problem.
It could be that it froze while it was winterized, a stuck poppet valve is preventing it from priming, or any number of other causes might be preventing it from working properly. And even if a thoughtful tap of a hammer reluctantly gets it working again, it may only be a short-term victory.
Taking any kind of RV plumbing problem lightly is risky, but freshwater pumps pose an altogether different level of concern. At best, a noisy pump that works sporadically could be telling you that it’s about to fail and simply leave you waterless. At worst, however, a pesky pressure switch or wet pump housing is an ominous indicator that your interior is close to being flooded with a couple of hundred litres of water.
More often than not, buying a new pump is going to be your best and safest course of action. And not only will it give you peace of mind, if you’ve been contemplating upgrading your water system or just wanted a quieter unit, then now’s a great time to do it.
Upgrading to the Right Pump
One of the greatest advantages of owning a caravan or RV is being able to hit the road with enough fresh water at your disposal to stay off the grid for several days. And with adequate tank capacity and a new 12 volt high pressure water pump, you can feel completely at ease about heading to the deep outback or into the mountains without losing access to your most essential resource.
If your RV’s outfitted with just standard fixtures, a quiet, smooth-flowing pump is going to help your plumbing system perform better and more reliably than it ever has. However, if you’re driving a fully customized or luxury rig that’s equipped with multiple baths, a dishwasher, and more, then the higher pressure, lower cycle times, and solid flow rates that you’d get from installing a beefier 12-volt water pump are going to be just what you want.
Like so many things though, installing the biggest, highest-flowing pump you can possibly buy might not be the best idea. In fact, a pump that’s too large can put stress on pipes and fixtures that’ll lead to even bigger problems. Instead, once you’ve made a firm decision to buy a new 12-volt pump, you want to start by considering points such as:
- What’s your water system’s factory-rated optimal rate of flow;
- What’s your water system’s actual storage capacity;
- How many people are using the system;
- How much water pressure do you really need; and,
- How much space do you have available for the pump?
When you’ve assessed these factors, then your search for an appropriately sized pump can begin. Even if you’ve only made minor modifications to your rig, you may realize that your current pump hasn’t been the right one for the job it’s been doing all along. Confirming the type of pump you have will help you determine precisely which type of pump you can upgrade to.
12-Volt Pump Types
Although freshwater pumps can come in a wide range of 12-volt inline and submerged variants, there are only 3 main types of 12-volt pumps that you’re likely to find installed in RVs.
Constant speed pumps. Known for their continuous cycling, these pumps deliver water to all your fixtures at a set, consistent speed whenever there’s a demand for it.
Variable speed pumps. Known for their quiet operation, these sensor-equipped pumps detect changes in water demand, and can increase or decrease their motor speed to match that demand.
High-volume pumps. These 12-volt pumps deliver the highest rate of flow of all the pump types, and have become the standard on most modern water systems.
If you’re upgrading, you need to keep in mind that there aren’t dramatic price differences between the different types of freshwater pumps. What’s important is choosing one that’s based on how much, and how far you need water to flow.
Carefully examining pump specifications will tell you everything you need to know about a pump before you invest in one that may be too big or too small for your RV. By comparing the specifications of your existing pump with the specs of a new one, you’ll quickly recognize just how much of an upgrade you can make to your water system.
Reading 12-Volt Pump Specs
When it comes to new pump specifications, surprisingly, there are only a handful of points you need to look at to ensure they’re consistent with both your water system’s capabilities and the demands being placed on it.
- GPM rating. Gallons per minute, is the rate of flow a pump can process in a period of time. Modern pump models tend to start around 3 – 4 GPM, with high-volume units easily exceeding 5 GPM.
- PSI rating. Pounds per square inch, is the amount of pressure the pump puts behind the flow. Most RV water systems are built to withstand up to 60PSI, which is why new pumps rarely produce more than an optimal 55PSI.
- Amperage. This is the pump’s electric draw. New pumps are energy misers, drawing typically between 6.0A on smaller models, to a mere 10A on even the largest, high-pressure ones.
You may also need to be sure that the pump provides for other technical features that you might require, including:
- Thermal protection against running dry. A pump that’s allowed to run without actually pumping water can quickly burn itself out.
- Pulse reduction. A pump that pulsates is both noisy and prone to damaging itself and the water system.
- A built-in check valve. Check valves help to ensure the water system remains pressured at all times.
These are generally standard features with modern 12 volt inline pump offerings, but you’ll want to confirm that each of these features is present on whichever pump you’re interested in buying. It’s important knowledge, especially if you intend to upgrade other water system components along with your pump.
Other 12-Volt Pump Enhancements
If you’ve committed to upgrading your RV’s water system and getting the best possible performance out of it, then there’s a good chance that the pump won’t be the only item you invest in. Your water system’s more than just a single component, and assuming there’s sufficient space available, you might want to consider a selection of enhancements that can help extend your pump’s service life.
- A strainer kit. Strainer kits help to filter out the sediment, particulate matter, and foreign debris that can become lodged in a pump and ruin diaphragms, impeller blades, and gaskets.
- An accumulator tank. Accumulator tanks are used to reduce pump cycling, pulsation, and unwanted system pressure spikes that can lead to premature pump or plumbing failures.
- A booster pump. Because of the distance water has to travel in some larger RVs and caravans, a booster pump may be required to help increase the flow of water even after the primary pump.
The truth is, there are a lot of options available when it comes to upgrading freshwater systems in RVs. You want to plan your upgrade carefully, and you want to use 12 volt RV pumps and water system enhancements that’ll give you the most from your system.
The Final Word
No matter what time of year it is, water system problems are a headache. Parts wear out; and if your water pump is giving you early warning signs, you don’t want to ignore them.
If your water system is exhibiting signs of pressure or pumping reliability problems, installing a new 12 volt high pressure water pump is going to help you put those problems behind you. They’re an affordable upgrade that’ll not only round out your RV prep for this summer season, but it’s going to help keep your system performing at its best for seasons to come.