When you have an RV to travel in you have a lot of advantages over other campers. You don’t have to worry about paying exorbitant prices for less than stellar food because you can cook your own. You stay warm and cozy on chillier evenings thanks to your RV’s furnace and when the really hot weather strikes you can cool off in air conditioned comfort while tent dwellers swelter. And you can kiss goodbye to communal showers and shared port a potties because you have your own bathroom and kitchen on board.
Does it sound like we are lording it over our tent bound camping counterparts a little? Perhaps. But the fact that RVers can explore even very remote parts of the country and still enjoy home like comforts is one of the things that appeals to most of us about the lifestyle in the first place!
This is not to say that RV life is without its complications. Take your water system and RV plumbing for example. If you are dry camping you make use of your rig’s own water tanks and enjoy fairly precise control over the water supply. Once you park up at a campsite and hook up to the city water things get a little more complicated. Is the water very hard? Is it chlorinated? What’s the water pressure like – it is too low or too high, and how can you adjust it.
All of these things are variables you can’t control and often won’t have much information about, but it’s the latter that we are going to concentrate on here: water pressure and what an RV water pressure regulator might be able to do for you.
What an RV Water Pressure Regulator Does?
As we mentioned, unless you frequent a campground very often you can never quite know what to expect when you hook up to its water supply. Often the water pressure is higher than the ideal level, and when that overly pressure water comes running into your RV’s pipes and plumbing it can damage them and the fixtures and appliances that make use of it.
An RV pressure water regulator offers protection against such problems. It is a clever little device that monitors the pressure of the water flowing into your RV from the city source and then regulates it to a steady, safer for your plumbing level. Just what that level is divides opinion sometimes but in general the best water pressure level for a newer RV is around 60 psi and, for an older rig (with older pipes) 50 psi is just about right.
To make use of it you connect the RV water pressure regulator to the city water supply and then connect your drinking water hose to the regulator. It may take a few extra minutes to set up but the protection those extra seconds will allow you rig’s water system to enjoy could be very valuable. RV plumbing is not cheap to replace or repair and doing your best to ensure its longevity will always pay off.
The Effects of High and Low Water Pressure
Even if you don’t formally measure it you can usually tell if you are dealing with low water pressure in your RV. If the pressure is too low your shower becomes more of a trickle and washing dishes seems to take forever. If the pressure is too high it’s harder to notice, as chances are that your shower will run great and the water flowing through the sink seems to be doing so at a great pace.
The problem is that high water pressure can do some serious damage to your pipes and plumbing. Damage that can be tricky to fix and very expensive to boot. And it’s damage that can be prevented with a $20-$100 investment in an RV water pressure regulator.
How Do RV Water Pressure Regulators Work?
Most RV water pressure regulators are rather simple looking things, but the way they actually do their job is rather impressive. Inside every water pressure regulator there is a spring loaded diaphragm. As the water flows into it from the outside source the pressure is reduced to a more manageable level – and one that’s more stable – before it is released into your rig’s plumbing system.
This action protects your plumbing while also creating a water flow that’s more consistent, allowing you to shower and do dishes without the frustration of an irregular water flow.
Types of RV Water Pressure Regulator
There are two basic types of RV water regulator: inline barrel or adjustable.
Inline Barrel Water Pressure Regulators
Inline Barrel water pressure regulators are the less expensive option in most cases. They are designed to regulate the water pressure flowing into your rig to a more manageable pressure of between 45 and 50 psi. They can’t be adjusted by the user – that’s you – but they usually do a good job of keeping pressure steady.
Inline barrel models labelled as high flow are a little more expensive and while they too cannot be adjusted by you they do allow for a slightly higher flow rate which makes for a slightly more ‘powerful’ shower experience. These are best rv water pressure regulators used in newer RVs though as sometimes running water at a higher rate can wear an older plumbing system out faster than you’d want.
These types of water pressure regulators are pretty much set it and forget it. Most of them are easy to install and they’ll keep working for years. They should be checked regularly however to make sure the connection to your rig has not loosened and for signs of rust or excessive wear and tear.
Adjustable Water Pressure Regulator
The complaint that some RVers have about standard inline RV water regulators is that they can sometimes regulate the pressure a little too much and the rig’s water supply to its sinks and shower can become not too much better than it would be if you were hooked up to an unregulated water supply that has noticeably low water pressure.
This is actually something that will vary from campsite to campsite, but as you cannot adjust an inline water pressure regulator yourself if you end up at a camp that has a lower pressure system it may become a problem. To avoid this you can make use of the more expensive, but more functional, adjustable RV water pressure regulator instead.
As its name suggests, this device is user adjustable. It comes with a gauge attached to it and although these regulators are usually preset to the same levels as an inline model – 45-50 psi – you can adjust the pressure to your liking, usually just with the simple turn of a screw. This lets you maintain a nice, steady water flow no matter where you go.
Adjusting an RV Water Pressure Regulator
We mentioned that adjustable RV water pressure regulators are usually controlled by a single screw. So do we mean that you are going to need a screwdriver every time you want to adjust the pressure? Basically, yes. A flat head screwdriver is inserted into the screw on the side of the water pressure regulator.
As you turn the rise in pressure will be reflected on the gauge and you can keep turning until you reach the pressure you feel is optimal. It should be noted however that most of the companies who sell these devices recommend that you never go above 60 psi and that 50-55 psi should be the maximum used if yours is an older rig (10 years or more).
Want to see that in action? Check out this short video from Camco, a name well known within the RV community.
Other Advantages of Using an RV Water Pressure Regulator
There are in fact a few other reasons that you might want to consider making use of an RV water pressure regulator. Not only do they come with a screen installed that is great at filtering out dirt and debris from the water supply – the water at campgrounds is not always as contaminant free as it ideally would be – and the regulator itself is designed to create drinking water safe water by ensuring that no lead is added to it.
Another benefit of installing a water pressure adjuster is that it’s a very environmentally friendly thing to do. As people who spend a lot of time outdoors RVers do try to be the ‘greenest’ folks possible. After all, if we destroy nature what are we going to camp in?
The higher the pressure of the water the faster it flows. The faster water flows the more likely it is to be wasted and anytime you can save water, in this case by regulating the waterflow into your RV, you are doing the planet good.
Finally, making use of an RV water pressure regulator whenever you hook up to a city water connection can extend the useful life of your appliances that make use of water. That great showerhead you found, the one that has the little rainfall feature that’s so soothing? It’ll last longer if well-regulated water flows through it and the same is true for your fridge and your water heater.
Other RV Water Flow Problems to Be Aware Of
Although a water flow issue in your RV is often related to poor water pressure regulation that is not the only thing that might cause a problem. Watching out for all of these things can help keep keep your RVs water supply flowing freely as well.
Kinked and Aging Drinking Water Hoses
Drinking water hoses don’t last forever, and they can become kinked over time, resulting in poor, or even no water flow. Checking them regularly, and replacing them when needed, will help prevent this problem.
Clogged Inline Filter
Whether you hook up directly to the city water supply or make use of an RV water pressure regulator there will be an inline filter somewhere in the mix to filter out impurities. Like any type of filter these eventually get dirty and even the very solid ones included with a good RV water regulator will eventually wear out and need replacing. Again, a regular check of these filters is called for to prevent problems.
Low City Water Pressure
Some campgrounds simply have low water pressure, and that will affect the strength of the water flow to your RV. And while a water pressure regulator can’t increase low water pressure it can regulate it so that even if it flows more slowly than you’d like at least that flow is consistent.
Finally. we’ll leave you with short and sweet video on how a clogged screen in a water fixture can be the culprit to low water pressure in your RV and how to fix it.