Water is a precious resource, even more so when you’re on the road in an RV where access to fresh water can be limited. The finite capacity of fresh and gray water tanks means carefully managing water use, especially when boondocking. Could a water recycling shower be a game-changer for RVers?
Traditional showers can quickly use up your fresh water supply and fill up your RV gray water tank. That can limit your time off the grid by having to refill your fresh water and dump the black and gray water tanks.
Shower systems that recycle shower water are gaining in popularity among environmentally conscious people, but do they make sense for use in an RV?
- 1) What Is a Water Recycling Shower?
- 2) What Are the Benefits of Water Recycling Showers for RVs?
- 3) How to Choose a Water Recycling Shower System
- 4) Popular Water Recycling Shower Systems
- 5) Are Water Recycling Showers Reasonable for RVs?
- 6) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews & Giveaways
What Is a Water Recycling Shower?
A water recycling shower is designed to reduce water consumption. While the water in a traditional shower goes down the drain, a water recycling shower system captures, filters, and reuses it, saving water in real-time. That means you can take a nice long shower using a minimal amount of water (over and over again).
Most water recycling showers include a filtration system, a storage tank, and a pump to circulate the filtered water. This allows you to shower normally while reducing your water consumption. By a lot!
What Are the Benefits of Water Recycling Showers for RVs?
There could be several benefits to having a water recycling shower in an RV.
Conserves Fresh Water Supply
We talked about conserving water in our post about the Showermiser. But water recycling showers can significantly extend the time until you have to refill your fresh water tank even more. They conserve your fresh/drinking water and allow you to stay off-grid for longer periods.
Reduces Gray Water Production
By recycling your shower water, you make less gray water. That means fewer trips to the dump station and more time off the grid for us avid boondockers without refreshing resources. Since water recycling minimizes wastewater, it also helps protect the environment.
Remember, while 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, only around 2.5% of it is fresh water. Less water usage means a smaller environmental impact. RVers who are committed to reducing their ecological footprint will appreciate the eco-friendly benefits of water recycling showers.
In any home, the investment in a water recycling shower system can pay off in terms of a reduction in water and sewer bills. The same could be said of RVers who sometimes have to pay to dump our waste tanks or fill up large freshwater tanks.
There can also be a financial benefit to the energy savings. Because the water is recirculated, home recycling showers can offer energy savings of up to 70% depending on the system.
With most shower recycling systems, the water temperature stays consistent during the entire shower. (With some systems, you can even decide when you want to recirculate the water and when you don’t. You simply tap the drain cover to activate or de-activate the recirculation feature.)
Some water recycling shower systems even have “smart” features to keep track of water savings so you can see results in real time. (We take a closer look at some below.)
How to Choose a Water Recycling Shower System
If you’re considering buying an RV with a water recycling shower onboard, you’ll want answers to a few questions about the system’s features. If you’re interested in a water recycling shower for an RV you’re building or renovating, there are a few key factors you’ll want to consider as well.
Of course, good water filtration is key. For example, some systems use UV light. Look for one with robust filtration capable of effectively removing impurities and contaminants from your shower water.
Water Storage Capacity
The size of the storage tank is important because that determines how long you can shower without needing to recycle the water. Larger tanks offer extended showering capabilities, of course, but space is always a consideration in an RV.
With any water recycling shower, you’ll want a reliable pump to ensure consistent water circulation and pressure for a comfortable shower experience. Not only do you want consistent, reliable hot water throughout your shower, but you also want the pressure of the water flow to be strong and comfortable.
For this, you’ll need to consider pump flow rates when you’re looking at shower recycling systems. Flow rates are generally listed in GPM (gallons per minute) or l/min (liters per minute).
When you’re in an RV, you want to conserve power. The energy consumption of any water recycling system is something to consider, particularly depending on how robust your rig’s power system is and whether you mostly camp off-grid or are more often connected to shore power.
Installation and Maintenance
You may also want to consider the ease and cost of installation as well as any ongoing maintenance requirements.
Of course, installation isn’t a consideration if you’re buying an RV that comes with a water recycling system already onboard. However, maintenance requirements are always a factor.
If you’re an avid DIYer doing a major renovation or entire build, and you’re including a recycling shower in your plans, be sure to consider installation as well as maintenance requirements.
Popular Water Recycling Shower Systems
If you’d like to learn more about specific water recycling showers, here are a couple of quality residential systems, along with one that’s intended as a compact model for off-grid use.
RainStick Water Recycling System
The RainStick shower system uses a micron-level screen to catch large shower debris such as hair and dirt. A tiny amount of fresh hot water is added to continuously refresh each loop and maintain the desired water temperature.
RainStick showers use a high-intensity UV-LED system to disinfect water from bacteria and viruses. It also cleans itself automatically between showers, making it very low maintenance.
RainStick’s flow rate is 3 GPM / 11 l/min, and the system recirculates the water six times before it finally exits down the drain.
You can easily disable the Rain Stick shower water-saving features, which will give you a traditional shower with water exiting the showerhead and entering the drain immediately, with no recirculation.
Orbital Systems Shower
Orbital Systems has designed a slightly more complex unit for home use with many innovative features.
An Orbital Shower uses a large rain shower head giving you all the water you could want without waste. Using a control dial, the Orbital recycling shower lets you set the temperature and water pressure you want and tells you how much water you saved. You can also use Orbital’s “My Water” app to create personal settings and see an overview of your water savings over time.
With a traditional placement, the Core of the system is placed behind a panel in the color of your choice, (matte white, matte black, chrome, brushed steel, or brass), providing the signature appearance of the Orbital Shower.
You can also place the Orbital Shower Core in a cupboard outside the shower space, giving it a minimalist appearance.
Water is purified by a filter capsule and UV light, providing water as clean or cleaner than a conventional shower. Sensors in the shower drain analyze the water quality 20 times per second, deciding whether to recirculate water or not.
An internal heater corrects the water to the desired temperature before it’s recirculated in the system. When hot water is recirculated, lots of energy is saved because the water isn’t being constantly heated from cold. Since the Orbital Shower recirculates hot water, you save energy on heating.
Deliveries of Orbital Showers are expected to begin in late 2023.
Showerloop is an innovative real-time filtration, purification, recycling, and heat recovery system for showers. It’s designed and made in Finland and provides about a 90% reduction in water usage and a 70-90% reduction in energy usage for a 10-minute shower with a flow rate of 2.64 gallons (10 liters) of water per minute. Showerloop’s designers aimed to use just one bucket of water for a shower of any length.
The difference between this system and the two mentioned above is that the Showerloop is designed to run entirely on 12V DC, so it’s off-grid ready. This and similar DIY recirculating shower systems have been installed in many camper vans and RVs as DIY installation/renovation projects.
Showerloop uses a single 12V DC self-priming membrane pump to provide stable water pressure as well as a heater and thermostat to keep recycled water warm with less energy consumption. The pump can be placed almost anywhere and can run dry without issue.
The extensive filtration system uses a sand filter, an activated carbon filter, and a UV lamp.
Using these multiple filtration devices, large particles (dirt, skin cells, etc.) are first trapped by a layer of compressed sand, then finer particles (nitrates from sweat, sulfates from soap, chlorine & fluorine from tap water, etc.) are adsorbed by a layer of compressed activated carbon. The final stage uses a UV lamp to sterilize the water so that bacteria can no longer reproduce, bringing warm, clean water back to continue your shower.
The Shower loop system was designed as a standalone appliance that doesn’t need to connect to your main water system. But it can also be integrated into existing showers, and water can be diverted to a gray water tank.
Showerloop’s designers suggest that you can assemble their system using off-the-shelf components with some DIY skills and time. For more information, see Showerloop’s instructables.
Are Water Recycling Showers Reasonable for RVs?
The best way to assess whether or not you’d consider having a recirculating shower in your RV or van is to watch some of the many YouTube videos that RV and van owners have posted about their experiences using a water recycling shower in their rigs.
You may find that filtration needs to be refined, as some people report that soaps, shampoos, and conditioners can clog some filters, creating a maintenance hassle. But it depends on the system being used. We’d expect that commercial recirculating showers are more refined than many of the DIY systems, so we’re eager to see how home systems will translate to RV use in the future.
These systems may be a great idea for travelers with specific needs. As the technology continues to evolve and the availability of fresh clean water is reduced, they’ll become more commonly available and/or necessary.
Water recycling showers for RV use could offer a sustainable and practical solution to water conservation challenges on the road by extending the supply of fresh water and reducing the production of gray water. They certainly promote eco-friendly practices and could benefit the environment while enhancing the RV lifestyle.
Do you have experience with a water recycling shower in an RV? We’d love to hear your take, so drop us a comment below.
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