Caravan Water Filters – Everything You Need To Know

Caravan water filters are a hotly debated topic in many online forums and groups.

In this article, we unpack the basics around caravan water filters and tease out the different filtration processes, their strengths, and weaknesses, different types of filters, how long they last and the different ways they connect to your caravan.

What do caravan water filters do?

Water filters are designed to remove unwanted grit, sediment, odor, taste, and bacteria from the water you plan to use in some way (usually for drinking).

Caravan water filters are a big industry and there are many claims made about what they can and cannot do.

I won’t make any promises about their effectiveness but I’ll outline the main reasons people use water filters and you can make your own judgment as to what action you take. 

Do I need a water filter in my caravan?

The topic of caravan water filters is hotly debated in many inline forums and groups. There is some contention over how much impact the water filters have, and how much is dependent on the overall good quality of water we tend to have available in Australia. 

In my mind, there is clearly a good argument to be made on at least using a simple and cheap in line filter when filling your tanks, or hooked up to the mains supply, to prevent any large particles from getting into your caravan water system.

And if you are really particular about your water taste and odor then you might want to install a filtration system for your drinking water.

However, if your primary driver is to remove bacteria and other parasites from your water then this is hard to do reliably and consistently without chlorination, so you might be dissatisfied with the outcome.

Having said that, many are passionate about caravan reverse osmosis filters (described in more detail below), so it really is a personal preference.

Does my caravan have a water filter?

There are two main places you should look on your caravan to see if you have a filter in place already. Under your sink, there might be a filter connected to either your main sink tap or a separate drinking water tap if you have one.

Additionally, if you look underneath your caravan you could see a single or double cylinder water filter fixed the chassis, usually towards the back of the van near the water inlets. 

Different water filtration processes

There are a couple of main filtration processes used in water filters. They use different filtration techniques which have different filtration results. 

Activated Carbon Water Filter

Carbon or activated carbon water filters are the most common, and usually cheapest type of water filter available. They are very effective at removing larger particles of sediment, rust, and other organic compounds. They will improve taste and odor, but not bacteria. 

Activated carbon filters work by pushing water through large compressed blocks of carbon that allow water through, but trap contaminants. 

Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

Reverse osmosis is the most effective and reliable type of water filter. Its process removes nearly 100% of total dissolved solids. They will remove taste and odor and bacteria very effectively. 

They work by forcing water through a membrane that allows water particles through but blocks the contaminants. The freshwater comes out of the water spout, and the wastewater is disposed of down the sink.

The downside of this is that though the process is very effective, the output is quite slow. So they are very impractical if you need a large volume of water.

Further downsides include the need for care and maintenance to keep them operating effectively, and the process can leave the water with a low pH level.

The most reliable way to guarantee clean water is with chlorination or ultraviolet radiation, but these are difficult to mimic in a sustainable way for long periods of travelling. 

References:

https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/sitecore/content/Healthy-WA/Articles/U_Z/Water-filters-for-your-home
https://watertechadvice.com/types-of-water-filters/

Different caravan water filter types

Inline Caravan Water Filter

As the name suggests, inline caravan water filters are designed to be installed in your water pipeline system and can be done in multiple ways.

  • Between your main water supply and your caravan when hooked up directly
  • Between your water hose and your water tank inlet when filling up your water tanks
  • permanently installed in your caravan water pipes between your water tanks and water outlets (sink/shower etc.)

If you are connecting mains water directly to your power supply, then the filter will remove the taste, bacteria, and sediment that it is designed to do, as the water flows through to your sink, basin, or shower.

If you are using your inline filter while filling up your water storage tanks, then it not only purifies the water for usage (in the same way as a direct connection).

It also reduces the amount of sediment and bacteria getting into your water tank that can grow over time, keeping your water cleaner for longer.

However, even if bacteria is reduced on the way into your tanks, the bacteria can still grow back if the water supply is not chlorinated.

These inline filters range in price from $20 for a basic taste/sediment filter up to $120 for B.E.S.T brand inline filters.

These are premium Australian-made products and designed to filter out not only taste and sediment, but remove odor, kill bacteria and stop parasites.

Under Sink Water Filter

Under Sink water filters operate in much the same way as inline filters, but are structurally different. They are designed to be fitted underneath the sink permanently with a changeable cartridge that you can replace as needed.

These are typically intended for cold drinking water only, and they are not commonly used for the shower or other water outlets in your caravan.

They can be a single filter or double filter (depending on how much space you have, and range in price dramatically based on what you choose.

The Shurflo Filtration kit is one such example and retails for around $200. This is a single filter unit with a replaceable filter, designed to clean the water, and reduce odor and taste. 

Sentry Water Filters also provide a range of both carbon and reverse osmosis filters for both in and outside the caravan. 

How long does a caravan water filter last?

Filters are usually designed to process a certain quantity of water. As they filter out more and more waste from your water, they slowly become clogged, and water moves more slowly through the filter, and the filtration effectiveness can be reduced.

Once a certain amount of water has passed through the filter, or once a certain amount of time has elapsed (regardless of usage).

For example, the Explore Inline Filter recommends replacement after 12 months or 5000 liters of water. If you get can an estimate of how much water you use in your caravan per day, or how much you put in your tanks for each refill, you can calculate how many uses you would get out of a filter.

Most part-time campers would not go through 5000 liters in a year, so would opt for an annual replacement. But if you were a full-time traveller, you might end up replacing them multiple times a year, especially if you are filtering shower water as well.

Caravan Water Filter Alternatives

If you don’t want to bother with the cost and hassle of setting up and replacing caravan water filters there are some other ways you can make sure you won’t be impacted by parasites or particles in your water supply.

Buy Drinking Water

Just to be safe, many people only drink boxed water from a supermarket and then use their caravan water supply for showers, washing, and dishes, etc.

This will provide peace of mind, on a budget, as long as you can regularly access a supermarket to top up your supplies. 

Boil Before Using

Boiling water won’t get rid of physical particles, but it can be effective at killing off other living organisms that live in water. 

Use A Portable Water Purifier

Something like the Grayl Geopress Portable Water Purifier, is a drink bottle-sized water purifier that allows you to purify any natural water source on the go, removing both particles and other pathogens that you want to avoid digesting.

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