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What Does an RV Accumulator Tank Do?

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned RVer, you may have never heard of an RV accumulator tank. It’s one of those tucked-away gadgets that helps with the maintenance and function of your RV water pump. Since you can’t see it out in the open, it’s often forgotten about.

Let’s take a look at how the addition of an RV accumulator tank to your water pump system will help its overall performance.

What Is an RV Accumulator Tank?

An RV accumulator tank helps the water pump. These small gadgets enhance the performance of the water pump by reducing the water cycle, saving battery power, and preventing water pressure increases that could damage your RV. Without an accumulator tank an RV water pump cycles on and off to maintain pressure in the water lines. This cycling can cause pulsing in the water flow and uneven flow. You can install it anywhere on the pressurized side of the water pump.

Almost all homes with well water use an accumulator or pressure tank for the same reason, so why not in an RV?

An accumulator tank uses a small air bladder inside the tank that is like a balloon. You inflate this “balloon” to a certain pressure and when the pump kicks on it compresses it. With the pump off the pressure in the balloon can continue to push water out of the tank and into your water lines.

water pressure tank on pump
The white tank in this picture is an accumulator tank for a house, most of the time you find them in the basement. An RV accumulator tank is a very small version of the same thing.

Why does your RV need a water pump? Find out here: 5 Best RV Water Pumps (And Why You Need One)

Do All RVs Need an Accumulator Tank?

No, but it’s not a bad idea for every RV to have one. It’s just another preventative measure you can take and improve performance. If your water pump operates correctly and efficiently, you don’t need an RV accumulator tank but it will improve the operation. 

RV tank monitor panel with water pump switch
A water pump is an essential part of any RV’s water system. Adding an accumulator tank will improve the pump’s performance.

To check your water pump, turn on your kitchen sink faucet to a minimal water flow. If the water pump cycles and its “off-time” is two seconds or longer, it’s operating correctly. 

Sometimes when the water flow is restricted, a water pump will resort to a “rapid cycle.” This means the cycling will cut on or off in less than two seconds. If this happens during your test, check the owner’s manual to see if you can make any adjustments. If not, you might need an RV accumulator tank.

RV sink
You can test your water pump by running your kitchen faucet. If your water pump is rapid cycling, you may need an RV accumulator tank.

What Are the Benefits of Using an Accumulator?

The primary benefit of an accumulator tank is quality of life. It helps produce a much smoother water flow like in your home. It also reduces the amount of cycling the pump does. This means you can even get some water flow at night without the pump kicking on and waking up others in the RV.

In addition, An RV accumulator will increase the overall life of your water pump. It will save battery power and decrease the plumbing system noise. 

Because an accumulator will enhance the water pump cycling during low water flow, installing one could save you from replacing a water pump down the road.

Do RVs Come with Accumulator Tanks Already Installed?

An accumulator tank is usually after-market installation. Because they aren’t necessary to the overall function of the water pump system, most manufacturers don’t pre-install accumulator tanks. 

You can reference numerous YouTube videos and instruction guides to help with installation.

SeaFlo RV Accumulator Tank - Install and Review

What Pressure Should Your Accumulator Tank Be Set At?

You should set the RV accumulator tank at the same pressure as the water pump’s pressure switch “turn-on” setting or just a little less. Usually, this is around 30 psi. You also want to make sure to set it in a “static” condition. Checking the water pressure is usually not done however so its a trial and error thing. Start be adding 30PSI of air to the tank and run the pump. Increase and decrease the pressure until the pump cycles the least.

How Much Do They Cost?

Just like any item, the cost will fluctuate by the brand. The three RV accumulators below range from $30 to $50. While it’s certainly not the cheapest addition to your RV’s water system, it’s also not so expensive that you should immediately rule it out.

Top 3 RV Accumulator Tanks

RecPro, SHURflo, and SEAFLO are the three top brands. You won’t go wrong with any of these RV accumulator tanks. The RecPro tank is the cheapest option, and the SHURflo tank costs the most. However, sometimes Amazon has sales on both the SEAFLO and SHURflo tanks, making them competitive in price.

RecPro RV Accumulator Tank

You can easily install this compact RV accumulator tank. It has a pre-charged pressure set to 10 psi and has a maximum operating pressure of 125 psi. It holds 25.3 oz. Manufacturers made it from the same FDA-safe materials for drinking water products.

RecPro RV Accumulator Tank

SHURflo 182-200 Pre-Pressurized Accumulator Tank

This brand offers several models. The SHURflo 182-100 and 182-200 RV accumulators are pre-pressurized to 30 psi. The 182-102 and 182-202 units have a pre-pressure charge set to 20 psi. 

The installation manual mentions checking the pressure seasonally with a tire pressure gauge because temperature changes can affect the performance. This particular model, the 182-200, has a total volume of 21 oz.

We personally use this tank and it has performed very well.

SHURflo 182-200 Pre-Pressurized Accumulator...
  • Reduces pump cycling
  • Smooths water faucet pulses
  • Pre-pressurized to 30 PSI with built-in diaphragm

SEAFLO Pre-Pressurized Accumulator Tank

The SEAFLO accumulator tank comes with a four-year warranty. Like the RecPro accumulator tank also has food-grade materials. 

It has a pre-charged pressure set to 10 psi and a maximum operating pressure of 125 psi. It holds 25 oz. According to the instructions for installation, connect the SEAFLO RV accumulator tank to the outlet side of the water pump for best results.

SEAFLO Pre-Pressurized Accumulator Tank
  • .75 Liter (.2 Gallon) food grade Accumulator tank
  • 4-Year Warranty!!
  • Increases the life of your pump and battery, while reducing sound...

Is an RV Accumlator Worth It?

If your RV water pump is struggling and you want to help it along, an RV accumulator tank is worth it. Although not necessary to the function of your RV, these compact gadgets can increase the life and performance of your water pump. Meaning, you won’t have to buy a new water pump as often, saving you time and money. Now, you have three good options to choose from when searching for one.

Excited RV Faucet
An RV accumulator tank might not always be neccessary, but for many RVers it’s a worthwhile investment.

Understanding your RVs water system is a crucial part of RV life. If you need a crash course, get started here: How Does an RV Water System Work?

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Dave Pellegrino

Saturday 9th of October 2021

I went with a 2 gallon accumulator tank. Cost the same as those little ones and reduces the pump cycles even further. Granted some RVs may not have space available, but if you do have room, it might be a better option.

Mortons on the Move

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

Great idea! I wanted to do that, but like you said didn't have the space. 2 gallons is a good size!