Because of the solar power system, van living is different from automobile camping. It’s a luxury to charge devices and operate a fridge in your vehicle. But how? Unless you’re an electrician, all this talk about campervan electrical systems may leave you dizzy.

This section discusses a van’s electrical systems, including solar power. We’ll discuss numerous alternatives for powering your van, then focus on solar power.

campervan electrical systems

Recommendations for Campervan Wiring

Wiring and installing the electrics will be one of the most challenging and nerve-wracking aspects of your van conversion. We have spent many hours researching campervan electrical systems. Our personal Sprinter campervan’s electrical system was completely overhauled and all the parts and tools we used are listed here. To help you understand how to wire a campervan electrical system, we provide a sample wiring diagram and detail the proper dimensions for each component. After reading this, you should have a better idea of what it takes to turn a van into a mobile home.

All you really need is listed here:

  • To make use of a large portion of our entire battery capacity, we have switched to lithium batteries.
  • We connected our vehicle’s alternator to our leisure batteries so that they could be charged while we drove.
  • We are charging recreational batteries with the help of solar panels and a charge controller.
  • Energy is Totally off the grid and yet able to use up to 500W of standard household equipment using this inverter that produces pure sine waves.
  • Your campervan electrical system’s 12V fuse block may accommodate up to 12 individual 12V circuits.
  • An intelligent battery metre to track the charge levels of our devices Panels for solar energy generation, totalling 300W in output.
  • Installing solar panels on a vehicle requires special L-brackets that can be screwed through the roof.
  • The Scanstrut cable seal prevents water from seeping into the space where the wires connecting your solar panels and charge controller run.

campervan electrical systems

How to Choose the Right Battery

The best size for numerous components of your campervan electrical system will be determined in large part by your total power usage as well as the destinations to which you want to go in your campervan. Because the ratings and capacities of individual components, such as solar panels, battery-to-battery converters, inverters, and recreational batteries, might differ from one another, it is imperative that you make an accurate prediction of your power requirements in advance.

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Size Estimation for Recreational Batteries

Determining how large of a bank of leisure batteries you’ll need for the campervan electrical system is the first step since it will have knock-on effects throughout the remainder of your electrical setup. To figure this out, we compiled a spreadsheet of all the devices we intended to utilise in the van and used the following formula to determine how many amp hours each device would need.

Wattage/voltage = amp hours (Ah)

Specifically, each appliance’s power is multiplied by 12V (the voltage of your batteries). When figuring out how many amp hours (Ah/day) any appliance will consume, multiply its total amp hours by the number of hours it will be used per day. Your daily estimated amp-hour consumption may be calculated by adding together all of these numbers.

An item’s average wattage when on should be used in the campervan electrical system, not its maximum, so keep that in mind while calculating. Our fridge has a power of 60W, but it barely consumes around a fourth of that on a daily basis. If you do a quick search online, you should be able to get this typical number, or you might look at the appliance-specific Wh/day rating.

Our daily electricity consumption was determined to be 78Ah. To account for days when more power is needed, we add 20% to this amount, bringing the total daily power use to 94Ah. Your desired off-grid period in days and the sort of batteries you’re putting inside your campervan are two of the most important variables in determining the size of the battery bank you’ll need.

Campervan Usage

The number of days your campervan can go without being connected to the grid is directly proportional to the amount of time you spend away from civilization. How frequently and for what purposes you want to use your campervan are the two most important considerations before making the investment for a campervan electrical system. Together, they may assist you in determining how large a battery bank you’ll need to install. Since we planned on living in our campervan and operating it exclusively off the grid, we realised we’d need to make preparations to guarantee we’d have enough electricity to get by for at least three days without plugging in. This meant that if there was bad weather for a few days (preventing solar recharge), remaining indoors was the only option.

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campervan electrical systems

Leisure Battery Type

The overall battery capacity you need to buy will be affected by the amount of each kind of leisure battery that may be drained. Camper van owners often choose between lithium leisure and AGM leisure batteries. We recommend an AGM leisure battery over a sealed lead acid one due to the fact that high-quality AGM batteries can now be obtained for the same price as high-quality sealed lead acid batteries. The batteries in your campervan electrical system may be modified to AGM or lithium. Consider your budget, how long you want to keep the van, and how much more room and weight the conversion will add. Indulgent Lithium

Calculating Solar Array Size

The size of the solar panel array needed to fully recharge your leisure batteries may be determined after the overall capacity of your batteries has been determined. Your batteries’ total usable capacity will have been determined in ampere-hours (Ah), but you’ll now need to know that number in watt-hours (Wh).

Amp hours x voltage = watt hours (Wh).

Your leisure batteries have a total useful capacity of 12 amp hours, where the voltage is 12V. To completely charge the batteries, we calculated that we would need 4512Wh (376Ah x 12V).

Calculating the required size of your solar array is as easy as dividing your desired charging time in hours by your watt-hour requirements in your campervan electrical system.

Watt hours x hours to recharge = solar array wattage.

Since there are around 8 hours of sunshine each day, we would need a solar array with a power output of 564W to completely charge our batteries from 10% to 100% in a single day for the campervan electrical system. Since you should have chosen a battery bank that will last for a minimum of up to three days without charging, it is possible, but highly unusual, that you would ever need to completely recharge your recreational batteries in a single day. You also need a battery-to-battery charger and maybe a shore power line. Since we could mount 300W of solar on the van’s roof, we calculated how long it would take to completely charge the van’s batteries.

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Calculating the Solar Charge Controller Size

You may determine the dimensions of your solar charge controller once you have chosen the size of your solar array. The maximum voltage and maximum current of a Victron solar charge controller are its two primary specifications. The wattage limit of a charge controller’s PV array is specified in the controller’s manual.

campervan electrical systems

Adding the voltage of all your solar panels to the campervan electrical system while keeping the amperage constant is how you wire them in series. Put solar panels in parallel to increase the total amperage, but keep the voltage the same. Check out our solar panels’ page for additional information on solar panels, including whether or not you should connect them in series.

Wiring the 100W Renogy solar panels in series would provide 67V and 6A since their highest open circuit voltage is 22.3V and their maximum current is 6A.

We were fortunate enough to track down a brand-new, unused 100/50 charge controller on eBay, which we subsequently fitted.

Campervan Electrical System: How to Put It All Together

After we had previously decided on the dimensions of our leisure batteries, solar array, inverter, and battery-to-battery charger, the next step was to measure and size the cables, fuses, busbars, and switches that were going to be used. Calculating the best size for the busbars and cables in the system may be done by making use of the system’s maximum current. Different home electronics and mechanical components need fuses of varying sizes (many of which will be specified in the product manual). The gauge of a cable may be determined by taking into account both the entire length of the cable as well as the total current rating of its individual components. Once you have confirmed that each of these calculations is accurate, you will be able to install your campervan electrical system. In order for us to be able to connect all of the components to one another, we fashioned a circuit board that had apertures for the wires. We added a little of this and that.