Easy DIY Camper Van Electrical System

This section describes an easy to build camper van electric system that can start simply and cheaply but be expanded as more functionality is needed.

The Basic System

The basic system provides all the basics and is all many people will ever need.  It powers your fridge, lights, water pump, fan(s), and USB charging.  It will run for 2 or 3 days without plugins or charging.  Depending on your battery choice it will cost about $700 or $1700. 

If you want more, it is designed to be expanded to include solar charging, Inverters to power household appliances, shore power charging and more battery capacity.

Batteries

Either two golf cart batteries – inexpensive and robust , but with some maintenance and 5 year life.  $200 (from Costco or Walmart)
170 usable amp-hrs

Or two 100 amp-hr LiFePo4 batteries – higher performance and longer life, but more expensive.  $1200 (SOK batteries)
180 usable amp-hrs

Charging

The only house battery charging for the basic system is from van alternator via A DC to DC charger.

Expandable to also  charge from solar and/or shore power

Wiring System

BlueSea Safety Hub 150 organizes and simplifies wiring.

Simple Shore Power

The $20 no wiring shore power solution. 

This gives you 120 VAC household power in the van when you are at a campground with plugins.

What Will It Power?

Most anything that runs on 12 volts
Fridge, lights, water pump, USB sockets, Furnace, …

An Inverter to rum 120 VAC house power items can be added.

Building The Basic System

The pages linked to below have all the details on how to plan your system and how to build it.

Detailed build instructions for the basic system

Diagram

Expanding the System

While the Basic system does a lot and many will find its all that is needed, the pages below go over some additions that a lot of people make.  Things like the ability to charge the house battery from solar, or an inverter or inverter/charger to be able to run household appliances in the van.

Add solar charging of the house battery to the basic system

Add an inverter to the basic system to allow running 120 VAC household applicances.

Add an Inverter/Charger to the basic system.  The Inverter/Charger combines an inverter and a shore power charger into one unit.

Add a Shore Power Charger.  This allows you to charge the house battery from the campground plugin.

Add a battery monitor that will tell  you how much juice you have left, how fast you are charging or discharging.

Add additional battery capacity to your system to allow longer boondocks and bigger loads

Planning the System

The pages below will help you plan your system, and answer questions like: Which kind of battery should I use?  Should I add solar charging, and how much? Should I use a simple Inverter, or an Inverter Charger?  and more…

Estimating your daily electrical loads and battery size.

Detailed info on how to wire the system – what kind of wire to use? What tools do I need? Crimps and lug? Make or buy cables? …

What type of battery to use?  Battery installation? Battery care?

This will help you make the decision on whether to go with separate inverter and shore power charger, or to go with a combined unit.

This covers everything solar – do I want to add solar charging? How much solar do I need? What kind of solar panels to use? …

More

Additional topics and information that might be helpful

This alternative of using a simple battery isolator instead of a DC to DC charger could save $200, but may not apply to your van or situation.

 

A simple way to handle a large inverter.