The part people worry about…
Most people haven’t done much electrical work, which makes this the element of the van where people really question their own abilities. Images of vans on fire might enter your head, but do not fret, it’s quite simple once you know what to do.
“I have no idea what to do?” you might say.
Well, good thing you found this page.
Two big steps needed to keep your van from catching fire:
Step 1: Make sure to size your wires properly!
More power = bigger wires.
Longer length (known as “the run”) also = bigger wires.
If your wire gauge is too small, it can catch on fire. If your wire size is too big, it’s a little heavier, harder to work with, and more expensive. However, all three of those drawbacks combined is still way better than fire, right?!
Wire size is typically given an AWG rating (American Wire Gauge); you may also see millimeters squared but we will be using AWG. The lower the number, the bigger the wire. The biggest wire we use is 0 AWG (connecting batteries). The smallest we will use is 22 AWG (LED lights). The instruction manual for most electrical appliances will give you the recommended wire size for your given run. Alternatively, search google images for 12v wire size calculator.
Step 2: Fuse everything!
Electricity flows in circles, known as circuits. If the circuit is broken, electrical current will stop flowing. Fuses or circuit breakers (reusable fuses) do exactly what you might have guessed. They break the circuit and stop the flow of electricity. This means that if something goes wrong, the fuse will blow, stopping the electrical current before things catch on fire. The size of the fuse is rated in AMPs or amperage, and you want to make sure the fuse is sized for the necessary amps. The instruction manual for electrical appliances will give you the recommended fuse size. Inverters typically have built-in fuses, but most people like to use external fuses in addition. Fuses are not necessary for a circuit to function properly. They simply are a valuable line of defense if/when something goes wrong.
Make sure to protect your wires from sharp edges or things that might wear through the wire casing (causing a short circuit) when your van has been bouncing down the road for 10+ years. Lastly, remember that wiring a van isn’t as hard as you think. It’s certainly not has hard as cabinetry… (van joke!).
If you fuse everything, size your wires properly, and protect wires from wear and tear, your van will not catch on fire. Now that you have a rudimentary understanding of electrical systems this diagram will should answer any remaining questions.
A few notes about the Diagram
First off this diagram depicts the most basic principles of an electrical system. There are many ways to go above and beyond.
The calculation for the solar panel fuse rating is based on 5 amps per 100W panel. If your panels are 150W use 7.5 and 10 for 200W panels.
Inverters usually have internal fuses but an additional external is often added. Fuse size is approximately 100 amps for every 1000W of the inverter but double check manufacture recommendations.
Click on the photos for more product information.
Must have tools:
Everything else (almost):
Solar panel links change often. Please let me know if they are not working.
Use 0 or 2 awg wire to connect batteries to other batteries. Flexible wires strongly recomended. Just Google 2 awg flexible wires.