Electrical

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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.

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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:

Wire strippers

Wire strippers

Wire crimpers with cutter

Wire crimpers with cutter

Everything else (almost):

Wonderful and cheap LED light strip.

Wonderful and cheap LED light strip.

Color changing LED strip (5 volt).

Color changing LED strip (5 volt).

8 mm connecters for LED light strips.

8 mm connecters for LED light strips.

This little doohickey converts 12v to 5v for the color changing LED lights. Not necessary for single color light strips.

This little doohickey converts 12v to 5v for the color changing LED lights. Not necessary for single color light strips.

Solar panel links change often. Please let me know if they are not working.

100W rigid solar panel. Rigid panels are more efficient and cheaper but eliminate the stealth factor.

100W rigid solar panel. Rigid panels are more efficient and cheaper but eliminate the stealth factor.

150W rigid solar panel.

150W rigid solar panel.

4 x 100W Pannels. I have all 4 on my van. Super cheap but they are working great.

4 x 100W Pannels. I have all 4 on my van. Super cheap but they are working great.

100W, Renogy panel (most trusted brand). I like flexible panels simply glued with silicone to the roof. (low profile/extra stealthy)

100W, Renogy panel (most trusted brand). I like flexible panels simply glued with silicone to the roof. (low profile/extra stealthy)

100W solar panel. I like a total of 300 watts for a standard electrical system

100W solar panel. I like a total of 300 watts for a standard electrical system

2 x 150W will save you roof space

2 x 150W will save you roof space

4 to 1 mc4 branch connectors, necessary to connect 4 solar panels in parallel.

4 to 1 mc4 branch connectors, necessary to connect 4 solar panels in parallel.

3 to 1 mc4 branch connector, used for 3 panels.

3 to 1 mc4 branch connector, used for 3 panels.

2 to 1 mc4 branch connectors, used for 2 panels.

2 to 1 mc4 branch connectors, used for 2 panels.

10 ft 10 awg, Used for connecting mc4 branch connector to charge controller (add fuse/breaker on + side)

10 ft 10 awg, Used for connecting mc4 branch connector to charge controller (add fuse/breaker on + side)

Fuse block, perfect for adding fuses to multiple circuits,  pro tip:  Label all your wires.

Fuse block, perfect for adding fuses to multiple circuits, pro tip: Label all your wires.

Cheaper fuse block

Cheaper fuse block

40 AMP, Charge controllers are the brains of your solar system. Go with MPPT controllers not PWM

40 AMP, Charge controllers are the brains of your solar system. Go with MPPT controllers not PWM

1500w inverter, the remote on/off switch is a nice feature

1500w inverter, the remote on/off switch is a nice feature

Renogy Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery. Lithium batteries are better in pretty much every way except price. multiple AH options.

Renogy Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery. Lithium batteries are better in pretty much every way except price. multiple AH options.

100 AH AGM, Great bang for your buck.

100 AH AGM, Great bang for your buck.

All the fuses you need and then some for everything connecting to the fuse block.

All the fuses you need and then some for everything connecting to the fuse block.

100 AH AGM, Renogy Brand.

100 AH AGM, Renogy Brand.

Circuit breaker for bigger gauge wires, (ie solar panels, batteries, inverter) come with multiple amp options.

Circuit breaker for bigger gauge wires, (ie solar panels, batteries, inverter) come with multiple amp options.

140 amp battery isolator kit to connect your battery to the alternator.

140 amp battery isolator kit to connect your battery to the alternator.

Cheap, simple battery monitor.

Cheap, simple battery monitor.

8 awg wire, used for connecting fuse block and batteries to the charge controller and inverter to batteries, 15 ft red 15 ft black

8 awg wire, used for connecting fuse block and batteries to the charge controller and inverter to batteries, 15 ft red 15 ft black

More info but requires more complicated wiring.

More info but requires more complicated wiring.

Flexible 6 AWG , for connecting the charge controller to higher powered electrical systems

Flexible 6 AWG , for connecting the charge controller to higher powered electrical systems

Use 0 or 2 awg wire to connect batteries to other batteries. Flexible wires strongly recomended. Just Google 2 awg flexible wires.

Protect your wires. 100ft x 3/8 inch

Protect your wires. 100ft x 3/8 inch

100ft of 18 awg speaker wire, speaker wire come with 2 wires (- and +) strung together making life easier. Perfect for all LED lights and low draw appliances.

100ft of 18 awg speaker wire, speaker wire come with 2 wires (- and +) strung together making life easier. Perfect for all LED lights and low draw appliances.

10 awg wire is used for the fridge and higher draw appliances, 10 ft red 10 ft black.

10 awg wire is used for the fridge and higher draw appliances, 10 ft red 10 ft black.

14 awg wire, used for sink pump, fan and other medium draw appliances, 20 ft red 20 ft black.

14 awg wire, used for sink pump, fan and other medium draw appliances, 20 ft red 20 ft black.

Twist on wire connecters make life easier.

Twist on wire connecters make life easier.

Other useful connectors.

Other useful connectors.

12 volt charger and voltmeter all in one convenient package.

12 volt charger and voltmeter all in one convenient package.

Alternate style toggle switch.

Alternate style toggle switch.

All the 12 volt switches you’ll ever need at a great price.

All the 12 volt switches you’ll ever need at a great price.

Control more lights or circuits from one switch

Control more lights or circuits from one switch

12v DC dimmer switch

12v DC dimmer switch

110v AC dimmer switch

110v AC dimmer switch

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