DIY Van Electrical Guide: Build Your Knowledge

DIY Van Electrical Guide: Build Your Knowledge

DIY-Van-Electrical-Guide

Our autonomy and comfort depend a lot on the electrical system of our DIY camper van conversion. No power means no fridge, no lights, no smartphone = no Instagram = no #vanlife as we know it 😛 Therefore, we want our electrical system to be safe, reliable, and to work from the first time; trial-and-error is not acceptable here.

After three years on the road full time, we’re happy to report that our system works as we planned, nice! Designing the electrical system was one of the most intimidating tasks of the conversion process and if you’re reading this, you are probably looking for some guidance…

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

Portrait-FarOutRide-Isabelle-Antoine-Van

1- Campervan Electrical System in a Nutshell

1.1- Overview

In its simplest form, a campervan electrical system isn’t really complicated. It includes a battery bank, loads and charge sources:

Modern “off-the-grid” vans normally charge with solar power, alternator, shore power, and can power 12V DC & 120V AC loads:

Camper Van Electrical System Nutshell

Makes sense so far, doesn’t it? Here is how all components work together to make a typical electrical system:

1.2- Diagrams & Items List

Standard

Optimized for off-the-grid / energy efficiency
Features:
Choose this diagram if:
MAIN
#ItemDescriptionQuantityView on Amazon
1Terminal Fuse Block with Fuse 250ABlue Sea (Catastrophic Fail Safe. Connects directly to battery post.)1View
2System SwitchBlue Sea (Main System Switch)1View
3Bus Bar (250A, 4 studs)Blue Sea2View
4Cover for Bus Bar (for 250A 4 studs)Protect the Bus Bar2View
540A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween Fuse Block and Bus Bar1View
6Fuse Block (12 circuits)Blue Sea (12V Distribution Panel)1View
7Fuses KitAssorted Fuses (2A 3A 5A 7.5A 10A 15A 20A 25A 30A 35A)1View
8Battery MonitorVictron BMV-712 with BlueTooth1View
9Cable, 2/0 AWG, 5 ft RedBetween battery and Bus Bar1View
10Cable, 2/0 AWG, 15 ft BlackBetween battery and Bus Bar + Ground1View
12Lugs, 2/0 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar, Terminal Fuse Block and Battery (Pack of 5)1View
11Lugs, 2/0 AWG Cable, 3/8″ RingConnect to System Switch and Shunt (Pack of 5)1View
13Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft RedBetween Bus Bar and Fuse Block1View
14Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 RingConnect to Fuse Block (Pack of 3)1View
15Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breaker (Pack of 3)1View
16Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3)1View
Battery
1LiFePO4 200 AhBattle Born LiFePO4 100 Ah 12V2View
22/0 AWG Cable in 5/16″ lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet BlackWindy Nation Copper Cable1View
Solar
1350W SolarNewPowa 175W Mono Panel2View
2Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft BlackWith MC4 Connectors1View
3Double Cable Entry GlandFor 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable1View
440A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween Panels and MPPT Charger1View
5MPPT Solar ChargerVictron 100|30 SmartSolar MPPT1View
640A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween MPPT Charger & Battery1View
7Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breakers (Pack of 3)2View
8Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3)1View
Alternator
160A Battery-to-Battery Charger (B2B)Sterling Power BB12601View
2100A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBlue Sea 285-Series2View
3Cable, 4 AWG, 15ft RedWindyNation1View
4Cable, 4 AWG, 5 ft BlackWindyNation1View
5Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breakers (Pack of 10)1View
6Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 2)1View
Shore
150A ChargerSamlex SEC-1250UL 12V1View
260A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween Charger and Bus Bar1View
3Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft RedWindyNation1View
4Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breaker (Pack of 3)1View
5Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3)1View
Inverter
11000W InverterSamlex PST-1000-12 PST Pure Sine1View
2Remote Control for InverterSamlex RC-15A for 600W/1000W Inverter1View
3Terminal Fuse Block with Fuse 175ABlue Sea (Connects directly on the Bus Bar. To protect inverter’s cable.)1View
4Cable, 2 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft RedWindyNation1View
5Lugs, 2 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 10)1View

Optional Items

1120V AC GFCI OutletGFCI, 20A View
2Power Cord with open end12AWG, 10 feet View
Hardware
18 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (8/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
210 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (10/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
312 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (12/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
414 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (14/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
516 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (16/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
6Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
7Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 10-12 AWG Cable, #8 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
8Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 14-16 AWG Cable, #8 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
9Heat Shrink Butt Connector, Ancor MarineTo connect to Loads (75 Pack Kit)1View
10Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female
To connect to certain loads (i.e. 12V Sockets) , to make “removable” connections (i.e. Fridge, LEDs) and to connect cable of different gauge together (i.e. LED Dimmer) (25 Pack)
1View
11Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
12Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female1View
13Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
14Heat Shrink Disconnect, 18-22 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
153M Scotchlok Quick Splice with Gel (14 AWG stranded)We used that to parallel our LED lights (25 Pack)1View
16Heat Shrink Tubing Kit (with adhesive)To protect lug after crimping1View
17Split Loom Tubing, 3/8″ diameter 25 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
18Split Loom Tubing, 1/2″ diameter 25 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
19Split Loom Tubing, 3/4″ diameter 10 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
20Nylon Cable Clamps KitTo secure cable/split-loom to wood1View
21Zip Tie Mount with AdhesiveTo secure cable/split-loom to metal1View
22Nylon Zip Ties KitTo secure cable/split-loom1View
23Rubber Grommet KitTo protect wire from sharp edge (going through metal hole)1View
12V Loads
1 Maxxair 6200K Roof Fan Fan Installation 1 Amazon
2 LED Ceiling Lights (Dimmable) 3 Amazon
3 PWM Dimmer for LED Lights, 12V, Slider 1 Amazon
4 Blue Sea 12V Socket Electrical System Guide 4 Amazon
5 Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM 1 Amazon
6 ON/OFF Switch for Water Pump 1 Amazon
7 Webasto Air Top 2000 STC Gasoline Heater Webasto Installation 1 Amazon
8 Propex HS2000 Propane Heater Propex Installation 1 Dealers
9 Novakool R5810 Fridge, 12V only Fridge Guide 1 Campervan-HQ
10 Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V Sirocco ii Installation / Review 1 Amazon
11 Nature’s Head Composting Toilet Toilet Installation 1 Amazon
12 Propane Solenoid Shutoff Valve 1 Amazon
13 ON/OFF Switch for Propane Solenoid 1 Amazon

High-Power

Optimized for high-power devices (induction cooktop, microwave, etc.)
Features:
Choose this diagram if:
MAIN
#ItemDescriptionQuantityView on Amazon
1Class T Fuse, 400ABlue Sea (Catastrophic Fail Safe)1View
2Class T Fuse BlockBlue Sea (Holds the Class T Fuse)1View
3System SwitchBlue Sea (Main System Switch)1View
4Bus Bar (600A, 4 studs)Blue Sea2View
5Cover for Bus Bar (for 600A 4 studs)Protect the Bus Bar2View
640A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween Fuse Block and Bus Bar1View
7Fuse Block (12 circuits)Blue Sea (12V Distribution Panel)1View
8Fuses KitAssorted Fuses (2A 3A 5A 7.5A 10A 15A 20A 25A 30A 35A)1View
9Battery MonitorVictron BMV-712 with BlueTooth1View
10Cable, 4/0 AWG, 5 ft RedBetween battery and Bus Bar1View
11Cable, 4/0 AWG, 15 ft BlackBetween battery and Bus Bar + Ground1View
13Lugs, 4/0 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar, Terminal Fuse Block and Battery (Pack of 2)1View
12Lugs, 4/0 AWG Cable, 3/8″ RingConnect to System Switch and Shunt (Pack of 10)1View
14Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft RedBetween Bus Bar and Fuse Block1View
15Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 RingConnect to Fuse Block (Pack of 3)1View
16Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breaker (Pack of 3)1View
17Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 3/8″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3)1View
Battery
1LiFePO4 400 AhBattle Born LiFePO4 100 Ah 12V4View
24/0 AWG Cable in 5/16″ lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet BlackSpartan Power3View
Solar
1350W SolarNewPowa 175W Mono Panel2View
2Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft BlackWith MC4 Connectors1View
3Double Cable Entry GlandFor 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable1View
440A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween Panels and MPPT Charger1View
5MPPT Solar ChargerVictron 100|30 SmartSolar MPPT1View
640A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween MPPT Charger & Battery1View
8Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breakers (Pack of 3)2View
7Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 3/8″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3)1View
Alternator
160A Battery-to-Battery Charger (B2B)Sterling Power BB12601View
2100A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBlue Sea 285-Series2View
3Cable, 4 AWG, 15ft RedWindyNation1View
4Cable, 4 AWG, 5 ft BlackWindyNation1View
6Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breakers (Pack of 10)1View
5Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 3/8″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 2)1View
Inverter/Charger
13000W Inverter/ChargerVictron Multiplus 12|3000|1201View
2Remote Control for InverterVictron Digital Multi Control 200/200A GX1View
3Class T Fuse, 400ABlue Sea (To protect inverter’s cable)1View
4Class T Fuse BlockBlue Sea (Holds the Class T Fuse)1View
5Cable, 4/0 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft RedBetween Inverter/Charger & Bus Bars View
6Lugs, 4/0 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Inverter/Charger (Pack of 5)1View
7Lugs, 4/0 AWG Cable, 3/8″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 5)1View
830A Shore InletFurrion 30A Marine Power Smart Inlet1View
930A AC MainBreaker Between Power Inlet and Inverter/Charger1View
1110/3 AWG Triplex AC Marine WireBetween power inlet & inverter/charger1View
12Lugs, 10 AWG Cable, #8Connect to AC Main (Pack of 3)1View
13Lugs, 10 AWG Cable, #10Connect to AC Main (Pack of 3)2View
14120V AC Distribution Panel (4 Positions*)Blue Sea Panel: AC Main + 4 Positions*1View
156/3 AWG Triplex AC Marine WireBetween inverter/charger & AC distribution panel1View
16Lugs, 6 AWG Cable, #10Connect to distribution panel (Pack of 10)1View
17120V AC Wall OutletGFCI, 20A1View
1814/3 AWG Triplex AC Marine WireTo wire load that requires 15A or 10A breaker1View
19Lugs, 14 AWG Cable, #8Connect to distribution panel (Pack of 3)1View
20Lugs, 14 AWG Cable, #10Connect to distribution panel (Pack of 3)1View

Optional Items

150A Breaker (Double-Pole)To upgrade 120V AC distribution panel to 50A instead of 30A View
220A BreakerFor load that requires 20A breaker (e.g. A/C) View
310A BreakerFor load that requires 10A breaker View
4120V AC Distribution Panel (6 Positions*)*6 Positions panel is sometimes cheaper, check it! View
512/3 AWG Triplex AC Marine WireTo wire load that requires 20A breaker (e.g. A/C) View
6Lugs, 12 AWG Cable, #8Connect to AC Main (Pack of 3)1View
7Lugs, 12 AWG Cable, #10Connect to AC Main (Pack of 3)1View
Hardware
18 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (8/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
210 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (10/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
312 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (12/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
414 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (14/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
516 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (16/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
6Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
7Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 10-12 AWG Cable, #8 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
8Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 14-16 AWG Cable, #8 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
9Heat Shrink Butt Connector, Ancor MarineTo connect to Loads (75 Pack Kit)1View
10Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female
To connect to certain loads (i.e. 12V Sockets) , to make “removable” connections (i.e. Fridge, LEDs) and to connect cable of different gauge together (i.e. LED Dimmer) (25 Pack)
1View
11Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
12Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female1View
13Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
14Heat Shrink Disconnect, 18-22 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
153M Scotchlok Quick Splice with Gel (14 AWG stranded)We used that to parallel our LED lights (25 Pack)1View
16Heat Shrink Tubing Kit (with adhesive)To protect lug after crimping1View
17Split Loom Tubing, 3/8″ diameter 25 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
18Split Loom Tubing, 1/2″ diameter 25 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
19Split Loom Tubing, 3/4″ diameter 10 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
20Nylon Cable Clamps KitTo secure cable/split-loom to wood1View
21Zip Tie Mount with AdhesiveTo secure cable/split-loom to metal1View
22Nylon Zip Ties KitTo secure cable/split-loom1View
23Rubber Grommet KitTo protect wire from sharp edge (going through metal hole)1View
12V Loads
1 Maxxair 6200K Roof Fan Fan Installation 1 Amazon
2 LED Ceiling Lights (Dimmable) 3 Amazon
3 PWM Dimmer for LED Lights, 12V, Slider 1 Amazon
4 Blue Sea 12V Socket Electrical System Guide 4 Amazon
5 Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM 1 Amazon
6 ON/OFF Switch for Water Pump 1 Amazon
7 Webasto Air Top 2000 STC Gasoline Heater Webasto Installation 1 Amazon
8 Propex HS2000 Propane Heater Propex Installation 1 Dealers
9 Novakool R5810 Fridge, 12V only Fridge Guide 1 Campervan-HQ
10 Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V Sirocco ii Installation / Review 1 Amazon
11 Nature’s Head Composting Toilet Toilet Installation 1 Amazon
12 Propane Solenoid Shutoff Valve 1 Amazon
13 ON/OFF Switch for Propane Solenoid 1 Amazon
Optimized for Off-the-grid / Energy Efficiency
Optimized for High-Power Devices (Induction Cooktop, Microwave, etc.)
Features:
Choose this diagram if:
MAIN
#ItemDescriptionQuantityView on Amazon
1Terminal Fuse Block with Fuse 250ABlue Sea (Catastrophic Fail Safe. Connects directly to battery post.)1View
2System SwitchBlue Sea (Main System Switch)1View
3Bus Bar (250A, 4 studs)Blue Sea2View
4Cover for Bus Bar (for 250A 4 studs)Protect the Bus Bar2View
540A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween Fuse Block and Bus Bar1View
6Fuse Block (12 circuits)Blue Sea (12V Distribution Panel)1View
7Fuses KitAssorted Fuses (2A 3A 5A 7.5A 10A 15A 20A 25A 30A 35A)1View
8Battery MonitorVictron BMV-712 with BlueTooth1View
9Cable, 2/0 AWG, 5 ft RedBetween battery and Bus Bar1View
10Cable, 2/0 AWG, 15 ft BlackBetween battery and Bus Bar + Ground1View
12Lugs, 2/0 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar, Terminal Fuse Block and Battery (Pack of 5)1View
11Lugs, 2/0 AWG Cable, 3/8″ RingConnect to System Switch and Shunt (Pack of 5)1View
13Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft RedBetween Bus Bar and Fuse Block1View
14Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 RingConnect to Fuse Block (Pack of 3)1View
15Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breaker (Pack of 3)1View
16Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3)1View
Battery
1LiFePO4 200 AhBattle Born LiFePO4 100 Ah 12V2View
22/0 AWG Cable in 5/16″ lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet BlackWindy Nation Copper Cable1View
Solar
1350W SolarNewPowa 175W Mono Panel2View
2Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft BlackWith MC4 Connectors1View
3Double Cable Entry GlandFor 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable1View
440A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween Panels and MPPT Charger1View
5MPPT Solar ChargerVictron 100|30 SmartSolar MPPT1View
640A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween MPPT Charger & Battery1View
7Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breakers (Pack of 3)2View
8Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3)1View
Alternator
160A Battery-to-Battery Charger (B2B)Sterling Power BB12601View
2100A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBlue Sea 285-Series2View
3Cable, 4 AWG, 15ft RedWindyNation1View
4Cable, 4 AWG, 5 ft BlackWindyNation1View
5Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breakers (Pack of 10)1View
6Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 2)1View
Shore
150A ChargerSamlex SEC-1250UL 12V1View
260A Breaker/Switch, Surface MountBetween Charger and Bus Bar1View
3Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft RedWindyNation1View
4Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ RingConnect to Breaker (Pack of 3)1View
5Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3)1View
Inverter
11000W InverterSamlex PST-1000-12 PST Pure Sine1View
2Remote Control for InverterSamlex RC-15A for 600W/1000W Inverter1View
3Terminal Fuse Block with Fuse 175ABlue Sea (Connects directly on the Bus Bar. To protect inverter’s cable.)1View
4Cable, 2 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft RedWindyNation1View
5Lugs, 2 AWG Cable, 5/16″ RingConnect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 10)1View

Optional Items

1120V AC GFCI OutletGFCI, 20A View
2Power Cord with open end12AWG, 10 feet View
Hardware
18 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (8/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
210 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (10/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
312 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (12/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
414 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (14/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
516 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (16/2), Ancor Marine Grade100 feet1View
6Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
7Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 10-12 AWG Cable, #8 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
8Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 14-16 AWG Cable, #8 RingTo connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack)1View
9Heat Shrink Butt Connector, Ancor MarineTo connect to Loads (75 Pack Kit)1View
10Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female
To connect to certain loads (i.e. 12V Sockets) , to make “removable” connections (i.e. Fridge, LEDs) and to connect cable of different gauge together (i.e. LED Dimmer) (25 Pack)
1View
11Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
12Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female1View
13Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
14Heat Shrink Disconnect, 18-22 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male1View
153M Scotchlok Quick Splice with Gel (14 AWG stranded)We used that to parallel our LED lights (25 Pack)1View
16Heat Shrink Tubing Kit (with adhesive)To protect lug after crimping1View
17Split Loom Tubing, 3/8″ diameter 25 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
18Split Loom Tubing, 1/2″ diameter 25 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
19Split Loom Tubing, 3/4″ diameter 10 feetTo protect wire bundles1View
20Nylon Cable Clamps KitTo secure cable/split-loom to wood1View
21Zip Tie Mount with AdhesiveTo secure cable/split-loom to metal1View
22Nylon Zip Ties KitTo secure cable/split-loom1View
23Rubber Grommet KitTo protect wire from sharp edge (going through metal hole)1View
12V Loads
1 Maxxair 6200K Roof Fan Fan Installation 1 Amazon
2 LED Ceiling Lights (Dimmable) 3 Amazon
3 PWM Dimmer for LED Lights, 12V, Slider 1 Amazon
4 Blue Sea 12V Socket Electrical System Guide 4 Amazon
5 Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM 1 Amazon
6 ON/OFF Switch for Water Pump 1 Amazon
7 Webasto Air Top 2000 STC Gasoline Heater Webasto Installation 1 Amazon
8 Propex HS2000 Propane Heater Propex Installation 1 Dealers
9 Novakool R5810 Fridge, 12V only Fridge Guide 1 Campervan-HQ
10 Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V Sirocco ii Installation / Review 1 Amazon
11 Nature’s Head Composting Toilet Toilet Installation 1 Amazon
12 Propane Solenoid Shutoff Valve 1 Amazon
13 ON/OFF Switch for Propane Solenoid 1 Amazon

NOTE: The items list above is a pretty good overview of what's needed. But you can use our calculator (faroutride.com/van-electrical-calculator) to generate a precise, customized list that defines entirely your electrical system. It doesn't get any easier than this!

Well, that escalated quickly… If you can’t “read” the wiring diagram above, don’t give up just yet. Keep reading to build your knowledge and work your way up! Be patient, sleep on it; it might take multiple reads before it all starts to make sense…

2- Battery Bank

Because power from the charge sources is not available at all times, a battery bank is mandatory in every van electrical system. The role of the battery bank is to accumulate energy from the charge sources, store it, then release it to the loads when needed. 

2.1- Battery Types

A battery stores energy under chemical form, then converts it to electrical energy when needed. There are many battery types (chemistry) available, and each have their pros/cons:

Flooded Lead-Acid
Gel-Cell
AGM
Lithium (LiFePO4)

Unless your budget is very critical, we don’t really recommend flooded lead-acid or GEL (because of the maintenance aspect). That brings us to our next topic:

Choosing between AGM or Lithium (LiFePO4) Battery

When we built our van in 2016 (researching and designing during 2015), AGM was the obvious choice because it was a tried-and-true option (good performances, safe & reliable). Lithium (LiFePO4) batteries were a relatively new thing (in the van/RV world) and we were concerned about reliability & safety (and cost!). Technology has advanced so let’s see if, 4 years later, our concerns have been addressed:

1- B.M.S. (Battery Management System)

There are a few scenarios where it could be unsafe to operate a LiFePO4 battery:

  1. Temperature too low/too high;
  2. Voltage too high;
  3. Current too high.

To mitigate these scenarios, companies like Battle Born Batteries, Trojan, Relion, and Victron, now include a Battery Management System (BMS) built-in to their batteries. The BMS is in charge of ensuring that parameters (temperature, voltage, current) are within a safe range. For example, the BMS will prevent charging the battery if the temperature is too low; it will also regulate the amount of power you can take out of the battery. It makes using a Lithium battery safe.

2- Lithium batteries can't be charged below 32F/0°C (more or less)

That’s quite an issue for us, knowing we use our van for skiing all winter (faroutride.com/winter-vanlife). An AGM battery does better in that department, but still performs better around room temperature; that’s the main reason why we installed our AGM battery inside the van. Because we live full-time in our van, we never let the interior freeze (because food/liquid/comfort), so that solves the issue for us!

Note 1: While LiFePO4 cannot be charged below freezing temperatures, they can still be discharged. So it would be possible to install a 12V heat mat to prevent the battery from freezing…

Note 2: In fact, some brands of Lithium batteries can be charge below 32F/0°C, but at a slower rate. Check your battery specification sheet!

3- AGM vs Lithium Comparison

Let’s compare our actual Rolls AGM battery (210Ah) to a BattleBorn LiFePO4 battery bank (100Ah). What really matters here is the “Actual Capacity Available” (remember that ideally an AGM should not be discharged below 50% of its capacity); so that’s why we compare a 210 AGM to a 100Ah Lithium:

  210Ah AGM 100Ah LITHIUM
ACTUAL CAPACITY AVAILABLE 105Ah 100Ah
WEIGHT 133.5 lbs 31 lbs
TOTAL LIFE CYCLE* 1200 3000
UPFRONT COST $650 $950
COST PER CYCLE $0.54 $0.32
LENGTH 21" 12.75"
WIDTH 8.5" 6.875"
HEIGHT 9.5" 9"
*Assuming a D.O.D. (Depth-of-discharge) of 50% for AGM, 100% for LiFePO4.

For full-time Vanlife (1 full cycle daily), it means an AGM will cost roughly $200 per year to operate and will last 3.5 years; while a Lithium will cost roughly $120 per year to operate and will last 8 years.

Soooo, AGM or Lithium?

If we had to start over (in 2019), we would go for Lithium (LiFePO4). Oh wait… as of June 2019 we just upgraded to Battle Born Lithium batteries (2 x 100Ah)! We LOVE staying up-to-date with technology and we enjoy testing products, so we made the leap 🙂 Our first impressions:

  • These things are crazy light weight!
  • They reach 100% SOC much faster than the AGM (absorption phase in AGM occurs quite slowly), and keep in mind we made no change to our solar & alternator charging. That means more power, faster. Nice.
  • Since we have two batteries in parallel, we can charge up to 100A if we upgrade our b2b charger (right now we have a 60A b2b charger); that could be nice for winter.
  • So far so good, highly recommended!*

*Note: We would NOT go for Lithium if our battery bank was installed outside the van (too cold during skiing season).

Replace Rolls AGM with Battle Born Batteries Lithium
New Battle Born Batteries ready for installation!
Budget
3/5
Renogy 100Ah Lithium (LiFePO4) 12V Battery
(2000 cycles life, 100A COntinuous Discharge Current)
Quality/Price
4.5/5
Battle Born Batteries 100Ah Lithium (LiFePO4) 12V
(3000 cycles life, 100A CONTINUOUS DISCHARGE CURRENT)
High-End
5/5
Trojan 110Ah Lithium (LiFePO4) 12V
(4000 cycles life, 110A continuous discharge current)

Quick interruption: Our Opinion About Product Quality

"You get what you pay for"
Cheap
0.5/5

What differentiates the “cheap” products (unbranded, very cheap products on Amazon & eBay) from the “Budget” products:

We took our chance with cheap products on non-critical components (radio unit, inclinometer, electrical connectors when we ran out of the good ones –> we replaced them with good ones afterwards!), and the result is always the same: product doesn’t last long, it’s buggy, and has to be replaced soon enough. Even if the low initial cost is very appealing, we will NEVER recommend a cheap product for the electrical system (or anything else); we’re not rich enough to constantly replace our stuff.

Budget
3/5

This is our entry-level. To save cost, budget products typically don’t use the best internal components and consequently don’t show the best performance and durability. We recommend products within that category if budget is your priority.

Brands that fall into that category:
Quality/Price
4.5/5

This is our mid-level and most components in our van stand within that range. We don’t mind paying more initially if the product delivers good performance and lasts a reasonable time. We think it’s the best bang for the buck.

Brands that fall into that category:
High-End
5/5

This is the “pro-level”. Products within this range deliver the ultimate performance. It’s pricey, but for critical components of our electrical system, there’s no price for peace of mind.

Brands that fall into that category:
OK we're done, thanks for listening!

2.2- Specifications

Not all batteries are made equally! A cheap battery won’t be able to give as much current as a high-quality battery… it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you’re not going overboard, so read the spec sheet! Any reputable brand should publish one for each of its products. Cheap products often don’t publish spec sheets; that’s a good enough reason not-to buy their products!

Here is an example of how a spec sheet should be (click the image to view the pdf):

Relion Specification Sheet (1 of 2)
credit: relionbattery.com/products/lithium
credit: relionbattery.com/products/lithium

Information is clearly shown, it’s straight-to-the-point, there is no marketing sales pitch… well done Relion! More examples: Trojan, BattleBorn (they really need to step up their game…), Rolls.

Information to look for:

2.3- Combining Batteries

  • Cables: Always use identical cables (length/diameter) so they offer the same resistance, ensuring all batteries work equally together.
  • Mixing batteries: Do not mix batteries of different brand/models. Do not mix batteries of different age if using lead acid (AGM, gel, etc.). It is acceptable to mix batteries of different age (no more than two years old) if using Lithium (see Battle Born FAQ).
Parallel

For example, adding two batteries of 12V/100Ah (50A charge rate / 100A discharge rate) in parallel results in a battery bank of 12V/200Ah (100A charge rate / 200A discharge rate).

parallel-battery-connection
photo credit: enerdrive.com
Series

For example, adding two batteries of 6V/200Ah in series results in a battery bank of 12V/200Ah.

series-battery-connection
photo credit: enerdrive.com

2.4- Charge Profile

Charging a battery is NOT like filling a car with gas…

  • With a car, bringing the fuel gauge up to 100% is all that matters. Then, maintain your car periodically (oil change) and it’ll be running smoothly for a long time 🙂
  • With a battery, how you bring it up to 100% really matters: you are filling it and doing the maintenance simultaneously!
Fuel-Gauge-Cross

An adequate charge cycle goes through multiple stages; each stage has specific current/voltage parameters. The combination of these stages is called the charge profile. Different battery chemistry (AGM, Lithium, etc.) and different brands (Rolls, Trojan, BattleBorn, etc.) require different charge profiles.  Why you should care about charge profile:

Lead-Acid (Flooded, Gel, AGM)
Typical Charge Profile
Stage 1: BULK

During that stage, the battery doesn’t offer much resistance to charging. It’s easy for the charger to push energy into the battery, so a low voltage results in a large current; in other words, most of the energy is transferred during that stage. As the battery charges, it offers more and more resistance; it’s much more difficult for the charger to push energy into the battery. If only bulk stage is used, the battery cannot be fully charged…

Stage 2: ABSORPTION

Near 85%, the battery becomes much more resistant to charging… to keep pushing energy into the battery, the charger raises the voltage. You can clearly observe that on your battery monitor (high voltage, low charging current). It’s kind of like switching to first gear on your car: it’s more powerful, but slower. During that stage, the high voltage results in gassing inside the battery; this gas stirs the electrolytes and helps dissolve the small sulfate crystals. That’s why a proper absorption stage is so important! It prevents hard deposits (sulfuration) and, therefore, prevents loss of total capacity memory.

Stage 3: FLOAT

The float stage prevents self-discharge and can be maintained indefinitely.

Lithium (LiFePO4)
Typical Charge Profile

Lithium batteries don’t suffer from sulfuration, so charging with the wrong charge profile is not as bad as with lead-acid batteries. Charging with the wrong profile could prevent reaching 100% charge, but that won’t hurt the battery in the long term. Good to know: Most Lithium batteries are OK to charge with an AGM profile!

Stage 1: BULK