Electrical System: Build Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion

Electrical System

Electrical System: Build Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion

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 reliable and to work from the first time; trial-and-error is not acceptable here!

After more than a year on the road, we’re happy to report that our system works as we planned. Nice! Designing the electrical system was one of the most intimidating task of the conversion process and if you’re reading this it might be your case too…

 

We’re here to help. Here is how it goes:

    • PART A is where YOU grab a drink, relax and read on.
    • PART B is where WE relax and YOU do the work!

 

 

 


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PART A: THEORY

 

1- What Do We Expect From Our Electrical System?

  • Power all of our “fixed” loads (fan, lights, fridge, water pump, etc) and power our “external” loads as well (phones, laptop, cameras, etc)
  • Charge from solar, van alternator and from shore power
  • Have an inverter for occasional and modest use of 120V
  • Be completely autonomous in full-sun condition and have a few days autonomy in absence of solar power and driving (no charge source)

 

2- Power Consumption

Our power consumption will dictate the “size” of our components (solar panel, battery, inverter, etc). Let’s make a list of our loads and calculate how much Ah (ampere hour) we will draw in total each day.

 

Summer Analysis
Predicted Daily Power Consumption
 Load Description Measured Instantaneous Consumption

(A)

Calculation Assumptions  Calculation  Daily Consumption (Ah)
 Fridge Novakool R5810 4.0A 24h per day @ 35% duty cycle  4.0A * 35%*24h=  34Ah
 Lights  3W LED 1.3A (total 10 lights @ 100% intensity) 4h per day @ 80% intensity  1.3A*80%*4h=  4Ah
 Fan  Maxxfan 6200K

(10 speed settings)

0.2A@1, 0.4A@2, 0.5A@3, 0.8A@4, 1.1A@5, 1.5A@6, 2.0A@7, 2.6A@8, 3.3A@9, 4.4A@10 24h per day @ 3 average  0.5A*24h=  12Ah
 Water Pump  Guesstimate…  1Ah
 Sound System  Guesstimate…  1Ah
 Phones  Guesstimate…  1Ah
 Laptop  Guesstimate…  2Ah
TOTAL 55Ah

 

Reality Check:

Measured-Daily-Power-Consumption-VanLife-(Summer Time)
*Because it’s summer and there’s way more solar than we need, we can safely assume our daily yield (measured by the Victron MPPT Charger) is equal to our daily consumption.

Our summer prediction was 55Ah and we are actually consuming 59Ah on average. Pretty close! The temperatures were quite hot during the period we measured our consumption; the fridge and all the fans are working hard! It will be interesting to make more measurements in Autumn when temperatures are milder…

 

Winter Analysis

We predict that our daily consumption is similar for summer & winter because in winter the fridge draws less power, but it is balanced by the Webasto air heater that needs some electrical power.

Load Description Measured Instantaneous Consumption (A) Calculation Assumptions  Calculation  Daily Consumption (Ah)
 Fridge Novakool R5810 4.0A 24h per day @ 20% duty cycle  4.0A * 20%*24h=  20Ah
 Lights 3W LED 1.3A (total 10 lights @ 100% intensity) 8h per day @ 70% intensity  1.3A*70%*8h=  7Ah
 Fan Maxxfan 6200K

(10 speed settings)

0.2A@1, 0.4A@2, 0.5A@3, 0.8A@4, 1.1A@5, 1.5A@6, 2.0A@7, 2.6A@8, 3.3A@9, 4.4A@10 12h per day @ 2 average  0.4A*12h=  4Ah
 Air Heater Webasto Air Top 2000 STC  Guesstimate…  20Ah
 Sound System  Guesstimate…  1Ah
 Phones  Guesstimate…  1Ah
 Laptop  Guesstimate…  2Ah
TOTAL 55Ah

Reality Check:

Note: As opposed to summer, we don’t have a solar SURPLUS during winter; so we can’t say that solar input = our consumption. The graph below represent therefore our solar input (not our consumption). We combined the data from summer to as a comparison purpose.

Daily Solar Input, Summer VS Winter, Van Solar Power
Solar Input (summer VS winter). NOTES: 1- Winter data gathered between January 14th to February 14th. 2- Once the battery if fully charged, there is no more solar input recorded. It means we could harvest more solar power than the graph shows during summer. 3- Winter data was gathered during an unusual stretch of “nice” weather here in the Pacific North West; it’s normally even worst…

 

Conclusion from this data:

The graph clearly shows that we have a SOLAR power deficiency in winter. We’re glad we installed a Sterling B2B to charge from the alternator! The Sterling is our Plan B in summer, Plan A in winter. We think the combination of solar + alternator makes a nice and balanced electrical system for people using their van for summer & winter adventures (i.e. ski. solar is probably enough for Baja or Cali winter adventures!). What about adding more solar panels instead? We think it’s not the solution for weather like PNW winter… sometimes there’s just NO sun for days. It’s nice not relying on a single source of power.

 

3- Battery Bank

We just determined that we will draw about 55Ah daily. Does it mean that, to have 4 days autonomy, we need a 55Ah*4days = 220Ah battery bank? No! There are more variables to take account of… keep reading the whole page and we will size the battery bank afterward…

 

3.1- Temperature de-rate of the battery bank

If you know someone that owns an electric car, you probably know that his/her car will do about half the mileage in winter than in summer (it might not be that bad in California, but it is in Quebec… yep, it’s cold up here!). Batteries are much less efficient in cold weather. The exact loss will, of course, depend on the battery temperature, but we will assume 30% less efficient as a general rule. For example, a 210Ah battery bank will actually deliver 210Ah*70% = 147Ah. Or, we could say that our daily consumption of 55Ah is in fact 55Ah*1.3 = 72Ah. We have to keep that in mind.

 

3.2- Charging a frozen battery
3.2.1- Flooded Lead-Acid/Gel/AGM

First of all, unlike water, the battery will not freeze at 32F (0°C). The freezing temperature of the battery depends on the depth of discharge. As the state of charge in a battery decreases, the electrolyte becomes more like water and the freezing temperature increases.  It is very important to make sure your battery stays fully charged in extreme cold weather. If a battery freezes, it can damage the plates and container leading to a potential explosion. A frozen battery must NOT be charged! Consult your battery manual.

As a guideline, this is extracted from our Rolls Battery Manual:

Specific Gravity

(SG)

Depth of Discharge 

approx (%)

Freezing Temperature

C (F)

1.280 100 -69C (-92F)
1.265 92 -57.4C (-72.3F)
1.250 85 -52.2C (-62F)
1.200 60 -26.7C (-16F)
1.150 40 -15C (5F)
1.100 20 -7C (19F)

 

 

 

3.2.2- Lithium (LiFePO4)

Most Lithium batteries must not be charged below freezing temperature (32F / 0°C). There are slight variations to this, so consult your owner’s manual / spec sheet. Modern LiFePO4 batteries have an integrated temperature protection and will prevent charging the battery if it’s unsafe to do so (it’s the case for the Battle Born Batteries). Some solar chargers can be set to prevent charging below a certain temperature as well (like the Victron MPPT chargers).

 

3.3- Depth of Discharge (DOD)
3.3.1- Flooded Lead-Acid / Gel / AGM

The cycle life of a battery is directly affected by the depth of discharge. What is the depth of discharge? It is how deeply the battery was discharge during one cycle. Let’s say that a fully charge battery is 100% and a fully discharged battery is 0%. If we draw 30% of available capacity (from a fully charged battery), the depth of discharge is 70% (there is 70% of Ah remaining before the battery is 0%).

For AGM batteries, it is recommended not to go below 50% depth of discharge to maximize the battery life (it might be different for different type of batteries).

Cycle life vs Depth of discharge
Cycle life vs Depth of discharge
3.3.2- Lithium (LiFePO4)

Lithium batteries lifetime cycle is much less affected by DOD than lead-acid. In fact, they can be discharged almost fully without affecting the lifespan much, neat! Since AGM can be discharged to only 50% and Lithium close to 100%, it means Lithium has almost twice the usable capacity of AGM!

 

3.3.3- Depth Of Discharge Real-World Observations

So, if one’s consumption is 55Ah daily and has a 100Ah battery bank, it means that at the end of the day the depth of discharge is 45Ah/100Ah = 45%? Well, not exactly… because the battery bank will get charged throughout the day by solar or by driving the van or by getting power from shore power. In fact, we observe our minimal depth of discharge in the morning just before the sunrise. Indeed, we dont have any charge source during the night. What we experienced so far is a depth of discharge of about 75-95% in the morning cause by the loads that run overnight (fan, fridge, air heater and some lights).

 

3.4- About battery types

There are many types of battery available. Let’s play PROS and CONS :

 

Flooded lead-acid

PROS

  • Cheapest battery type available

CONS

  • High maintenance (needs to be filled periodically with water and kept in a vented compartment)

 

Gel-cell

PROS

  • Similar to Flooded lead-acid but the gel wont spill as easily

CONS

  • Similar to Flooded lead-acid
  • Must be charged at low rate

 

AGM

PROS

  • Low maintenance, good low-temperature performance
  • No need to be vented

CONS

    • More expensive than Flooded or Gel
    • Heavier than Lithium

 

Lithium-ion (LiFePO4)

PROS

  • Light Weight
  • No need to be vented
  • Can be discharged deeper without affecting battery life

CONS

  • Expensive
  • More sensitive to high/low voltage or current and high/low temperatures*
  • Cannot be charged below 0C (32F)*

*Some modern LiFePO4 batteries come with a built-in Battery Management  System (BMS). In a nutshell, the BMS will cutoff the battery if the voltage/current/temperature is out of range for safe charge/discharge. This is the case with the Battle Born LiFePO4 batteries: they come with a BMS, have a 10 year warranty and are built in Reno (Nevada). It’s safe to say they’re super popular these days among the DIY van crowd. We actually plan on replacing our 210 Ah AGM battery for 200Ah Battle Born Lithium in summer 2019! Not that we have issues with our AGM battery; we just want to make our own test and review. Check them on Amazon: Battle Born LiFePO4 Battery

 

3.5- Combining Batteries

While we prefer to use a single battery, batteries can be wired together in parallel or series. In both cases:

  • You should always use identical batteries (brand/capacity/age) so they work equally together.
  • You should always use identical cables (length/diameter) so they offer the same resistance, ensuring all batteries work equally together.

Parallel:

  • Same voltage (V)
  • Capacity is doubled (Ah)
  • For example two 100Ah 12V batteries wired in parallel = 200Ah 12V
parallel-battery-connection
photo credit: enerdrive.com

Series:

  • Voltage is doubled (V)
  • Same capacity (Ah)
  • For example two 200Ah 6V batteries wired in series= 200Ah 12V
photo credit: enerdrive.com

 

3.6 – Charging Profile

In the upcoming sections, you’ll hear about “nice charging profile”, “3 stage charge” or “smart charger”; that’s not just marketing B.S. or buzzwords, it’s actually a big deal if you want your battery to keep working for years (and avoid capacity loss, a.k.a. sulfuration)! Providing a “good” charge is important; let’s see why.

 

3.6.1- Lead acid batteries

Lead acid batteries (flooded, gel, AGM) are filled with electrolyte. During use, small sulfate crystals form. That’s OK and that’s reversible, except if the battery is deprived of a full charge for a prolonged period then the sulfate crystals deposit on the negative plates permanently. These hard deposits are not “usable” and therefore, the battery cannot provide as much energy as before (less capacity). To prevent sulfuration, a frequent 3 stage charge should be performed:

 

Stage 1: Bulk

Bulk stage happens until the battery is charged to approximately 85%. 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 (below 13V) results in a large current; in other word the battery charges FAST! 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…

Note: during the bulk stage, the current is constant (for example 30A for a 30A charger, 60A for a 60A charger) and the voltage increases gradually (but generally not more than 13V).

 

Stage 2: Absorption

Near 85% the battery become 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. See? That’s why a proper absorption stage is so important! It prevents hard deposits (sulfuration) and therefore prevents loss of total capacitymemeor.

Note: during the absorption stage, the voltage is constant (about 14.7V for AGM) and the current lowers and lowers as the battery approaches the full charge.

 

Stage 3: Float

Near approximately 98%, the charger switches to float stage. During that stage the voltage is lowered and current is very low. The float stage brings the battery to a full charge and maintain it that way.

Note: during the float stage, the voltage is constant (about 13.6V for AGM) and the current is very low (below 1A).

 

3.6.2- Lithium (LiFePO4)

LiFePO4 are different than lead acid batteries; they don’t have a sulfuration issues. We’re comfortable speaking of lead acid, but honestly we’re still learning about LiFePO4; so we leave you this quote from BattleBorn batteries: “The bulk and absorption voltages typically vary between 14.0 and 14.8 V and the float can vary between 13.2 and 13.8 V. The 12V Battle Born batteries sit comfortably right in the middle of these ranges. We recommend a bulk and absorption voltage of 14.4V. A float is unnecessary, since Li-ion batteries do not leak charge, but a floating voltage under 13.6V is fine.” More here: https://battlebornbatteries.com/charging-battleborn-lifepo4-batteries/.

 

4- Charge Sources

Now that we understand how to properly charge a battery, let’s see our charge source options: solar, alternator and shore power.

 

4.1- Solar Power

Harvesting power from the sun feels a bit like cheating to us; this is the exciting part of the electrical system! It is free to use, but it is not exactly cheap to setup at first.

First of all, do you really need solar power in your system? If you’re thinking on charging only from the alternator, keep in mind that while the bulk charge is relatively fast, it takes a long time to complete the absorption stage (even if you have a powerful charger). So unless you like to drive A LOT everyday, solar power will ensure you get a full charge and will increase your battery life!

 

4.1.1- The Panels

How many watts?

As a general rule of thumb, a 100W solar panel can generate about 5A/hr at peak power, that’s about 25Ah per day (sunny, summer day, best-case scenario).

We calculated previously that we will draw about 55Ah per day; it would be nice if the solar panel could provide at least that amount of power… We need 55Ah\25Ah*100W = 220W solar panel(s) to compensate exactly for our loads draw. Well, a bit more actually if we account for cold temperature de-rate & cloudy weather. However, solar power is not our only power source! When driving the van we will get some power from that as well; we have to keep that in mind…

 

Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline?

We read quite a bit about that and came to the conclusion that, these days, the quality of the solar panel (manufacturer) is more important than the type of the panel. If you want to learn more about that, Google is your friend! To start, here is a good article.

 

Should we use 1 large panel, or 2 smaller panels?

At the time of our research, we could buy one 300W or two, let’s say, 160W panels for 320W total. The cost of the 300W is generally higher than two smaller one, but is it really if you account that you need additional hardware to connect the two panels together (cables, connectors, junction box, etc…)?

One larger panel instead of two smaller ones:

PROS

  • Simple to install (no junction box and connectors)
  • Higher working voltage = lower amperage = minimize loss

CONS

  • Large physical size
  • Higher working voltage = use of MPPT charge controller recommended

 

Partial Shading is Evil!

Blocking a single cell (leaf, bird crap, etc.) from a solar array can completely bring your solar output down to ZERO! That’s right, bear with us…

 

Solar Panel Construction

Solar panels are made of multiple solar cells all connected together in series; blocking one of the cell totally kills the output of the solar panel. Think of the old Christmas tree lights: if one of the bulb blew, the entire thing would go off. Meh. Below, this single leaf totally “kills” the solar panel output:

This panel gives 0% output (no bypass diode)

 

Solar Array

What if the solar panel above is part of an array connected in series? The resulting total power is ZERO. See the water analogy below:

photo credit: blog.aurorasolar.com
photo credit: blog.aurorasolar.com

 

Bypass Diodes

Fortunately, modern solar panels have built-in bypass diodes that helps with partial shading. In such solar panel, cells are split in 2 or 3 groups; if one cell is blocked, only the group comprising the blocked cell is “killed”. Other groups bypass the killed group:

Here, the panel give 50% output thanks to the bypass diode.

 

Don’t celebrate too fast: even with bypass diodes, a solar array (in series) total power will be considerably reduced:

In the example above,

  • the total power (without shading) is: 57V x 9A = 513W
  • the total power (with partial shading) is: 57V x 4.5A = 257W
  • (In a series configuration, total voltage x lowest current = total power)

 

In our exemple above, because of a leaf blocking a single cell, the power of the entire array is reduced by 50%!

 

OK here we are, hold your breath for the sensational revelation of this discussion: MORE PANELS DOES NOT EQUALS MORE POWER!

 

Don’t get us wrong… there’s not much you can do about a fallen leaf. But our point is that, too often, we see vans with a ton of solar panels installed (more power!!) around the fan, A/C, rack, etc. These appliances create partial shading on the solar array and we now understand the consequences… It would be wiser (and cheaper) to install less solar panels, but to better locate them. For example:

  • 3 panels with partial shading (coming from the roof fan): 57V x 4.5A = 257W
  • 2 panels without partial shading: 38V x 9A = 342W

 

That’s why we located our panels far apart from our roof fan; to minimize the partial shading effect. Indeed, the sun is low angled most of the time: morning, evening, fall, winter and spring:

Cleaning the solar panels 2

 

Series VS Parallel

Researching through the web you probably found that, if using a MPPT charge controller, connecting solar panels in series is more efficient than in parallel right? We agree, except when we take partial shading into consideration… Indeed, when solar panels are connected in parallel, the current coming out of each panel has a “direct” path toward the charger and is not “blocked” by other panels. The previous sentence is actually an oversimplification, but here is what we would get (approximately) if we connected the 3 panels from our example in parallel:

  • Parallel: 18V x (9A + 4.5A + 9A) = 400W
  • Series: 257W (remember, we calculated that previously)
  • (In a parallel configuration, average panel voltage x total current = total power)

 

Conclusion on partial shading

When planning your roof layout, take partial shading into consideration! If you MUST install your solar panels near your fan, A/C, etc., then consider connecting your panels in parallel.

 

Panel Orientation

A panel will deliver more current if oriented perpendicular to the sun. On large commercial solar plant, the panels are mounted on a motor-driven device that will optimized the orientation of the panel automatically throughout the day. Obviously there is no such device for a van roof (until when?), but with some out-of-the-box thinking you can build your own system:

vandmvanlife-solar-panels-tilt-system
900W of tilted solar panels! Credit: Rayoutfitted.com

 

We reached out to Ray at Rayoutfitted and he claims his tilt system can increase solar input up to 50% in winter. Pretty good!

Adding a tilt kit will obviously add weight, raise the panel(s) and have a negative impact on fuel consumption. If we were to park for extended period of time at the same place, we might consider a tilt kit. But with our lifestyle we generally move a few times each day, so we personally don’t feel like it’s worth the hassle.

 

Our Pick

We chose to install two panels of 160W each, for a total of 320W. This is quite a lot of power, but we’re not messing around here! (note: there was no 175W panel available when we built our van, but this is what we would choose now if we had to start over!)

 

From now on, we will use 320W solar power in our calculationThis should provide 320W\100W*25A (remember, each 100W gives about 25A per day) = 80Ah of charge per day during summer, 30 Ah of charge per day during winter (guesstimate, time will tell for winter).

 

4.1.2- The Charge Controller

How many amps?

Charge controllers are rated based on the amount of amperage they can process from the solar panels.

Solar Panel Max. Watts / Solar Panel Max. Voltage = 320W / 18.5V = 17.30A

AMPS x Surge factor = 17.30A x 25% = 21.62A

Therefore a charge controller of at least 22A is required.

 

PWM or MPPT?

MPPT are the latest thing in solar charge controllers. They are more efficient than PWM in cold temperature, partially sunny day and if the voltage of your solar panels are superior to the voltage of your battery bank. However they consume a small amount of power for themselves (it’s almost nothing really) and are more expensive than PWM. The debate rage about the MPPT efficiency over PWM, but it is believed to be around 10%-20% more efficient depending on the conditions.

MPPT VS PWM, What Others Have to Say:

  • See Bogart Engineering take on MPPT vs PWM charge controller debate here (see FAQ “C1″)
  • MorningStar MPPT vs PWM comparison.
  • Victron MPPT vs PWM: Which solar charger to choose?
  • Side-to-side, real world testing of MPPT vs PWM charge controller here.

 

MPPT VS PWM, What We Have to Say:

  • We first installed a PWM charge controller (Bogart Engineering) and then upgraded to a MPPT (Victron SmartSolar).
  • While we can’t exactly quantify the improvement, we immediately noticed more charging current; we observed 24A with the Victron while the most we got with the Bogart was 16A.
  • We also noticed more power earlier in the morning and during overcast weather.
  • OK we’re sold to the Victron!!

 

Our Pick:
Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/30:

Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100_30
Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/30. Buy on Amazon.
The Victron SmartSolar is sweet because it can be setup and monitored from an iPhone or an Android phone! It’s also possible to see day-to-day historical data about the system performance, love it!

victron-monitoring

 

 

Here you will find our review about the Victron MPPT SmartSolar Charger, Battery Monitor and VictronConnect App. We also go through the installation, initial setup and operation process. We have a bunch of cool screenshots and things to say about the Victron so go read the article 🙂

 

A note about operating/installing the solar charge controller:

A charge controller should always be connected to the battery first. It’s easy to remember if you can see it that way: the controller needs “somewhere” to “dump” the power from the solar panels. Therefore:

  • Connection order: Connect battery then connect the solar panels.
  • Disconnection order: Disconnect solar panels then disconnect the battery.

 

4.2- Charging while driving

Do you need alternator power in your system? It depends:

  • If you live full time in your van, we say it’s a must. Energy is a basic need, it’s not cool worrying about running out of it…
  • If you take your van for adventures in summer only, you can probably live without it.
  • For fall and spring adventures, we highly recommend it as the solar days get shorter and weaker. Alternator power is a good way to quickly go through the bulk charge, then solar power can complete the absorption stage.
  • For winter there’s no question about it, our opinion is that you want it.

 

4.2.1- Battery-to-Battery charger (B2B)

This option is quite popular these days as it provide many advantages:

  1. It’s a Smart Charger, meaning it provides a multi-stage charge adapted to the battery type (Gel, AGM, etc). That’s important, because it will keep your house battery healthy and maximize it’s lifespan ($$).
  2. It’s plug-and-forget. The B2B will automatically activate/deactivate when driving to keep the house battery topped up.

Inconvenient:

  1. It’s not cheap, but since it extends the lifespan of the house battery, it can be considered as a long-term investment!

 

 

 

4.2.2- Automatic Charging Relay (ACR)

An ACR parallels (combines) the van & the house batteries during charging (alternator or solar).

Advantage:

  1. Simple and compact
  2. Cheap!

 

Inconvenients:

  1. The house battery will get whatever charging profile the alternator provides; it works, but it’s not ideal for the house battery health in the long run.
  2. Inadequate for lithium LiFePO4 batteries.

 

Blue Sea ACR 7622
Blue Sea ACR with Manual Control (up to 500 amps alternator). Buy on Amazon.

 

4.2.3- Accessing Battery Power on the Ford Transit

Please check this official Ford SVE Bulletin on how to use the battery power  (alternator) on SINGLE or DOUBLE battery(ies) variant: SVE Bulletin Q-226 (.pdf)

 

4.3- Shore Power

Do you need shore power in your system? We think it’s a good option if:

  • You spend extended time in campgrounds with full service.
  • You use your van to chase the snow. Indeed, it takes a LONG drive to complete a full charge so it’s sometimes required to plug in for the night.

 

4.3.1- Battery Charger / Converter

A smart Battery Charger / Converter will:

  1. Charge the house battery from a 120V source by providing a multi-stage charging profile adapted to the battery type (Gel, AGM, etc).
  2. Provide power to 12V loads. This means using 12V loads (refrigerator, lights, etc) won’t discharge the battery when the charger/converter is plugged in.
Our Pick:
Samlex SEC-1250A 12V Smart Battery Charger / Converter on Amazon

 

4.3.2- Inverter / Charger

An inverter / Charger is a battery charger AND an inverter combined into one device. It is quite convenient because it simplify the installation (one device instead of two), but it’s more expensive (between 1000$-2000$ for high-quality ones) than installing a separate inverter and a battery charger…

Magnum-MMS-1012 Inverter Charger 1000W
Best Quality: Magnum-MMS-1012 Inverter Charger 1000W on Amazon
Renogy Inverter Charger 1000W
Best Value: Renogy 1000W Pure Sine Inverter Charger (Buy on Amazon)

 

5- Battery and System Monitor

Battery Monitor

A battery monitor is not mandatory, but we strongly recommend it. Depending on your model, it will display the house and van battery voltage, amperage coming in/out of the house battery,  % battery left, amperage used since last charge, etc, etc. You will learn a lot from the battery monitor on: 1- the impact of shade on solar (and help you choose the right parking spot) 2- the impact of your load(s). This will help you better manage your energy. We chose the Victron BMV-712 because it’s a modern, high-quality monitor:

Our Pick:
Victron BMV-712 System Monitor:

Victron BMV-712
Victron BMV-712 Bluetooth System Monitor. Buy on Amazon.
The Victron BMV-712 has bluetooth inside and current status (and historical data) can be displayed on an iPhone or Android phone!

Victron BMV-712 Monitoring

 

 

Here you will find our review about the Victron MPPT SmartSolar Charger, Battery Monitor and VictronConnect App. We also go through the installation, initial setup and operation process. We have a bunch of cool screenshots and things to say about the Victron so go read the article 🙂

 

System Monitor

The Simarine Pico system monitor is the most advanced and sexy product to come out since we’re into the van conversion world! It has the same functions as a battery monitor, plus:

  • Tanks (fresh water, grey water, black water, fuel, etc) Level and Temperature Monitoring. //level sensors sold separately: Fuel and Water Level Sensor //
  • Consumer Loads Monitoring (Solar, Fridge, Webasto, Fan, Inverter, etc, etc).
  • Temperature Monitoring (Interior, Exterior, Fridge, etc, etc).
  • Inclinometer to help park the van level. //sensor sold separately//
  • Monitoring from iPhone and Android SmartPhone

Simarine-Pico-Monitor

 

We’re so excited about the Pico that we reached out to Simarine and we will be installing, testing and reviewing their system next Spring (with full installation documentation, as usual). Meanwhile if you can’t wait, go get yours on simarine.net and use the coupon code “faroutride” to get 10% discount at checkout, sweeeet! (Free shipping from Europe to USA and Canada.)

Let’s clarify things: the Simarine Pico is an optional “luxury” item. It is NOT essential to a healthy electrical system… But if you’re as excited as us about it and you don’t mind the price tag, then go for it!

 

6- Battery Bank Sizing

Back on the battery topic; we still haven’t choose our battery size…

Remember we predicted that we would draw 55Ah daily; so if we want to last 4 days without any charge (bad weather happens, like it or not!), we need a battery bank of 55Ah per day x 4 days = 220Ah, right? Not so fast! An AGM battery should, ideally, not be discharged below 50%, so we actually need… 440Ah. That a LOT (of money, space and weight). Fortunately we have a wildcard: charging while driving. If weather is really crappy, we can go for a drive. We (arbitrarily) decided we don’t mind driving every other day, so we need a battery bank of 55Ah per day x 2 days   = 110Ah x 2 = 220Ah to stay above 50%. We just saved 220Ah of battery bank! Nice, the B2B charger paid for itself!

 

We finally went for a 210Ah AGM battery.

Edit 2019: We plan on going for two 100Ah Battle Born Batteries (Lithium) at summer 2019. Our AGM is still doing great (no issues at all); it was a great choice in 2016. But technology evolves and we want FarOutRide to stay up to date and keep up with the latest and greatest gear! We will therefore install, test and review them at some point in summer 2019. We keep in touch!

 

Did we choose well? Here’s a reality check (September 2018, 1 year full time in our van):

  • In summer, we can get a daily full charge (bulk + absorption) from solar only (the charge is generally complete in early P.M.). Maybe our “4 days of bad weather in a row” was a bit aggressive, but Squamish was exceptionally dry that summer (no rain at all for about 2.5 months)… We can recall that, back home, 4 days of rains do happen sometimes!
  • In fall and spring, the full charge is achieved with the help of the alternator (bulk) and solar (absorption). If we had solar only, we wouldn’t run out of juice, but we probably wouldn’t get a proper absorption stage (not good for battery health).
  • In winter (which was spent chasing snow north of USA and Canada), forget about solar. We have to drive to charge. The problem is that the bulk phase is relatively fast, but the absorption stage take a while to complete. A quick drive to the nearest Tim Hortons is not enough. That’s where the shore charger is handy: we sometimes visit friends and leave the charger plugged in for the night. We managed to keep the battery above 50% most of the time, but that means driving almost everyday.

 

As you can see, there is no single formula to calculate your battery size. There are many variables to take into consideration: charge source, local weather, seasons, how often and how long you drive, etc. Hopefully our “reality check” above helps you take your decision!

 

Our Pick:
Rolls S12-230 AGM Battery
Rolls S12-230 AGM Battery SPEC SHEET
 We also considered:
Highest Quality:

lifeline-12v-210-ah-agm-gpl-4dl
Marine Lifeline 255Ah AGM Battery. Buy on Amazon.
Quality/Price:

Renogy AGM Deep Cycle 200 ah
Renogy 12v 200ah AGM. Buy on Amazon.
Lithium (2 batteries = 200Ah):

Battle Born Batteries Lithium LiFePO4 100Ah 12V
Renogy 12v 200ah AGM. (Soon to be installed in the FarOutVan!) Buy on Amazon.

 

7- Electrical Wire

7.1- Wire Diameter (AWG)

Selecting the correct electrical wire diameter is crucial for the system performance and safety. The maximum current and the voltage drop need to be taken into account to select to appropriate diameter.

7.1.1- Maximum Current (capacity)

For a certain wire diameter, there is a maximum current carrying capacity of a wire. Going over that capacity would create a safety issue (i.e. bigger current requires bigger wire diameter).

7.1.2- Voltage Drop

There is a loss of energy (voltage drop) as current moves through passive elements (wires, terminals, etc) of an electrical system. The wires are a big contributor to the voltage drop and this should be taken into account when designing the electrical system. How? By selecting the appropriate diameter; the bigger the diameter, the smaller the voltage drop. Generally, wire diameter should be selected to provide a maximum of 3% voltage drop for critical loads (panel main feeder, inverter, electronic) and 10% maximum voltage drop for non-critical loads (lightning, fan, etc).

7.1.3- Selecting the correct wire diameter

Now, really, how do you selected the correct wire diameter? Let’s keep it simple and use the BlueSea Calculator (circuitwizard.bluesea.com):

Blue Sea Calculator
Blue Sea Circuit Wizard, use it! circuitwizard.bluesea.com

 

The inputs are:

  1. Nominal Circuit Voltage (hint: it’s 12V)
  2. Average Current (it’s normally written in the owner manual of the load)
  3. Length of the Wire Run (Wire Run = positive (red) + negative (black)! For example, a load using 10 feet of duplex wire has a Wire Run of 20 feet)
  4. Allowable Voltage Drop % (critical VS non-critical loads, see section 7.1.2)

The outputs are:

  1. Recommended wire diameter
  2. Maximum current capacity of the wire (for reference)

 

7.1.4- Example

Let’s select the correct wire diameter for the Maxxair Fan.

What we know:

 

We head to circuitwizard.bluesea.com and enter the following inputs:

DC Wire Selection Example

Justification:

  • Circuit Voltage: It’s always 12V…
  • Load Current: For simplicity sake, we use the fuse capacity instead of the average load. By doing so our system will have slightly oversized wires, but it’s actually a good thing: there is less voltage drop and the wires are more robust. (if you decide to use the average current that’s OK, just make sure the wire capacity is greater than the fuse selected)
  • Length of Conductor: We measured 16 feet of duplex wire, but for calculation it’s always the positive wire + negative wire that must be used. So 16 feet of positive + 16 feet of negative = 32 feet

 

Result:

  • The calculator recommends: AWG 18.
  • AWG 18 is capable of taking current up to 20 amps (read the small prints below the Recommended Wire) which is greater than the 5 amps fuse we’re using; we’re safe!
  • BUT, AWG 18 wire is really small and fragile. Vibration and sharp edges will damage it in the long run; for this reason anything smaller than AWG 16 is not recommended.
  • We could use AWG 16 but, to save cash, we bought a big roll of AWG 14 wire; therefore we will use AWG 14! It’s OK to use bigger wire (but it’s NOT OK to use smaller wire).

 

7.2- Wire Type

Electrical wire is made of a conductor inside an insulator. There are two types of wire depending on how the conductor is made:

Stranded-vs-Solid-Cable

Solid Wire Pros:

  • Cheaper
  • Smaller diameter for same conductibility
  • More resistant to corrosion due to decreased surface area

Solid Wire Cons:

  • Not intended to be flexed (more difficult to route)
  • Not resistant to vibration (will break in the long run)

 

Stranded Wire Pros:

  • Very flexible (easier to route)
  • Resistant to vibration

Stranded Wire Cons:

  • More expansive
  • Less resistant to corrosion, that’s why some marine-grade wire is tinned

 

Solid wire is commonly found in houses, not in moving vehicles (car, RV, boat). Because of the vibration and tight turning radius (when routing), the conductor in solid wire will most likely break in the long term. Therefore, it is mandatory to use stranded wire. We like the marine-grade Ancor wire as it’s tinned and will last longer without corrosion issues:

Ancor Marine Duplex Wire 14AWG
Ancor Marine Grade Duplex Wire. Buy on Amazon (many length and diameter available; make sure to select the appropriate wire for YOUR application!)

 

7.3- Wire Crimping (connecting wire)

There are many ways to connect wires together or to a terminal. We will go straight to the point here, the best way to do it is crimping. Crimping will deform the connector into the wire and ensure a solid permanent mechanical connection with low resistance. To crimp, you need quality crimping tools and quality crimp connectors. 

 

7.3.1- Crimp Connectors

There’s 3 types of material:

Connectors-Type

– Vinyl/PVC

One word: CHEAP. With this type of crimp, the wires remain exposed to the elements and can corrode. Moreover, the insulation can become brittle and crack over time. The vinyl/PVC are single-crimped and it’s not great against pull-out. We pass.

 

– Nylon

Like the Vinyl, the wires remain exposed to the elements. However, the nylon is more durable than the vinyl and is double-crimped, which provides more tensile strength and strain relief against pull-out.

 

-Heat Shrink

The connector is crimped (single-crimp, because double-crimp might damage the insulation) and then heated to shrink the insulation around the wire and the melting adhesive adheres to the wire insulation. This provides a waterproof and permanent connection. Heat shrink connectors are more expensive, but there’s no price for safety and peace of mind!

 

We recommend the Ancor, marine-grade connectors:

Terminal rings are commonly used to make connections to the fuse block, battery, etc.

Ancor Terminal Rings
Ancor Heat Shrink Terminal Rings. Buy on Amazon
Butt connectors are commonly used to make a permanent connection to an appliance.

Ancor Heat Shrink Butt Connectors
Ancor Heat Shrink Butt Connectors. Buy on Amazon.
Disconnects are commonly used to make “non-permanent” connections (i.e. to our fridge which we periodically pull-out to clean the back) and to connect to certain appliances (i.e. 12V Sockets, switches, etc).

*Hint: Female disconnect should be on “hot” side of the wire (that’s the wire closest to the battery), male disconnect on the side of the appliance. This is to prevent short circuit when manipulating the “hot” wire.

Disconnect
Ancor Heat Shrink Disconnect. Buy on Amazon.

 

7.3.2- Tools

Quality tools = safe and durable electrical system. Do not use pliers as you will get poor connections = safety and reliability issues.

Ancor Crimp Tool
Ancor Double-Crimp Tool (for nylon insulated connectors). Buy on Amazon
Ancor Single Crimp Tool
Ancor Single-Crimp Tool (for vinyl & heat shrink connectors). Buy on Amazon.

 

Hydraulic Crimper 5 Ton 00-12 AWG
Hydraulic Crimper for 2/0-12 AWG. Buy on Amazon.
Wire Cutter Stripper
Stripper / Cutter for 8 – 16 AWG Stranded Wire. Buy on Amazon.

 

Heat Gun
Heat Gun for heat shrink. Buy on Amazon
Multimeter
Digital Multimeter. Buy on Amazon.

 

Electrical System Installation Van Conversion (4)
You shall crimp with grace

 

7.4- Wire Installation

For safety sake, the wires should not be installed loose and unprotected; as opposed to a house, there is a lot of vibration and movements that will damage the wires in the long run.

The wires should be routed through Split Loom Tubing (make sure to buy several diameters) attached with zip ties:

Split Loom Tubing
Split Loom Tubing. Buy on Amazon.
Zip Ties
Zip Ties. Buy on Amazon

 

The Split Cable Loom should be secured with Nylon Cable Clamps on wood:

Nylon Cable Clamps Kit
Nylon Cable Clamp. Buy on Amazon
The Split Cable Loom can be secured with Zip Ties Mount Adhesive on metal. Make sure the surface is cleaned (isopropyl alcohol works great) and warm enough.

Zip Tie Adhesive Mount
Zip Tie Mount Adhesive. Buy on Amazon

 

8- Fuses and Breakers

Fuses and breakers are essential in any electrical system! It will protect the circuit wires and the components against over current and ultimately fire. If you blow a fuse during your system installation (we did a few times), it means that you just avoided a potential failure or fire! Nice!

Each load should be fused according to it’s current maximum normal draw. Consult the owner manual of the load. This is achieve through a fuse box such as:

Blue Sea Fuse Box
Blue Sea fuse box. Buy on Amazon

 

The fuse will drive the wire diameter selection. For example, if wiring a load that draw 5A and a fuse of 15A is used, you should choose a wire capable of (more than) 15A! This is safety matters.

 

Breakers are similar to fuses, except that if it blows it is possible to reset it without replacing it. Fuses generally blow faster than breakers and therefore fuses are preferred for sensible electronics. We added a few 40 amp breakers in our system. Why? First, to avoid having to use big electrical wires. Indeed, our fuse block is capable of 100A; even if we know that we will never draw 100A, we need to size our wires for 100A ($$$). By adding 40A breakers, we can size our wires for 40A. We can also turn off portion of the system by switching a breaker off (for example, turn off solar panels to display on our system monitor the draw that the loads are pulling. Or the opposite to display the charge that the solar panels are providing).

 

Here is a more complete article about this topic: http://www.12voltplanet.co.uk/fuses-guide-uses.html

 

9- Loads

9.1- 12V Loads

These are all the 12V loads that we installed:

 

Maxxair 6200K Roof Fan

Installation: faroutride.com/fan-installation

Review: faroutride.com/maxxfan-review

00-6401k-6200k-7500k_maxxfan-deluxe_smoke_open
Maxxfan Roof Fan. Buy on Amazon.
LED Light (Dimmable)

Installation and wiring: faroutride.com/led

acegoo Recessed Ceiling Light LED 12V 3W, Warm White (Silver)
Warm White, Silver Finish. Buy on Amazon.

 

12V Socket

We decided to install 12V sockets all over the van instead of USB chargers. Why? Because this is the most universal plug (we can charge everything: phone, laptop, camera, etc.) and it’s not likely to evolve in the future (as opposed to USB standards). We went for a high quality, marine-grade Blue Sea 12V socket (15A capable):

Blue Sea Systems 12 Volt Dash Socket
Blue Sea Systems 12 Volt Dash Socket. Buy on Amazon.
Most appliances plug directly into the 12V socket, but for phones or other USB gear we use this:

USB Car Charger
Buy on Amazon.

 

Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM

Installation: faroutride.com/pressurized-water-system

Water 12V Pump
Shurflo Revolution Water Pump. Buy on Amazon.
Novakool R5810 Fridge 12V

Installation: faroutride.com/fridge-electricity-cabinet

NovaKool 12V Refrigerator
Novakool R5810 12V Fridge. Manufacturer Website.

 

Webasto Air Top 2000 STC Gasoline Heater

Installation and buying guide: faroutride.com/air-heater-installation

Webasto Air Top 2000STC. Gasoline Model or Diesel Model
Propex HS2000 Propane Heater

Installation: faroutride.com/propex-install

Propex HS2000 (300x252)
Propex HS2000 Propane Heater. Dealer Locator.prop

 

Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V

Review: faroutride.com/sirocco-fan-review

Sirocco 3-axis Gimbal Fan 12V Black
Sirocco 3-axis Gimbal Fan. Buy on Amazon.
Nature’s Head Composting Toilet

Installation: faroutride.com/composting-toilet-installation

Review: faroutride.com/natures-head-review

Nature's Head Composting Toilet Standard Handle
Nature’s Head Composting Toilet. Buy on Amazon.

 

 

9.2- 120V Loads
9.2.1- Inverter

The role of the inverter is to convert the voltage from 12V DC to 120V AC. Just remember that there is a loss of around 15% efficiency during the conversion from DC to AC, so it is better to reduce the use of an inverter. For example, get a universal 12V power adapter to power your laptop if possible:

zozo-90w-12-v-adapter
90W 12V adapter on Amazon.com. (make sure it’s compatible with your laptop)

 

Or instead of charging your phone, cameras, etc., using a 120V charger, use a 12V charger:

USB Car Charger
Buy on Amazon. (make sure it’s compatible with your gear)

 

Now there are some appliance that must use 120V AC such as microwave, gaming laptop, milk frother, blender, coffee machine, etc. In that case, you will need an inverter. You should size your inverter according to your most demanding appliance; check the owner manual or check online to find out how much Watt an appliance draw. If you can’t find the info, you can use a Kill-a-watt. The Kill A Watt is plugged into the 120V outlet (of your house), then the appliance is plugged into the Kill A Watt and then the consumption will be displayed.

Kill A Watt. Buy on Amazon

 

And remember that a microwave rated for 1500W will most likely draw more than 1500W… so get a 2000W inverter.

 

9.2.2- Modified VS Pure Sine Inverter

There are two types of inverter: modified and pure sine inverter. There is a good explanation here. This is a must-read if you need to choose between the two. Did you read it? Yes? Good, then we all agree that a pure sine inverter is the way to go!

 

Our Pick

You will find same very cheap inverter on Amazon or ebay; stay away from them if you don’t want to toast your 120V appliances and for safety sake. We like Samlex; they make good quality products and are reasonably priced:

samlex-pst-1000-inverter

  • Samlex 1000W Pure Sine Inverter, Buy on Amazon.
  • Samlex 300W, 600W, 1500W or 2000W Pure Sine Inverter, Buy on Amazon (make your selection in the Amazon store).

 

10- Short Term and Long Term Storage

Not planning on using your van for a while? Then it’s important to properly put your electrical system into “storage-mode” to maximize your battery lifespan! For either short-term storage (weeks) or for long-term storage (months), here are our recommendations.

 

10.1 – Loads

All the loads should be disconnected to prevent draining the battery. In the electrical diagram we propose (see below), all the loads are turned off by flipping the breaker (between the bus bar and the fuse block) to OFF position. The battery monitor can be disconnected simply by removing the UTP cable from the shunt (as it uses minimal amount of power), but we prefer to leave it ON to be able to monitor the SOC of the battery over time. (disconnecting then re-connecting the battery monitor won’t give you the correct SOC…)

 

10.2- State Of Charge (SOC)
10.2.1- Lead Acid Batteries (flooded, gel, AGM)

Lead acid batteries should be put into storage fully charged to prevent sulfuration. They self-discharge over time, so give them a good charge when approaching 85% SOC. Lead acid batteries can be left into float mode indefinitely so if you have solar power, leave it ON as it will maintain the battery fully charged over time (assuming your solar charge controller float voltage is correctly set for your battery type).

10.2.2- Lithium Batteries (LiFePO4)

Lithium based batteries should be put into storage at 40-50% SOC to prevent permanent capacity loss. They do not really self-discharge, so disconnect the solar power.

10.3- Temperature

Even if a battery is stored at the correct SOC, a permanent capacity loss occur over time and it’s directly related to storage temperature. The ideal storage temperature is around 10-15C (50-60F) for all battery types. The higher the temperature, the more non-recoverable permanent capacity loss.  The battery should not be allowed to freeze (remember freezing temperature of a battery depends on SOC; see “Charging A Frozen Battery” in the article above).

 

11- Our Electrical System

Before going any further, we draw a logical diagram and a wiring diagram. We did not want to waste time on that at first, but we are so glad we did it. When doing the actual physical installation of our system in the van, we realized how important it was to prevent messing up. Things will not clarify during the installation… the physical installation is quite overwhelming and referring to the diagram gave us a lot of confidence. When we first turned the switches on, we were not afraid to blow everything up 🙂 To this day, we printed a copy and leave it in the van at all time.

 

We’re very proud to introduce our new Wiring Diagram! What’s wrong we the previous one? Nothing, it passed the test of time and it works exactly as it should! Then why change it? We realized many people are just replicating it (which we think is great!), so we wanted to make it:

  1. easier to understand (see our new Interactive Diagram AND new tutorial “From Blank Page to Wiring Diagram in 15 Steps”)
  2. easier to install (more intuitive design and less components to install)
  3. easier to use (Plug-and-forget, monitoring via Android or iPhone)
  4. easier to adapt to anyone’s need (many features can be deleted/modified for different needs/budget. See our suggestions.)

It’s the result of the ultimate question: “If you had to start over, what would you change?”. Answer: we deleted some features we never used in the real world and we updated some components because we like to stay up-to-date with the latest technology.

 

11.1- Logical DiagramFaroutride Logical Diagram V2 (800px)

 

11.2- Wiring Diagram
11.2.1- Interactive Wiring Diagram
Interactive Wiring Diagram (click on products for more info)

 

Wiring Diagram & Tutorial Change Log

V2017 (prior April 2018)

V2018, rev A (April 2018 to Sept 26 2018)

V2, rev A (Current)

  • Visual Improvements.
  • Double entry gland, in lieu of right angle glands.
  • 2 x 175W panels wired in Series, in lieu of 2 x 160W in parallel (15A breaker in lieu of 40A, 50A MPPT in lieu of 30A, 60A breaker in lieu of 40A).
  • Alternator negative cable to bus bar, in lieu of to B2B.
  • AWG 2/0 and 250A terminal fuse between battery and bus bars in lieu of variable cable gauge (to allow for future expansions); fuse added to inverter branch.
  • 12V LOADS gauge, length and fuse adjusted to use common wire gauge (12 AWG and 14 AWG only).

 

 

11.2.2 – High-Resolution (printable pdf) Wiring Diagram and Tutorial

If that’s a lot to process, check out our Wiring Diagram & Tutorial download (faroutride.com/wiring-diagram). It includes a high-resolution printable PDF and a tutorial that go through the wiring diagram step-by-step:

 

What’s in it for you:

  • Save hundreds of hours of research;
  • Skip the “please review my diagram” on discussion forums;
  • With over 800 downloads, it’s safe to say it’s a tried-and-true design! Build your system with confidence.

What’s in it for us:

  • Buying this diagram and using the product links throughout this website is the best way to say thanks if we were of any help to you 🙂

WE GIVE BACK 10% OF THE STORE PROCEEDS TO THE TRAILS AND TO POW!

(Click here to learn more)

10-percent-back,-FarOutRide-Logo

 

 

11.3- Material List

Click on any product in the wiring diagram above or use the links in the table below. You can use the “Add to Cart” button after this table to add EVERYTHING from the table to your Amazon cart: major components, wires, terminal rings, etc. Use this to replicate our electrical system 🙂

Main System
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
Battery
1 AGM 200 Ah Renogy AGM 200 Ah 12V 1 Amazon
Solar
2 350W Solar NewPowa 175W Mono Panel 2 Amazon
3 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 Amazon
4 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 Amazon
5 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 Amazon
6 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 100|50 SmartSolar MPPT 1 Amazon
7 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 Amazon
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
9 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to 15A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
10 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to 60A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
Alternator
11 Battery-to-Battery Charger (B2B) Sterling BB1260-12 Volt, 60 Amps 1 Amazon
12 Fuse, 70A Blue Sea AMI/MIDI Fuse 2 Amazon
13 Fuse Holder Blue Sea 2 Amazon
14 Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Fuse Holder and Bus Bar (Pack of 10) 1 Amazon
15 Cable, 4 AWG, 15 ft Black + 15ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
Shore
16 50A Charger Samlex SEC-1250UL 12V 1 Amazon
17 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
18 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
19 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to 60A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
20 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
Inverter
21 1000W Inverter Samlex PST-1000-12 PST Pure Sine 1 Amazon
22 Remote Control for Inverter Samlex RC-15A for 1000W Inverter 1 Amazon
23 Cable, 2 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
24 Lugs, 2 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 2) 1 Amazon
25 Terminal Fuse, 175A Blue Sea (To protect inverter’s cable) 1 Amazon
26 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly on the Bus Bar. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 Amazon
Others
27 Terminal Fuse, 250A Blue Sea (Catastrophic Fail Safe) 1 Amazon
28 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly to battery post. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 Amazon
29 System Switch Blue Sea (Main System Switch) 1 Amazon
30 Bus Bar (250A, 6 studs) Blue Sea 2 Amazon
31 Cover for Bus Bar (for 250A 6 studs) Protect the Bus Bar 2 Amazon
32 40A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Fuse Block and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
33 Fuse Block (12 circuits) Blue Sea (12V Distribution Panel) 1 Amazon
34 Fuses Kit Assorted Fuses (2A 3A 5A 7.5A 10A 15A 20A 25A 30A 35A) 1 Amazon
35 Battery Monitor Victron BMV-712 with BlueTooth 1 Amazon
36 Cable, 2/0, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red Between battery and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
37 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 3/8″ Ring Connect to System Switch and Shunt (Pack of 5) 1 Amazon
38 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar, Terminal Fuse Block and Battery (Pack of 5) 1 Amazon
39 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red Between Bus Bar and Fuse Block 1 Amazon
40 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker and Fuse Block (Pack of 3) 2 Amazon
41 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
42 Heat Shrink Tubing Kit (with adhesive) To protect lug after crimping 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart
12V Loads
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 Maxxair 6200K Roof Fan See our Installation or Review article 1 Amazon
2 LED Ceiling Lights See our Review/Wiring article 3 Amazon
3 Dimmer for LED (12V PWM), 2 Zones, Sliders To control intensity of LED lights 1 SuperBrightLEDs
4 Blue Sea 12V Socket 4 Amazon
5 Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM See our Installation article 1 Amazon
6 ON/OFF Switch for Water Pump 1 Amazon
7 Webasto Air Top 2000 STC Gasoline Heater See our Installation article 1 Amazon
8 Propex HS2000 Propane Heater See our Installation article 1 Find Dealer
9 Novakool R5810 Fridge, 12V only 5.8 cubic feet 1 Novakool
10 Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V See our Review article 1 Amazon
11 Nature’s Head Composting Toilet See our Installation or Review article 1 Amazon

Follow the “Buy Link” to choose your 12V loads individually.

Hardware for 12V Loads
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 12 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (12/2), Ancor Marine Grade 100 feet 1 Amazon
2 14 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (14/2), Ancor Marine Grade 100 feet 1 Amazon
3 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 12 AWG Cable, #8 Ring To connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack) 1 Amazon
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 14 AWG Cable, #8 Ring To connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack) 1 Amazon
5 Heat Shrink Butt Connector, Ancor Marine To connect to Loads (75 Pack Kit) 1 Amazon
6 Heat 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)
1 Amazon
7 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 Amazon
8 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female 1 Amazon
9 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 Amazon
10 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 18-22 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 Amazon
11 3M Scotchlok Quick Splice with Gel (14 AWG stranded) We used that to parallel our LED lights (25 Pack) 1 Amazon
12 Split Loom Tubing, 3/8″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 Amazon
13 Split Loom Tubing, 1/2″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 Amazon
14 Split Loom Tubing, 3/4″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 Amazon
15 Nylon Cable Clamps Kit To secure cable/split-loom to wood 1 Amazon
16 Zip Tie Mount with Adhesive To secure cable/split-loom to metal 1 Amazon
17 Nylon Zip Ties Kit To secure cable/split-loom 1 Amazon
18 Rubber Grommet Kit To protect wire from sharp edge (going through metal hole) 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart
Tools
# Item Description QTY Buy Link
1 Crimping Tool, Single-Crimp (8-22 AWG) Single-Crimp should be used with Heat Shrink connectors to prevent tearing the insulation and loose the watertight connection (corrosion prevention) 1 Amazon
2 Cutter / Stripper for 8-16 AWG Stranded Wire Nothing to add! 1 Amazon
3 Hydraulic Crimping Tool (2/0-12 AWG) Provides adequate, repeatable results for larger gauge lugs. 1 Amazon
4 Cutter for up to 4/0 Cable For large gauge cables 1 Amazon
5 Heat Gun for Heat Shrink Connectors 1500W, Dual Fan Speed, Variable Temperature Control 1 Amazon
6 Digital Multimeter (Voltage, Current, Continuity, Resistance) You don’t need it until you need it! Your friend when you need to troubleshoot… 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

 

We spent countless hours trying to make this exhaustive list, but pleaaaaaase let us know if there’s anything missing! (leave a comment at the end of this page)

 

 

PART B: YOUR TURN TO SHINE!

Customization Wizard

Together, we will customize and assemble every single part of your electrical system. For each step below, choose the option you want and click the “Add to Cart” button. Don’t skip a step or your system will be incomplete…

Disclosures:

– The wire diameter (AWG) included are based on the wire length shown in our diagram. It is your responsibility to understand how to select the appropriate wire diameter, since it is very unlikely that you end up with the exact same wire lengths as us!

– This wizard contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant, we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

 

Step 1- Battery Bank

Faroutride-Customization-Wizard(V2,-rev-A)-Battery

Click “+” to choose between AGM or LiFePO4:

AGM

AGM batteries are better for cold temperatures and are more robust (than LiFePO4), so if you plan on installing it under the body of your van that’s the right choice. Choose the total capacity:

100Ah200Ah300Ah400Ah
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 AGM 100 Ah Renogy AGM 100 Ah 12V 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 AGM 200 Ah Renogy AGM 200 Ah 12V 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 AGM 300 Ah Renogy AGM 100 Ah 12V 3 Amazon
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 2 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

Note: The 2/0 cables are to connect the batteries in parallel. It’s important that all the cables are the same length, so resistance is equal and batteries work equally together. That’s why we chose pre-cut and pre-crimped cables.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 AGM 400 Ah Renogy AGM 200 Ah 12V 2 Amazon
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cartf

Note: The 2/0 cables are to connect the batteries in parallel. It’s important that all the cables are the same length, so resistance is equal and batteries work equally together. That’s why we chose pre-cut and pre-crimped cables.

LiFePO4

LiFePO4 are much lighter and can be discharged more without affecting battery life. Choose the total capacity:

100Ah200Ah300Ah400Ah
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 LiFePO4 100 Ah Battle Born LiFePO4 100 Ah 12V 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 LiFePO4 200 Ah Battle Born LiFePO4 100 Ah 12V 2 Amazon
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

Note: The 2/0 cables are to connect the batteries in parallel. It’s important that all the cables are the same length, so resistance is equal and batteries work equally together. That’s why we chose pre-cut and pre-crimped cables.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 LiFePO4 300 Ah Battle Born LiFePO4 100 Ah 12V 3 Amazon
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 2 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

Note: The 2/0 cables are to connect the batteries in parallel. It’s important that all the cables are the same length, so resistance is equal and batteries work equally together. That’s why we chose pre-cut and pre-crimped cables.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 LiFePO4 400 Ah Battle Born LiFePO4 100 Ah 12V 4 Amazon
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 3 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

Note: The 2/0 cables are to connect the batteries in parallel. It’s important that all the cables are the same length, so resistance is equal and batteries work equally together. That’s why we chose pre-cut and pre-crimped cables.

 

Step 2- Solar Power

Faroutride-Customization-Wizard(V2,-rev-A)-Solar

Choose how many watts:

100W175W350W525W700W

This option makes sense if you have a 100Ah battery or less and you don’t have much space on your roof.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 100W Solar Renogy 100W Mono Panel 1 Amazon
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 Amazon
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 Amazon
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 Amazon
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 75|15 SmartSolar MPPT 1 Amazon
6 20A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 Amazon
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 2 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart

This option makes sense for 100Ah battery.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 175W Solar NewPowa 175W Mono Panel 1 Amazon
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 Amazon
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 Amazon
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 Amazon
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 75|15 SmartSolar MPPT 1 Amazon
6 20A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 Amazon
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 2 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

Good option for 200Ah or 300Ah battery bank.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 350W Solar NewPowa 175W Mono Panel 2 Amazon
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 Amazon
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 Amazon
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 Amazon
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 100|50 SmartSolar MPPT 1 Amazon
6 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 Amazon
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to 15A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
9 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to 60A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart

This option makes sense for 300Ah or 400Ah battery bank.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 525W Solar NewPowa 175W Mono Panel 3 Amazon
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 Amazon
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 Amazon
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 Amazon
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 100|50 SmartSolar MPPT 1 Amazon
6 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 Amazon
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to 15A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
9 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to 60A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart

That’s a lot of power!! This option makes sense for battery bank greater than 400Ah.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 700W Solar NewPowa 175W Mono Panel 4 Amazon
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 Amazon
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 Amazon
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 Amazon
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 150|60 SmartSolar MPPT 1 Amazon
6 80A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 Amazon
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to 15A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
9 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to 80A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart

 

Step 3- Alternator

Faroutride-Customization-Wizard(V2,-rev-A)-Alternator

Choose how you want to charge while driving:

B2BNo Thanks

Best charger out there! You invested in a lot in your battery bank, so it makes sense to protect your investment!

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 Battery-to-Battery Charger (B2B) Sterling BB1260-12 Volt, 60 Amps 1 Amazon
2 Fuse, 70A Blue Sea AMI/MIDI Fuse 2 Amazon
3 Fuse Holder Blue Sea 2 Amazon
4 Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Fuse Holder and Bus Bar (Pack of 10) 1 Amazon
5 Cable, 4 AWG, 15 ft Black + 15ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart

Gotcha, then go to next step! You have nothing to click here.

 

Step 4- Shore Power

Faroutride-Customization-Wizard(V2,-rev-A)-Shore

Click “+” to choose your shore charger according to your battery type:

AGM
30A50A80ANo Thanks

Choose this option if you have an AGM battery bank of 100Ah.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 30A Charger Samlex SEC-1230UL 12V 1 Amazon
2 40A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
3 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
5 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart

This option is OK for AGM battery bank 200Ah to 300Ah.

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 50A Charger Samlex SEC-1250UL 12V 1 Amazon
2 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
3 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to 60A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
5 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

Good option for 300Ah -400Ah (or more) AGM battery bank!

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 80A Charger Samlex SEC-1280UL 12V 1 Amazon
2 100A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
3 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
5 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

Gotcha, then go to next step! You have nothing to click here.

LiFePO4
AllNo Thanks

This charger is recommended by Battle Born to charge their batteries:

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 LiFePO4 Charger PD9160ALV 12 Volt 60 Amp 1 Amazon
2 80A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
3 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
5 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

Gotcha, then go to next step! You have nothing to click here.

 

Step 5- Inverter

Faroutride-Customization-Wizard(V2,-rev-A)-Inverter

Choose your inverter:

1000W1500W2000WNo Thanks
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 1000W Inverter Samlex PST-1000-12 PST Pure Sine 1 Amazon
2 Remote Control for Inverter Samlex RC-15A for 1000W Inverter 1 Amazon
3 Cable, 2 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
4 Lugs, 2 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 2) 1 Amazon
5 Terminal Fuse, 175A Blue Sea (To protect inverter’s cable) 1 Amazon
6 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly on the Bus Bar. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 1500W Inverter Samlex PST-1500-12 PST Pure Sine 1 Amazon
2 Remote Control for Inverter Samlex RC-200 for 1500-2000W Inverter 1 Amazon
3 Cable, 1/0, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
4 Lugs, 1/0 Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 2) 1 Amazon
5 Terminal Fuse, 200A Blue Sea (To protect inverter’s cable) 1 Amazon
6 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly on the Bus Bar. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 2000W Inverter Samlex PST-2000-12 PST Pure Sine 1 Amazon
2 Remote Control for Inverter Samlex RC-200 for 1500-2000W Inverter 1 Amazon
3 Cable, 2/0, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 Amazon
4 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 2) 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart

Gotcha, then go to next step! You have nothing to click here.

 

Step 6- Main System Items

Faroutride-Customization-Wizard(V2,-rev-A)-Main

Mandatory
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 Terminal Fuse, 250A Blue Sea (Catastrophic Fail Safe) 1 Amazon
2 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly to battery post. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 Amazon
3 System Switch Blue Sea (Main System Switch) 1 Amazon
4 Bus Bar (250A, 6 studs) Blue Sea 2 Amazon
5 Cover for Bus Bar (for 250A 6 studs) Protect the Bus Bar 2 Amazon
6 40A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Fuse Block and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
7 Fuse Block (12 circuits) Blue Sea (12V Distribution Panel) 1 Amazon
8 Fuses Kit Assorted Fuses (2A 3A 5A 7.5A 10A 15A 20A 25A 30A 35A) 1 Amazon
9 Battery Monitor* Victron BMV-712 with BlueTooth 1 Amazon
10 Cable, 2/0, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red Between battery and Bus Bar 1 Amazon
11 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 3/8″ Ring Connect to System Switch and Shunt (Pack of 5) 1 Amazon
12 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar, Terminal Fuse Block and Battery (Pack of 5) 1 Amazon
13 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red Between Bus Bar and Fuse Block 1 Amazon
14 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker and Fuse Block (Pack of 3) 2 Amazon
15 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 Amazon
16 Heat Shrink Tubing Kit (with adhesive) To protect lug after crimping 1 Amazon
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Add all the items above to your cart

* We highly recommend the Battery Monitor, but you can delete it from your Amazon Cart if you don’t want it (there is nothing else to delete, only item 9)

 

At this point you’ve assembled everything shown below:

Faroutride-Wiring-Diagram-no-loads

It means you have a fully functional system, except for the fact that you don’t have any load to power (lights, fan, fridge, etc). Let’s continue with the 12V loads!

 

Step 7- 12V Loads

Faroutride-Customization-Wizard(V2,-rev-A)-12V-Loads

12V Loads vary with your personal taste, but this is ours as reference:

12V Loads
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 Maxxair 6200K Roof Fan See our Installation or Review article 1 Amazon
2 LED Ceiling Lights See our Review/Wiring article 3 Amazon
3 Dimmer for LED (12V PWM), 2 Zones, Sliders To control intensity of LED lights 1 SuperBrightLEDs
4 Blue Sea 12V Socket 4 Amazon
5 Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM See our Installation article 1 Amazon
6 ON/OFF Switch for Water Pump 1 Amazon
7 Webasto Air Top 2000 STC Gasoline Heater See our Installation article 1 Amazon
8 Propex HS2000 Propane Heater See our Installation article 1 Find Dealer
9 Novakool R5810 Fridge, 12V only 5.8 cubic feet 1 Novakool
10 Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V See our Review article 1 Amazon
11 Nature’s Head Composting Toilet See our Installation or Review article 1 Amazon

Follow the “Buy Link” to choose your 12V loads individually.

 

Step 8- Hardware for 12V Loads

Whatever the 12V loads you chose, there’s a good chance you will need the following hardware to install them!

We chose high-quality marine-grade items, because the last thing you want is having to re-check everything because of a bad or weak connector! Trust us… Also, it’s very frustrating having to stop working because you’re missing that one connector… better buy more than less!

Hardware for 12V Loads
# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 12 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (12/2), Ancor Marine Grade 100 feet 1 Amazon
2 14 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (14/2), Ancor Marine Grade 100 feet 1 Amazon
3 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 12 AWG Cable, #8 Ring To connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack) 1 Amazon
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 14 AWG Cable, #8 Ring To connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack) 1 Amazon
5 Heat Shrink Butt Connector, Ancor Marine To connect to Loads (75 Pack Kit) 1 Amazon
6 Heat 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)
1 Amazon
7 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 Amazon
8 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female 1 Amazon
9 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 Amazon
10 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 18-22 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 Amazon
11 3M Scotchlok Quick Splice with Gel (14 AWG stranded) We used that to parallel our LED lights (25 Pack) 1 Amazon
12 Split Loom Tubing, 3/8″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 Amazon
13 Split Loom Tubing, 1/2″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 Amazon
14 Split Loom Tubing, 3/4″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 Amazon
15 Nylon Cable Clamps Kit To secure cable/split-loom to wood 1 Amazon
16 Zip Tie Mount with Adhesive To secure cable/split-loom to metal 1 Amazon
17 Nylon Zip Ties Kit To secure cable/split-loom 1 Amazon
18 Rubber Grommet Kit To protect wire from sharp edge (going through metal hole) 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

 

Step 9- Tools

Running out of money at this point? Suck it up, cause you can’t build a quality system with cheap tools. Seriously. You want solid, good quality connections that will pass the test of time. There’s nothing more frustrating than troubleshooting on the road…

Tools
# Item Description QTY Buy Link
1 Crimping Tool, Single-Crimp (8-22 AWG) Single-Crimp should be used with Heat Shrink connectors to prevent tearing the insulation and loose the watertight connection (corrosion prevention) 1 Amazon
2 Cutter / Stripper for 8-16 AWG Stranded Wire Nothing to add! 1 Amazon
3 Hydraulic Crimping Tool (2/0-12 AWG) Provides adequate, repeatable results for larger gauge lugs. 1 Amazon
4 Cutter for up to 4/0 Cable For large gauge cables 1 Amazon
5 Heat Gun for Heat Shrink Connectors 1500W, Dual Fan Speed, Variable Temperature Control 1 Amazon
6 Digital Multimeter (Voltage, Current, Continuity, Resistance) You don’t need it until you need it! Your friend when you need to troubleshoot… 1 Amazon
amazon add to cart button
Add all the items above to your cart

 

We spent countless hours trying to make this exhaustive list, but pleaaaaaase let us know if there’s anything missing! (leave a comment at the end of this page)

 

Step 10 – BUILD IT

Good luck with that! Remember you can download our tutorial (faroutride.com/wiring-diagram) to simplify the understanding of the wiring diagram and to get additional hints:

From-Blank-to-Wiring-Diagram-Animated-GIF

 

Step 11 – Don’t forget

to pay your credit card this month! 😛

 

Conclusion

Designing the electrical system is not an easy task; it takes time, don’t rush it. Make sure to clearly define your own requirements and design your system accordingly!

 

Did we miss anything??

 

 

 

ON SECOND THOUGHT…

October 2017 Update: 

(The following text is extracted from faroutride.com/first-month/)

No surprises here, it’s going as planned. The battery state-of-charge (SOC) normally doesn’t get below 80% and is getting charged almost exclusively by our solar panels, except when there are a few days of bad weather then we top up the battery via the alternator. As we mentioned a few times, we would install a Sterling Battery-to-Battery charger (Buy on Amazon) if we had to do it over (so we don’t have to think of charging the battery from the alternator, it’s all automatic with the Sterling charger). Winter will be the real test for our electrical system, so more to come…

March 2018 Update:

We just went through our first (cold) winter as full-timer and we never went out of energy! To learn more about the challenges we faced and how we mitigated them, read our Winter Vanlife article here:  faroutride.com/winter-vanlife

June 2018 Update:

We just upgraded from the Bogart Engineering PWM to Victron SmartSolar MPPT and we immediately noticed more current coming in (24A for the Victron compared to 16A for the Bogart), nice. The SmartPhone app is really cool too, we like seeing historical data about our system performance 🙂

 

 

(Very) Related Article:

 

 

 

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ABOUT US

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

 

205 thoughts on “Electrical System: Build Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion”

  1. Hey guys. Thanks for everything.
    Wondering what you did with the existing wiring in the Transit? I have a 2018 that is in cargo style from Ford and there is a bundle of wires running down the driver-side wall to the back (assume for tail light clusters, cargo lights etc). If you had the same cluster, what did you do with it?
    I’m considering just relocating upward into the ceiling corner, sleeve it in split tube and hiding it behind paneling or ceiling panel.
    Thoughts?

    • We left it as-is and hide it behind the cabinets. We personally wouldn’t attempt to splice it (it’s electronic and it’s super sensitive), but some people have done it successfully.

  2. hey guys! Keith again, I wanted to see if your van currently has the two heavy duty batteries that can come with the transit? we are wondering if its best to add one of the large batteries in addition to our two “under the hood”

    • Yeah we have the dual-batteries option + heavy-duty alternator. You definitely want to add an additional “house” battery to run all your loads (lights, fan, etc) so you don’t drain your van battery.

      antoine

  3. Thanks for the write up. Do you think it is feasible to charge a 150ah AGM battery on just solar alone? We have a 2018 Mercedes Metris with a “smart alternator” and are having a tough time finding the best battery to battery charger. I was thinking in the meantime to just go with a larger battery and see if solar would suffice on its own. We are weekend warriors so we would only run the electric for a day or two and then let it sit for the rest of the week. Let me know what you think… Thanks

  4. Hello, Do you have electrical plans for a 24v LifePO4 bank? The interactive plans you have are just what I need to sort out my campervan, so it would be great if I could purchase that for 24v. I have a 24 v inverter to 110 AC. I plan on having three 260w panels that produce 36v. I may put 2 in series. When using the 24v bank, can you double the solar watts without having to increase the solar charger size, ie could I use a solar charger for 35ow even though I have 700w?

  5. Hi, great write up.
    Do you have any provision for charging the starter battery when parked up i.e. from solar or shore power?
    I have a VSR which allows charge to flow in either direction, so if I connect my shore power charger to the leisure battery, it will also charge the starter battery. I’m thinking of changing to a B2B charger as apparently it does a better job of charging but it seems it’s a one way system unlike the VSR.

    • The Sterling is one-way indeed and we have no provision to charge the van battery. We don’t feel the need for that, as all our loads are hooked to our house battery.

      cheers!

  6. Hey guys,
    love the site. I just got my AIMS Power inverter/charger in and realized there’s no spot to hardwire another AC outlet in…oops. I did some googling and saw that your Samlex inverter doesn’t seem to have a hardwire option either, but I think I saw a wall outlet on your van tour. How did you do it!?