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!

 

 

 


DISCLOSURE:

This post 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.

Portrait
Buying through our product links is the best way to say thanks if we were of any help for your conversion! Thanks for supporting us and for keeping this website alive 🙂

 

Alternatively, you can visit our Say Thanks! page.


 

 

 

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:

We don’t have the actual measurements for winter yet; wait for it!

 

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

First of all, unlike water, a 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)

 

 

 

3.3- Depth of Discharge

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

 

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 (so a 120Ah Lithium battery bank is approx. equivalent to a 200Ah AGM battery bank!)

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.

 

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 the “memory effect”)! 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 and therefore the memory effect.

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 memory effect. 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 it is possible to add a tilt kit similar to this one:

Solar Panel Tilt Kit

Solar Panel Tilt Kit. Buy from Amazon

 

Adding a tilt kit will obviously add weight and slightly raise the panel(s). If we were to park for extended period of time at the same place, we might consider a tilt kit. But knowing that we will move pretty much everyday, we 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 from 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 from 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 from Amazon)

 

5- System Monitor

A system 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 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. A popular option out-there is the Bogart Engineering Trimetric TM-2030; this is what we installed first, but we then upgraded for the Victron BMV-712 because the Bogart is not exactly user friendly to setup and operate and because it looks like it’s 1968…

Our Pick:
Victron BMV-712 System Monitor:

Victron BMV-712

Victron BMV-712 Bluetooth System Monitor. Buy from 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 🙂

 

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.

 

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 from Amazon.

Quality/Price:

Renogy AGM Deep Cycle 200 ah

Renogy 12v 200ah AGM. 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from Amazon.

Zip Ties

Zip Ties. Buy from Amazon

 

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

Nylon Cable Clamps Kit

Nylon Cable Clamp. Buy from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from 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 from Amazon.

Most appliances plug directly into the 12V socket, but for phones or other USB gear we use this:

 

Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM

Installation: faroutride.com/pressurized-water-system

Water 12V Pump

Shurflo Revolution Water Pump. Buy from 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: 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. Buy from Amazon.

 

Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V

Review: faroutride.com/sirocco-fan-review

Sirocco 3-axis Gimbal Fan 12V Black

Sirocco 3-axis Gimbal Fan. Buy from 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 from 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 from 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- 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.

 

10.1- Logical DiagramFaroutride Logical Diagram V2 (800px)

 

10.2- Wiring Diagram
10.2.1- 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).

 

 

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:

1- High-Resolution Wiring Diagram (PDF)

From-Blank-to-Wiring-Diagram-Animated-GIF (V2, rev A)

2- Tutorial

 

NAME YOUR PRICE! Yep, you pay whatever you think our help is worth to you. That means you can get both the wiring diagram and the tutorial for 0$(minimum) or for 100,000,000,000$ (recommended) 😉

Faroutride Sticker (Front and Back with title)

Name a price of 10$ or more and we’ll send you a FREE STICKER!

 

10.3- 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 amzn.to/2pknmU3
Solar
2 350W Solar NewPowa 175W Mono Panel 2 amzn.to/2Ddliai
3 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 amzn.to/2OCxx1r
4 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 amzn.to/2QH05bk
5 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 amzn.to/2R0QqwD
6 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 100|50 SmartSolar MPPT 1 amzn.to/2pk6QDt
7 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 amzn.to/2zo6xh2
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2DdU7wd
9 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to 15A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2MKpXA0
10 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4 Ring Connect to 60A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2RTfk1A
Alternator
11 Battery-to-Battery Charger (B2B) Sterling BB1260-12 Volt, 60 Amps 1 amzn.to/2xx9Yj5
12 Fuse, 70A Blue Sea AMI/MIDI Fuse 2 amzn.to/2OEjUyC
13 Fuse Holder Blue Sea 2 amzn.to/2NTO0RE
14 Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Fuse Holder and Bus Bar (Pack of 10) 1 amzn.to/2OEcJ9K
15 Cable, 4 AWG, 15 ft Black + 15ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2pjodEB
Shore
16 50A Charger Samlex SEC-1250UL 12V 1 amzn.to/2QLIm2q
17 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2po57xe
18 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2xHqQ79
19 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4 Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2CNUvAp
20 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2OzXSgx
Inverter
21 1000W Inverter Samlex PST-1000-12 PST Pure Sine 1 amzn.to/2OJRMdm
22 Remote Control for Inverter Samlex RC-15A for 1000W Inverter 1 amzn.to/2NrFslr
23 Cable, 2 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2No1KVw
24 Lugs, 2 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 2) 1 amzn.to/2pnq8Is
25 Terminal Fuse, 175A Blue Sea (To protect inverter’s cable) 1 amzn.to/2xQUlTS
26 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly on the Bus Bar. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 amzn.to/2IhgFuO
Others
27 Terminal Fuse, 250A Blue Sea (Catastrophic Fail Safe) 1 amzn.to/2pnk4PV
28 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly to battery post. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 amzn.to/2xBUjiq
29 System Switch Blue Sea (Main System Switch) 1 amzn.to/2pjX9VL
30 Bus Bar (250A, 6 studs) Blue Sea 2 amzn.to/2NtNdaU
31 Cover for Bus Bar (for 250A 6 studs) Protect the Bus Bar 2 amzn.to/2QOD72a
32 40A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Fuse Block and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2DdweEY
33 Fuse Block (12 circuits) Blue Sea (12V Distribution Panel) 1 amzn.to/2MLgvMV
34 Fuses Kit Assorted Fuses (2A 3A 5A 7.5A 10A 15A 20A 25A 30A 35A) 1 amzn.to/2PS9wnn
35 Battery Monitor Victron BMV-712 with BlueTooth 1 amzn.to/2QKtf9N
36 Cable, 2/0, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red Between battery and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2QGiKEt
37 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 3/8″ Ring Connect to System Switch and Shunt (Pack of 5) 1 amzn.to/2NTmljY
38 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar, Terminal Fuse Block and Battery (Pack of 5) 1 amzn.to/2IjORWp
39 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red Between Bus Bar and Fuse Block 1 amzn.to/2MPqJMa
40 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker and Fuse Block (Pack of 3) 2 amzn.to/2OFmWCH
41 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2OzXSgx
42 Heat Shrink Tubing Kit (with adhesive) To protect lug after crimping 1 amzn.to/2PQ4yr7
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 amzn.to/2qJCbA1
2 LED Ceiling Lights See our Review/Wiring article 3 amzn.to/2vpyyVs
3 Dimmer for LED (12V PWM), 2 Zones, Sliders To control intensity of LED lights 1 SuperBrightLEDs
4 Blue Sea 12V Socket 4 amzn.to/2JVPypv
5 Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM See our Installation article 1 amzn.to/2J9NqZQ
6 ON/OFF Switch for Water Pump 1 amzn.to/2Oiyhvy
7 Webasto Air Top 2000 STC Gasoline Heater See our Installation article 1 eBay
8 Propex HS2000 Propane Heater See our Installation article 1 eBay
9 Novakool R5810 Fridge, 12V only 5.8 cubic feet 1 Novakool
10 Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V See our Review article 1 amzn.to/2HKy7HR
11 Nature’s Head Composting Toilet See our Installation or Review article 1 amzn.to/2qJOsEA

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 amzn.to/2MRjfrS
2 14 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (14/2), Ancor Marine Grade 100 feet 1 amzn.to/2QeNf38
3 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 12 AWG Cable, #10 Ring To connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack) 1 amzn.to/2OJh4Zv
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 14 AWG Cable, #10 Ring To connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack) 1 amzn.to/2MPcGpY
5 Heat Shrink Butt Connector, Ancor Marine To connect to Loads (75 Pack Kit) 1 amzn.to/2xFGVu2
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 amzn.to/2DoFO7S
7 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 amzn.to/2QPbOVv
8 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female 1 amzn.to/2xGaFa7
9 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 amzn.to/2Nxt2bV
10 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 18-22 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 amzn.to/2I9plmE
11 3M Scotchlok Quick Splice with Gel (14 AWG stranded) We used that to parallel our LED lights (25 Pack) 1 amzn.to/2DobZUY
12 Split Loom Tubing, 3/8″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 amzn.to/2QNd3Ve
13 Split Loom Tubing, 1/2″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 amzn.to/2Dt31WP
14 Split Loom Tubing, 3/4″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 amzn.to/2OGLGKO
15 Nylon Cable Clamps Kit To secure cable/split-loom to wood 1 amzn.to/2QNPtrb
16 Zip Tie Mount with Adhesive To secure cable/split-loom to metal 1 amzn.to/2ppffpi
17 Nylon Zip Ties Kit To secure cable/split-loom 1 amzn.to/2OGM38a
18 Rubber Grommet Kit To protect wire from sharp edge (going through metal hole) 1 amzn.to/2O3G0NU
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 amzn.to/2NXqLWU
2 Cutter / Stripper for 8-16 AWG Stranded Wire Nothing to add! 1 amzn.to/2xG9V4A
3 Hydraulic Crimping Tool (2/0-12 AWG) Provides adequate, repeatable results for larger gauge lugs. 1 amzn.to/2QOpU9r
4 Cutter for up to 4/0 Cable For large gauge cables 1 amzn.to/2Oc7Nfs
5 Heat Gun for Heat Shrink Connectors 1500W, Dual Fan Speed, Variable Temperature Control 1 amzn.to/2NWjKFS
6 Digital Multimeter (Voltage, Current, Continuity, Resistance) You don’t need it until you need it! Your friend when you need to troubleshoot… 1 amzn.to/2DjWdKP
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 amzn.to/2ploDdG
amazon add to cart button

Add all the items above to your cart

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 AGM 200 Ah Renogy AGM 200 Ah 12V 1 amzn.to/2pknmU3
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 amzn.to/2ploDdG
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 2 amzn.to/2D6EGFX
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 amzn.to/2pknmU3
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 1 amzn.to/2D6EGFX
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.

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 amzn.to/2OAHLzm
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 amzn.to/2OAHLzm
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 1 amzn.to/2D6EGFX
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 amzn.to/2OAHLzm
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 2 amzn.to/2D6EGFX
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 amzn.to/2OAHLzm
2 2/0 Cable in 5/16 lugs, 1 feet Red + 1 feet Black Windy Nation Copper Cable 3 amzn.to/2D6EGFX
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 amzn.to/2OEt4er
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 amzn.to/2OCxx1r
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 amzn.to/2QH05bk
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 amzn.to/2R0QqwD
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 75|15 SmartSolar MPPT 1 amzn.to/2pmC1yk
6 20A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 amzn.to/2Dz1cYr
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2DdU7wd
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 2 amzn.to/2MKpXA0
amazon add to cart button

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 amzn.to/2Ddliai
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 amzn.to/2OCxx1r
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 amzn.to/2QH05bk
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 amzn.to/2R0QqwD
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 75|15 SmartSolar MPPT 1 amzn.to/2pmC1yk
6 20A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 amzn.to/2Dz1cYr
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2DdU7wd
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 2 amzn.to/2MKpXA0
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 amzn.to/2Ddliai
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 amzn.to/2OCxx1r
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 amzn.to/2QH05bk
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 amzn.to/2R0QqwD
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 100|50 SmartSolar MPPT 1 amzn.to/2pk6QDt
6 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 amzn.to/2zo6xh2
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2DdU7wd
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to 15A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2MKpXA0
9 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4 Ring Connect to 60A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2RTfk1A
amazon add to cart button

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 amzn.to/2Ddliai
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 amzn.to/2OCxx1r
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 amzn.to/2QH05bk
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 amzn.to/2R0QqwD
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 100|50 SmartSolar MPPT 1 amzn.to/2pk6QDt
6 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 amzn.to/2zo6xh2
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2DdU7wd
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to 15A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2MKpXA0
9 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4 Ring Connect to 60A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2RTfk1A
amazon add to cart button

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 amzn.to/2Ddliai
2 Extension Cables, 8 AWG, 15 ft Red + 15 ft Black With MC4 Connectors 1 amzn.to/2OCxx1r
3 Double Cable Entry Gland For 8 AWG or 10 AWG Cable 1 amzn.to/2QH05bk
4 15A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Panels and MPPT Charger 1 amzn.to/2R0QqwD
5 MPPT Solar Charger Victron 150|60 SmartSolar MPPT 1 amzn.to/2xBpY3U
6 80A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between MPPT Charger & Battery 1 amzn.to/2zned2Q
7 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2DdU7wd
8 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to 15A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2MKpXA0
9 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4 Ring Connect to 80A Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2RTfk1A
amazon add to cart button

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 amzn.to/2xx9Yj5
2 Fuse, 70A Blue Sea AMI/MIDI Fuse 2 amzn.to/2OEjUyC
3 Fuse Holder Blue Sea 2 amzn.to/2NTO0RE
4 Lugs, 4 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Fuse Holder and Bus Bar (Pack of 10) 1 amzn.to/2OEcJ9K
5 Cable, 4 AWG, 15 ft Black + 15ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2pjodEB
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 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 amzn.to/2xy3Ffe
2 40A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2QHQcdz
3 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2xHqQ79
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2QG69RH
5 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2OzXSgx
amazon add to cart button

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 amzn.to/2QLIm2q
2 60A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2po57xe
3 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2xHqQ79
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2CNUvAp
5 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2OzXSgx
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 amzn.to/2plCLn6
2 100A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2xtWhkU
3 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2xHqQ79
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2CNUvAp
5 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2OzXSgx
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 amzn.to/2QIttOx
2 80A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Charger and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2MPR5xs
3 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2xHqQ79
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Ring Connect to Breaker (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2CNUvAp
5 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2OzXSgx
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 amzn.to/2OJRMdm
2 Remote Control for Inverter Samlex RC-15A for 1000W Inverter 1 amzn.to/2NrFslr
3 Cable, 2 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2No1KVw
4 Lugs, 2 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 2) 1 amzn.to/2pnq8Is
5 Terminal Fuse, 175A Blue Sea (To protect inverter’s cable) 1 amzn.to/2xQUlTS
6 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly on the Bus Bar. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 amzn.to/2IhgFuO
amazon add to cart button

Add all the items above to your cart

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 1500W Inverter Samlex PST-1500-12 PST Pure Sine 1 amzn.to/2MN6IpB
2 Remote Control for Inverter Samlex RC-200 for 1500-2000W Inverter 1 amzn.to/2DfoC4T
3 Cable, 1/0, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2pljqCz
4 Lugs, 1/0 Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 2) 1 amzn.to/2xxL42P
5 Terminal Fuse, 200A Blue Sea (To protect inverter’s cable) 1 amzn.to/2R0XF7R
6 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly on the Bus Bar. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 amzn.to/2IhgFuO
amazon add to cart button

Add all the items above to your cart

# Item Description Quantity Buy Link
1 2000W Inverter Samlex PST-2000-12 PST Pure Sine 1 amzn.to/2xygpm4
2 Remote Control for Inverter Samlex RC-200 for 1500-2000W Inverter 1 amzn.to/2DfoC4T
3 Cable, 2/0, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red WindyNation 1 amzn.to/2QGiKEt
4 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Terminal Fuse Block and Bus Bar (Pack of 2) 1 amzn.to/2Oy0zyZ
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 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 amzn.to/2pnk4PV
2 Terminal Fuse Block Blue Sea (Connects directly to battery post. Holds the Terminal Fuse) 1 amzn.to/2xBUjiq
3 System Switch Blue Sea (Main System Switch) 1 amzn.to/2pjX9VL
4 Bus Bar (250A, 6 studs) Blue Sea 2 amzn.to/2NtNdaU
5 Cover for Bus Bar (for 250A 6 studs) Protect the Bus Bar 2 amzn.to/2QOD72a
6 40A Breaker, Toggle Switch Between Fuse Block and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2DdweEY
7 Fuse Block (12 circuits) Blue Sea (12V Distribution Panel) 1 amzn.to/2MLgvMV
8 Fuses Kit Assorted Fuses (2A 3A 5A 7.5A 10A 15A 20A 25A 30A 35A) 1 amzn.to/2PS9wnn
9 Battery Monitor* Victron BMV-712 with BlueTooth 1 amzn.to/2QKtf9N
10 Cable, 2/0, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red Between battery and Bus Bar 1 amzn.to/2QGiKEt
11 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 3/8″ Ring Connect to System Switch and Shunt (Pack of 5) 1 amzn.to/2NTmljY
12 Lugs, 2/0 Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar, Terminal Fuse Block and Battery (Pack of 5) 1 amzn.to/2IjORWp
13 Cable, 8 AWG, 5 ft Black + 5 ft Red Between Bus Bar and Fuse Block 1 amzn.to/2MPqJMa
14 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, #10 Ring Connect to Breaker and Fuse Block (Pack of 3) 2 amzn.to/2OFmWCH
15 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 8 AWG Cable, 5/16″ Ring Connect to Bus Bar (Pack of 3) 1 amzn.to/2OzXSgx
16 Heat Shrink Tubing Kit (with adhesive) To protect lug after crimping 1 amzn.to/2PQ4yr7
amazon add to cart button

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 amzn.to/2qJCbA1
2 LED Ceiling Lights See our Review/Wiring article 3 amzn.to/2vpyyVs
3 Dimmer for LED (12V PWM), 2 Zones, Sliders To control intensity of LED lights 1 SuperBrightLEDs
4 Blue Sea 12V Socket 4 amzn.to/2JVPypv
5 Shurflo Revolution Water Pump, 3 GPM See our Installation article 1 amzn.to/2J9NqZQ
6 ON/OFF Switch for Water Pump 1 amzn.to/2Oiyhvy
7 Webasto Air Top 2000 STC Gasoline Heater See our Installation article 1 eBay
8 Propex HS2000 Propane Heater See our Installation article 1 eBay
9 Novakool R5810 Fridge, 12V only 5.8 cubic feet 1 Novakool
10 Sirocco ii Gimbal Fan, 12V See our Review article 1 amzn.to/2HKy7HR
11 Nature’s Head Composting Toilet See our Installation or Review article 1 amzn.to/2qJOsEA

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 amzn.to/2MRjfrS
2 14 AWG Black/Red Duplex Cable (14/2), Ancor Marine Grade 100 feet 1 amzn.to/2QeNf38
3 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 12 AWG Cable, #10 Ring To connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack) 1 amzn.to/2OJh4Zv
4 Heat Shrink Terminal Ring, 14 AWG Cable, #10 Ring To connect to Fuse Block (25 Pack) 1 amzn.to/2MPcGpY
5 Heat Shrink Butt Connector, Ancor Marine To connect to Loads (75 Pack Kit) 1 amzn.to/2xFGVu2
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 amzn.to/2DoFO7S
7 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 10-12 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 amzn.to/2QPbOVv
8 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Female 1 amzn.to/2xGaFa7
9 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 14-16 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 amzn.to/2Nxt2bV
10 Heat Shrink Disconnect, 18-22 AWG Cable, 1/4″ Tab, Male 1 amzn.to/2I9plmE
11 3M Scotchlok Quick Splice with Gel (14 AWG stranded) We used that to parallel our LED lights (25 Pack) 1 amzn.to/2DobZUY
12 Split Loom Tubing, 3/8″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 amzn.to/2QNd3Ve
13 Split Loom Tubing, 1/2″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 amzn.to/2Dt31WP
14 Split Loom Tubing, 3/4″ diameter 20 feet To protect wire bundles 1 amzn.to/2OGLGKO
15 Nylon Cable Clamps Kit To secure cable/split-loom to wood 1 amzn.to/2QNPtrb
16 Zip Tie Mount with Adhesive To secure cable/split-loom to metal 1 amzn.to/2ppffpi
17 Nylon Zip Ties Kit To secure cable/split-loom 1 amzn.to/2OGM38a
18 Rubber Grommet Kit To protect wire from sharp edge (going through metal hole) 1 amzn.to/2O3G0NU
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 amzn.to/2NXqLWU
2 Cutter / Stripper for 8-16 AWG Stranded Wire Nothing to add! 1 amzn.to/2xG9V4A
3 Hydraulic Crimping Tool (2/0-12 AWG) Provides adequate, repeatable results for larger gauge lugs. 1 amzn.to/2QOpU9r
4 Cutter for up to 4/0 Cable For large gauge cables 1 amzn.to/2Oc7Nfs
5 Heat Gun for Heat Shrink Connectors 1500W, Dual Fan Speed, Variable Temperature Control 1 amzn.to/2NWjKFS
6 Digital Multimeter (Voltage, Current, Continuity, Resistance) You don’t need it until you need it! Your friend when you need to troubleshoot… 1 amzn.to/2DjWdKP
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 (amzn.to/2H7GVui) 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:

 

 

 

STAY IN TOUCH!

Join 15,000+ followers via Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or e-mail:

 

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!

 

154 comments

  1. Comment by Justin

    Justin Reply November 12, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    This site is incredible and has been an fantastic resource for me in my Transit build. The approach you have taken to design your electrical / mechanical services is very well done and thorough! I have spent many years in the commercial mechanical / electrical world (engineering, construction, etc), and your design and execution is on point and professional level (not just your everyday DIY regurgitation of thing you have read other people say). Additionally, you have done an amazing job of making this technical information very consumable and user friendly.

    I love what you have built here, not only in the van, but in the community and on this website.
    Massive Kudos to you.

    With much respect, thank you for your efforts and contribution.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 13, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      Justin,
      Thanks for taking the time to write these words, this is much appreciated, really! We’re glad the information make sense, cause we’re not fans of “oversimplification”; taking a decision is never black & white, there are always trades-off and a design is never perfect… Our goal with the website was to give as much info as possible (so people understand what’s going on), while still keeping things relatively simple and “fun” (people’s attention-span is short these days…).

      Anyway, thanks again and good luck with your build! 🙂

  2. Comment by Terri

    Terri Reply October 12, 2018 at 9:31 am

    How did you connect a fuse to your starting battery terminal for the cable to the B2B? I could have sworn I saw a photo of it somewhere once but can’t find it now.

  3. Comment by Jean-Philippe Gagnon

    Jean-Philippe Gagnon Reply October 7, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Salut!
    Sans votre site, nous n’aurions pas acheté notre van! Merci!
    I purchased the electrical diagram, but from the website, I think you connected your B2B charger directly on the second B+ connector since you have the 2 batteries option, right?
    I am trying to figure out how to connect my B2B (60A) charger from Sterling Power to my Transit single battery. Ford tells us to use the CCPs (Customer Connection Points) for trucks with single batteries. Sterling Power recommends a 70A fuse.
    Given that I have the 60A B2B charger and that the CCP incorporates a 60A fuse, what should I do?
    If I connect the charger directly to the single CCP (60A fuse) wouldn’t I risk blowing the 60A fuse? The 70A fuse wouldn’t be usefull right?
    Should I combine two CCPs together (2x60A) and put the 70A fuse recommended by Sterling Power?

    Thank you so much for your help!

    Merci !
    Jean-Philippe

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 8, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Oui, te connecter au CCP tel que tu l’as décrit devrait fonctionné; certain l’ont fait sur fordtransitusaforum.com . Si tu optes pour cette méthode, utilise des cables de diamètre et longueur identique pour que le courant passe “également” dans chaque circuit de 60A.

      Laisse-moi savoir le résultat! Bonne chance,
      antoine

  4. Comment by Rob Nadolny

    Rob Nadolny Reply October 5, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Hi,
    I noticed on your web page it says you bought a 30 amp charge controller but your interactive diagram says 50 amp.
    Which did you go with and how did you decide how many amps for the controller?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 5, 2018 at 2:10 pm

      Hi Rob,
      We went with the 30A because we have 160W solar panels; now that 175W panels are available, we would go with that along with a 50A controller (the 30A is borderline with 2 x 175W panels).

      Have a good one!

  5. Comment by @EllieInTransit

    @EllieInTransit Reply October 3, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Hey Antoine! I notice that you have the 250amp “catastrophic failure” fuse connected directly to the battery. I haven’t seen many diagrams with this element. I have been advised going from the battery positive terminal to a 90 amp circuit breaker (200amp battery with a max 90amp charging current) to a switch. Any reason you use the 250amp fuse versus a circuit breaker at the max amp output for the battery?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 3, 2018 at 8:52 pm

      Hi!
      Yeah a 90A circuit breaker is fine, as long as you won’t charge or draw (inverter?) more than that! We use a 250A for more flexibility (inverter up to 2000W and multiple charge sources). A 250A circuit breaker is much more expensive than a 250 fuse 🙂

      Have a good one!

  6. Comment by James Sutcliffe

    James Sutcliffe Reply September 22, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Hey, great work providing an amazingly detailed and useful source of information!
    I wondered if you could offer any advice please?…
    I’m trying to achieve a (small) battery system which is easily removed from my camping car (VW Touran) and primarily charged from the alternator.
    Ideally using a wooden box which contains all main components (B2B charger, AGM battery, fuse box and all necessary fuses, battery switch, battery monitor).

    Do you think it would be feasible to have this box easily disconnect from the cables connecting to the alternator?
    So possibly the cables wired from the alternator first go through an inline fuse close to the alternator, then terminate at an inline circuit breaker fixed in the rear of the car; the battery box cables, i.e. the B2B, could then be connected/disconnected as necessary to the inline breaker (possibly with the use of quick release clamp, quick connect plug https://www.amazon.com/AURELIO-TECH-Universal-Connector-Electrical/dp/B0129E1KF8 or coupling latch like this https://uk.rs-online.com/mobile/p/automotive-connectors/7242440/)?
    The circuit breaker would provide a way of safely stopping the signal when the battery box is not connected.
    Perhaps I should also house it in a plastic box with opening lid to give an extra layer of protection when not in use?

    Many thanks,
    James

  7. Comment by Jason Lurf

    Jason Lurf Reply September 13, 2018 at 6:32 am

    Hey, awesome website.

    Here’s a challenge for you since you’re up north: Stay in the Southwest part of the US during the summer months when sunlight is the most intense and the heat is excruciating and log data from your solar setup and see if there’s a difference. Also, I live in the Southwest and added your webpage to an email message I have for stuff like this, so I’m interested in seeing an equation of yours in power consumption for an indoor portable AC unit ran during the night (or day or both) with the long exhaust hose running from the back of the AC unit to your Maxxfan hole and it pulling air from the inside of the van to atmosphere to help push the hot air from the exhaust hose to atmosphere. I don’t have a choice as to where I can stay for school related purposes and work as well as van dwelling reasons. A lot of people say units that use that kind of power drain the hell out of your AC, but there’s websites that review units that use low power consumption for indoor units.

    I’ll never get a window unit. I’ve read reviews about them that say that they’re nowhere near as efficient as the portable indoor ones you plug to a wall and mount the exhaust hose to the window. I work as a CNA at a nursing skill facility and the majority of patients at my unit, in their rooms, have portable AC units with the 4 wheels and the hose going out the window with some stuff surrounding the open space around the hose so stuff doesn’t come in.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply September 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Challenge REJECTED! Sounds awful 😛 We don’t like hot temps, so we stay north in summer!

      You would need a massive battery bank to run an AC, that being said it’s probably possible.

      Cheers!

  8. Comment by Duncan Lance

    Duncan Lance Reply September 12, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    I did not realize that there was so much to take into consideration when looking at the electrical systems of an RV. However, I must admit that I am especially surprised to learn that solar panels can very easily added to them. Of course, I imagine that you would need some kind of electrician to handle the rewiring in order to hook them up.

  9. Comment by Shane

    Shane Reply September 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Hey thanks for an awesome electrical write up! Can’t tell ya how many times I’ve been here while is study up electric stuff… My question is, how did you wire your b2b, is it connected to the ccp provided by ford? or did you connect it to the alternator?

  10. Comment by matthew

    matthew Reply September 11, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Your postings are very much on point for us We hope to be chasing snow et al. I had a couple of questions.

    1) i was initially planning to go with aux alternator to quickly charge lithium house batteries. esp. in cold cloudy areas. After reading your plans I am rethinking my plans. Does high idling charge your house battery, or do you have to drive ? if so how long? I assume this would an issue in sustained cloudy weather
    2) i believe i read your transit is a 250. How do you feel about that decision (re 250 v 350).

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply September 12, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Hi!

      1) We drive. The battery will charge fast up to approx. 85-90%, then the last 10-15% is slow (because the smart charger switch to absorption phase). So it’s hard to reach 100%, you have to drive a few hours.
      2) We’re almost at GVWR (we’re at 8800lbs), so 250 is OK but 350 would be better. The problem with the 350 is I believe there is a sway bar and that reduces the ground clearance…

      Cheers!

  11. Comment by Elle

    Elle Reply August 27, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for your helpful diagram! I was wondering what MPPT charge controller you would recommend for an AGM battery bank of 700 Ah (two 350 Ah batteries wired in parallel at 12V) and 600 Watt of solar (two 300 Watt panels wired in parallel at 12V)?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 28, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Hi,
      you want the 100|50 as it’s rated up to 700W watt of solar: https://amzn.to/2PHWJnY
      If you haven’t built yet, consider wiring the panels in series as it will be more efficient!

      cheers!

  12. Comment by Bridget

    Bridget Reply August 23, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Hi Antoine! I bought the plans and cannot say how helpful your information has been — I don’t know what I would have done without it! I do have a quick question — you mention that the size of the terminal fuse and the size of the wires connecting the battery to the main switch, bus bars, etc. should be driven by the size of the inverter since that is typically the largest load. However, my inverter is tiny – 300W – and the manual recommends a 40A fuse and 8AWG wire. Given that, in my case it seems like the size of the terminal fuse and those wires should actually be driven by the B2B charger (I got the same one you have – so a 70A fuse and AWG 4). Would you agree?

    Seriously thanks again. This resource is invaluable.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 23, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Hi, glad the website is helping 🙂
      I would use the “no inverter” scenario (as noted on the diagram): 150A fuse, AWG 4. So when the B2B + Solar are charging simultaneously, the 70A fuse doesn’t blow.

      Cheers!

  13. Comment by Kevin

    Kevin Reply August 22, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    I see in your most recent diagram that there are no “ground” connections to the vehicle. I’m aware there is no true earth ground when connecting to a chassis. The negatives on the battery and the inverter are simply connected to the negative bus bar, does this represent the extent of the grounding in your diagrammed system?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 23, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      The van and house battery negatives are common, I guess it’s equivalent to grounding…

  14. Comment by Ivan proano

    Ivan proano Reply August 17, 2018 at 5:52 am

    Hi Antoine, thanks for all the great advice. The Sterling B2B only has one spot for a negative cable, so how do I connect it to the alternator ( the ground between the front seats) and at the same time to the negative bus bar?
    Thanks much

  15. Comment by Isak

    Isak Reply August 10, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Is there a reason you don’t have a breaker on the positive wire coming into your inverter?

    You have a breaker/fuse between the positive bus bar and all the other components, so I was wondering your logic behind that.

    Thanks so much, this has been a MASSIVE help!

    Isak

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 11, 2018 at 8:27 am

      The fuse at the battery positive pole is driven by the inverter size; if there’s a failure with the inverter, that fuse will blow.

      We install smaller breaker (or fuse) for others appliances because they “need to blow” at smaller amp. (for example 70 amp for the B2B charger)

      Hope that make sense!

      • Comment by Isak Kvam

        Isak Kvam Reply August 11, 2018 at 2:36 pm

        I thought that was the case. Thank you so much!

  16. Comment by Dick Galland

    Dick Galland Reply August 1, 2018 at 11:05 pm

    Antoine, I recently came upon your excellent site and at the exact moment I am beginning to add the electrics to my custom camper project. I have bought your electrical schematics and purchased thru Amazon most of the items on your shopping list. One thing is unclear to me: you specify several breakers ranging from 40 to 70 amps. However I don’t see a breaker box or any suggestion about mounting or employing those breakers. Can you give me some direction here? Thanks very much. I admire the choices you and Isabelle have made and the way you are realizing your dreams!
    Dick

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 2, 2018 at 10:54 am

      The breakers are not mounted into a breaker box; they’re simply attached to the cabinet using square edge:
      breakers

      Hope that helps!
      antoine

  17. Comment by Matt

    Matt Reply July 29, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    I’m back!!! Things are getting serious over here.

    I initially bought 2 – 350ah batteries. I was planning on putting 540 watts of solar on the roof, but then after researching more, it appeared that I would need an extra panel or more like 700 watts of solar to adequately charge those batteries. FYI I also have a blue seas ACR, and Victron MPPT. I’m a traveling cinematographer and I guestimated I would use 120AH on a heavy work/shoot day. I want to hear your opinion on that number as its almost double yours, and probably very high. I have all the same appliances plus about 40 feet more of LED strips, a 2000 watt inverter/charger, a microwave (would use sparingly – less than 3 minutes a day), and my camera batteries (http://www.red.com/store/products/red-brick-153wh) which are each 153wh/10.4 ah, and charge at 4 amps. So if I’ve done my math correctly to charge 1 of these batteries it will take 3 hours x 44 ahs = 130 AH + my 120AH use – 250AH. I’m not sure if I’m calculating that correctly though. charger (http://docs.red.com.s3.amazonaws.com/955-0038/Power%20Operation%20Guide/Content/6_Chargers/RED_BRICK_Charger.htm)

    The issue is that I’m installing a sailboat hatch in the rear and don’t have the space to put 4 panels so here is my question.

    Option 1: Stay with 3 panels totaling 540 watts and keep both batteries for a bank of 700AH. The bank should never get below 60% SOC

    Option 1: Stay with 3 Panels totaling 540 watts and return one of the 350AH batteries. This would balance out the system and potentially save me some money, except I think after shipping the battery back (160 pounds) I would only save a few 100 dollars max. On a heavy work day with camera charging, I’d be at 40% SOC.

    Option 3: ditch the rear hatch and add another panel to get 700 watts. Don’t really want to go here.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 30, 2018 at 4:48 pm

      Hi Matt,
      First be aware that those LED strips draw a lot of current! We have a 10 feet strip in the garage and it draw roughly 2 amps when on. So 40 feet will draw quite a lot. A few Light pucks draw much less.

      If one battery has 10.4Ah capacity, then it will take about 10.4Ah to charge (OK a little more to account for some loss, so more like 15Ah). So charging a battery doesn’t draw much current, but your computer setup might draw more.

      Option 1 (driving a little will speed-up the charge) or option 2 would be OK, but 700Ah seems like a LOT of battery bank…

      Good luck!

  18. Comment by Seth

    Seth Reply July 25, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    Hey guys, one quick follow up. On your materials list, you’ve linked to the Blue Seas bus bar 150 amp 4 stud with cover, but in the interactive diagram, it’s a 250 amp 6 stud no cover. Any reason to go with the 250 amp with more studs for positive and negative (that’s a difference of about $50)? Bear in mind that I don’t have a Samlex battery charger and I have a 2000w inverter, but all other aspects of my build follow your design exactly.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 26, 2018 at 2:13 pm

      Your 2000W inverter will pull more than 150A; you want your bus bars to have greater capacity than your largest current (which is generally the inverter).

      Good luck!

      • Comment by Seth

        Seth Reply August 3, 2018 at 10:16 am

        Makes sense – thanks again!

  19. Comment by Seth

    Seth Reply July 25, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Hi guys, thanks so much for all the info. It has been indispensable in my own build out. I’ve just donated to get the PDF because I have been planning an electrical system pretty much exactly the same. I’m using your affiliate links to do a major purchase but I am wondering about a few finer details.

    1. The solar leads in your diagram start as 12 AWG and then move to 10. I am assuming this is because you wired them in parallel. If I plan to wire two GS 180W in series, do you know if I can I still use the 15ft 10AWG Amazon product you recommend?

    2. Did you purchase all of your wire from amazon? I can see buying two 100ft spools of the marine duplex for most 12V loads (one 10 AWG and one 14AWG) to save money, but where did you source your single lengths of larger wire (00, 6, 8).

    3. I see you recommend buying various types of crimp connectors. I know that I would need quite a few ring-style connectors, but what are the butt and “Nylon Disconnect” types of connections used for? How many would you say are necessary?

    4. Do you have any AC outlets in the van coming from the inverter? If so, how did you wire the outlets up from the 3 prong connections in the back of the inverter?

    Thanks,
    Seth

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 26, 2018 at 2:26 pm

      1. The extension we recommend is 8AWG; you can use that for sure!
      2. We went to our local shop, it’s called Battery Expert (it’s in Canada, not sure it that exists in the States). You could probably ask in Auto Parts shop and they will direct you to a local shop.
      3. You’ll need butt connectors for permanent connections (light dimmer, to extend a wire too short (shit happens), etc… the quick disconnects are used to connect to the 12V outlet, light switch, water pump (or you could use butt for a permanent connection). Best advice is have a bunch of them of different size; it SUCKS having to stop everything because you don’t have it handy…
      4. We have one AC outlet. We used a heavy-gauge (don’t know the exact diameter) extension cord that we cut. But any triplex wire should be OK (I think they have some at Home Depot or Lowes).

      Hope that helps, good luck!

      • Comment by Seth

        Seth Reply August 3, 2018 at 2:14 pm

        Thanks Antoine! I am getting everything installed today. I couldn’t have done it without your help!

  20. Comment by Robert

    Robert Reply July 18, 2018 at 2:27 am

    Your blog has become (with much much hard work from you) THE internet site for all campervan converters to learn from.
    We’ve recently suffered a dead cell in one of our AGMs and have decided —since we have to replace both batteries— to go lithium.
    Like you Antoine we charge 3 ways=shore via the Samlex EVO 2212, a 160 watt panel to a Blue Sky MPPT controller but we’re adding a Sterling Power BB1230. We’d used the Projecta and it was great but not programmable with lithium parameters.

    Anyway, keep up the awesome work on the van (does it ever end??????) and the blog!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 18, 2018 at 11:49 am

      That’s quite a statement 😛 I don’t know if it’s THE internet site, but hopefully it helps as many people as it can 🙂

      The only thing that prevented us from going lithium is the fact that it cannot be charged when frozen; but since our battery is inside it might be OK… I like the fact that it’s so light weight and can be almost fully discharged. Maybe next van!

      Question: how did you realize you had a dead cell?

  21. Comment by Owen

    Owen Reply July 7, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Hi!

    First off, I just want to say that your site has been an enormous help in preparing me for my own conversion. I’m gonna start next week! Anyway, my electrical system mirrors yours very closely with the 160W panels, charge controller, and loads. However, I was wondering if using a 200amp AGM battery would change the system in any way? Secondly, where and how did you ground your system? Is your negative busbar the only grounded piece in the system and everything gets grounded through that? Sorry for all the questions, I have been doing nothing but research for months and it seems like there are so many ways to do everything.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 8, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Hi Owen!
      We have a 210AGM battery, so of course a 200 AGM will work too 🙂

      There’s no ground in a car; the chassis is like a giant negative bus bar. But we decided not-to use the chassis; all our loads have a negative return wire back to the bus bar (we used duplex wire). We “grounded” our inverted to one of the Ford recommended point in the BEMM.
      And as our wiring diagram shows, the negative of the van & house batteries are common (using a big wire).

      But yeah, installation varies a lot! Good luck!

      • Comment by Owen men Murphy

        Owen men Murphy Reply July 9, 2018 at 6:07 pm

        Thanks Antoine!

    • Comment by Robert Moore

      Robert Moore Reply July 18, 2018 at 9:00 pm

      It is true. You have the best documented conversion, the best step by step approach delineated, the wonderful use of hyperlinks to make finding the parts/pieces easy….just where were you when I was starting out! In fact, finding the parts/pieces takes a lot of time and research.
      You’re downloadable electrical blueprint is outstanding. I just bought/downloaded it even though my overall electrical is done simply because yours is so easy to read/understand.

      On the lithiums, well I was hoping to have gotten 6+ years out of the AGMs 🙁 What causes a bad cell? Sometimes they just happen I think. When our campervan is parked for 3-4 weeks in winter we keep a small ceramic heater plugged in and not just for the lithiums. Lithiums can discharge even when it is freezing and your BMS will allow charging once the temperatures go back up. We grossly oversized our lithium bank on purpose=we’ll have plenty to draw down from as the interior heats back up.
      The best part as you know was my back and actually hefting them…the almost 100 pounds saved on the payload is nice to.
      OK, back at it. We’re working on an 80/20 roof rack that will work with our Vantech mounts. You’re way more stealthy than us!
      Robert

  22. Comment by Matt

    Matt Reply July 6, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    I’m finishing the planning of my electrical system. I’m a bit confused why you chose some of your 12v wire sizes from the fuse panel. Specifically, the Shurflow water pump – you used 10/2 – when the manual for the pump says to – 7.5 amps max – Wire Sizing:as stated in the manul ” Proper wire sizing is required for good pump operation. If the wire is too small, low voltage will affect the pump performance and can create a fire hazard. SHUT OFF POWER TO THE PUMP WHEN LEAVING THE RV UNATTENDED.
    Ft. [m] AWG [mm2]
    0-25 [0-7.6] 16 [1.3]
    25-50 [7.6-15.2] 14 [2.1]
    50-70 [15.2-21.3] 12 [3.3]
    70-110 [21.3-33.5] 10 [5.3]
    Minimum Wire Size for a 10% voltage drop on a 12VDC, 15 Amp
    Circuit. Length is the distance from the power source to pump
    and back to ground.

    You used 10 AWg and it says that is only needed if run is 70-110 feet long.
    And fuses are supposed to be sized to the wire size, not the other way around like you mentioned. You fuse to protect your wires. NOt determine wire size based on the fuse size.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 7, 2018 at 10:38 am

      The recommended fuse is 10 amp (as stated in the spec sheet)
      We have 30 ft distance to pump back to ground, so according to the manual AT LEAST AWG 14 should be used for 10% voltage drop.

      It’s not OK to use smaller wire (i.e. AWG 16, or AWG 18); it’s OK to use bigger wire (AWG 12, AWG 10). Why use bigger wire? To minimize voltage drop OR simply because that’s what you have available at home 🙂

      Remember that as the number increase (AWG 10, 12, 14) the wire diameter is getting smaller, not the other way around.

      Hope that helps!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 3, 2018 at 6:05 pm

      I’m personally not a fan of the all-in-one integrated products; I like to choose each component according to my needs. For example, the inverter size according to my loads, solar charger size according to my solar array, etc. Also it seems this product includes a BlueSolar solar charger while the latest product is the SmartSolar (it includes remote monitoring via a smartphone which is pretty cool).

      That being said, I’m sure it’s fine as long as it answer your needs.

      Cheers!
      antoine

      • Comment by afox

        afox Reply July 3, 2018 at 6:10 pm

        I agree with you that a modular system is better in many respects since it allows you to choose each component. It seems that an integrated product could be quite a bit cheaper (at least cheaper to produce). Mainly, im looking to simplify the installation, and the integrated products result in less wiring/fuses/etc. I searched google a bit and couldnt find any examples of people using the victron easysolar units in vans/small RVs, could be that they are newer products. I still have more research to see if it would work well in the van, can it charge both house and starter batteries, etc.

        Great website you have here!

  23. Comment by jan.axters

    jan.axters Reply July 2, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Hey there, really nice write-up on how to do this, especially the step by step tutorials.

    However, my electrical knowledge is quite limited so can you help me with some questions:

    – I see no earthing connections, don’t we need those in the electrical system for safety?
    – Do you have any good sites to learn more basic electronics for this kinds of stuff?

    Kind regards,
    Jan

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 3, 2018 at 6:10 pm

      Thanks 🙂

      – My understanding is that the car chassis act as a “huge negative bus bar”; in a car there’s no ground per se (the tires isolate the car from earth). If installing radio equipment it’s not the case; but that’s another story!
      – I don’t, but I’m sure Amazon is full of books about that topic! Or Google…

      Cheers!

  24. Comment by Mike

    Mike Reply June 28, 2018 at 1:08 am

    I am gearing up to purchase some wire for my electrical system. I noticed that you have a DC outlet that is run with 8 AWG wire. That seems like a heavy duty outlet? What sorts of things were you planning on powering from that outlet when you decided to make it 8 gauge rather than 12 like the other one. Thanks!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply June 28, 2018 at 10:14 am

      The wire size is always decided by the WIRE LENGTH and FUSE SIZE (not the load size). Here we have 40 feet of length and a 15A fuse; using the Blue Sea Calculator you will find that heavy wire is required 🙂 The initial plan was being able to charge the Mr Heater BOSS in the back and charge a phone/other simultaneously. Now thinking about it, 15A is probably overkill; 10A or 7.5A is probably enough and would allow smaller wire…

      Hope that helps, cheers!

  25. Comment by Gabriel

    Gabriel Reply June 22, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    I see two battery switches in your pictures– what is the second one used for?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply June 23, 2018 at 11:09 am

      Our “old” diagram (as we installed it) has 2 switches and they’re use to power our loads from the house battery OR the van batteries. However, we never used that feature. We recommend to use our new diagram under the section “If we had to start over”… This one has only one switch!

      cheers!

    • Comment by Mike

      Mike Reply June 28, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      That makes sense, the wire needs to be able to carry more load than the fuse. Thanks for clarifying!

  26. Comment by Gabriel

    Gabriel Reply June 14, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    Hey guys, I love what you’ve done here and it’s helped me immensely to understand how to design this.

    Could you help me understand what’s going on with the shunt for the battery monitor?

    Why is there only one connection to the van battery? Why are there any connections to the van battery at all? I thought we were keeping our house battery isolated from the van battery except for what it gains through the sterling B2B charger? Wouldn’t connecting them in this manner drain power from one into the other?

    Thanks for all your help, I can’t express my gratitude enough! –Gabriel

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply June 15, 2018 at 10:23 am

      Hi Gabriel,
      glad we could help 🙂

      1- The shunt has two separate input: one for house battery, one for the van battery. It allows to measure the amperage for both; using both does NOT connect (parallel) the two batteries together.
      2- Both the van battery and the house battery share the same ground (negative). That’s why there is two positive connections (one to the house, one to the van) and only one negative connection.

      Good luck 🙂

  27. Comment by Joey

    Joey Reply June 11, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    Grate job! What software did you guys use to create your diagrams?

    Thanks,
    Joey

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply June 12, 2018 at 10:40 am

      We just used Microsoft Excel!
      We inserted pictures of the components and draw lines between them, that’s it 🙂

      antoine

  28. Comment by wgs.arkitek

    wgs.arkitek Reply June 10, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    I love your website. Your planning and build information is well organized and very useful. Well done! What really sets you apart is the real world information for both winter and summer full time living – including the expense side. I am hoping to finish my conversion and be on the road come September or October. Date depends when my house sells.
    Thank you for everything.
    Bill

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply June 11, 2018 at 10:14 am

      Thanks for the kind words! Glad you enjoy the website 🙂

      Good luck with the transition; it’s a lot of work but once you move into the van it all make sense!
      Cheers!

  29. Comment by Josh Mac

    Josh Mac Reply June 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    Hi there! Great website. Congrats on making excellent life choices!! I’m curious how you grounded your house battery. Are you connected to your main batteries via the negative bus bar-relying on the ground at the main? I’ve used your links for a number of purchases so far. I’m leaning toward using Ctek 250S Dual and Smartpass 120 to isolate my batteries. Its a smart isolator, B2B charger, MPPT charge controller that will trickle charge the main after the house bank is full. Since you guys are so well researched, I’m curious if you considered this method or have opinions? Thanks & safe travels!!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply June 2, 2018 at 8:02 pm

      Hi Josh,
      we have a big wire routed from the van’s battery to the house battery. We don’t rely on the chassis. Our actual setup is shown here: https://faroutride.com/conversion-planning/electrical-system-2017/#8-_Detailed_Diagram

      We definitely considered the CTEK (with smartpass), it’s a great unit! But in the end we chose the Victron because we like that the company is heading towards Bluetooth connectivity (for setup, actual status and historical data). It’s the small details…

      See you on the road 🙂

  30. Comment by Isak

    Isak Reply May 29, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    First of all, thank you SO MUCH for making this in-depth guide. Designing my electrical system would have taken much longer (and had many more headaches) without your guide.

    My question: I’ve had some bad feedback using Blue Sea Systems’ Circuit Wizard, and I’m wondering if you have ever heard of a reason not to use it? The reason I ask: I was using it to determine the proper size of wire for a 70 current load for 4 feet (2 feet there, 2 feet back), and the Circuit Wizard says I should use AWG 8 wire. The problem is that AWG 8 has an ampacity of 40 amps at 140 F according to ampacity charts – which means the wire essentially becomes a fuse! Is there something I’m missing?

  31. Comment by Owen

    Owen Reply May 14, 2018 at 9:57 pm

    Hey!
    I have been on your site a ton lately as I prepare my own conversion process. Great work! I have been tossing around a bunch of different fridge options and can’t decide which to go with. My plan is to buy a 200W solar panel w/charger kit from Renogy but I’m hesitant it will not be enough to power a fridge all the time. Using that kit and a 200Ah AGM battery it seems a little tight. However, I think this is because I’m not considering the duty cycle of the fridge and the fact that it won’t be running all the time. How did you figure out the 35% duty cycle mentioned in your chart? I am currently looking at a DC Dometic with similar style door that uses 40W. I can’t find anything data on these fridge cycle processes. Would love to hear your input!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply May 16, 2018 at 10:27 am

      35% is just a general rule of thumb, this is what most people use and it seems about right.
      I think your 200W/200Ah kit will be OK for summer, but if you get continuous bad weather (clouds) or if you use it during winter (short days) it might be tight; you should then consider charge by the alternator (B2B charger).

      Good luck!

  32. Comment by ALAN

    ALAN Reply May 5, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Your website is one of the best (and most relied upon) for this budding van converter. I am working on a Promaster after downsizing from 20 years of travels in a pickup truck w/slide in camper.

    Your new 15 step electrical Power Point presentation is great! You may want to review step 14, as it does not agree with my TriMetric TM-2030 battery monitor wiring installation directions. You note that “A positive wire is routed from the shunt to the positive post of the house battery.” I believe that the positive wire comes from the back of the monitor/meter, and goes to the positive post of the house battery. The shunt has one post (incoming from busbar) that has negative wires from all loads and charging sources. The other post from the shunt goes out to the negative post on the house battery. If you like, please feel welcome to delete this post after you have read it.

    Thank you again for your tireless work on this website. I am getting ready to make some electrical purchases, and will offer further thanks by using your links.
    alan

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply May 6, 2018 at 10:51 am

      Hi Alan,
      Thanks for writing; there are mistakes here and there and it helps us improve when people are reporting them 🙂

      Since I’m recommending the Victron BMV-712 in the diagram, the instructions are for the Victron and not the Bogart (which we first installed but we are planning on installing the Victron soon).

      Thanks for making the effort to use our links, it keeps us going 🙂

      Have a good one!
      Antoine

  33. Comment by Jano

    Jano Reply May 4, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Félicitations pour votre excellent travail …. Very nice job.

    Could you help me to see clear about your choice between the 30Amp vs 60 Amp for the battery to battery sterling charger. Going with the 60 Amp is not going to be risky for your alternator or your house battery. It would be nice if you expose the logic behind (or the math).

    Thank you again … hope one day to ride MTB with you guys

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply May 4, 2018 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks!

      The Ford Transit comes with a 150 amp alternator and we believe the van’s electrics use about 80 amps max (worst case). That leave 150A-80A = 70A for charging the van’s battery and for charging the house battery (via the b2b charger). In our case we ordered the Heavy Duty 230A alternator so our “safety margin” is even larger.

      Remember that the charger pulls 60 amps during the bulk charge only; so from 80% (approx) to 100% the current is much smaller than 60 amps. In summer, our battery rarely go below 80% so the b2b charger would almost never pull 60A. In winter, we often see the battery at 50%-60% and we rely almost entirely on alternator charging, so having 60A instead of 30A decrease the time we need to spend driving.

      Bottom word, check your alternator on your van and choose the appropriate charger 🙂

      Voilà! Hope that helps!

  34. Comment by Duane

    Duane Reply March 26, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Sorry about this question – tried Sterling’s website – but can my 2018 Transit’s 220 Amp alternator be handled by the Sterling B2B charger? I would think so, but thought I’d ask. I’m not even sure how my ordered van’s 2 factory batteries interact with each other in this regard. Does one get drawn down, and the other stays charged when the engine is not running for starting considerations later? The B2B charges sounds good in theory.

    Thanks for all your answers! I dropped some US$ into your PayPal kitty for all your detailed workups.

    BTW: the snow is still great in the Canadian Rockies!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply March 27, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Oh yeah, the b2b is rated 50 amp and your alternator 220 amp; it will work just fine!

      The 2 Transit’s batteries are connected in parallel, meaning that they act just like 1 big battery.

      Thanks for leaving some tip, this is much appreciated 🙂
      Have a great day!

  35. Comment by Brendan

    Brendan Reply February 13, 2018 at 2:01 am

    Hi Antoine! You might as well be my homepage these days…great stuff here! Thanks!
    We are converting a transit and plan to live in mountains all year in Canmore, AB. Now that you have some more winter experience, what is your Ah per day usually? Was your summer usage close to your forecasted?

    Because of our location, we are hoping to put 3x160W panels up top. Initially thought 250Ah for AGM battery, but now thinking 250Ah lithium instead (or 410Ah AGM as comparable). We are local to Canmore, so won’t be driving very much, so figured increasing house battery size would be worth while. We will have shore power access periodically as well so will having inverter/charger combo.

    Would you have rather a larger house bank? And, in your experience/knowledge, is the less space and lighter load worth the extra cost for lithium?
    Much appreciated!!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply February 13, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Hi Brendan,
      we haven’t measured our exact Ah but it feels like our assumptions were correct (summer/winter).

      We’re happy with our battery / solar sizing, we never went below 65% SOW. Winter is a challenge because days are really short and combined with cloudy weather we get almost nothing from solar. In our case we drive almost everyday so that’s how we maintain our charge. In your case, more Ah wouldn’t hurt for sure! Any opportunity to save space /weight should be seize, but I was under the impression that Lithium batteries should not be charged when frozen so way stayed away from them… have you found different info about that?

      Cheers!
      P.S. We’re in Fernie right now and are heading soon to Kicking Horse, we see you there??

      • Comment by Brendan

        Brendan Reply February 23, 2018 at 1:16 pm

        Hi Antoine! Thanks for the response and info. Indeed, recharging is our primary concern with Lithium; we figured we could keep the Espar gas heater going to maintain above zero…not ideal.

        I was actually down in Lake Tahoe for a ski trip…not great snow like last year! Hope you got some champagne powder while you were in Kicking horse. Would be awesome to shred some lines with you. Beer is on me!

        • Comment by Antoine

          Antoine Reply February 24, 2018 at 9:40 am

          No fresh snow since we got to Kicking Horse, but we found some good stash out of bounds. There is some snow on the forecast now, I think we will spend the week in Rogers Pass. Should be good!

  36. Comment by Nick

    Nick Reply January 28, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Do you know what kind of Ah you are getting from your 320W of solar in summer vs winter? I’m trying to figure out ifhttp://pvwatts.nrel.gov/pvwatts.php is accurate. For Denver Colorado it shows those panels making on average 126Ah a day in May, and 37 in December if they are mounted flat on the roof. Would you say this is accurate?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply January 28, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      To measure our input, we would have to shut down all of our loads (fridge, fan, etc) and we’re not in a position to do that! 🙂
      These numbers seems on the high side to me…I would say 80-100Ah summer and 15-30 December, but that’s a guesstimate. We worked with these numbers while designing our system and it seems to make sense in the real world.

      Good luck!

      • Comment by nick

        nick Reply January 29, 2018 at 1:30 pm

        thanks!

  37. Comment by Joey

    Joey Reply January 24, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    Hey Antoine,

    How did you mount your circuit breakers? In the photos it looks like a small L bracket

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply January 25, 2018 at 8:55 am

      You’re correct, just a metal L bracket!

      • Comment by Taco Otten

        Taco Otten Reply May 11, 2018 at 10:02 am

        Why do you recommend the samlex charger over progressive dynamics?

        • Comment by Antoine

          Antoine Reply May 13, 2018 at 9:51 am

          Hi,
          Our research led us to Samlex and we highly recommend it; it doesn’t mean that we DON’T recommend other brands (such as progressive dynamic). It would be impossible for us to review all the brands available, there are so many options. So if you did your own research and found another reliable brand, go for it 🙂

          Cheers!
          Antoine

  38. Comment by Nick

    Nick Reply January 2, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks! I’m in the beginning stages of planning my electric system and I didn’t know if not meeting the recommended charge amperage had a detrimental effect on the batteries. I’m not planning on solar at this time.

  39. Comment by Nick

    Nick Reply January 2, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    I’m confused by your battery / charger choice. Your battery spec sheet says it recommend a charge of 46a, but the charger you went with is 30A? How come you didn’t go with the 50A samlex?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply January 2, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      Our 1000W inverter is not powerful enough for a 50A charger. Most of our charge is perform by solar anyways, at a rate of 15A average which is far from 46A. I think a good charge profile and cycle is better than aiming for the 46A. Of course if your electrical-system can take it, go for it!

  40. Comment by Scott Matthews

    Scott Matthews Reply November 21, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Hello,
    I am curious if you are happy with the size battery you chose. How long are you able to run for unplugged without going below 50% during the winter? Also does your monitor show how many amps you are pulling from your alternator. I am trying to decide if I need to get the larger 220amp alternator on my transit.

    Thanks,
    Scott
    Boulder CO

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 21, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      We don’t have much experience with winter yet, but our last winter two-weeks trip indicated us that charging from the alternator in winter is mandatory (I would say at least every other day, but this is just a guess).

      Our monitor shows us the AMP going into the house battery, so yeah. However, we have a 30amp charger so we will never pull more than that from the alternator.
      If we had to start over, we would get a Sterling B2B charger (it’s 50amp): http://amzn.to/2BcdxfR.

  41. Comment by Brian J

    Brian J Reply November 8, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    Good points! If I understand your electrical diagram correctly, (and I ask this, because our van came with an inverter and smart charger, but nothing to charge from alternator so we’re in a similar situation) your inverter is always taking power from the van battery, and unless turned off, could drain it down? Also (and this is just so I can understand) looks like you don’t have provision to power the inverter from the house battery, which would rule out AC loads while boodocking? Could you theoretically run the positive house battery and positive van battery into a switch, and decide which battery to power the inverter with? You wouldn’t want the house battery powering the inverter which powers the smart charger which charges the battery though…. :/

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 8, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      “You wouldn’t want the house battery powering the inverter which powers the smart charger which charges the battery though…. :/”

      Yeah, I wouldn’t go that route because an error could be catastrophic…

      – The inverter is always taking power from the van battery, so it could drain it down. We’re monitoring the van battery voltage with the Bogart AND our 120V needs are modest (laptop, milk frother, electric toothbrush. that’s it) so we’re not worried.
      – We have no provision to power the inverter from the house battery, because again we have modest needs AND we have the van’s dual battery option (140Ah I believe).

      Again, using a Sterling B2B to charge the house battery AND hooking the inverter to the house battery would solve all of this! (no inverter connected to the van battery in this option)

      cheers

      • Comment by Brian J

        Brian J Reply November 8, 2017 at 9:12 pm

        You make a strong case! I’d prefer to limit the number of devices necessary, but in this case it seems like the B2B would make things much simpler. Thanks!

  42. Comment by Brian J

    Brian J Reply November 8, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    My next project – battery charging and monitoring! Highly considering getting an amp-hour meter such as the Bogart or Victron. Are you still happy with how yours works? Tech guy from Renogy told me on the phone that you can use 12.1V on the solar charge controller to guess 50% charge capacity on the battery, but I can’t find math to support this. Any knowledge or first hand experience here?
    Also, planning to charge house battery from car batt or alternator. You mention you’d prefer to get the Sterling Battery to Battery charger (~$350) if starting over, but the Blue Sea charging relay ($80) seems like it would do the same thing..? Is there a reason you prefer the charger over the relay?
    THANK YOU!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 8, 2017 at 7:48 pm

      To read the voltage of the battery, you will have to disconnect the solar input AND the loads for a few minutes (you can use a breaker for that) because the voltage reading will be false. It’s up to you to decide if you can live with that or not. We’re glad we have a battery monitor to get the exact % SOC of the battery AND to have the instantaneous amp-draw. It teaches us a lot about our consumption AND about the input as well (we learned that the solar input drop A LOT in autumn…).

      The sterling is a smart charger (3 ou 4 phases if I recall); it will make sure to optimize the charge profile and to maximize your battery lifespan. It will also wait for you van battery to be full before charging your house battery (because starting your van is the priority!). The relay is not smart, but it’s good to give your house battery a boost (bulk charge); then the solar will take care of the rest (absorption and float charge). I would personally get the sterling, because I regretted the decisions that were taken to save money!! Build it once, build it good!

      Good day!

      • Comment by Mike

        Mike Reply January 21, 2018 at 1:18 pm

        Thanks for clarifying those differences. I find myself pondering the same question. That helps!

  43. Comment by Morgan Brosnihan

    Morgan Brosnihan Reply November 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Thanks! We’re working towards full time dwelling, but I have an on site job so we figure at least 20-40 mins of driving a day depending on where we sleep. That makes sense about the panels getting that extra boost. How long can your power system run off just the solar panels? For instance if you are parked for a few days how does that work? Your blog has been immensely helpful to help organize the planning of ours and see things we didn’t think of btw. So thank you for putting so much effort into this.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 8, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      If it’s summer and relatively sunny, we charge exclusively from the solar panel (no help needed from alternator). The battery will be back to 100% at around mid-day.
      If it’s cloudy for a few days, we need some help from the alternator.

      If you’re thinking full-time dwelling, I HIGHLY recommend solar panels AND alternator. Running out of electricity (and worrying about that all the time) is not an option.

      Good luck with the planning!
      antoine

  44. Comment by Morgan Brosnihan

    Morgan Brosnihan Reply November 7, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Hi! Do you think your power system would be sufficient without the solar panels? I am in the process of deciding if they are necessary for my build. It seems that solar is a good supplemental option but I’m having a hard time deciding how much it can do on it’s own and whether it can be done away with if the van is run a couple times a day. What are your thoughts?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 8, 2017 at 7:43 am

      I think it could work, except I doubt the battery will reach its full charge (100% SOC) and that you might get below 50% more often, reducing the battery lifespan.

      We said our consumption is about 50A per day, roughly.
      Let’s say you get a sterling B2B charger that has 50A output; it means in one hour drive your will get the 50A that your consumed back; so you’re even, right? Nope, because it’s a smart charger and the closer you get to 100%, the less charge output it gives. In other words, it takes quite a while to get from 85% to 100% SOC. That’s where the solar panels will help.

      Of course it also depends on the appliances you’re running and the drive duration…

      If you’re just using the van for the weekends or for 1-2 weeks vacation it could probably work, because you could charge the battery from a 120V battery charger back to your home.

      Good luck with your decision!

  45. Comment by Carlos

    Carlos Reply October 23, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Are you on YouTube? I would love to see your van in a video!!! Also explaining your conversion and more

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 23, 2017 at 9:48 am

      It’s on the to-do list, but we have a few more things to do before!
      We’ll let you know!

  46. Comment by john wright

    john wright Reply October 2, 2017 at 9:21 am

    So with a 440 amp AGM battery bank, one would charge at 20% of capacity. So if batteries are at 50% and you are only charging with the alternator, it would be at least 4-5 hrs of hwy driving to bring them back to 100%? Is that correct? Seems to take a long time to charge AGM batteries, especially the last 10%.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply October 2, 2017 at 10:09 am

      “one would charge at 20% capacity”; can you specify how you assume the charge is performed? It’s hard to calculate time exactly, because like you mentionned, smart chargers slow down in the last 10% charging phase.

      We’re using a 30amp charger; the more amp your charger, the faster you will charge. But yeah, 440Ah is a huge battery, it would take a few hours to charge. In real-world, our 210Ah battery rarely go below 80% and is back to 100% by mid-day, charging with solar or alternator or both.

  47. Comment by Meredydd

    Meredydd Reply September 29, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Thanks. You’ve linked to the 100W dimmer — would the 60W dimmer be OK for four lights?

    Jonesing for your third part of the electrical write-up! (nudge, nudge….)

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply September 29, 2017 at 8:48 am

      The lights are spec as 3W each, so 60W will be fine!
      See my previous comment about part III 🙂

  48. Comment by Meredydd

    Meredydd Reply September 12, 2017 at 5:44 am

    Hi guys,

    First thanks so much for the detailed write up.

    I am about to order lighting and cannot find the reference/link to dimmer switch that you used with your LEDs. I will have 8 lights (2 x 4) and will use a single zone dimmer on each set (so, two separate dimmers) You bought the dimmer from SuperBrightLEDS?

    The lights have been ordered from Amazon through your click-through. Hpe that helps.

    Meredydd

  49. Comment by Anthony

    Anthony Reply September 9, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    Hey Guys,

    We chatted on IG for a sec, the guy in Portland that likes beer (one of many). Anyhooo, I ordered all my electrical parts via your Amazon links, about $2.5k. Hope that helps the piggy bank a bit. I did have a question about how you wired your LED ceiling lights. Did you wire each section of lights in a series or parallel? Did you run an led driver, or just 14 AWG from the dimmer then split to each led light, or tie them in a series?

    Any help you can offer is appreciated. Hope the road is treating you well. Fall is an awesome time to be on the bike.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply September 10, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Thanks SO MUCH for using our links!

      Each LED is wired in parallel.
      We ran a “main” 14AWG wire from the fuse panel to the dimmer, then to the last LED, and we spliced the main wire for each LED using this:
      https://www.etrailer.com/Accessories-and-Parts/3M/804C.html

      Hope that makes sense?!
      Let me know,
      Antoine

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 17, 2017 at 8:19 am

      Not familiar with this product so i’m not in a position to comment, but it seems similar to Goal Zero which make good quality products. They’re “plug-and-play” systems so you don’t have to design & build your own system, but they’re expensive to buy and to expand. If you’re not at ease with going the DIY way, I think that’s a good solution.

      Good luck!

      • Comment by Nick

        Nick Reply August 23, 2017 at 11:27 am

        Thanks for the quick reply! I ended up going with a plug-and-play, Goal Zero Yeti 1000 through Costco. Its a lithium system which is the direction i wanted to go, now onto planning how to hook lights, fans, and appliances up to it…

        • Comment by Terence Moores

          Terence Moores Reply October 3, 2018 at 12:22 am

          Nick, any feedback on how this has worked for you? What are you running off of it?

  50. Comment by Aaron Traxinger

    Aaron Traxinger Reply August 16, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Electrical question: You mention that you have a sound system. Does this just mean the Transits stereo? If so what do you have to do to listen to the stereo when not driving. I only have experience with everyday cars so I am used to the case where to listen to the stereo system you have to have the key in accessory mode.
    Is this true for the Transit?
    I am thinking of using a LFP battery from a local Montana LifeBlue company and charging it with a Sterling B2B charger/MPPT solar/and inverter-charger. The schematic I am trying to wrap my head around is how to run the Transit Stereo off the “House-Battery” (getting the dual battery options w/ upfitter switches). It appears that the B2B charger maybe isolates the house battery from the starter battery?? (at which point, how do you connect the house battery to the transit stereo, a relay maybe?) I fear that if I keep typing I might start going in circles here so I will end on what is possibly an incomplete question.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 17, 2017 at 8:40 am

      We just installed (yesterday, on the road!) a Joying Car Stereo (http://amzn.to/2vG1w1b) and plan on upgrading the factory speakers with JLB speakers (http://amzn.to/2w4S8Wf). The Joying is an Android radio, we’re new to this but very impress so far!! (it has google map, spotify, gmail any app really and can synchronize with your phone screen).
      Back to your question: we use the van stereo while driving (from the van’s dual battery) and we’re using two Bluetooth speakers Oontz Angle 3XL (http://amzn.to/2uLyIFY); why 2? because they pair together for a stereo sound; the sound is actually really impressive (but don’t expect too much bass out of it).

      The Sterling B2B won’t combine house & van batteries. But i’m sure you could have a switch, somehow, to power your stereo from either the van battery OR the house battery. I’m sure it’s documented somewhere on the internet! Let us know!

      Happy Googling 🙂

  51. Comment by Michael

    Michael Reply August 4, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Antoine,
    Quick question on your LED lighting: Did you wire the lights in series or in parallel?

    Thanks for the great site!
    Michael

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 4, 2017 at 6:26 pm

      Parallel!
      I think the LEDs go banana if wired in serie, so i read somewhere.

      cheers

  52. Comment by wes greenwood

    wes greenwood Reply July 25, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Hey Antoine,

    We are getting close to the install of our solar system.

    I have a question regarding the use of an inverter/charger and how using one may alter your electrical diagram (which Id love to copy).

    I am assuming that an inverter charger would fit into your diagram nicely with the separate inverter and battery charger deleted.

    I’m also assuming that utilizing the alternator to charge would also be possible with the same 3 way switch set up as found in your diagram but perhaps I am missing something.

    Let me know if you have any suggestions as to how the diagram may change based on using an inverter/ charger combo!

    Appreciate any input you have! Super stoked for you guys to start your adventure!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply July 26, 2017 at 8:06 am

      Hi Wes!

      Yes, the inverter/charger would do just fine by deleting the inverter + converter. To charge from the alternator, I would go with a Battery-to-Battery charger (http://amzn.to/2uwqfEE) to get a nice 3 stages charge. If I was to redo our electrical system, I think this is exactly what I would go for… It’s a bit more expensive than our actual setup, but it eliminate the risk of draining the van battery (since the inverter is powered from the house battery).

      Oh, and with the B2B charger, I don’t think you need a 3 way switch. Just connect the B2B and the inverter/charger to the house battery bus bar (this is what my guts tell me, but you might want to confirm that on the Transit Forum…)

      Good luck! Happy conversion! (keep us updated!)

  53. Comment by Wes Greenwood

    Wes Greenwood Reply April 22, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Antoine,

    Another question… I swear if I had a penny every time I change my mind on things, I could pay someone to do this conversion for me lol.

    Just thinking out loud here… if I leave a conduit open from my vehicle battery to my house battery to fish wires through later, theoretically I could add the sterling battery to battery charger at a later time if I felt it was needed, right?

    Just thinking that if I set my system up the same as yours, but with an mppt controller and more solar power, 520w worth, the sterling charger might not be necessary but could be added later if needed.

    Thoughts?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply April 22, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      Haha I can soooo relate to this. Dude this is probably the most exhausting part of the conversion. Constantly questioning your decisions and arguing with the other half! Get used to it 😛

      You can definitely add the charger later. You will have a bus bar for your battery positive and negative right? Just keep a terminal available for later (on the + and -).

      We barely use the alternator charge in summer, but the alternator is very important during the winter months (short daylights and snow on the panels).

      antoine

  54. Comment by Wes Greenwood

    Wes Greenwood Reply April 20, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    I’m going to go with your two suggestions on the mppt charge controller and the battery- to – battery charger. I like the idea of not having to turn the inverter on to charge the battery, only when needed for 120v loads. It seems like a neat little device!

    I’m going to owe you quite a few beers if we ever meet up on our travels!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply April 20, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      We’re beer geeks, we’ll do anything for good craft beer! 😉

  55. Comment by wes greenwood

    wes greenwood Reply April 16, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    Hey Antoine!
    I am going to be installing a solar system in my Ford Transit this summer and plan to copy you setup to a T. Only difference is slightly larger solar panels since the cost is right.
    Anything that you would modify in hindsight? Is everything running as planned?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply April 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Hey!
      It’s working great! Maybe install an MPPT charge controller in lieu of the Bogart (not that we don’t like the Bogart); I would install a Sterling B2B charger for install-and-forget charging from alternator and plug the inverter to the house battery. I think that’s it!
      I’m following your build with interest! Good luck!

  56. Comment by Gary

    Gary Reply April 8, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    What dimmer switches did you use?? Also do you find 10 lights is too many, I was looking at picking up 6 or 8, but I can’t find the lumen output described anywhere.

  57. Comment by Richmond

    Richmond Reply March 29, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Awesome job guys! This is a ton of great information. I worked as a solar and battery engineer and am impressed!

    There are a couple of things that I wanted to comment on:

    – For silicon solar panels, bypass diodes are at the panel level, so if one cell is shaded, the whole panel is still not outputting anything. The purpose of the bypass diode at the panel level is for connecting panels in series (to get a higher voltage for commercially installed systems). Since you connected two panels in parallel, if one cell is shaded on one panel, the other would still output normally even without a bypass diode.

    – All batteries are also affected by warm weather. These batteries are designed to operate at 25C. Increasing every 10C will cut the battery life in half. This means, if you use your battery on a hot day and use a full cycle, it really counts as two cycles. Even if you don’t use your battery at all, the warmer temperature will degrade the pack!

    – You should do some accounting for the aging of your battery as well, or at least make plans to supplement or replace your battery if needed when it ages. I think assuming 5-10% degradation per year for a lead acid pack is reasonable. Of course this depends on the weather you’re in, how much you use the batteries, etc.

    Seriously awesome job on the details.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply March 29, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Hey Richmond,
      thanks for your input! We will add your comments to the page soon 🙂
      I’m surprised about the partial shading; I was under the impression that only a third (or something) of the output was lost. Too bad 🙁

      Don’t hesitate if you have more comments (good or bad!).

      have a great day!

  58. Comment by Serge

    Serge Reply February 10, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Hello Antoine,
    I would like to know about your ceiling lights are enough bright for your installation?
    Thanks

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply February 10, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      They are perfect, we would not change anything about that! I highly recommend a dimmer as well for ambiance but also to save power.

  59. Comment by Gerald Marsh

    Gerald Marsh Reply January 23, 2017 at 1:44 am

    Yours is the best electrical description I have seen in this forum. Great detail with the drawings. Batteries provided by Ford even with the dual setup are still quite small by RV standards. Looking at large motor homes you will find at least 2 8D size batteries for the house and 1 8D for the vehicle in addition to a large generator. Your choice of the Ford 230A alternator is a good requirement for anyone wanting to modify a Transit for RV use, of course this option does include the dual van batteries and the switch panel. Choosing the large house battery is a must when connecting large inverters and wanting to have AC powered equipment. You should always use sine wave inverters to prevent damage to some electronic equipment and power supplies. Watch out for heat build up in your electrical cabinets when operating chargers and inverters. I have my T150 wired with a a house battery, inverters, and the ability to jumper to the van battery for charging or starting. The Ford battery provided with the single battery installation has a small capacity and easily discharges to the point the vehicle will not start if an accessory is left on with out the engine running. Anytime the vehicle voltage goes below 11 volts, you may not have sufficent power in the battery to start- I know from experience. (single battery installation). Thanks again for such an informative discription of your conversion.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply January 23, 2017 at 7:55 am

      We are monitoring the van battery voltage, but still, we should probably add a low-voltage cutout switch to prevent draining the battery… we plan on using the van battery only for “backup”, when the house battery is running low.
      We left a channel for heat evacuation in our cabinet, but we could add a computer fan as required. Time will tell.

      Thanks for the tips and for the compliment!
      Have a great day!!

  60. Comment by Terri

    Terri Reply December 8, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    I have a question about the 90 degree cable glands you used to bring the solar panel wires through the roof. Did you use existing holes in the roof? Does the locknut secure it in place pretty well? Another question: The description of the gland says it accepts a range of cable diameters. Are they adjustable? I think our panel comes with 10awg mc4 leads. We’ll probably mount it on our Transit next week.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply December 8, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Hey Terri,
      I don’t think there is holes on the Transit roof, so we had to drill them our-self. Here is the install post: https://faroutride.com/solar-panels-installation/.
      The locknut secure the gland in place pretty well, yes. But we still recommend to seal them with Dicor self-leveling sealant, if not water will ingress for sure.
      Once you pull the cable in, you have to screw the nut and this will tight the gland on your cable; so yes, it is “adjustable”. Make sure to follow the spec and choose the appropriate one though (spec example: Cable diameter approx – 0.19″ to 0.39″).
      Good luck with the installation! 🙂

  61. Comment by The Interstate Blog

    The Interstate Blog Reply December 7, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Your thinglink depiction is awesome! Thanks so much for this!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply December 7, 2016 at 8:20 am

      🙂

  62. Comment by Dave Orton

    Dave Orton Reply December 4, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Have you had any problem using the 1000 watt vehicle powered inverter with the Transit? Do you have the dual batteries? Are you careful not to use the Transit electric air heater at the same time? The air heater is on if temperature dial is fully clockwise and engine water is cold.
    My plan is to use the remote 12 volt terminal to get power from one of the User Defined Switches. That way inverter automatically turns on with ignition in the on position or engine running. Do not use the ignition on position so that should not be an issue.
    My 1000 watt vehicle powered inverter is installed but not yet wired.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply December 4, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      No issue with the 1000W inverter whatsoever. We have the dual batteries: the inverter positive is connected directly to the positive pole of the van batteries; the negative is connected to the ground point located in between the driver & passenger seat.
      About the “electric air heater”: are you sure the Transit is equipped with the said feature? I could not find anything about that in the manual nor the BEMM. Winter has come here in Quebec, i wish it had the feature but i really doubt as my windows wont defrost until the engine is warm… (i have turned the heat all the way up)
      We had a few occasions where we started the engine while the inverter was running at the same time, no explosion so far!

      Thanks for stopping by Dave, you are a big inspiration for our electrical system!
      Cheers!

  63. Comment by Mike

    Mike Reply November 23, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Thanks so much for the information. It really is like a big puzzle!
    Best regards,
    Mike

  64. Comment by Mike

    Mike Reply November 22, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Antoine,
    Thanks for the response! Just a couple questions, because I am not an electrical person. What are the amp ratings for your shunt off the house battery, and the fuse between the 3-way switch on your Vehicle batteries? I do not have that but maybe I should? I have 3 x100ah Agm’s in parallel for my house bank and my inverter is a 2000watt.

    I’m wondering because I like your Samlex charger /converter idea..
    Thanks again!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply November 22, 2016 at 11:47 am

      The shunt is 500A (Amazon link) with a 0.1mV per amp precision (a 100A shunt will read 1mV per amp). In other words, the 500A is more precise.

      About the fuse, you MUST install one if you install an inverter. For safety reasons. The Samlex manual recommends to install a Class-T fuse located within 7″ of the battery positive (+) terminal. For a 1000W inverter (12V), the