Updated : 14/10/2017


                                  How to Wire your Camper van Conversion.


Whether you have a Volkswagen T1, a Citroen H van or a Sprinter, wiring your van will be more cost effective if you plan it well. 



Many people plan their Campervan Wiring piecemeal, they start with a Habitation area battery then add a split charge relay. Then a mains charger, then Lights, Gas heater blower controller, water pump, power monitoring, Solar charging of the Habitation battery, etc.

Each item has it's own wiring, switches, fuses and control so by the end of the work you have several completely independent units with switches and fuses all over the van and little integration.

One thing often not built in is the ability for a 'one touch' isolation of every device from draining power when the van isn't being used. You don't need to go around turning everything off when you put the van away, just one touch shuts down all 12v.

As an example this Control Panel above contains most functions at just over £69.

The CBE PC100 controls the Water Pump isolation, lights, Main Power, Water level display for both Waste and Fresh Water, voltage of Habitation area battery voltages, Starter battery status (and charging), etc. 

You don't have to wire them all up, but for £69 it is nice to know they are easy to do if you you want to.  See here for a supplier :   http://www.grasshopperleisure.co.uk/cbe-pc100-led-display-panel-402-p.asp

If you plan carefully from the start you can have a sophisticated single control system that will actually be cheaper than a piecemeal solution and add value at sale time, because:


1. The wiring is much simpler to install and understand

2. It is 'structured', has the look of a Professional Installation by someone who knew what they were doing.

3. It looks expensive, giving the impression you did not penny pinch.

4. Saves space.

5. Easy to operate.

6. Easy for someone else to maintain.


Everything from the sockets to the TV Ariel match. Integrated and 'Professional'.

 





This CBE system has a very sophisticated charger that, unlike other kits from Sargent, is both powerful yet won't overcharge the battery. 

Some of the Sargent Campervan electric kits include a 10amp '151 Supercharge' charger that will take a month of Sundays to get a big battery charged, if it manages to do it at all? The name of the unit is definitely not a description of it's effectiveness, it is just the most basic of power supplies. 

Don't know if this is reflected in the rest of the Sargent kit, but CBE make everything from 13amp sockets to light switches and chargers to power controllers.


At the other end of the scale you can buy a very expensive unit with a portable LCD Display screen which can be placed in a pod in the dashboard or in the usual place above the door. It will tell you Solar charge to both habitation and Starter battery, Water tank levels (and temperatures so you can check if they are close to Freezing while Skiing in Austria), warn you if you attempt to drive off with mains hook-up attached, the step is out, the roof open, Fridge still running on Gas, etc. 

It displays the current being taken from the batteries, along with an estimate of the time before the unit begins gradual shutdown of the 12v consumers to protect the batteries from discharge damage, etc.

While this type of unit is an extreme example, far in excess of what most require, it shows what is available at the top end of the market and the huge gap between the usual 'Professional Converter' and 'just' a Split charge relay. 

 


When wiring your Camper Conversion, think big from the start, you don't have to include everything in your list but plan for it from the start. It will save money in the long term. You might be sure you don't want to know how much water is left it the Water Tanks, but believe me it becomes a pain when you have to remove clothes/cushions, then peer in to the open water tank top to find out.


How much more professional does this look below compared to a all the wiring and fuses you usually see :


We not only sell most systems from the UK, Germany, Italy, etc but we also repair them. We know what is on the market better than anyone. More importantly we know what works and what breaks but we don't sell these kits, so this is independent advice.

 


Things to consider in your plan:

1. Most Camper vans do not get used every week so Starter batteries can get a bit depleted. Consider a unit that will charge both your Starter and Habitation batteries simultaneously.


2. Consider a unit that has a Solar Input port that will automatically distribute the charge to Starter and Hab batteries so you don't have the complexity of wiring it to both. 


3. Water pump control : If you have a water pressure switch based solution you will be able to use standard taps without a microswitch which simplifies the wiring enormously and means you save money on the taps. However in this type of system you need a pump isolation switch to deactivate the pump when the tank runs dry or for maintenance.


4. How will you control the Fridge when running on 12v/Gas/230v mains? Modern Fridges require 3 x 12v supplies, one to the 12v heater element when running off the Alternator, an 'Alternator spinning' D+ signal supply and a continuous 12v 'control' supply for the module that controls the temperature when running on Gas and 240v. Without this permanent 12v control supply the fridge will not work on Gas, 240v or 12v Alternator. 

Ok so I know you are only building a day van and don't want a Fridge but think about the next person who buys it. Including it in the plan now will cost just a few pounds but add a lot more to it's resale value.


5. A Space Heater, such as Propex, will require 12v supply for gas ignition and the blower motor. You might also want to consider thermostat control of the Blower as this can save significant 12v power  by switching to slower speeds when up to temperature. 

12v power will be the thing you most run out of, maximise every milliamp.


6. Kitchen sink/shower Water Heater


7. Tank level display


8. Battery condition/Life left/Alternator Charge current/mains charge current. Don't underestimate the importanace of this as it is the only way of calculating what power is left in the battery and if everything is working as expected. Diagnosing issues requires information up front. If your system supplies it you can stop faults developing and fix them before they become a major issue.


Buying the right integrated unit will always be cheaper than multiple separate units as well as much quicker to install. It forces you to think about cable runs in a organised way, producing a neater more reliable assembly.


We don't carry out this type of conversion, this is free advice without any financial benefit to ourselves, just trying to help.


Lots of companies can supply the CBE kit above, for a supplier try Grass Hopper Leisure  :  http://www.grasshopperleisure.co.uk/cbe-pc100-complete-kit-315-p.asp.

It is well made, reliable, light weight, compact, cheap yet full featured. Spares back-up is among the best. In our opinion, there isn't a better home conversion Campervan electronics solution. 


We don't support CBE equipment, but last time we saw such a solution, prices were around £300 for a full kit : the Display, charger, controller, Mains 230v RCD, etc.

When you think a decent dual battery charger will cost around £150 on it's own, £300 all in isn't bad when it also includes 240v power as well.

Please don't fit  a CTEK car style battery charger, like many seem to, and then wonder why the battery doesn't get fully charged and only lasts 9 months, 

It's not the same thing at all. A proper Leisure battery charger is designed to fully change a habitation battery AND the Starter Battery simultaneously, when required without either overcharging or degrading the battery.



When you get to thinking about Solar, have a look at our 'Solar Hints and Tips' webpage. We used to install Solar, and still fix poor installations, but the Solar webpage is not about a hard sell. 

Again it is just free help.


When you get around to choosing batteries, they are not all the same. There are Lead batteries and lumps of Lead that are better used to chock the wheels. Yet the best battery is also one of the cheapest.


See our Battery Technology webpage for more info.


Did you know we don't sell Batteries so we can remain impartial? Just more independent, free advice. 


Enjoy your Camper Van.





 

What a great Camper Van this would have made, high top, twin axle conversion and extended.