VAN BUILD COMPLETE SOLAR INSTALLATION GUIDE
Ok to be honest, I was scared of this step. As I have said before in other posts, I have no electrical wiring or solar install experience. I doubted my skills and a funny story came out of it.
I found an "electrician" on craigslist to help me out. He showed up at my house after pulling into my neighbors driveway and having her call me on his cell phone. Got him to my house and I honestly thought he was not going to be able to get into the van. He was VERY old. No ageism here so I went for it. He got into the van and I was explaining what I needed done (I also sent him a diagram via email the day before). It became very clear, very quickly that he had no idea what he was doing. After 20 minutes of him saying things I didn't understand and seeing that he had no tools and literally just one lamp wire in his car, I told him that it was not going to work out. He pulled out of my driveway and left a piece of his front bumper only to return shortly to see where his screwdriver was. We used my tools, like I said he had no tools with him....
Anyways, the first step is deciding what set up you are going to use base on your need. There are some great solar calculators out there including this one.
Disclaimer: This post describes what I did in my van for my electrical set up. I am not an electrician and working with electricity can be dangerous. Please always seek professional assistance where possible if you do not feel comfortable working with electrical components. This is intended as a guide for you to make your own decisions on how to install your own electrical set up.
THE SETUP I WENT WITH
To be honest, I basically guessed on sizing my system. Woops! It was my first time, give me a break!
If you read my solar panel install post you know that I installed 3 100 watt renogy panels. I also purchased the Renogy 40 amp MPPT charge controller. This is what turns those beautiful sun rays into useable electricity! For my batteries I decided to go with AGM batteries. Lithium ion batteries are the best out there but they are expensive! I purchased two of these XS Power 3000amp 12v AGM batteries and ended up buying a third.
For 110 volt (typical house outlets) you have to convert the DC power to AC using an inverter. I purchased this Vertamax 1500 watt pure sine wave inverter. *See the complete list of products I used at the bottom of this post.
I am going to try to make this as simple as possible. The first step here is was to put together a diagram of my set up:
**For my blade fuse box I used this Blue Seas fuse box that does not require a negative bus bar. Make sure that your fuse box does not require a bus bar or else you will have to purchase one! Either way it wont make a difference in the performance of your setup.**
You will notice in the above diagram there are fuses between the solar panels and the charge controller, the charge controller and the batteries and the batteries and the inverter. All of these fuses are for larger applications unlike the blade fuses that will go into your blade fuse box. For the larger applications I used ANL fuses.
Always check your the manuals of your products for fuse sizes.
INSTALLATION OF SOLAR ELECTRICAL COMPONENTS IN MY SPRINTER VAN
The first install is mounting your panels! You can see how I did that here.
Now you can mount your charge controller! Important! Do not connect your solar panels to the charge controller until the batteries are connected to the charge controller.
WIRE BATTERIES TOGETHER IN PARALLEL
To wire the batteries together in parallel, first connect the negative terminals together and then the positive terminals together. For the wire, I used 4 gauge battery cables.
Next, ground the batteries to the chassis of the van. For the wire, I used a 2 gauge battery cable and screwed the ring terminal into the chassis using a self taping screw.
WIRING YOUR BATTERIES TO THE CHARGE CONTROLLER
* When you wire components to the batteries, make sure that everything is wired onto one negative and one positive on the batteries. This will help to ensure the batteries charge and discharge evenly.
For this step I used 8awg wire. Crimp a ring terminal on one end of the 8awg wire and connect it to the positive terminal on the battery. Run the other end to a 40amp inline ANL fuse. Coming out of the other side of the fuse run the wire to a battery switch like this one.
Now you can run another wire from the other side of the battery switch to the positive battery terminal on the charge controller.
For the negative side, crimp a ring terminal on another 8awg wire and connect it to the negative terminal on the battery. Run the wire to the negative battery terminal on the charge controller.
The charge controller should turn on!! I remember screaming at this moment in excitement!
WIRING THE SOLAR PANELS TO THE CHARGE CONTROLLER
Don't forget to fuse your solar panels! Using the wires that you ran from your panels, take the positive wire and run it to a 40amp inline ANL fuse.
Coming out of the other end of the fuse, connect the wire to the positive terminal on the charge controller.
For the negative side, just run the negative solar panel wire to the negative terminal on the charge controller.
You should now see that the solar panels are charging your batteries!!
WIRING THE CHARGE CONTROLLER TO THE FUSE BOX
This step is simple! From the charge controller wire 8awg wire to the positive and negative terminals on the blade fuse box. I used this Blue Seas fuse box which has both positive and negative terminals which means I did not need to use a negative bus bar.
From the blade fuse box you can now run wire for all of your electrical needs! Lights, fans, etc.
Wiring to the lights and fans is fairly simple. For example, on my fan I ran 18awg from the positive and negative terminals on the blade fuse box and use twist connectors with electrical tape around them to connect the wires with the wires on the fan.
Insert a fuse that matches the max amperage of the item you are powering which completes the circuit and BAM! Powered by the sun!!
I used this dimmable switch for the lights however next time I would run them on two different circuits with two switches so that I don't have to use all the lights at once if its not necessary.
WIRING YOUR BATTERIES TO THE INVERTER
Now that we have completed the wiring for the dc components of your build, lets move onto the AC wiring!
Here I used 4awg wire and ran the positive wire from the battery to another ANL fuse however this time I used a 100amp fuse.
From the other side of the fuse I ran the wire to this switch and then to the positive terminal of the inverter. Next run another wire from the negative terminal of the battery to the negative terminal on the inverter.
Don't forget to ground the inverter to the chassis of the van as well!
Now for the outlets! At first I was super confused on how to wire outlets to the outlets on the inverter. Until I found these!!
Just plug them into the inverter and run them to the location you want them in the van!!
And that is it! This is step by step how I installed my electrical system in my sprinter van. If there was something I missed, please feel free to ask questions in the comments or dm me on instagram @vanlifeyoga
FULL PRODUCT LIST FOR SPRINTER VAN ELECTRICAL SYSTEM:
XS Power 3000amp 12v AGM batteries