Let’s talk electrical safety before we even begin talking design. And please, if you don’t think you need to hear about safety, at least skip to the end of this post for a quick quiz, maybe even show off and post some questions I didn’t think of. If you decide you don’t want to do it all yourself take a look at the Yeti Goal Zero product line. It will cost about twice as much as DIY by the time you buy all the pieces, but it’s a really slick, modular setup that makes everything safe and easy.
To DIY or not to DIY….
Doing your own electrical work for your Camper Conversion can save you good money, but it’s one of the most intimidating parts of a conversion for most going the DIY route. And for good reason, while probably safer than working on AC circuits you’d find in a house, there are plenty of ways to cause damage or death if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Reading this guide IS NOT ENOUGH to safely design and install your own Camper Conversion Electrical system. That’s coming from a place of genuine concern as well as concerns over liability. Seriously folks, you can probably get something working by searching for the exact diagram that matches your scenario and implementing something you don’t understand, but you risk getting seriously hurt or killed. Please don’t take this lightly.
I’ve tried to list some core concepts below to give beginners some starting points for their research, but I’m sure it’s not an exhaustive list. If you’ve never worked with electrical systems, plan on investing at least 50-100 hours before you’re able to start designing your own. Depending on your experience and comfort level, you may also want to consider having a professional check over your work before you hook it up. Most small scale auto shops would be willing to work something out for a couple hundred bucks – piece of mind, let alone safety might be worth it.
Once you’re familiar with the basic concepts, it’s time to start figuring out how much capacity your system is going to need. But first, please take the quiz below, if you don’t know the answer to any of those questions STOP and do more research. Don’t undertake doing all your own wiring until you’re sure you can safely complete the task.
Electrical Knowledge Quiz: Must pass 100% to safely design your Camper Conversion Electrical System!
- Death and Dismemberment:
- What vehicle wiring mistakes could cause a fire?
- What vehicle wiring mistakes could cause an explosion of hydrogen?
- What vehicle wiring mistakes could cause an explosion of acid?
- What vehicle wiring mistakes could cause a super heated metal / welds?
- Why can wearing metal rings be dangerous?
- What does a wire’s “gauge” refer to? Why is it important?
- Why are fuses and why would you use them?
- Why do they have different ratings and which ones should you use?
- General Knowledge
- What’s the difference between AC and DC?
- What does a relay do and why would you use one?
- What do the terms voltage, resistance, and amperage mean and how do they relate to each other?
- Why should you always remove the black wire from a car battery first?
- What’s the difference between things wired in “series” vs “parallel”?
- What’s the difference between positive, neutral, and chassis ground in an auto electrical system?
Again, the Goal Zero line up of battery banks and panels is a great choice if you don’t feel comfortable with DIY electrical work.
Okay now back to the fun stuff, planning how much capacity your system is going to need