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New here? Welcome! This blog post houses all of our DIY solar and electrical tutorials for campers, vans, truck campers, and RVs.
Been here before? Welcome back. The page has a new look. There was SO much information here it was getting messy, so the topics have been broken up into individual topics so they are easier to find and gives a better user experience.
Our interactive solar wiring diagrams have been a real hit, but most of you want to know more about the ‘why' behind the interactive diagrams. Perhaps you're building something completely off the wall and are looking for some more, general learning about solar and mobile solar systems. You're in the right place!
Keep reading to see our step-by-step guide for how to install a mobile solar and electrical system in a camper, van, truck camper, or RV.
Step 1: Learn the Basic Components of a Mobile Solar Electrical System:
Building a DIY solar setup for a Camper Van,
Step 2: Learn how powerful of an electrical system you'll need
Sure, you can buy a random solar kit and go for it, but more often than not, that tends to lead to disappointment in the performance of the system. This blog post is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a power audit so you can ACCURATELY size your camper solar system based on YOUR own power consumption to determine how many batteries you need for your camper van electrical system: https://www.explorist.life/what-size-of-solar-system-is-needed-to-power-a-camper/
Step 3: Choose the Type of Battery You'll be Using:
Lithium batteries or AGM batteries? While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to this, choosing a solar battery bank for your camper can be a daunting task. We’ve just switched over from AGM to Lithium (LiFePO4) Batteries for our battery bank. Here’s why we made our choice: https://www.explorist.life/choosing-a-solar-battery-bank-for-a-camper/
Step 4: Learn How Many Solar Panels You Need for Your System:
Solar panels take the energy from the sun and send it down through a charge controller where it will eventually recharge the batteries in your Camper Electrical system. This blog post will walk you, step-by-step how to determine how many panels YOU need for YOUR solar setup: https://www.explorist.life/how-many-solar-panels-are-needed-to-power-a-camper/
Step 5: Learn how to Choose a Solar Charge Controller to Correctly Pair with your Solar Panels:
Solar panels typically put out a voltage that is too high for batteries to use. If you have your solar panels wired in series
Step 6: How-To properly size and choose an inverter:
An inverter converts the 12v power of your batteries into the 110v power necessary to run electrical devices that normally plug into your standard household outlet. Inverters come in various sizes and configurations from a few hundred watts all the way up to whole home powering
Step 7: Add Shore Power
Cloudy, rainy weeks happen. Sure, you can charge by the alternator, but if you don't HAVE to drive around aimlessly to recharge your batteries, you shouldn't have to. Shore power is just the fancy term used to describe plugging your campers electrical system into a 110v plug to either recharge the batteries, or to even power the camper electrical system directly and this blog post will teach you everything you need to know about it: https://www.explorist.life/how-to-add-shore-power-to-a-diy-camper/
Step 8: Choose a Battery Isolator
A Battery Isolator combines the ‘house' battery bank that runs your lights, fans, refrigerator, computers and such to your starting battery so it can be charged by your vehicle's alternator. This blog post will teach you which inverter to choose based on your battery bank capacity as well as the size of your alternator: https://www.explorist.life/how-to-install-a-battery-isolator-in-a-camper-van/
Step 9: Connect Your House Battery Bank to your Alternator
In a Camper Van, you've already got a generator built-in. It's called your alternator. Your vehicles battery powers all of the electrical devices that your vehicle needs on a day to day basis. Spark plugs, ECU, Fuel Pump, Air conditioner blower, radio, and much more. The alternator's job is to keep that battery full.
Now, you're converting a van into a camper van and plan on installing ‘house' batteries to run all of your household stuff like, lights, fans, refrigerator, computer and whatever else you've got going on.
For most people, their goal is to power these ‘house' batteries off of solar, which is great! But when the weather gets cloudy and the charge gets low, it's nice to be able to charge your batteries on a road trip from point a to point b. This blog post is going to teach you everything you need to know about charging your house battery bank with your alternator: https://www.explorist.life/how-to-charge-diy-camper-van-batteries-with-vehicle-alternator/
Step 10: Install a Battery Monitor
A battery monitor for your house battery bank in your DIY camper van isn't a necessity, but then again, neither is a fuel gauge for driving. They both serve the same purpose. Learn how to install one here: https://www.explorist.life/how-to-install-a-diy-camper-van-solar-battery-monitor/
Step 11: Choose your wire sizes
There are many different sizes, shapes, colors, and ratings of wires. It's pretty confusing. For this blog post, I'll teach you to size wires for a DIY Camper Electrical setup and point you in the direction of the wires I recommend. Sizing the wires for your camper solar setup can get super complicated…if you let it. So don't let it… Check out more on the blog post here: https://www.explorist.life/what-wire-to-use-for-diy-camper-solar-system/
Step 12: Choose your Fuses
Fuses protect your system from catching on fire in the case of mishaps such as a wire rubbing through its insulation and grounding itself to the frame of your camper. The fuse is there to protect the WIRE, not the device it's connected to. Each device SHOULD have some kind of internal overcurrent protection in addition to the fuse protecting the wire. Learn how to size fuses here: https://www.explorist.life/what-size-fuses-to-use-for-a-diy-camper-electrical-setup/
Step 13: Wire your 12v Accessories
The electrical system in a DIY Camper Van is a bit pointless if you don't have anything to power, so let's learn how to hard-wire plugs, fans, and other accessories into your camper. Learn to wire your 12v accessories here: https://www.explorist.life/how-to-wire-12v-plugs-fans-and-accessories-in-a-diy-camper/
Step 14: Wire your Lights & Switches
Ever live in a house that had lights you couldn't turn off and on by a switch? No? Me either. Let's keep that streak up. This blog post is going to teach you how to wire 12v lights (and any other 12v accessories) you want to control by a switch or two. INCLUDES 2 WAY SWITCH WIRING DIAGRAMS: https://www.explorist.life/how-to-wire-12v-lights-switches-2-way-switches-in-a-camper/
Step 15: Check the EXPLORIST.life Interactive Solar Wiring Diagrams for more Examples:
Now that your solar education is coming to a close, it'd be a great time to head over to our DIY camper, van, truck camper & RV Interactive wiring diagrams and start your build, find inspiration, or simply continue learning new things. Check it out here: https://www.explorist.life/solarwiringdiagrams/
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