How-To Add Shore Power to a DIY Camper Van Electrical System

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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.

Quick note before we get started.  This is just one part of an overarching “How to Install a DIY Camper Van Electrical System” series.  If you’ve just stumbled on this article directly without seeing that, there are likely some things we’ve already covered.  If you want to check out that step by step guide, you can do that here: https://www.explorist.life/diy-campervan-solar

Also, we have interactive solar wiring diagrams that are a complete, A to Z solution for teaching you exactly what parts go where, what size wires to use, fuse size recommendations, wire lug sizes, and all kind of other stuff to help save you time and frustration.  You can check that out here: https://www.explorist.life/solarwiringdiagrams/

I have solar. Why do I need 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.

If you plan on traveling in extreme environments and ever plan on using an air conditioner or electric space heater for climate control, being able to plug in is game-changer. (We use a space heater a LOT in the winter time while parked at campgrounds near ski areas)

Shore power is nice to have when trying to troubleshoot electrical problems and creates another step of redundancy in case one of your other means of charging your batteries fails.

Inverter Chargers

An Inverter Charger will not only invert your 12v battery power to 110v power, but will also charge your 12v batteries from a normal wall outlet AND will run any electrical devices from that 110v normal wall outlet once the batteries are charged. This is nice for power hungry devices like electric space heaters or air conditioners.

Battery Charger

You can get a standalone battery charger to charge your batteries and a transfer switch to run devices from shore power, but honestly, it gets more complicated than it’s worth. Add in the fact that an inverter, battery charger, and transfer switch are typically more expensive than an Inverter/Charger combo unit, it rarely makes sense so we will not be covering that here.

Breakers and Fuses

You don’t need a breaker or a fuse on your shore power line because the plug itself will be protected by a breaker.

Surge Protectors

A surge protector can be added to your shore power line, but that’s ultimately up to you the level of safeties you want to have in your system.

Shore Power Amperage

On a campground power pedestal, you’ll typically see 3 options of plugs: 50 amp, 30 amp, and 15 amp.

50 amp is typically for big class A RV’s running two air conditioners at a time.

15 amp is just your standard household circuit and will run a high powered device like a space heater or a small air conditioner, but only 1 high powered device can be run at a time.

Wiring for a 30 amp plug is my choice as you can run, for the most part, whatever you like in a camper van. You can run a space heater and brew a pot of coffee at the same time. Perhaps you are in a cold environment and want to run a space heater on low in the front AND the garage of your camper van. Basically, you’ve got options.

Wiring Shore Power

From the power pedestal, you’ll want to use a shore power cord. It’s a big, heavy gauge extension cord with incredibly durable sheathing specificially designed for this purpose.

That will plug into a shore power socket you’ll install on the exterior of your camper:

From there, you’ll use 10/2 w/ Ground wire to run to your inverter charger.

This is where you will make the connection into your inverter charger. Please follow the instructions in your specific inverter charger you plan on using, but if you plan on using a Victron Multiplus, you’ll be wiring like this.

Most inverter chargers will be wired VERY similarly though, but just check that owner’s manual.

Another thing that’s handy to keep around is a 15 amp to 30 amp adapter. This is handy for if you are charging from a place that doesn’t have a 30 amp plug.

It’s worth noting though, that you’ll only be able to use 15 amps if you are having to use this, so be aware of your power loads. A space heater on high and trying to brew coffee may trip the 15 amp breaker.

Now that you’ve learned how to add charge your house batteries with shore power, let’s learn yet another method to charge your batteries.  In the next lesson you’ll learn how to charge your camper van batteries with the alternator. Click that out here: https://www.explorist.life/how-to-charge-diy-camper-van-batteries-with-vehicle-alternator/

Everything that you are learning here is put to use in our FREE Interactive Solar Wiring Diagrams.  If you haven’t yet, check them out as they are a complete solution for a camper van electrical system.  Check them out here: https://www.explorist.life/solarwiringdiagrams/

Remember, this is just one part of a full camper van electrical educational series.  To see all of the individual guides, click here: https://www.explorist.life/diy-campervan-solar

Finally, If you found this guide helpful, It’d truly mean the world to us if you’d share it with somebody who can use it, pin it to pinterest for later reference, or share it to a facebook group when somebody has a question about this subject.  Click the bubble in the lower right corner to subscribe to be notified of future updates and as always, leave any questions you’ve got in the comments below.

35 thoughts on “How-To Add Shore Power to a DIY Camper Van Electrical System”

  1. This guide is very helpful for us as we are just starting the electrical part of our van build. You are an excellent teacher! Thanks Nate and Stephanie, for all your hard work.

    1. So I have some items like lights that are 12v and can run directly through the battery without the need for the inverter and 110v outlets that it does need when wiring up to the breaker box/fuse box that is wired in after the Inverter my question is, is it okay for the 12v lights to be wired into the box after the power had already gone through the inverter?

  2. I cant tell you how much I appreciate this concise and helpful information. Shared on several facebook groups.

    Using the inverter, you can charge the batteries with shore power, correct? Given your inverter that you listed, what rate would that charge at?

    Thanks!

    1. Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

      Yep! That inverter charger mentioned will charge via shore power. Those, in particular, will charge at up to 70 amps DC.

  3. Hey Nate, upon doing more research and asking AM Solar directly as well as Victron. They both advised on placing a breaker between shore connection and inverter. Otherwise what is there to protect the inverter from a surge or faulty wiring in a camp ground or rv park.

    I plan on purchasing an outside surge protector as well but strongly advise on protecting that inverter.

    1. A surge protector is, indeed, a good idea, but a surge protector and a breaker are two different things. A breaker is not necessary as it would not protect against either of those conditions you mentioned.

      (But, by all means, feel free to add a breaker if it makes you sleep better at night)

  4. Hey Nate,

    Love your site, blog, videos etc!! They have been a tremendous resource. Two items – 1. Just looking for some clarification re: choosing an inverter charger (best option for integrating shore power) and where the charge controller (specifically properly sizing it) comes into play. I followed your excellent previous post re: sizing a charge controller helping to greatly clarify an appropriate option there. Does this still apply if utilizing an inverter/charger? If so how can I be sure I am still getting the appropriate device if going that route. Sorry for the long-winded question! Second item – Ugh. It appears that the links to your solar wiring pages are being redirected. While I can still follow the responses below (still worth reading) the main content appears to have been usurped by some fake ID scam site. Sorry.

  5. Marty from Denver

    Hi Nate,
    First a big thank you for all the great information. I’m setting up a van for primarily weekend/week camps. Only real power draws will be from Refrigerator, Vent fan, Lights, and a few USB items. Did you do any research on the portable Lithium charge stations? I expect they are more costly and less powerful than a isolated battery system, however for a van used a few times a year vs a live in van, it seems like it might make sense? Any opinion you’d like to share? Thanks for the help

    1. Definitely! I’m SOOO far behind on responding to Youtube comments. lol But yeah… still cranking out the content here on the blog and will be making videos about most of this stuff once everything is properly organized. Glad to see you over here!

  6. Thanks Nate for the simple to understand explanations. I actually think I understood everything and up to now, I have not been able to. I am buying a new trailer that already has everything, although probably cheap. I simply want to add 400 watts of solar panels to charge batteries. I will probably get Lithium batteries and a Viinctron 100/50 charger and wire in series. I want to use the existing inverter when plugged into shore power. Is there something that i need to do like put a switch in so I don’t use shore power and solar at the same time?

    1. When you plug into shore power and your victron charge controller senses that charge, it will shut down and allow the batteries to charge by shore power only.

  7. May I assume that the shore power connection (30 amp/15 amp) you have detailed above will also accommodate the safe use of a portable generator?

    I don’t expect my van to spend much time in RV parks. And as a Floridian, I won’t go far without air conditioning. Relying strictly on a few hundred watts of solar and a few deep cycle batteries won’t git ‘er done.

  8. Jett Barnes-Daly

    Thanks for the great info. However I am very confused. All references state that a CONVERTER changes 110(120) to 12V and an INVERTER changes 12V to 110(120) for use with ‘plug in’ appliances like Instapot and TV.
    This DC Voltage (12V) is sourced either from incoming AC Voltage (110V) that is transformed by the CONVERTER into DC Voltage (12V) or from the DC Voltage (12V) stored in the house batteries. The third part of the converter’s job is to distribute the incoming AC Voltage (110V), through a breaker panel, to the AC Voltage appliances.
    An INVERTER uses the existing DC Voltage (12V), transforms it into AC Voltage (110V), and then distributes that AC Voltage to either a single dedicated outlet or through a breaker panel to multiple outlets used by 110V appliances.
    So can you please explain why, in this instruction, you are connecting shore power to the INVERTER?

    1. Jett Barnes-Daly

      I guess that I answered my own question by re-reading info above. You don’t state it but the “charger” is actually the converter, so the ‘inverter/charger’ actually does both inversion and conversion, yes?

      1. Correct! A converter is really made to run loads directly and a charger is made to charge the batteries which then run the loads. They accomplish the same thing in ALMOST the exact same way.

    2. For this blog post (and all of my wiring diagrams) I use an Inverter/Charger. It’s an all-in-one unit that performs the duties of an inverter (Taking battery power and turning it into 120v AC power (Household Outlet)) AND will charge the battery bank from shore power, which is why the unit is connected to shore power. Also, most Inverter/Chargers have a built in transfer switch that allows for power from shore power to pass through the Inverter/Charger and power devices directly from shore power without using battery power when connected to shore power.

  9. Hey Nate, Is there an easy way to connect a rooftop A/C unit to shore power without going through an inverter?

    1. I would, personally, just let everything go though the inverter using the passthrough function and if you did not want the air conditioner running off of your batteries, just don’t turn your air conditioner on when you aren’t plugged into shore power. If you are worried about somebody else turning on the air conditioner when not connected to shore power, just turn the air conditioner breaker off. That’s the most simple and cost effective way.

  10. Hey Nate, I really wish I had found your site earlier because it would’ve saved me tons of research time. Incredibly valuable info here man! Thank you.
    I’m using a Magnum Energy inverter/charger which states in the manual that a max 60amp breaker is required on the inverter’s AC input. But I have a nice electrical box designed and I’d prefer not to throw a small metal panel with a breaker on the side, or shove it in between things. I’m using the WFCO distribution center you recommended for my Ac and DC loads. Is there something similar you know of to handle the shore power breaker? Can I just use a surface-mount thermal breaker next to my others in the box?
    Thanks again! And keep up the great work.

    1. There is a breaker inside of the campground power pedestal or inside of the breaker box protecting the wall outlet that your shore power connection is connected to so adding an additional breaker is redundant and unnecessary.

      1. Thanks Nate!
        Agreed it’s redundant for most applications, but maybe not when I pull up to uncle Ricky’s shed where I’m less certain about the incoming shore power.

        Another concern I have is a possible hot to chassis short energizing the chassis. So I found the Blue Sea ELCI main panel which will mount nicely next to the WFCO sub panel. This will provide some additional safety with the ELCI, give me the breaker that’s usually redundant, and also has a reverse polarity indicator, which is nice.

        1. Ahh…When you say “Breaker”, I think of a standard overcurrent protection breaker and not an ELCI, RCD, GFCI, GFI, Circuit Analyzer, or Surge protector. Glad you found what you are looking for.

  11. Hi Nate! I can’t thank you enough for making this information so digestible. Until now, I had a very hard time wrapping my head around each component of a solar setup. I’ve narrowed down our inverter needs to a 2000W inverter, but we definitely want to include shore power. On the Victron site, there’s quite a few inverter charger options and I’m not sure which is most suitable for our needs!

    The inverter and charge controller options are decided with calculations or measurements, what more do I need to figure out to decide on an inverter charger? We’d likely go for a 30A system. Would it just be a 2000VA model? Thank you!

  12. Hey Nate,
    I just got the Victron multiplus compact hooked up in my van and I have hooked it up to shore power and the charging light has not come on. I haven’t even discharged my batteries past 94% according to the Victron battery monitor I have as I am still in the process of building out the rest of the van, so I was just wondering. Is the multiplus not charging my batter because I hooked up something wrong or have I just not discharged my batteries enough for the charger to start? Thank you!

  13. Stanley the Skoolie

    OH MY GOODNESS! I can not thank you enough for this post. It is absolutely wonderful. This was exactly what I was looking for. You’ve explained this the best out of any other person. So helpful!

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