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

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.


Cammie

Thursday 31st of March 2022

I have a 2009 camper van. I live in FL and often boondock where I can only plug into a 15v outlet on the outside of a friend's house using the adapter plug for my 30. However, I have issues with power pull. Here is what happens:

1. I can't ever plug into an exterior wall outlet of a house or 110v plugs in parking lots (and I have seen other vans plugged in fine to these with the cars). In both cases, it always trips the house breaker - even if only my 12v frig is running.

2. If I try to run my 110v 13.5 BTU carrier air conditioner, there isn't enough power to run it, even if it is plugged into an interior wall and nothing but the frig is running on 12 v.

Question#1: Any idea why my van is tripping the exterior outlets with just the 12v frig running? Anything I can do to fix this?

Question #2: The carrier air conditioner is from 2009, and probably pulls way too much power during startup. However, if I bought a newer one that is more efficient, do you think I would be able to use the same 110v plug (interior or exterior) so that I do not need to go to a campground for 30?

Question #3: Do you have any suggestions for efficient replacement air conditioners that would retrofit easily into the carrier air V space (it's a 14'/14' hole) and wiring? I would love to change to 12v, but I'm guessing that will be a mess to wire??

Thanks!

DennisR

Tuesday 22nd of February 2022

I have a factory installed 400w system in an RV from Keystone. Victron Smart MPPT 100/30 and Smart Shunt. I have been looking for installation instructions to install a Victron IP22 to charge the 270AH on shore power. I have not found a diagram or connection instructions anywhere so far. Do any of your install diagrams show the connection.

Marlin Bales

Monday 21st of February 2022

Hey Nate thanks for all the great info. I love the way you break things down. I bought the diagram for the 12v/3000 multiplus and built a 400ah system off of your diagram . How do I set up and use the inverter for shore power (12v) when it’s below 32 degrees and my battery bank is low. I searched your site and did not find anything on this.

Devin

Saturday 29th of January 2022

So in my camper van I only plan to have/use shore power. I will have a heater/ac unit, microwave, tv, water pump and lighting. If I understand this correctly I don't need a fuse box or a breaker box or do I since I won't be using an inverter? I will have recessed lighting in the ceiling that will need to be directly wired but the rest can just be plugged into outlets. What would you suggest?

Michael H

Tuesday 5th of October 2021

Building a teardrop camper. I want to have 15 amp shore power available should we use a campsite with power. I'll only use the power for: 1) a simple LED light w/switch in the cabin and/or 2) a simple LED light w/switch in the galley and or 3) dual USB charger for camera and phone batteries and/or 4) an available wall plug to power a coffee maker or CPAP

Can I wire the lights/plugs like I would to wire my home? Should I attach a surge protector between the pole and the camper? Is 14ga. AWS wiring sufficient? Am I missing anything else?