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How to Wire a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

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How to Wire a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

In this blog post I am going to teach you how to wire an electrical power distribution panel for a camper van.

I like this solution better than a separate DC Fuse Block and AC Breaker box because it’s a nice, neat, all-in-one package that simply looks good after it’s installed which makes hiding it away in a closet or in the garage of your camper van unnecessary.  All parts considered, it’s about the same price as the alternative as well. So, let’s get started.

Here’s a video walkthrough for this tutorial you may find helpful:

Parts List

The Electrical Distribution Panel:

THIS is how you will receive your power distribution panel:

Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel with door closed.

It’s got a black flip-down cover on the front…

Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel with door open.

…and wire access knockouts in the back:

Back of Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Lower the door on the front and you’ll have access to where your AC breakers and DC fuses will be.

Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel with Door Removed

A SLIGHT bend of the door will remove it from the box

Removing door of Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Remove these 4 screws around the corners to remove the trim ring.

This power distribution panel is designed to be mounted in a 12 ¼ x 8 ½ rectangular hole. For this demo, I’m not actually installing this in a van, so what you’re seeing in these pictures is just a mock-up.

The right side of the box is designated for the DC side of your system.  This will be powered directly from your battery or battery busbar.

The left side of the box is designated for the AC side of your system.  This will be powered from the AC output side of your Inverter. Here’s a shot of the final wired product:

If you’ve got a Pinterest Camper Van inspiration board rolling, that picture would be a good one to pin, don’t you think? Okay, So… Let’s start with wiring the DC side of this box.

Wiring the 12V DC Side of the Distribution Panel

DC Side of a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Knock out three or four of the plastic knock-outs on the back of the box with a screwdriver and bring your Positive and Negative wires from the battery into the box.  (Please disconnect power to these wires before working with them).

Battery Power coming into the Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

There are two big screw lugs at the top of this circuit board; your positive wire will go to the left lug.

Attaching Positive battery cable to a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

…and your negative wire will go to the right lug.

Attaching 12v Negative Wire to a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Now, if you were to reconnect power from the battery, you’d have power coming into the DC distribution panel and have power at ALL of these fuse holders.

12v Power attached to a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Now, when you’re ready to start running the wires for your 12v appliances, all you’ll have to do is bring your duplex wire into the box from the back and attach the positive wire to any of these lugs here:

12v Power attached to a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

I recommend starting at the top. Simply strip a quarter inch from your wire, loosen the screw, insert the stripped wire, and re-tighten the screw. Give the wire a little tug to make sure it’s secure.

Attaching a 12v positive branch circuit wire to a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

There is a clip on this board that if you pull it toward the bottom of the box, it will release the circuit board and move it out of the way so you can access the negative busbar easier.

Removing Circuit Board from a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

The negative wires from the duplex wire you just ran will go down to this negative busbar and attach in the same matter under these screws.

12v DC Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel Busbar

Strip a quarter inch from your wire, loosen the screw, insert the stripped wire, and re-tighten the screw. Give the wire a little tug to make sure it’s secure.

Attaching a 12v Negative Branch circuit wire to a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Repeat this process until you’ve added all of the 12v circuits you need and re-clip the circuit board back to the box:

Completely wired 12v DC side of a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Keep track of what wires go to what appliances as there is a label on the distribution panel trim ring where you’ll want to make note of which fuse is which.

Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel DC Fuse Label Sticker

Now you can insert your spade fuses into their respective slots.

Inserting spade fuses into the 12v DC side of a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

On the AC Side of the box, you’ve got 3 different busbars.  The Bottom two are Neutral and ground with the ground in the back and the neutral in the front.  Up top is the positive breaker busbar.

120V AC Side of a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Making sure there is NO power coming from your inverter, bring in the 3 conductor wire from your inverter’s AC out into the distribution box via the knockouts on the back.  Cut the sheath of this wire about 4-6” and strip back a half inch of insulation off of each wire. The Green goes to the Ground busbar

Wiring a ground wire into a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

…and the White goes to the Neutral Busbar.

Wiring a 120V AC Neutral wire into a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

There’s already a 120v plug built into the back of the box and the green and white wires should already be connected up to their respective busbars.

Now you need your AC breaker.  There are a few different types of breakers that will work with this box, but I’m using Square D Home and Square D Home Tandem breakers.

Square D HOM and Square D HOMT (Tandem) Breakers for a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

For the breaker coming from the inverter into the box is the single-pole HOM breaker.  There is a screw on the bottom of it. Loosen that screw, insert the black wire under the washer, and retighten the screw.  Give the wire a tug to make sure it’s secure.

Wiring a 120V Hot wire to a Square D HOM breaker in a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Remove this screw and retaining clip and set aside.

Removing breaker retainer clip in a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Clip the bottom of the breaker onto the bottom rail of the box…

Fitting bottom of the 120V AC breaker to the breaker rail in a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

…then tilt (push) the breaker up so that the positive breaker busbar spline goes into the slot of the middle of the back of the breaker.

120V Breaker Busbar Spline where it fits into the back of the Square D HOM Breaker

Now, if you had power to this wire and turned on this breaker,  this whole positive breaker bus bar would be energized:

120V Square D HOM Breaker installed into a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Next, I’m going to show you how to add a breaker so that you can run a wire out to your various 120v AC appliances and outlets.

Bring in your wire that will run to those 120v appliances or outlets.  Strip back 4-6” of sheathing and strip the insulation off the last ½” of wire.  The Green goes to the ground busbar

Wiring a 120V AC ground wire into a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

…and the white goes to the neutral busbar.

Wiring a 120V AC Neutral wire into a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Then you’re going to grab your Square D HOME Tandem Breaker. 

This is a space-saving breaker allowing you to have two (Tandem, right?) circuits on only one breaker busbar space.

Loosen one of the screws on the bottom of this breaker. Insert the black wire under the washer under the screw, and tighten the screw down. Tug on the wire to make sure it’s secure:

Wiring a 120V AC Hot wire to a Square D HOMT (Tandem) Breaker for a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Fix the breaker to the box in the same way you did the last breaker. Clip the bottom of the breaker to the rail and tilt up into place with the breaker busbar spline going into the middle of the back of the breaker:

Repeat this process for as many 120V AC Circuits as you plan on having.

120V AC Wiring in a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

Now you can insert screws into the box to hold it to your cabinet or wherever you are mounting this:

Fastening a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel to the cabinet

Reinstall the trim ring starting with the top 2 screws:

Reattaching the trim ring on a Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel

…and reinstall the door:

Now, if you haven’t done it already, now would also be a good time to label the various fuses and breakers for what they go to.

Camper Van Electrical Distribution Panel 120V AC Labels

Flip on the AC breakers and reconnect your DC wires to your battery and you should have power.  That’s all there is to it!

If you have any questions about this project, leave them in the comments below and I’ll get to them as soon as I can. If you found this helpful, it’d truly mean the world to me if you’d share it with somebody or a group who you think could benefit from it.

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Brian Sytsma

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

Nate - love your videos! Not until watching this did I realize that for my AC outlets I need 12/3 wire. I already ran 12/2 wire. Do I need to run new wire, or is there a way I can still use the 12/2?

Brian Sytsma

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

@Nate Yarbrough, ok, thanks man! Appreciate the advice.

Nate Yarbrough

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

120v Circuits need 3 conductor wire. Hot, Neutral, and ground. If you ran wire with only two conductors... you'll unfortunately need to redo it. More info: https://www.explorist.life/how-to-wire-120v-ac-circuits-in-a-diy-camper-van/

Eileen

Friday 13th of November 2020

Hey! What do I do if the fridge wire I am trying to use doesn't fit into the bus bar holes? I have an 8 gauge wire and I am not sure if there is a connector or an adapter that can bring the width down to fit into the bus bar holes.

Tyler Abell

Friday 30th of October 2020

I’m using a square d 30amp load center.

I currently only have the main breaker coming from the inverter hooked up in the photo provided.

Is the correct way to hook this up? Does the white go on the top in this box?

Do i need to ground the entire load center? Or just ground each breaker to the ground bus bar in the load center? Image link: https://ibb.co/1LgLydn

Matt

Friday 23rd of October 2020

Hey Nate, Great post! Really liking your methods. I have a DC fridge that requires a 6 AWG wire and a 40A fuse. Does this panel support that wire size on the DC side? I just want to be sure I will be able to get a clean and solid connection to the fuse box. Thanks again for the post!

Nate Yarbrough

Friday 23rd of October 2020

Nope. This fuse block has a, I believe, 10 AWG max wire size for the DC branch circuits.

Jamie

Monday 19th of October 2020

It it possible to connect the AC side of this panel to the AC out on he Jackery? and the DC side of this panel to the DC out on the Jackery? If so what wires/connectors would you recommend?

Also thinking about a TS 30 transfer switch to switch between shore and jackery. Thanks.

Nate Yarbrough

Wednesday 21st of October 2020

Although quite overkill; it could be wired like that. I don't have a wiring diagram & parts list available that shows how to do that, so you are going to have to do your due diligence and spec that out yourself.