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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:
- Electrical Panel: https://amzn.to/2LRKHdb
- HOM Breaker: https://amzn.to/2K5focK
- HOMT Breaker: https://amzn.to/2SVuZya
The Electrical Distribution Panel:
THIS is how you will receive your power distribution panel:
It’s got a black flip-down cover on the front…
…and wire access knockouts in the back:
Lower the door on the front and you’ll have access to where your AC breakers and DC fuses will be.
A SLIGHT bend of the door will remove it from the box
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
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).
There are two big screw lugs at the top of this circuit board; your positive wire will go to the left lug.
…and your negative wire will go to the right lug.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Repeat this process until you’ve added all of the 12v circuits you need and re-clip the circuit board back to the box:
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.
Now you can insert your spade fuses into their respective slots.
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.
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…
…and the White goes to the Neutral Busbar.
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.
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.
Remove this screw and retaining clip and set aside.
Clip the bottom of the breaker onto the bottom rail of the box…
…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.
Now, if you had power to this wire and turned on this breaker, this whole positive breaker bus bar would be energized:
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…
…and the white goes to the neutral busbar.
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:
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.
Now you can insert screws into the box to hold it to your cabinet or wherever you are mounting this:
Reinstall the trim ring starting with the top 2 screws:
…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.
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.