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Author Topic: Pro Sparky/Van Wiring Elec Geek Advice Req'd!!  (Read 1907 times)


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Pro Sparky/Van Wiring Elec Geek Advice Req'd!!
« on: November 13, 2017, 05:23:34 PM »
Alright first time poster,

(Be ready for some serious reading to get the sitch, don't say i didn't warn you)

Im Brad, from Aus (N.S.W) currently working as an aircraft engineer (glorified mechanics) for Jetstar, those unfamiliar basically a sister budget airline partner of Qantas. I've been in the biz for 5 years now, including an apprenticeship (not with Jetstar), although i'm no stranger to trades.

Particularly engineering and mechanical system's of course, but also decent woodworking and metal work skills and knowledge. Another touch base a little on plumbing and electrical, basically from what i've picked up working on relatable aircraft systems.

Now, i'm currently part time living in an old small Toyota Hiace that i picked up a year ago for a decent price. It was also pre built out including the basic's of a dual batt capacity 12v circuit, fed from a 100W fixed solar panel + alternator charge. The basic switchboard-fusebox connections include LED interior lighting, a water pump through a hose for external showering/washing etc, exterior spotlights (either side of a kings canopy) and 2 cigarette socket connections, one of which is dedicated to my engel 42L camping fridge.

While this van is comfortable enough for short trips, it seems usually no longer than a week has been enough for me. Hence i have been researching building out a full time camper to finance and build from scratch over the next few years. Really take my time with it and nail everything, literally go to extreme's to design and engineer this thing to be unstoppable and an inspiration to the tiny living movement.

Now, if you've made it through getting your ear chewed off explaining all that, here's roughly what i've got planned out in the early stages. I'm currently looking at purchasing a Sprinter 2007 turbo diesel manual, with a long wheel base and a high roof. The one in particular i have my eye's on is enormous. I'm fairly confident with most thoughts in my design process and outcomes for the build, but one part i'm a little uncertain of is, if i'm going wayy to overboard planning my electrical system...

                                        That's where you, who-over you are, might come in!

So literally feel free to reply and call me fucking bonkers with the potential plans, but hear me out. Remembering i'm definitely no expert here in my estimates and what not as i'm mainly running off personal research rather than experience. Also i'm happy to spend the money, even if it may seem the price may not quite reach the potential money savings leaving certain aspects or features out, i'm happy to splurge a little for the extra, and i earn a half decent wage so why not right? (wannabee lavish mofo)

I'm thinking this camper van could honestly provide my version of happy and content living standards for up to a decade (imagine all the money banked in rent/mortgage repayments + utility bills avoidance savings) even after my van life/travel phase i'm sure it would stay in the family, if not, surely it would still be worth something. Particularly boasting if professional skills and advice was involved, i'm spareing no details and willing to explore every avenue with this project.

I would also love to hear about any other great tips/advice/anything to do with van conversion builds, i find the whole topic fascinating and i'm open to any idea's or thoughts. I will write another post outlining more in depth of my build plans, including all of the intended features and everything another day, but i'll get stuck in before you've already read way too fucking much to get to the actual question here, solid work btw.

SO, space + measurements + decisions pending. Here's what up.....

3-4x externally mounted rigid solar panels, equaling a total of between 600W - 800W, wired in parallel, fed into a nice heavy MPPT solar charge controller.

Amps rating required for solar charge controller?.....

Do isolating switches have amp load ratings?.....

Size of circuit breaker required for adequate protection?.....

Next stage is the 12V 2-3x 250AH AGM batteries, again wired in parallel, serving as my battery bank. And she will hopefully have plenty of thirsty electrical components to juice. Obviously noting the beyond 50% discharge rate rule, that leaves me with roughly 375AH battery bank useable capacity, along with fairly constant incoming charge via the charge controller + alternator feed (potentially upgrade to a higher amperage output alternator aswell)

But.... here's what i want to run.

Engel 42L chest fridge/freezer - honestly mainly for cold beers or as a dedicated food freezer.
Engel 95 litre upright fridge - primary fridge.
6 (+/-2) cabin interior led ceiling lights - primary lighting when blacked out (stealth) or night time.
(hopefully relying on natural light through windows for day time mostly)
(4-6 HOURS)
Potentially another 6 or so small led lights - one in toilet room, closet, inside drawers (next lvl)
(1-2 HOURS)
Water Pump - something that can handle a decent litres per minute to wash dishes and have a shower with a half decent head of pressure.
(30 MINS)
x2 ceiling airmax dual direction fans - cooling + extraction whilst cooking.
(weather variable but potentially heavy use during intense Aussie summer heat, also when solar is readily available though?) HELP?
Charging of devices such as phone, go-pro, SLR camera, portable speaker etc...
2000W-3000W pure sine wave inverter, again happy to throw a little wad for something good quality that will consume as little extra energy converting the voltage (Less resistance or something right?) I think i will require something that heavy duty because i'll be wanting to safely charge sensitive equipment such as my Macbook pro.
Onto the 240V list through the inverter would also be a potential....
32" flat screen telly
(1-2 HOURS)
Kitchen appliances (within the Wattage requirements)
(CONSTANT VARIATION - slow cooker (6 hours), juicer(5MINS)    HELP!!
Surround sound set-up.
(1-6 HOURS)

I think that's most of it but keep in mind i also want the potential to be easily able to expand the system if need be, hopefully without having to find the space for another huge 60KG Battery! -_-

I could potentially have a guest or 2 consuming additional power at times...

Gotta watch that weight and balance right, although i think the payload for this sort of model i had in mind is around 1,500KG. I think it should still stay within manageable range still.

Anyways time to leave it at that, i've could talk this shit forever and this is just getting started,
let me know your thoughts!!!!

Peace Out! xx
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 05:25:48 PM by BradCallo »


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Re: Pro Sparky/Van Wiring Elec Geek Advice Req'd!!
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2017, 03:23:32 AM »
Greetings & Welcome!

Sounds like you have a very ambitious plan. 

Let's start with the basics.  Heating, cooking, and refrigeration are best accomplished with a fueled source rather than electricity unless you're permanently hooked up to shore power.  Contrary to popular belief, the only people who are recommending solar power are people looking for a payday, or people who have only heard about it, but never had it.  While it may sound like a great a solution, it doesn't measure up to the hype.  Power is precious when you have to generate your own.  House batteries typically want a high amperage charge to begin with, then less trickling off as the battery gets fully charged.  Solar panels start off with a trickle charge, then ramp up, before going back down.  This tends to kill expensive batteries prematurely.  Not only thatm but the charge is also very shallow, and doesn't last nearly as long as it should, nothing like if you charged them while driving, with a generator, or with shore power.  To give a real world example, when I was charging my $350 house battery via solar alone, I would be out of power be a few hours after sundown.  The battery totally died after just 9 months.  I replaced it with an identical one, and my results were the same.  Then I started charging my house battery while driving too.  Instantly, I never ran out of power at night, and eventually I ditched the solar altogether.  That same battery which wouldn't last the night when charged via solar alone, would last 7+ days when charged while driving.  Now I charge while driving mainly, and have a gas generator for a backup.  Much cheaper and much much more reliable than solar.  The only full timers I know that haven't ditched solar, are mainly charging via more reliable means.

Most of us also try to keep everything at 12v instead of using an inverter, because inverters are very inefficient.  Almost everything can be charged via cords, or found in 12v models or AC/DC versions.  The two most difficult ones are a microwave, and air conditioning.  Heating, cooking, and refrigeration can be eaily accomplished with kerosene, diesel, or propane.  Cooling can be accomplished with 12 volts using either evaporative or non-evaporative coolers depending on your climate.  Most successful full timers will advise against putting any holes in your roof for anything, because sooner or later they always leak.

Your next problem is space.  You want a lot for the available space in a van.  You also mentioned having company.  I can't help but to think that a motor home, or a trailer might be better suited to what you'll actually be happy with.  You can get Class C motor homes that aren't much longer than a van, but are a couple of feet wider.  That extra room means a lot.  Old school buses or shuttle buses are another option to gain that width.  Some of the buses might also give you better ground clearance if that's something you're interested in.

While there is a certain appeal to building your own, exactly how you envision it, it is frequently a poor choice, because once you're actually living in it, you'll discover that what you really want or need isn't what you had originally envisioned.  Many people suggest that your rig is never finished because your needs are constantly changing or evolving.  Each rig I've had, got a different floorplan than any of the previous ones, improving each time.

Age & type of vehicle is another important consideration.  The newer the vehicle, the more money you'll lose to depreciation.  In contrast, a fully depreciated vehicle will rarely lose money.  Many people, myself included, feel that the pre computerized vehicles are more reliable.  Mechanical malfuctions will usually give you fair warning that they need attention, long before they'll leave you stranded.  Electronic components die without prior warning, and can leave you stranded in precarious, and possibly dangerous situations.  The absence of all of those added electronics means there is that much less to go wrong.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

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Re: Pro Sparky/Van Wiring Elec Geek Advice Req'd!!
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2017, 09:07:28 PM »
Hey BradCallo,

My input probably isn't needed as much now that Camper_Dan has covered most things but I've just started documenting some of the our travels and work to our Ford Transit.

Few links here to the blog posts nothing special but i feel like we made a lot of mistakes earlier this year when we first started getting into things so hopefully you don't make the same mistakes.