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Now that I’ve figured out exactly what I need in terms of battery power and electric production to run all the things I want to have in my van, it’s time to plan out just how I’m going to use this energy in an efficient manner. I have to plan how I want to wire it all up, how I’ll store the batteries and how I’ll make the wiring in the van look nice and be out of the way of all the activities that come with van life!
If I want to have everything in my van working off of my own power source, then I need to learn a little bit about how wiring electricity works and what I will need to do in order to stay safe in my van. I want to have the maximum output possible, but I also don’t want to start any electrical fires due to faulty wiring jobs! In this piece, I’ll talk about all the steps necessary for wiring, storing and maintaining the source of energy in my van!
Step #1: Wiring it up
This is one of the most important steps out of the entirety of the van build. Having a source of power is great, but it means nothing if I don’t set it up correctly! In fact, it can actually be a hindrance that puts my safety at risk if I take shortcuts! Let’s first talk about what exactly I’ll need in order to pull this off the RIGHT way!
What I’ll need to get from Amazon is some wires to actually connect the solar panels to the batteries. I’ll go with these wires as they’re a pretty affordable but high-quality option. Once I have the batteries, I need to connect the battery to the solar charge controller while making sure to put in an appropriately sized fuse on the positive wire, while letting the negative wire connect directly to the battery. The size of the fuse that you’ll need will depend greatly on the kind of battery you have, so it’s not a one size fits all for any of these options. I’ll use something like these fuses as they’re affordable and fit the job well. It’s important to use a fuse in this spot as it will protect your entire system from sustaining damage! This step is SUPER important!
To connect the panels to the charge controller, I’ll need to have some special MC4 connector heads. Most times, these will come with the solar panels. If they don’t they can generally be found all over Amazon. The only times these wouldn’t come with a solar panel is if the panels were on sale or refurbished. This isn’t a very common of a reason, but sometimes they sell just the panels with no accessories. that’s probably because it was part of a sale. Panels really aren’t worth much without a way to use the energy though!
I’ll need to connect all the positives to a single block. As well as all the positives to their own block of sorts. I do this since I have multiple sources of energy, meaning I have multiple batteries. I also need to get a fuse box, that way my system can run more efficiently while remaining safe from surges that can damage my batteries and all of my appliances. This is a pretty complicated step, so if you don’t understand exactly what to do, you may want to consult an expert in the field of electricity before trying to wire anything in your van. If you make even one mistake, it could screw up your entire build!
I need to make sure my wires are run through the van in a safe way too. I shouldn’t bury them underneath too much of the framing of the walls, as I want to be able to get to them in the event that a break happens in the wires. This is also the case if I want to change out any of the appliances that I have in my van. It will be a tough job, but this step needs to be done perfectly to avoid having too many wiring issues in the future while I am on the road! Don’t bury your wires underneath all of your vans insulation and walls, because then if you ever want to replace them or change them out for any reason, you’ll need to tear your van apart to get them all out!
Step #2: Storing the Batteries
Now I need to worry about just how I’ll store the batteries away and how I’ll keep them safe. I can’t just leave them out on the table in my van! I need to make sure they are stored in a safe place that won’t leak water near them or risk them falling or banging into things around the van. For this, I am going to make a small space underneath or sleeping arrangements to store the batteries away in a safe spot.
Because I plan on putting the batteries right underneath where I plan to sleep, I have to make sure that they aren’t going to suddenly have issues and burst into flames or something! What I’ll do for these batteries is allot a certain amount of space under the bed frame just for these batteries and all the wiring that needs to be connected to them. I will seal the box with a sealant that will help keep them safe. I’ll also leave a door on the side so that I can more easily get to them if I need to.
Step #3: Convenient Access and Appearance
Now that I have the batteries in place, I need an easier way to get to them when I need to check up on my system or troubleshoot an energy problem. To do this, I am going to put a nice door on the side that I can access by opening the back doors of the van. Once I open the vans backs doors, I can then visually see and reach around all the components of the battery set up!
This is very important because if anything goes wrong I need an easy way to inspect everything that I have under my bed. If I just sealed it all off with no way to get to it, one of the wires could simply come loose and I have no way to easily get in there and fix it. Of course, there are a lot more reasons to make your batteries easy to get to, but for simple fixes, you should always have a way to at least see what’s wrong. Always remember to turn off the electricity to everything before doing any work on your wires!
The solar panels will be drilled onto the roof of the van and held together with some tough brackets on the roof. I want to make sure that they don’t move, no matter what. I also will be drilling a hole to get the wires in easier, but this also means I need to seal up the hole after I get the wires in. I need to make sure there are no leaks in the roof or the walls for the temperature to get out or water to get in!
Now that I have all of that settled, I can start to get more serious about the way that I’ll start decorating the van. I have the means to power up some really cool electronics now, and the energy capacity to power virtually anything I want! It’s very important to remember that if you intend on doing any kind of maintenance on your electrical system in your van or anywhere in your life, to make sure that everything on that system is turned off! Don’t take risks or shortcuts with this step. If you neglect electrical safety, you can risk hurting yourself very badly! Even if you don’t get hurt, you can also risk damaging all your valuable and important electronics. Don’t take shortcuts, read up on everything you plan on hooking up to your electoral system, and take no chances! If you’re unsure of something or don’t feel comfortable working on a system, get a professional to help!
Coming up next time will be all about how I intend to set up my sleeping arrangements. I need to think this through because not only will it determine where I actually end up spending my nights, but I need to incorporate the batteries into the design as well! I have a pretty good idea for how this will work, but we’ll dive into it next time!