Basics of my electronics system:
Let me start off by saying that all of my electrical work has been done over the course of a few years. I am always changing it and adding more stuff. I just felt it was necessary to sum it all up in one post for anyone trying to figure out how to setup their camper van.
First off, I started with a Renogy 200ah battery. 200ah (amp hour) should be more than sufficient for what I need. I located it underneath the bench seat in the rear.
Make sure the battery is strapped down to the frame itself. That strap is bolted to the metal floor below the wood floor, and I have installed additional latches on the bench seat. The battery is 140lbs, which is potentially a projectile in a crash.
I have chosen to use frame grounds. There are a few thoughts on running ground wires vs using a chassis frame ground. For ease of install I use a chassis frame ground for all batteries and electronics. Just make sure they are clean and when in doubt add another ground.
Fuses and Circuit Breakers:
I use fuses for small 8 gauge or less wire and circuit breakers for all my larger high amp wires. I like the circuit breakers because they double as an on/off switch if you want to isolate a battery or circuit (such as engine battery to rear battery). I have four rear fuses box locations; 1. main fuse box above rear passenger side door 2. rear passenger side for fridge 3. rear battery compartment 4. Water pump and heater
I located the circuit breakers and/or on/off switches at the following locations in order to isolate circuits:
-Engine battery to battery combiner (100amp circuit breaker)
-Solar charger to house battery (100amp circuit breaker)
-Battery combiner to rear battery/accessories (Blue Seas on/off switch)
-Rear battery to accessories/battery combiner (100amp circuit breaker)
My electronic control panel for most accessories is located above the rear sliding door and contains the main fuse panel, the intelligent battery combiner, and relays. I choose the position because my van originally came with a rear A/C so I already had 0 gauge wire coming from the engine battery to this location. If I didn't have that and I knew my floor plan right away I may have made this location closer to the rear house battery.
I do like this location though because it keeps the clutter away from my dash area. As I did spray foam insulation I pre-ran all the wiring I would need and then a few additional wires just in case. I ran 4-6 gauge wire to both rear areas of the van. Once ended up being used for all plumbing and the other was used to the fridge and switched.
This Victron Intelligent Battery combiner worked great compared to the switched solenoid I was using before and well worth the money. Whenever it detects a charge on either battery (engine battery vs house battery) it combines them. That means that not only does it charge the house battery when the engine is on, but it charges the engine battery when my van is parked and the solar is charging, which works great as a maintainer if your van sits for a while. More on the install here.
The 300watt 12volt heating coil installed in my tank is the biggest demand on my electrical system at 30amps (more info on that system here). To power this the engine either needs to be on or the van plugged into an AC power source (shore power). To be able to keep up with a 30amp draw on shore power I needed a battery charger that can output 30amps, the cheapest best option out there was a simple DeWalt Battery Charger that I picked up at Home Depot. I installed in next to the battery and connected it to my AC outlet that connects to my shore power (more on that charger/shore power setup here).
This charging method worked great and was able to keep up with my 30amp water heater.
The stereo is wired to my house battery for its main power supply, but I kept the remote line connected to the D+ line. That way it still turns on with the engine. However, I added a 12v switch line to the remote line on the back of the stereo so that the stereo can run (off the house battery) with the engine off (middle unmarked toggle switch). Also added 4" Alpine Type S Speakers, huge upgrade over factory speakers. I added toggle switches above into the headliner. This seemed like an easy place to wire in switches without causing too much of a wiring mess in the dash. The headliner is pretty easy to remove and there is not much up there to get in the way of the switches.
I used this rocker switch panel, which worked great and then just bought the switches off amazon. Most of them were pretty easy to hook up and everything worked, and they all glow based on D+ input (12v power only when alternator is running). The wiring behind them was a lot easier since I pre-wired them outside the vehicle.
For the fridge I got a 12v Truck Fridge (TF49). The fridge was installed and run off of 12 gauge wire. It actually has a very small draw and is very efficient. I installed a small fuse box in the rear for the fridge and a switch assembly.
The solar panels were bolted onto the roof using the supplied brackets and then connected using the MC4 cables to the solar charge controller. I used two grape solar panels from Home Depot and so far, they have worked great. I purchased a cheap 20-amp PWM solar charger as 20 amps is more than enough for my solar setup (200w panels - 200w/19v= 10.5 amps (solar panel output voltage can be found in their specs, mine were about 19volts)). Update (Jun 2021) My cheap charge controller has failed after 5 years of use. Definitely got my money worth out of it, but time to upgrade from a PWM to a 20amp MPPT Victron Controller. Installation was pretty straight forward with the new controller as all connections were the same. This one came with Bluetooth connection in their app which is a really nice feature and allows you to see real time solar input.
In order to monitor the power, I installed a Voltage/Amperage monitor. It uses a shunt on the negative side of the battery. Inputs on both sides of the shunt plus a positive and negative input is all that is needed for the monitor. I carved out the opening in my center counsel and installed the monitor there. I liked this model because it does have a back light that you can turn on or off.
To run the shut lines to the monitor plus future signal lines I ran 4 different colored wires from my rear battery area to the front dash area underneath the dash. If you plan to run any wires outside the van, as I did, now is the time to run them. These lines were used for water pump, water heater and other rear accessories that were added to dash switches.
Because I don't have much demand for AC power, besides laptop chargers, I simply got a small 400w DC to AC inverter and bolted it to my bench seat using 8 gauge wire to connect it to the rear battery (seen in the pictures above), However this model is really loud when the fan kicks on, so I would not recommend it and I am in the process of looking for a better lower wattage inverter.
I also installed a ScanGauge II to my dash to monitor MPG, voltage, engine temp, and any other engine sensor. I used a piece of metal and double-sided tape to affix it to the dash just above the steering wheel.
UPDATES: The electronics on my van are a constantly evolving project and I will continue to update this page as I update my van.