Van Build Phases

Electrical System

Dive into my process of designing and building an efficient off-grid electrical system that saved me over $4000 for my Sprinter van, complete with detailed wiring diagrams.

Total Cost: $

6685.00

Total Time (hrs):

115

Full view of a compact electrical array with victron components and Enjoybot batteries.

* Disclaimer: This page contains various affiliate links that provide a small kickback to me, at no additional cost to you.

Electrical Array

Fuses

Wiring

Other 'stuff'

Tools

Power Audit

Wiring Diagram

coming soon

Regarding the components I used, I used mostly Victron components, and I'm really happy with this choice. They talk to each other, and are easy and intuitive to set up. A friend had sold me the DC-DC Sterling charger for a discount, which is why that is not part of the Victron pack.

I saved a significant amount of money by choosing off-brand batteries. Obviously, this can be gamble, but so far I have had no issues. The battleborn batteries with the Ah I need are $2500 EACH. These are the "industry standard," but I felt that shelling out $5k JUST on batteries was not worth it for me. I looked into some Chinese batteries on Amazon, but felt questionable about these since they did not have any warranty or proved customer service. I found the Enjoybot batteries for a similar pricepoint to the Chinese Amazon batteries, slightly higher Ah than the Battleborn batteries, and they are US-made and have a warranty. This felt like a huge win for me, and it saved me about $4k (when you factor in WA sales tax).

Process

I could not have done this without the help of my dad. Embarking on this felt so overwhelming, and I did not feel like I had sufficient knowledge on my own to complete this to the caliber I wanted. Though I'm proud to say I've been able to figure out most things on my own for my van build, here I'm proud to have my father as a producer, director, actor, extra, and tech in this project :o)

Received all major components! Checking out size requirements.
Drilling hole for shore power

Solar Install

I mounted my two 200W solar panels onto two pieces of 80/20. If you've seen my other projects on here, you'll notice I'm using extruded aluminum for all structural things. I preferred to do this instead of putting additional holes through my roof, which makes rust points more likely, and replacement much more difficult, should I ever need.

Jonathan and my dad helped me hoist the solar panel assembly onto the roof. It was pretty unwieldy and I couldn't have done it without them!

I attached the 80/20 to the roof rails using solar brackets. I had to widen the holes on the brackets first to accomodate the thickness of the bolts I was using.

I installed to solar gland underneath the panels to provide it additional shielding from the elements.

Solar gland

Back to the wiring

Absolute Chaos All The Time

I'm not sure if this is common practice in vans, but I made sure to use GFCI outlets throughout my van to add additional protection to my system. GFCI outlets are designed to safeguard against electrical shocks and ground faults. They continuously monitor the electrical current flowing through a circuit and rapidly disconnect power if they detect even a slight imbalance. Since space in a van is limited, electrical components are in close proximity to water sources and potential spills. GFCI outlets can protect against electrical shocks in such potentially wet and damp environments.

My dad installed the outlets in outlet boxes, and we attached them directly to the van frame using riv nuts. Since I don't plan to have thick wood for my side paneling, a secure attachment point for the outlets was important to prevent them from being accidentally ripped out.

Used GFCI Outlets that are attached directly to van frame through riv nuts

We created a ground by shaving off some of the paint on the van wall, and attaching the copper lug to that. I then sprayed it with Rustoleum to prevent it from rusting.

Ground wire

"It's like Medusa but with wires"

My champion dad, making sense of everything

Fuse distribution panel in action -- AC on the left, DC on the right.

First time turning the lights on!

I made a box to protect all the components

Pre-paint

Finished Product

Post paint

The electrical box has two sliding doors on it that provide me with easy access to the fuse panel and switches if I need them. I feel much safer about my system knowing that I can't accidentally bang it up with any equipment I throw in the garage. I even added a small piece of plywood under the batteries to protect them from accidental water damage if I get melted snow runoff or a spill.

You can see the heater also already installed next to it, you can read about that here.

Notion Board

Click on the image above to go to the full data base.

The Notion Board is my brain-dump database. I've been keeping meticulous track of every purchase, complete with receipts.

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Van Build Phases

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