Shore power in a van allows you to fill up with electricity (mains) at home or at a campsite. In my opinion it is essential if you are using the campervan for extended trips. In this guide I will show you the simple approach to installing an mains hook up socket (AKA a shore power inlet) in your van, By the end your van will be ready for shore power!
In our Roaming Home 2023 study we found that 58% of people install shore power in their van conversion.
I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for years; I'm the author of Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan,writer of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course over at Udemy. And full-time vanlifer for 4 years!
Now let's jump in and have a look at how to install a mains hook up inlet socket!
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What is shore power and how does it work?
Shore power (campervan electric hook up) means hooking up to mains to charge your leisure batteries. For example, plugging into campsite electrics for the night. Installing shore power not only allows us to charge up our leisure batteries, but also allows us to run appliances directly off mains when we are plugged in (rather than always running through our batteries).
I have lived for quite some time in my campervan in Chamonix, France. It typically sees temperatures of -20°C in the heart of winter, during this time I tend to leave my van plugged into mains full-time. It is imperative to keep the heater running! I could not live without an electric hook up.
Shore power brings 110V / 230V AC electricity into our van. We use this to charge our 12V DC leisure batteries and wire up plug sockets. You will need a battery charger if you want to install shore power in your van.
Safety note: AC electricity is dangerous and can kill! If you are unsure about it, it is best left to a professional.
Here is a complete guide to campervan electric hook ups. The guide you are currently reading is only for the installation of the mains hook up socket (shore power inlet).
How to use a hole saw
You will need to use a bi-metal (metal cutting) hole saw drill attachment to cut a circular hole for the mains hook up socket.
There are a few things you should be aware of when using a bi-metal hole saw;
Oil: Use LOTS of tapping and cutting fluid on the metal you are cutting - you will destroy the hole saw if you don't.
RPM: Use the drill on a low RPM (rotations per minute) - you will destroy the hole saw if you don't. This means that you shouldn't press your finger all the way down on the trigger of the drill.
Pulsate: Pulsate the drill while you are cutting. Use a stop and start motion while drilling, this gives the holesaw a chance to cool down (it gets very hot).
Don’t cheap out: Real bi-metal hole saws cost a bit of cash - the cheap ones you find online may not work as well / at all.
Learn from my mistakes; the first time I used a hole saw, I destroyed it within 5 minutes because I didn't follow the advice above.
Careful of the swarf:
When using mechanical tools on metal, a lot of metal shavings are produced ( known as 'swarf'). It is vital that you remove all these shavings from the van when you are finished, if you don't they will very quickly rust and damage your vehicle. They are quite sharp, so be careful when handling them.
Always wear goggle while using mechanical tools on metal; if swarf gets into your eye, it could have very serious consequences. You should also wear earmuffs - these tools are VERY loud!
How to install a campervan mains hook up socket
There are many inlet sockets we may need to install in a campervan, including (but not limited to);
A mains hook up socket (shore power inlet) allows you to plug in at a campsite and charge up your batteries via shore power.
The process of installing a mains hook up socket and water inlet is the exact same. It is very similar to the solar cable entry installation.
Note: Per BS 7671, the mains hook up socket inlet must be in an easy-to-access position, no more than 1.8m above the ground. It must be at least IP44-rated (splashproof).
Step #1: Choose a bi-metal holesaw
Choose a bi-metal hole saw that fits for the mains hook up socket. Check the specific dimensions of the inlet you are using. Choosing the right size hole saw is important.
Step #2: Trace around the hole saw
Place the hole saw on the van and trace around it with a sharpie or pencil.
Step #3: Drill pilot holes
Drill a pilot hole in the middle of the traced circle and two more pilot holes close by on either side.
Step #4: Tape some plywood
Tape a square piece of plywood to the side of the van to cover the three holes you just drilled. This will act as the backing flange of the mains hook up socket.
Step #5: Secure the plywood
Screw into the piece of plywood from the outside to secure it to the van.
Step #6: Use the hole saw
Attach the hole saw to your drill and cut a hole in the side of the van.
Step #7: Apply metal paint to the exposed metal to prevent rust
Ensure you clean all the metal shavings (swarf) before applying the metal paint.
Step #8: Insert the inlet
Place the mains hook up socket into the hole you've just cut and mark with a pencil where the screws go in. Then take it out again.
Step #9: Drill pilot holes
Drill four pilot holes on the pencil marks.
Step #10: Secure the plywood to the van
The plywood will be the backing flange of the inlet. Secure the plywood to the inside of the van with Sikaflex. Clamp the plywood to the van until the Sikaflex has dried and secured.
Step #11: Attach the mains hook up socket (shore power inlet)
Screw the mains hook up socket into the van from the outside
Step #12: Apply sealant
Run a bead of sealant around the inlet to prevent any leaks!
I hope you found this guide to installing a shore power inlet useful! You are well on your way to a beautiful self-build campervan!
Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you join).
If you're looking for some guidance with your van conversion, you might be interested in Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. In the 380-page book (or ebook), you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!
Until next time,