A campervan electric hook up (AKA Shore power) allows you to fill up with electricity (mains) 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 campervan electric hook up in your campervan! We will look at wiring up a battery charger as well as plug sockets.
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!
So let's jump in and have a look at campervan electric hook up!
Note: Before we hop in, you might want to grab yourself a wiring diagram which you can get for free by signing up to The Van Conversion Newsletter
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Supplies list 🛒
What is a campervan electric hook up?
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.
Safety note: AC electricity is dangerous and can kill! If you are unsure about it, it is best left to a professional.
In the Roaming Home 2023 study we found that 58% of people install shore power in their van conversion.
What is a battery charger?
A battery charger is a device which converts 110V / 230V AC power into 12V DC power. It also regulates the voltage and current running into the batteries and optimises them per the charging stage of the batteries.
I personally use the Victron Blue Smart IP22 30A battery charger and really like it. It was simple to install, functions flawlessly, and has built-in bluetooth monitoring capability. We will look at how to wire it up later in the guide. It is generally regarded as one of the best battery chargers on the market.
If you want to take it a step up (and simplify things), you could even look at getting the Victron inverter charger. It combines an inverter and battery charger together; all with less wiring! Use the inverter when you are plugged into campervan electric hook up, rather than wiring up a seperate plug socket.
As you research battery chargers, you will find they range in amperage from a lowly 5a all the way up to 100a! The amperage rating of the battery charger directly correlates to the time it will take to recharge your batteries. It will take ~3 hours to recharge a 100aH leisure battery with a the Victron Blue Smart IP22 30a battery charger.
Portable battery chargers
Victron also make portable battery chargers which can be used outdoors (waterproof) or for trickle charging (keep a stationary vehicle topped up). They are also very useful for recharging deeply discharged batteries.
How to install a campervan electric hook up (mains electrics)
Step #1: Install a campervan electric hook up inlet in the side of your van
2. Connect the campervan electric hook up inlet to a consumer unit
A garage consumer unit contains an RCD (residual current device) and several MCBs (miniature circuit breakers). It is a box of breakers for AC systems.
RCD: The RCD will ensure that the power supply is automatically cut to all of the circuits protected by the device if ground leakage is detected. In North America, these devices are known as ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
BS7671 states that the RCD must have a residual operating current not exceeding 30mA and must turn off both live and neutral in case of fault.
Essentially the RCD will break the circuit if it detects that the electric current is unbalanced between the supply and return. Any difference between the currents indicates leakage, which presents a shock hazard. In a nutshell, RCDs protect you from electrocuting yourself. It also has the added benefit of cutting the circuit if it detects a short circuit (the live and neutral wires touch each other).
Type A vs. Type AC RCDs: Type AC MCB ensures tripping for residual alternating currents, Type A Ensures tripping for residual alternating currents and pulsating direct currents. Since the BS7671:2022 amendment it has been required for all except a few installations that the RCD is a type A device, type AC devices are not suited to typical campervans.
MCB: The MCBs in the consumer unit protect the devices / plug sockets they connect to.
Single vs. double pole MCBs: An MCB can be either single pole or double pole. Per BS 7671:2018 Section 721, you may not install single pole breakers in a campervan. This is because they don't adequately isolate the reverse polarity of some European campsites that operate on a different distribution network.
You must only use double pole MCBs in your campervan electrical system.
How to wire a consumer unit for campervan electric hook up
Using 3-core cable (stranded mandatory), connect the hook up inlet to the consumer unit. You should use ferrule connectors to ensure you get a clean connection with the connector block. In most cases, the cabling should be 2.5mm 3-core arctic rated flex cable.
A typical garage unit for campervans will contain a 40A RCD and two MCBs (normally 6A and 16A).
From shore power inlet: The neutral and live wires go into the top of the RCD, into the corresponding inlets. Earth goes to the earth bar, typically located at the bottom of the unit.
To the battery charger / plug sockets: Our battery charger and plug socket are wired to the consumer unit. The plug socket allows us to use mains directly from the campsite, rather than always running through our leisure batteries. The battery charger charges our leisure battery.
The lives and neutrals connect to the bottoms of the MCBs. The earths all go to the earth bus bar.
Ground: We need to ground our consumer unit. We run this wire to our universal chassis ground point in our van.
Campervan consumer unit wiring diagram
Step #3: Connect the consumer unit to a battery charger
As mentioned previously, we wire our battery charger to the consumer unit using 3-core cable. We run the cable into the consumer unit and wire it up to an MCB.
The battery charger converts AC to DC and regulates the voltage and current flowing to the batteries relative to what stage of the battery charging cycle it is at.
Note: The Victron Blue Smart IP22 battery charger comes with a plug head on it. You will need to snip off this plug head and strip back the Live, Neutral, and Earth in order to wire it up to the consumer unit.
Step #4: Connect the battery charger to the leisure batteries (bus bars)
Next, connect your battery charger to the leisure batteries (or bus bars, if you are using them... which you should). It is common to use 10 mm² cable for this. Add a 40A inline breaker (Bluesea or Bussmann brands only) between the battery charger and the bus bars (as close to the battery charger as possible). Please do your own wire sizing.
Step #5: Wire a plug socket into the consumer unit (optional)
Wiring a plug socket into the consumer unit is very useful. It means that when you are plugged into shore power, you can charge your devices directly off mains (rather than running through your leisure batteries).
Grab some 3-core cable and run one end of it into the consumer unit in the exact same manner as the cable from the battery charger.
Then, with the other end of the 3-core stranded cable, wire up the plug socket. This is quite straightforward. Live to live (brown), neutral to neutral (blue), earth to earth (yellow/green).
Note: Wall sockets in a campervan must be either unswitched or double pole switched. Single pole switched wall sockets are not suitable for a new installation - they are only for static installations.
You will likely be inserting the plug socket into a the plywood / tongue and groove wood in your van; you can use a jigsaw to easily cut out the shape of the plug socket and pop it into the cavity.
Campervan electric hook up cable
Shore power is a bit like dating. You want to make sure you're compatible before you hook up. In order to charge up, you will need a campervan electric hook up cable. This connects the campsite mains to your van. Per the BS 7671 guidelines, it may have a maximum length of 25m, and must be a flexible cable, with minimum 2.5mm² conductors.
Note: Ensure the cable is fully uncoiled when in use to avoid overheating.
I hope you found this article on how to install a campervan electric hook up useful!
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,