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This is how to Install an Inverter in your Van Conversion (2022)

Updated: Sep 23

Want to charge a laptop or blend a smoothie in your campervan? 😋 Well, you're going to need some plug sockets! To install plug sockets in a van conversion we need an inverter. In this article we will learn all about inverters, how to size them, the best brands, and how to install one. By the end, a large part of your van electrical system will be complete! I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for many years, I'm the author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, the van conversion instructor at Udemy, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. So let's jump in and have a look at ground for van conversions!

This is how to Install an Inverter in your Van Conversion (2022)

Items linked in this guide are affiliate links. By using these links, you are helping me to continue writing free educational van conversion content!

You can find the full list of van conversion supplies here.


Index

 
 

What is an inverter and why do we need one?

An inverter is a device that converts Direct Current (DC) electricity into Alternating Current (AC) electricity. In relation to a van conversion, it converts the 12v electricity from our leisure batteries into 110/230v electricity.


You will need an inverter if you want to run any AC appliances (eg. charging a laptop through a plug socket) .


Alternating current (AC) vs. Direct current (DC)

Let's have a quick refresher. There are two kinds of electric current: direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). Electrons move in one direction with direct current (batteries produce direct current). Whereas in alternating current, electrons flow in both directions.


Direct current

Direct current electricity flows in one direction: out the Positive (+) side of the battery, to the appliance, and back into the Negative (-) side of battery. In a DC system, positive wire is typically coloured red, negative wire is typically coloured black. Car batteries are DC, typically 12v (12 volt).


We can think of this movement of electricity like a river; it only flows in one direction.


Many van conversion electrical appliances will be 12v DC, such as the fan, heater, or lights.

DC electric current diagram

Alternating current

With alternating current, the electrical force vibrates rather than flows. This is known as oscillation. In an AC system there is no positive or negative, current is instead transmitted through these vibrations. We can think of this like waves across an ocean: force moves, but the water does not.


AC electricity does not just flow in one direction, indeed it periodically reverses direction.


Mains electricity is AC, ie. the electricity you use in your house. In North America 110v is typically used for AC, whereas in Europe 230v is used.


An AC household appliance (eg. a kettle) will have 3 wires running to it: Live (blue), Neutral (brown), and Ground (green & yellow).


When converting a van, you will likely want plug sockets (so you can charge your laptop to watch netflix...). These plug sockets are AC.

DC vs AC graph van conversion

If you want to learn more about electricity as it relates to van conversions, you can read more here. The article covers volts, amps, watts, batteries, solar, AC, DC, and more.


Pure sine

Pure sine inverters give off much cleaner electricity as opposed to modified sine wave inverters. In a pure sine inverter, the AC power produced by the inverter closely matches the actual sine wave; is is smooth as opposed to stepped.


This is especially important for very sensitive devices that we really don't want to break. Like our laptop.


Always choose a pure sine wave inverter.

pure sine vs modified inverter van conversion

How to size the inverter for you van conversion

Sizing your inverter is very simple. You just need to figure out the total wattage you expect to user at any given time.


For instance, if you might be charging a 90w laptop, while also using a 650w blender and a 170w electric blanket. This means your inverter must be able to handle 870W at a minimum. We will want to give ourselves a ~15% safety buffer on top of this, so we will probably go with a 1000W inverter.


We should try and size our inverter as closely as possible to what we actually expect to use. If we get an inverter that's way too big, we will lose a lot of efficiency in terms of energy usage versus having a smaller one.


Tips when using your inverter

  • Make sure you turn off your inverter when you're not using it! Inverters (especially cheap ones) passively suck energy from the batteries. Believe it or not, they can use up to 5a of power just being on.

  • Try to wire as many appliances as you can directly into your 12V DC system. When running appliances through an inverter, you lose about 15% efficiency in the conversion of DC into AC. For instance, we should charge our phones through USB cigarette lighter chargers, rather than through the plug sockets.


These are the best inverters for your van conversion


The cheap inverter

You can easily pick up an inverter on pure sine inverter like this on amazon that will do the trick in a snap. These type of inverters won't be as durable or efficient as their more expensive brethren, but they are a good budget option!


The most recommended inverter

Buying a pure sine inverter from a trusted brand like Victron or Renogy will be your best option long term. The product will last longer and is more energy efficient. Renogy make excellent inverters, many van conversions are fitted with their 2000w pure sine inverter. is a great choice.


I regret not buying this inverter first time round as my cheap inverter has brought me a lot of headache over the years.

Renogy 2000W pure sine wave inverter van conversion

Inverter Charger

If you are planning on also installing shore power in your van conversion (ie. charge your batteries by plugging into mains at a campsite), you should definitely check out an inverter / battery charger combo like this one. Yep... one device with double functionality. Save space and money!

Renogy Inverter charger van conversion

Solar Inverter Charger

If you thought double functionality was nifty, how about triple functionality? The Renogy solar inverter charger combines:

  • 80a Solar charge controller

  • 3500w Inverter

  • 120a Battery charger

It also comes with mobile connectivity to monitor your device/batteries. One thing to note is that this only works with 48v leisure batteries (which are pretty rare on their own). So what this means is that you will likely need to wire four 12v batteries in parallel. Certainly doable, but perhaps it's own mission. Still... I'm drooling at this device.

Renogy solar inverter charger

How to install an inverter in your van conversion

Note: You can get a complete wiring diagram when you sign up to The Van Conversion Newsletter. The diagram shows you how to wire up your batteries, your inverter, your solar, and everything else! I send out the wiring diagram straight away when you sign up. If you want a full overview of the electrical system, you can check out this guide.


These are the supplies you need

(Click on any item to purchase it)


Connect the inverter to the bus bars

The inverter has a positive and negative terminal on it. Wire the positive terminal to the positive bus bar and the negative terminal to the negative bus bar. I used 2AWG cable for this, but you should do your own calculations for the wire size you need. You can learn all about wire sizing here. Remember, the bus bars are directly attached to the leisure batteries.

wiring up an inverter for a van conversion

Fuse it

On the positive wire, we will connect a ~175a mega fuse as close to the bus bar as possible; this protects the inverter (and wire) in case of a huge surge in electricity. Most 1000w inverters will allows for a surge/peak of 2000w for a short period of time. 2000w equates to 166a in a 12v system (2000w / 12v = 166a). So our fuse should not blow at 166a, but instead be a little bigger, hence why we use a 175a fuse for a 1000w inverter. You can learn about fuse sizing here.


Add a terminal switch

On the positive wire we also want to install a terminal switch. This is a big switch that allows us to easily turn off our inverter. Remember: we should turn off our inverter whenever we are not using it to save electricity.

Ground it!

You will also want to ground your inverter; you can do this by grounding it directly to the vehicle chassis or by vicariously to the vehicle chassis through the negative bus bar. You can learn all about ground for van conversions in this article.

Grounding an inverter for a van conversion

How to wire up plug sockets in your van conversion

First, grab some three core cable and wire up a plug head! Here's what that looks like for a UK plug:

How to wire a plug head for a van conversion

Remember, 3-core cable is insulated AC cable with live, neutral, and earth wires.


Pop the plug head into the front of your inverter.

Plug head into inverter van conversion

Then, with the other end of the 3-core cable wire up the plug socket. This is quite straightforward. Live to live (brown), neutral to neutral (blue), earth to earth (yellow/green).

Wiring a plug socket in a van conversion

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.

installing a plug socket in a van conversion

Conclusion


I hope you found this article on inverters for campervans 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 sign up).


If you're converting a van but unsure of how to do it, you could also check out the Van Conversion Course on Udemy. In the course, you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!


Until next time,

Shane ✌️