Most of the new campervan owners does not know much about its electrical system.
So, don’t worry if you are also confused. Here, we will discuss all the points that can help.
- What electrics do I need for my campervan?
- Do you need a generator for the electrical devices?
- What is an EHU? And how to draw power from it?
Well, we will discuss everything and much more that will help you on the trip.
Campervan Electrics Guide
Basics of the Motorhome Electrics
Most of the old and modern motorhome uses a 12v battery to start its engine. Then, the vehicle has one or more 12v leisure battery, which draws charge from the starter cell.
This leisure battery also gets the charge when you plug in the motorhome. The simultaneous charging of both the batteries from a standard electrical outlet is referred to as a split charge relay.
The life of a motorhome, RV or caravan battery depends upon three factors: what is the frequency of discharge?
What is the depth of discharge? And how soon you recharge the battery?
A regulator makes sure that the battery goes through this charge and discharge cycle.
When the motorhome’s engine is not running and the vehicle is also not plugged in, the leisure battery supplies power to all the lights and other 12v sockets.
The water pump, fridge, electric step, and boiler will use this battery to work. All the other electrical components like roof lights or drop-down beds will also draw power from this leisure cell.
Do not expect the leisure battery to power an air conditioner because it takes a lot of energy to operate.
You need an EHU to run the AC. Would you please not use the battery for more than 50 per cent of its charge? Discharging the battery to more than half will deplete it early than you expect.
If your motorhome is connected to the camping site’s mains power system, all the sockets will work, including the 240V ones.
So, you can use all the appliances if they can get the required amps. Six amps are the public offering, and it quickly powers your TV, fridge and satellite, but cannot juice up a hairdryer or AC.
Ten amps can energize an AC, but it might work only for 20 minutes. Keep in mind that your fridge will not work on 12V unless it’s a compression model.
You might have noticed one or more solar panels on the roof of a motorhome. The panel could be a portable version as well. It transforms the solar energy to charge the leisure battery.
If you choose to fit a solar panel on your motorhome, you will also need a regulator to optimize the charge coming towards the battery.
However, using solar power is tricky. For instance, if you have a 200W panel that receives around 8 hours of sunlight, then It can power your van all over the evening before the sun rises again to refill. Check out the best 200w solar panel for caravan.
On the other hand, solar power can be a risky source if the sun is not fully powered because the panel can draw power only via sunlight.
A generator is another power source for your motorhome. It connects to your vehicle via an EHU socket. Most of the portable generator run on unleaded petrol.
Power generators are usually chosen depending upon their wattage, wherein one watt of power generates equals the same amount of energy required. So, determine the size of a generator by making a list of appliances you will use on the campsite.
Keep in mind that the generators can make a lot of noise, making fellow travellers feel uneasy. The smell is another factor that can disturb others. Plus, you need to bear its running cost by regular fuel purchase. Above all, you need to consider its weight.
Generators are going out of fashion because of their negative impact on the environment. Instead, motorhome owners prefer to utilize solar power. However, you can use a generator if you want to take a trip in winters when the sun is not at its full glory.
If you want to invest in a generator, then make sure it’s compatible with your motorhome. Most of the RVs, caravans, and motorhomes are built to use voltage stabilized power supply, which is not available with all the generators.
You might also be interested in How to prevent your caravan from being stolen.
An inverter draws power from the leisure battery and then converts it to 230V, which means you can use any of the appliances using a standard electrical outlet. Inverters are similar to generators because you need an equal watt of inverter power for every wattage required by the devices.
However, you cannot run at AC using the inverter. Other items like toasters, kettles and hair dryers require a high amount of power to start. So, you can use them one by one.
We suggest that you try a pure sin wave inverter instead of a modified sine wave version.
The former offer clean electrical energy, without any power fluctuations. So, you will not notice much humming from the appliances while using a pure sine wave inverter.
Plus, they will be safe from electrical surges.
Tips: If you own an old motorhome and don’t want to invest a high amount of electric professionals, then try a simple inverter that can offer a power of at least 200W.
If you have a 1000W appliance, then you need a 1000W inverter to generate the required amount of electrical power.
The inverter will be sufficient to power all the mobile gadgets, but you will need a lot more to use a kettle or hairdryer. For such arrangements, it’s better to consult a professional.
Additional Electric Items: For easy cooking you can get a suitable low watt camping microwave for your caravan. Check out this buying guide on things you need to consider when choosing the best camping oven.
A mini caravan washing machine will make your cleaning task more convenient.
You will like the fact that you can organize and customize the appliances and their power resources as per your requirements.
For instance, you can install an inverter instead of a solar panel and vice versa. So, think about your needs and then make a selection from the options we discussed above.
Motorhome electrics varies according to the make and model. So, we cannot generalize the electrical solution or combination.
However, for wild camping, you can use a 120W solar panel and a couple of 110Ah batteries. With these resources, you can power lights, watch TV, and charge portable devices.
You can add an inverter if you want to use a notebook. A 2000W inverter will work well and make your travelling easy.
So, you have to chase the sun, and there is no need to pay for EHU charges.
Putting together the electrical system in a motorhome is easy, especially if you are an expert.
But, if you are not sure where to start, then it’s better to take professional help. You will also get some advice according to your motorhome make and model.