Updated: Jun 19, 2022
Not everybody needs or can afford the biggest best 12v electric set up in their vans. I am forever seeing people asking in Facebook groups for simple no thrills 12v set ups with just lights, somewhere to charge electronics and maybe just watch a bit of tv when needed.
So I thought I would do my usual and try and take all the guess work out for people. I will post links to EVERYTHING you will need from start to set it up yourself at home.
So here is my...
A Simple Budget Full 12v System for the minimalist - Split Charge Version
The first thing I should explain that that this set up isn't for everybody. This set up is the bare minimum for people who are looking for something very simple, cheap system. There are better options on the market but they are more expensive and a lot of the time more complicated.
This full install with everything you need (electrically) will only cost you £264.14. Thats with the battery, a way to charge it, all the cables, connectors, switches, sockets, fuses, lights, and other bits.
This post is my basic 12v set up with a split charger. This is the most basic and cheapest way to keep your leisure battery charged but has limitations. A split charge relay only charges your leisure battery when your engine is running and your starter battery is fully charged. It is also very slow at charging your leisure battery and will only charge it to about 80%. So unless you are driving long distances everyday or using the bare minimum of power when you don't then this really isn't the system for you. Please check out these two posts instead.
It's best not to run anything from your main van battery as there is always a chance you will run your battery dead and not be able to start your van. So The first thing you will need for 12v power is a 12v leisure/auxiliary battery. The one below is 110AH and comes with a 3 year warranty, I had one of these in my old van for 4 years and it still holds charge today. I keep it fully charged in my mums house incase I ever need it for my new van in an emergency. As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases
12V 110AH SuperBatt
For some better quality awesome AGM battery options please check out our new blog post...
The next thing you will need is some battery terminals so you can connect things to your battery. You will need to connect a few different cables to your battery so I suggest getting a pair of these so you have a few different connection options.
12V 3Way Battery Terminals
The next thing you will need to do before you do anything else is earth/ground your battery. For that you will need a nice thick cable that wont melt. The cable below is both cheap and perfect and will never give you any problems. Also if you buy this pre-made cable you will not need to spend money on the connectors too.
Spartan Power Black 0.61 Meters 4 AWG
Once you have earthed your leisure battery you can no install something to keep your battery charged. As this is the split charge version of this post (please see my other posts for solar & battery to battery charger versions) what you will need is a split charge relay kit. It comes with everything you need to install in including fuses so you don't have to pay for anything separately Again they can be found on Amazon.
One of the main tricks for keeping the costs down in a van build is keeping the cables as short as possible as cables are EXPENSIVE. So to keep the cost and budget down for this post I have chosen a split charge relay kit with a 2 meter power cable. If your leisure battery needs to be further away from your main van battery than 2 meters you can be kits with longer cables on Amazon but they cost more...
2 Metres Split Charge Relay Kit with 12V 140amp
Now you have your battery earthed and a way to keep your battery charged up you only need a few more things before you can start adding your basic lighting and accessories to your build. They are a blade fuse box, cables and blade fuses. As this is a budget system with minimal accessories and lighting you won't need spend a lot IF you keep all sockets, switches and the fuse box as close to the leisure battery as possible. Remember cables are EXPENSIVE
So first things first a blade fuse box. Again this is a budget system for the minimalist so we don't need a 12 way fuse box! 6 way will do... This one is perfect.
The fuse box is wired to you leisure battery and then you wire all of your lights and accessories to your fuse box.
MICTUNING 6 Way Blade Fuse Box
To wire your blade fuse box to your battery you will need 2 cables, one red cable to go from the positive terminal on the battery to the positive terminal on the fuse box, and one black cable to go from negative to negative. It is best to use thicker cable than you need just to be safe and incase you want to add anything else to your set up at a later date.
I recommend using 8 AWG cable. Remember to keep costs down we need to keep the cable sizes as short as possible you you are going to need mount your fuse box as close to your battery as possible. This link is for a set of cables one positive and one negative both 1 meter long.
Boladge 2 X 1 Meter Pure Silicone Wire 8AWG Power Cable Neg & Pos
The next you will need is some terminal connectors as the cable does not come with them already attached. It is hard to just buy 4 of these so it's best to get a pack. You might also be thankful for a few spares. These are the correct size terminals for the cable above.
20PCS Tin Plated Pure Copper Battery Cable Ends Lugs Ring Terminals Connectors
It is also a good idea for safety reasons to add in inline fuse between the battery and the fuse box. The closer to the battery you can get it the better so if anything goes wrong the fuse will blow as soon as possible.
This one is switched so also works as a circuit breaker. You can switch off the power from the battery to the fuse box any time you like with just a flip of the switch.
12V-24V DC 40 Amp Circuit Breaker, Fuse Holder
Now you're good to start wiring lights and accessories up to your blade fuse box. The easiest and cheapest lights to use would be LED strip lights. They also draw very little power so are perfect for a minimalist system. I would go for go for 2 strips one down each side of your van. these lights are very bright so you will not need anything else.
These ones are really good and a decent price.
5M COOL WHITE LED LIGHT STRIP
BUY X 2
To turn your lights on & off your going to need a light switch. To save a few pennies you can join both of the light strips together with a choc block connector and turn both on with the same switch. You will also save a few pennies as this will be extra EXPENSIVE cable you will have to buy. Again the switches should be as close to the fuse box as possible to keep cables as short as possible.
SmartSwitch™ Blue Illuminated On/Off Round Rocker Switch
Then so you can join both strip lights to the same switch you should use some of these awesome wago connectors...
10x WAGO 221-413 ELECTRICAL WIRE BLOCK CONNECTOR STRIP 12V 220-240V CABLE TERMINAL
Again with the cables it's better to go slightly thicker than you need. As LED strip lights use very little power you could get away with using thinner cable but this stuff is decent and cheap so theres no need. 20 Meters should be more than enough to go from fuse box to light switch to wago connectors and finally to your lights. You will also have enough left over to wire up your accessories.
TUOFENG 16 AWG Wire, 20 m
The last thing you will need to be able to wire your lights is some crimp connectors. These will make all of your connections safer, more secure and a lot easier. This kit is a little bit of overkill but its cheaper to buy this whole set than it would be to buy a small packet of each connector you will need. At least you wont run out and you will have plenty of spares if you decide to build on your system at a later date. You will also need these later when wiring up your accessories.
520pcs Electrical Connectors Assorted Insulated Crimp Terminals Kit Pack
Now you are ready to start adding your accessories. As I said as the start of the post this post is a BUDGET BASIC 12V SET UP FOR THE MINIMALIST so I am not going to go into all the things you could have I will stick to the brief of "simple no thrills 12v set ups with just lights, somewhere to charge electronics and maybe just watch a bit of tv when needed"
So for that the best and cheapest option is to get yourself one of these! I promised you basic and budget...
Double USB Socket & Lighter Socket
This is a very simple solution that's cheap and very easy to install. It can be wired directly to your fuse box with without the need for switches as the only battery it uses with nothing plugged into it is what it needs for the tiny LED bulb.
It can be used to charge anything that can be charged via USB cable like Phones, Tablets, MIFI, Camera batteries etc and it also has a 12v Cigarette lighter socket that you can plug a 12 volt television or a 12v laptop car adapter.
You already have all the crimp connectors and cable you will need to wire these to your fuse box.
The final things you will need to complete your set up is some blade fuses. Once everything is connected to your fuse box you can put the fuses in to finish the circuit and give power.
As you are using the same cable for everything you just need to use the same amp rated fuse for everything. The size fuse you will need is 15amp
Fuses are hard to buy on their own but its good to have spares and you will have some if you decide to add anything to your system at a later date (remember you have 3 spare terminals on your fuse box)
15A Standard Car Auto Blade Fuse 15 Amp ATO - Pack of 10
FOR YOUR STRIP LIGHTS
And that is your Simple Budget Full 12v System for the minimalist - Split Charge Version
This system is obviously not for everybody but it is a perfect set up for a lot of people who like to keep things simple. I have tried to get it as cheap as possible without putting anybody's life in danger or ordering from wish and waiting until 2023 for delivery.
For those of you who have liked this basic system but would like to add a few upgrades to it please check out this post
If you are wanting to add some solar check these posts out...
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