Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Hey everybody, since writing my blog posts a couple of weeks ago about budget 12v systems, I have had quite a few requests from people asking me to write a post about a system suitable for off grid living all year round. So today that is exactly what I am going to do but I have gone one step further!
This is not going to be one of my budget posts where I try and keep everything to a bare minimum but as usual I will try my hardest to keep the costs as low as possible and everything as simple as possible, although I will add luxuries as most people want them.
I will include everything you need from start to finish including all devices, accessories, cables, fuses, switches, outlets, batteries, chargers, lights, pipes, tubes, etc.
So here is my Awesome Fully Off Grid System For Your Van - Electrics, Gas, Water & Entertainment
The first thing you are going to need to be fully off grid all year round is a decent amount of power storage. Basically the more storage you have the longer you can stay off grid for, this is essential in the winter when there isn't enough daylight hours to keep your batteries topped up. For this I recommend getting 4 x 120AH batteries. As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases
4 X 120AH SuperBatt
With a bank like this you will have 480AH of battery storage but that will only give you 240AH of useable power, it is very important you don't discharge these batteries below 50% or they will not last you long at all. If they go below 11.3v you WILL cause some permanent damage to your batteries.
The next thing you will need is some battery terminals so you can connect things to your battery and your batteries to each other in parallel. You will need to connect a few different cables to your battery so I suggest getting one pair of these so you have a few different connection options for your fuse boxes, B2B charger, solar charge controller and inverter.
12V 3Way Battery Terminals
You will also need one set of these for each additional battery that you have, so if you have four leisure batteries you will need three sets of these (with the set above that makes four)
KKmoon Terminal Clamp Clip Connector
Wiring your leisure batteries together couldn't be simpler. All you need to do is connect each battery terminal to the next one positive to positive and negative to negative. You then run all of your positive cables to the first battery in the series and all the negative cables to the last battery in the series then your batteries will charge and discharge evenly.
For this you will need some cable and connectors. It is best to keep your cables as short as possible for efficiency and to keep your costs down. There is enough cable here to join all 4 of your leisure batteries together. You will need one of the black cables and one of the red cables.
1M Metre Black Battery Starter 50Mm Cable
1M Metre Red Battery Starter 50Mm Cable
You will also need some connectors (lugs) to connect the cables above to the battery terminals. So for four leisure batteries you will need twelve. It is best to have a few spare though so here are links to a pack of 10 and a pack of 5
50MM² CABLE x 10MM HOLE
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 4 AWG 30cm
Once you have earthed your leisure battery you can now install a few things to keep your battery bank charged. The first thing you should get is a B2B charger, this will charge your leisure batteries when your vans engine is running.
Sterling Power 12v 30amp Battery to Battery Charger
To connect you B2B charger to your starter battery and leisure batteries you will need a few more things, the first thing is cables. As the Starter battery and leisure batteries are likely to be some distance apart we need to size the cable higher. 70 amp cable will be perfect for this it will not overheat and there will be minimal power lost. You will need 5M of red and 5M of black.
70 AMP Rated Single Core Stranded Copper Cable 5M
RED - POSITIVE https://amzn.to/2LUKUdE
BLACK - NEGATIVE https://amzn.to/2ZCNPzy
You will also need to add some inline fuses. One needs to be as close to the starter battery as possible and then another in between theB2B charger and your leisure batteries as close to the B2B charger as possible. For this you will need two inline fuse holders and two 40AMP fuses
2 X Midi Fuse Holder
2 X 40 Amp Midi Fuse
Then you will need some connectors (lugs) to connect everything together. You will need six for the positive cable and two for the negative cable. Again it is best to have a few spare incase you make a mistake so here is a pack of ten.
Cable Lug 10mm2 M8 10x Cable Shoe
Another thing you will need to connect your cables to your Sterling B2B charger is some cable end Lugs. You put these on the ends of the cables that are going into and coming out of your B2B charger for a good solid connection.
Cable End Crimp Sleeve (10mm² - 8 AWG) Insulated Collar - Pack of 4
So that is everything you will need for your B2B charger, now we can move on to the solar set up ☀️☀️ ☀️ ☀️☀️
For this I am going to suggest a 300w set up, firstly because it is a decent amount of solar for a van and secondly most people only have a van big enough for 300w when they have roof vents, aerials and other bits and pieces.
You can buy 3 or the smaller 100w panels but that means extra cables, fuses, connectors and brackets. I recommend getting one larger panel like this one
300W Photonic Universe monocrystalline solar panel
To attach the solar panel to the roof you will need some brackets. This set comes with a waterproof cable entry to stop any leaks in your roof. These are no drill so can be fixed to your roof with a strong adhesive.
7 Piece Solar Panel Mounting Bracket
The next thing you will need to install is an inline fuse on your positive cable between your solar panel and your solar charge controller, as close to the solar panel as possible. As the solar panels come with short cables attached with connectors on the ends already this is the best place for you to install it.
Renogy® 30A MC4 Waterproof In-Line Fuse Holder w/Fuse
You will then need some solar extension cables to wire your panel to your solar charge controller. As the solar panel is 300W it will come with 30amp cables attached and we need to match that. so what you will need is 10 AWG cables. To stick to the colour system and not confuse anybody I suggest getting these.
A Pair of HQST 20Ft 10AWG MC4 Solar Extension Cables
Now you have the cables to attach the solar panel to the solar charge controller, its time to get a solar charge controller.
To work out what size solar charge controller you need it is very easy you need to take the number of watts of the solar panel and divide it by the number of volts of your battery.
300w solar panel divided by 12v battery = 25amps.
As it is best to go a little bit over (as I did above with the cables and fuses) this means you need a 30amp solar charge controller. I recommend this one, preferably with the LCD screen but its much cheaper without.
NEVER WIRE THE SOLAR PANELS TO THE SOLAR CHARGE CONTROLLER BEFORE THE SOLAR CHARGE CONTROLLER IS WIRED TO YOUR BATTERIES
EPEVER MPPT 30A Solar Charge Controller
With LCD https://amzn.to/2X3K9VN
As I said above you should never wire your solar panels to your solar charge controller before you have wired your solar charge controller to your batteries. If you do there is nowhere for the power to go and you will start smelling smoke coming form the charger. Trust me I have done it before its not fun.
For this you will need some more cable and another inline fuse.
You could cut the required amount off of the solar cable above as there will be more than enough left over and fuse it with a 40amp fuse and that would be good enough but as I always like to go a little bit higher with cable sizes than needed for safety and efficiency I like to go for 40amp cable with a 40amp fuse.
Superworm 8 Gauge Silicone Wire Super Flexible
1 X Strip Link & Midi Fuse Holder
All Trade Direct 2 X 40 Amp Midi Fuse
You will also need a few more lugs to connect all of these bits together. When installing it you need to keep the inline fuse as close to the solar charge controller as possible. This is a pack of twenty 8AWG lugs. You will need more later in the installation so you might as well get a pack.
20PCS Tin Plated Pure Copper Battery Cable Ends Lugs Ring Terminals Connectors (8AWG 8MM)
So that is everything you will need to store power (batteries) and charge your batteries, Now we can move onto everything else.
The next things you are going to need is two12 way blade fuse boxes. One for all your accessories, sockets, etc and one for all of your lights.
12v couldn't be any simpler really, All of your sockets, accessories, pumps, fans etc will have 2 wires one positive (usually red or brown) and one negative (usually black or blue). You just wire the positive cable to a positive terminal, insert the correct fuse, and wire the negative cable to any negative terminal on the fuse box.
12 Way Blade Fuse Box Fuses Included LED Warning Indicator
To keep things simple, neat and safe we will wire the the blade fuse boxes to bus bars instead of wiring them directly to the batteries. This will also help us keep the costs down by allowing us to use shorter cables. You will need two of these. one for a positive bus and negative bus.
Gloaso 100A BusBar Stud Terminal
To connect the bus bars to the battery we need to use a nice thick cable so it can handle pretty much everything that we hooked up to the blade fuse box all running at the same time. As you might want to add more accessories in the future I recommend using 4AWG cable. This set comes with four lugs. The Black cable goes to the negative bus bar and to the negative terminal on your battery, the Red cable goes to the positive bus bar, then to the circuit breaker below and from the circuit breaker to the positive battery terminal.
Pure Copper Flexible Wire 4AWG
You should also fit some kind of circuit breaker between the battery and positive bus bar. If you get one with a switch you can use it to shut off all power to anything running off of the fuse boxes when you are not using the van or in an emergency. Something very simple like this will do.
100Amp Circuit Breaker
To wire your blade fuse boxes to your bus bars you will need 2 cables per fuse box, one red cable to go from the positive bus bar to the positive terminal on the fuse box, and one black cable to go from negative bus bar to the negative terminal on the fuse box. 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. You could get away with a much smaller cable for the lights but you will have some left over 8 AWG cable and lugs so its pointless buying more cables and lugs just for the short distance. There is enough here for both fuse boxes