June 5th, 2023

Comprehensive Guide to Solar Panels and Electrics in Campervans

solar pane;s and electrics in campervans


Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the essential components of a campervan: solar panels and electrics. As more and more people ebrace the freedom and adventure of van life, understanding the importance of a reliable and efficient electrical systems becomes a top priority.

Solar panels on a camper van not only provide a sustainable and eco-friendly source of power but also offer the freedom to travel off-grid, without the need for a constant external power source. They harness the power of the sun to generate electricity, keeping your appliances running and your devices charged, no matter where your journey takes you.

Mastering campervan electrics can seem daunting at first, but it's an essential part of a van conversion. From lighting to refrigeration, charging your devices to powering your cooking appliances, a well-designed electrical system is at the heart of functional and comfortable campervan.

In this guide, we will delve into the world of solar panels and campervan electrics, providing you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about how to kit out your own van conversion or campervan. Wether you're a seasoned van lifer or just starting out your journey, we're here to help you navigate the ins and outs of powering your home on wheels.  

Understanding Campervan Electrics

Campervan electrics can seen complex, but once you understand the basics, it becomes much easier to manage. Here's a breakdown of the key components:

Solar Panels: The solar panels produce the electricity to power the batteries on the system.

Batteries: The battery in your campervan stores the electricity generated by your power source. There are different types of batteries available, including lead-acid, AGM and lithium-ion, each with its own pros and cons.

Inverters: An inverter converts the DC power from your battery into AC power, which is used by most household appliances. There are two main types of inverters: modified sine wave and pure sine wave.

Charge Controller: This device regulates the power coming from your solar panels and ensures that your battery is not overcharged.

Fuses and Breakers: These are saftey devices that protect your electrical system from overloads and short circuits.

Wiring: Carrying electricity from power sources like solar panels and batteries and to appliances and devices. It's important to use the correct type and size of wire to ensure saftey and effeciency.

understanding campervan electrics

Solar Panels

Why Solar Panels are essential for Campervans.

Solar panels have become a game-changer in the world of campervans, offering a host of benefits that make them n essential component of any van conversion or campervan build. Here is why:

Sustainability: Solar panels on camper vans harness the power of the sun, a renewable and clean source of energy. This reduces reliance on fossil fuels and helps to mimise your carbon footprint, making your van life adventures more eco-friendly.

Cost-effectiveness: While the initial investment in solar panels can be resonably significant depending on usage needs, the long-term savings can also be substsntial. Solar panels can generate free electricity for years, reducing your energy costs and saving you money in the long run.

Independence from the grid: With solar panels, you can generate your own electricity wherever you are, freeing you from the need to find a power hookup. This gives you the freedom to explore off-grid locations and enjoy your travels whilst mimising the risk of running out of power. As long as the sun shines the solar panels will keep producing free electricity.

Campervan with solar panels on the roof

Choosing the right solar panels for your Campervan.

When it comes to installing solar panels on your camper van the main factors are how many can you fit with the space available, your budget and your power needs.

There are severel types of solar panels available, each with it's own pros and cons. Let's explore the most common types:

Monocrystaline Solar Panels: These are the most effecient nd durable type of solar panels. They are made from a single crystal structure, which allows electrons to move more freely and generate more electricity. However, they are also the most expensive.

Polycrystaline Solar Panels: These panels are made from multiplecrystal structures, which makes them less effecient than monocrystaline panels. However, they are more affordable and can be a good choice if budget is a concern.

Thin-Film Solar Panels: These are the least effecient type of solar panel mentioned here but also the cheapest. They are lightweight and flexible making them easy to install. They can be installed easily on curved surfaces which make them handy for campervan builds however they require more space which can be a limitation.

Different types of solar panels for camper vans

How to install solar panels on your campervan.

Installing solar panels on your camper van may seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and the right information it's not so scary.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

Step 1: Choose the right location -  The ideal lace for your solar panels is on the roof of your camper van, where they will get the most sunlight. Make sure the area is clean and free of any obstructions.

Step 2: Mount the solar panels - If you are installing mono or poly panels use a mounting kit to secure the panels to the roof. Some of the flexible panels can be glued directly the surface of the roof. Always make sure they are firmly attached and can withstand the wind while you're driving.  

Step 3: Connect your panel to your charge controller -  Use the appropriate cables to connect your solar panels to your charge controller. Make sure the connections are secure.

Step 4: Connect your charge controller to the battery -  If your charge controller isn't already connected to the battery make sure to connect it up. This will allow the electricity generated by the solar panels to be stored in the battery for later use.


Remember saftey is paramount when working with electricity. If you're not comfortable doing the installation yourself, consider hiring a professional.

installation of solar panels on a campervan


Understanding Batteries in Campervan Electrics

Batteries are a vital component of your campervan's electrical system. They store the energy generated by your solar panels, allowing you to use electricity even when the sun isn't shining. Let's delve into the different types of batteries and how they work in the campervan setting:

Lead-Acid Batteries:  These are the traditional type of battery used in vehicles.While they are relatively cheap, they require regular maintenance and have shorter lifespan compared to other types. They also have a lower depth of discharge, meaning you can only use about 50% of the battery's capacity to avoid damagaing it.

AGM Batteries: AGM stands for Absorbent Glass Mat. These batteries are a type of lead-acid battery, but they are sealed and require no maintenance. They have a higher depth of discharge than traditional lead-acid batteries (Around 60%) allowing you to use more of the battery's capacity.

Lithium-Ion Batteries: These are the most expensive type of battery, but they also offer the best performance. Lithium-Ion batteries have a high depth of discharge (Around 80%), allowing you to use almost all of the battery's capacity. They also require no maintenance nd have a longer lifespan compared to lead-acid and AGM batteries. This is why typically we advise lithium batteries.


Choosing the right battery for your campervan depends on your budget, your power needs, and how often you plan to use your campervan. Remember, taking care of your battery by not overcharging or discharging it too much can significantly prolong its lifepan.

different types of batteries for campervan electrics


The role of Inverters in Campervan Solar Systems

Inverters lay a crucial role in your campervan's electrical system. They convert the DC power stored in your battery into AC power, which is used by most household appliances. Let's explore the different types of inverters and their importance in a campervan setting:

Modified Sine Wave Inverters:  These are the more affordable ype of inverter. They work well for many appliances but may cause issues with more senstive devices due to the "choppy" power output. They are also less effecient than pure sine wave inverters.

Pure Sine Wave Inverters:  These inverters produce a smooth, pure sine wave output that is identical to the power supplied by the grid. This makes them suitable for all types of appliances, including sensitive devices like laptops and televsion. However they are more expensive than modified sine wave inverters.

You'll need to ensure your inverter is powerful enough to power the type of appliances that you plan to use and that it fits your budget. The inverter is a vital part of your electrical system but it also consumes power so if you're not using it make sure you turn it off.


Inverter for a campervan electrical system

Charge Controllers

Understanding what charge controllers are for in campervan electrics

A charge controller is an essential component of your campervan's solar power system. It regulates the power coming from your solar paels and prevents your battery from overcharging, which can cause damage. Let's look at the two different types of charge controllers:

PWM Charge Controllers:  PWM stands for pulse width modulation. These are he simpler and cheaper type of charge controller. They are suitable for smaller systems with lower power needs. However, they are less effecient than MPPT controllers, especially in colder weather.

MPPT Charge Controllers:  MPPT stands for maximum power point tracking. These controllers are more advanced and effecient than PWM controllers. They can extract more power from your solar panels and are more suitable for larger systems with higher power needs. However,they are also more expensive.

Choosing the right charge controller for your campervan depends on your solar panel set up and your power needs. Remember, a good charge controller can sinificantly increase the effeciency gof your solar system and prolong the lifespan of your battery.

the role of a charge controller in campervan electrics

Maintaining your campervan's solar panels and electrics.

Proper maintenance of your campervan's solar panels nd electrics is crucial to ensure their longevity and efficiency. Here are some tips on how to maintain and troubleshoot common issues:

Solar Panel Maintenance:  Solar panels require minimal maintenance. Rgularly cleaning the panels to remove dust and debris an help maintain their effeciency. It's also important to check the mounting hardware or glue periodically to ensure the panels are secrely attached.

Battery Maintenance:  Depending on the type of battery you have, maintenance requirements may vary. For example, lead-acid batteries need t obe topped up with distilled water periodically, while lithium-ion batteries require little to no maintenance. Alwys ensure your battery is not overcharged too much to prolong it's lifespan.

Inverter Maintenance:  Keep your inverter in a well-ventilated aea to prevent overheating. Regularly check the wiring connections to the inverter for any signs of wear or damage.

Troubleshooting: If you're experiencing issues with your solar panels or electrics, start by checking the obvious things first. Check loose connections or blown fuses. A multimeter can be a handy tool for diagnosing electrical issues.

Remember, while some maintenance and troublehooting can be done yourself, don't hesitate to contact a professional if your problem persists.


Remember saftey is paramount when working with electricity. If you're not comfortable doing the installation yourself, consider hiring a professional.