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Shore power can be an important part of a van conversion if you want to be able to have electricity in your van. Although many people choose solar for the primary electrical source in their van, it can be very helpful to also have a second source of electricity.
Most RVs are equipped with shore power connections. With these connections, they are able to plug-in to power poles at campgrounds and enjoy electricity throughout their RV. The same can be done in a camper van and as you convert your van, it’s a good idea to include this in your plans.
If you are like me and intend on using solar for your primary electricity source, you probably don’t need a complicated shore power set up. I chose to install a simple but effective shore power solution in my conversion van. I don’t know a whole lot about electricity and did not want to hire it out. I wanted to be able to do it myself and not make a big deal of it.
I stumbled upon a simple solution during my research and I am glad that I went with this solution in the end.
The product that I ended up installing in my van conversion is a basic 15 amp plug that has standard extension cord leads on the back of it. Essentially, this becomes a way for me to run an extension cord into my van.
By using this adapter, the extension cord doesn’t have to be brought in through an open door or cracked window. It gives me a neat way to electrify my van while I’m safely tucked inside.
This simple product works perfectly for me because I only use it occasionally and for items that don’t draw a lot of power. You can also choose to use a 30 amp plug so that you are able to run items that draw more power such as heaters, air conditioners, irons and other items that might be too much of a power draw for the solar system that you might have installed.
How To Install Shore Power In A Van – The Simple Way
Step 1 – Figure Our Where To Put It
The first step to installing this type of shore power socket in a van is to figure out exactly where you want it to be. It doesn’t matter where you put it as long as it is in a convenient location for you and it comes through to the inside of the van in a place that is free from obstructions.
At first, I wondered which side the plug should be on. After researching motorhomes, I found that most often they are located on the driver’s side of the rig.
However, for my van, I wanted it on the passenger’s side because that is the most convenient place for my particular van conversion. I decided in the end that it didn’t matter where I put it because with a 50-foot extension cord, I will be able to connect to a power pole no matter where it is located in the Campground parking spot.
Step 2 – Mark & Drill Holes
The next thing that you will need to do is mark the location and drill a hole that the power plug will fit into. For the plug that I purchased, and recommend, it required a 2-inch hole. I installed painter’s tape in the spot I would be marking and drilling so that I wouldn’t accidentally scratch the paint in the vicinity of where I was working.
I used a 2 inch hole saw to create a smooth edged hole and it cut through the thin metal of my van like butter.
Note: before drilling any holes, make sure that you are clear on the other side. You don’t want to drill into a spot that is hard to get to or that ends up in a support brace inside the van. You want to make sure that where the hole is going to come through on the inside, it is nothing but solid sheet metal. Be sure and check this and measure multiple times before making a hole.
Once the hole has been drilled, you will want to sand or file any rough edges down so that you can be sure to get a good seal.
You will then need to drill three small holes that line up with the holes on the plug. Once those have been drilled, you will now be able to install the plug by simply using those three screw holes.
You may also want to add a little paint to the bare metal. This will help to prevent rust in the future if any water were to leak into it. I chose not to add any paint because it will be sealed tightly and will hopefully not allow any water to come in.
Step 3 – Install & Seal The Plug
The power plug that I used has a built-in gasket on it and I assumed that this would be all that would be needed to keep it leak-free. However, after installing it using only the gasket that it came with, it did leak after the first rain. I had to take it back out and come up with a different plan for making it leak-free.
I had to remove it and add some silicone sealant around the holes. After doing this and re-installing the power socket, it never leaked again.
Don’t trust the included gasket to keep it from leaking. It is likely to leak and you will probably need to add something additional to keep it from doing so. I would suggest using silicone or non-leveling lap sealant around the holes in order to prevent leaks from occurring.
Step 4 – Connect The Inside
After installing the socket, the only thing that will be left to do is connect the inside leads to wherever you will be connecting them. For me, the two leads that are connected to the plug are each going to an outlet that is installed on my walls in the van.
These outlets are usually connected to my Yeti 1400 but when I am on shore power, I can easily remove them from my Yeti and connect them directly to these leads. This switches the electrical source from the Yeti to the incoming shore power.
This also makes it easy for me to plug one of the leads into the Yeti 1400 so that it can charge when there is no sun. This is handy when I am staying in RV parks and the sun has been behind the clouds.
I am able to charge my solar batteries and not have to worry about them becoming drained. Sun or no sun, I can keep my solar batteries up to the full level no matter what.
Hooking Up Van To Shore Power
Most campgrounds have parking spots that have 30 amp electrical service. I can use this 30 amp service to plug an extension cord into. The extension cord then runs to the power plug that I installed on the side of my van and plugs into it.
I have a 50-foot extension cord and I have never found a time yet when 50 feet of extension cord was not enough.
In order to convert from 30 amps to 15 amps, I have to use an adapter known as a dogbone adapter made specifically for this application. The adapter plugs into the 30 amp plug but the other end has a standard 15 amp plug where my extension cord connects.
The standard 15 amp plug is the same type of plug that you would find in your home. Since it is converted to 15 amps with this adapter, I can run my extension cord directly to my shore power plug and it will work.
The cord that I use is yellow and it has a locking feature on it that allows it to stay connected without accidentally being pulled out. This is handy but is often a hassle with the specific power plug that I chose.
It can be difficult to unlock the end to pull it out. I’m not sure I would suggest this locking feature but the cord that I use also lights up on the end when it has current running through it. This is an easy way to see if it is working or not and whether or not you have electricity going into your van.
15 Amp Vs 30 Amp
Why would I choose a 15 amp plug over a 30 amp plug? For me the answer is simple; because I only need it occasionally and 30 amps would be overkill for me.
The 15 amp plug was simple to work with and it gives me all that I need. If I was in a larger RV, I would probably rather have a 30 amp connection. This is because there is more space and I would probably use a larger space heater or a larger portable air conditioner than what I would use in my van.
In my van, the living space is so small that the space heater I use when I am plugged up to shore power only draws about 1200 watts. This is well within the limits that 15 amps can handle. With 15 amp, I can connect around 1800 watts of devices.
Even when I am plugged in and using shore power, I am still using my solar battery bank for most everything in my van. The lights, fan, water pump continue to stay connected to my 12 V system so the only thing I use the shore power for is additional items and mainly for my small space heater on a cool night.
15 amps are plenty for my situation but you will have to decide for yourself whether or not it will be enough for you. You may need more so make sure that you do the math and know what you might be connecting to your shore power connection before you decide on the one that you purchase.
Having a shore power connection can certainly be helpful in the right situations. It’s very nice to have an additional source of electricity to use when you don’t want to use your solar battery bank. When you are staying in an RV park, it makes sense to connect it to shore power so that you do not drain your battery.
Also being able to charge your solar battery bank with it makes it a great decision. With such a simple solution, there is no reason not to add something like this into your van conversion plans. Of course, you can always choose to install a more complex system and go for something that will handle a larger load.
However, if you are like me and only use it occasionally, the solution that I used for my van may work perfectly for you as well.