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Camper Van Inverter Guide (With Wiring Diagrams)

Inverters are essential to provide AC power in a camper van so that you can charge laptops, use kitchen appliances, and run other household equipment that require AC electricity to function. But how do you wire an inverter in a DIY van conversion?

This post provides a step-by-step guide to wiring an inverter in a camper van. We include helpful inverter wiring diagrams, material lists, and installation tips. If you’re a beginner, this post also reviews essential inverter basics so you’ll know how to pick a suitable inverter for you and your van.

Just need the schematics? Skip directly to our detailed inverter wiring diagram.

Let’s get to it.

What Are Inverters?

An inverter converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) electricity. This device also upcharges the electricity’s voltage, typically from 12 volts (V) to 110V or 220V, depending on where you live.

Since leisure batteries typically only provide DC electricity, you need an inverter to power traditional ‘household-style’ appliances requiring AC electricity. Common appliances requiring an inverter to function are computers, blenders, electric kettles, hair dryers, and most other devices with a standard two or three-prong plug.

Not every van requires an inverter. If you don’t intend to power devices requiring AC power, you do not need an inverter in your van.

Important Inverter Basics To Know

Not all inverters are the same! Before wiring an inverter in a camper van, there are six points to learn that will help you understand the different features of an inverter and select the right one for your van.

Inverter Wattage Ratings

Different inverters output different amounts of power – Watts (W). You can often find 1000W, 2000W, & 3000W inverters. But other options are also available. The more watts an inverter can output, the larger, heavier, and more expensive these units typically are.

Calculating which size inverter you need is an inexact science. It depends on what AC devices you will bring in your van and which devices you intend to power simultaneously. But in our research and experience, it is easiest to identify the power rating of your more power-intensive AC device, add 50%, and round up to the nearest thousand.

Example: You have an electric water kettle that requires 800W to operate and will be the most power-intensive device you will bring. Adding 50% to 800W gives 1,200W. Rounding up to the nearest thousand gives you 2000W. So, a 2000W inverter would be ideal for your van conversion.

Voltage Output

Inverters will take in DC electricity and output 120V or 240V AC power. You must choose which voltage (120V or 240V) best suits your van conversion. Hint: The ideal voltage depends on which region of the world you live in because the AC devices you buy will be designed for your country’s specific voltage.

  • North & Central America: 120V
  • Europe/Oceana/South America/Asia: 240V

Inverters vs. Inverter/Chargers

A standard inverter will do precisely what we’ve mentioned: convert DC power to AC power with a specified voltage (120V/240V).

Inverter/chargers do the same thing, except these units also have battery charging capabilities when connected to shore power. This means if you have an outside socket, like in an RV campsite or garage, you can plug the inverter into this socket, and the device will convert AC power back to DC power and charge the camper van’s leisure batteries.

  • Inverters: Only convert DC to AC power. (One-way road)
  • Inverter/chargers: Convert DC to AC and AC to DC. (Two-way street)

Pure Sine vs. Modified Sine Inverters

The voltage of AC power switches between a positive and negative peak. The AC voltage in a house does this voltage switch up to 60 times per second, and if you were to graph the change in voltage over time, it would look like a smooth (or pure) sine wave.

‘Pure sine wave’ inverters can replicate this smooth AC voltage transition that homes receive from the main power grid. The smoother the transition, the better the power is for sensitive electrical equipment like laptops. These inverters tend to be more expensive than modified sine inverters.

‘Modified sine wave’ inverters produce a choppier AC voltage transition. This type of transition is easier to produce, but the result is less smooth and, as a result, not ideal for some electrical equipment. These inverters tend to be cheaper than pure sine inverters.

The diagram below illustrates the AC voltage from pure sine and modified sine inverters as they transition from the positive and negative peaks.

Graph showing the difference between a choppy modified wave and smooth pure sine wave.
Pure sine vs. modified sine wave inverters

Summary: Unless you’re on a tight budget, go for pure sine inverters. They’re better for your electrical equipment.

Anatomy Of An Inverter

Knowing all the connection points into and out of an inverter is essential. All inverters look slightly different when you check their connection points, but the theory will be the same. We review these connection points below and give some real-life examples to help you when installing an inverter in your van.

  1. Connection To Batteries: These terminals connect to the batteries to draw DC power and convert it to AC power.
  2. AC Out: This is where AC power leaves the inverter.
  3. Ground Point: Connects inverter to ground point on vehicle’s chassis.
  4. AC In: For inverter/charger units, this port connects to shore power for battery charging.

Example 1: Victron Multiplus 2000W Inverter/Charger

The image below shows the four connection points on our Victron 2000W inverter/charger. Note: Since this is an inverter/charger model, there is an ‘AC In” point.

Victron Inverter Installation Image
Victron Inverter/Charger

Example 2: AIMS 2000W Inverter/Charger

The AIMS inverter/charger is another popular inverter model for camper vans & RVs. Although the connection points look slightly different from the Victron unit above, you can see that the AIMS inverter also has the same four connection points.

AIMS Inverter Installation Image
AIMS inverter/charger

Connecting An Inverter To The Batteries (Two Methods)

There are two methods to connect an inverter to the batteries. The method you’ll need depends on the inverter size you require.

  1. Full-time connection: For all inverters 1000W and above, you must create a full-time connection to the batteries. You’ll need electrical cables, fuses, terminal lugs, and more. Our inverter installation guide below shows you how to do this.
  2. Temporary connection: Some smaller inverters (500W and below) can often be connected to the batteries via temporary options, such as using alligator clips or plugging into a 12V socket.

If you only need AC power to run a laptop or a small blender, you don’t need a large inverter with a permanent battery connection. A small, portable inverter that connects to the batteries temporarily would work for you. Below, we list our two favorite portable inverters that utilize alligator clips and 12V sockets for battery connections. They’re more affordable, and no installation is required.

Inverter Size Calculator For Van Conversions

Below is a simple calculator to help you quickly determine what inverter size & type you need. Just answer a few questions, and the calculator will return a recommended inverter with several budget alternatives.

Inverter Size Recommendation

Low: Just to charge a couple laptops, a camera, or power a small blender.

Medium: Includes powering an espresso machine, hair dryer, Instant Pot, or rice cooker.

High: Includes powering an electric hot water heater, microwave, or air conditioner.

3. Recommendation

Renogy | 1000W Inverter

Simple and cheap inverter for up to 1000W of power from a brand-name company. Great for powering multiple laptops, a blender, and other small AC devices. The unit has built-in sockets for convenience.

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AIMS | 1000W Inverter & Charger

A popular and well-built inverter for powering small AC devices like laptops and blenders. This unit will also charge your batteries when connected to shore power.

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Renogy | 2000W Inverter

A cost-effective brand-name inverter that provides up to 2000W of power. This is perfect for powering a water kettle, espresso machine, rice cooker, hair dryer, and other medium-sized devices.

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Victron | 2000W Inverter & Charger

We love our Victron 2000W Multiplus. It’s built tough, and we’ve had no issues during our 65,000 miles to Argentina. This unit powers our Instant Pot, water kettle, hair dryer, and toaster oven. This inverter will also charge the batteries when connected to shore power.

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Renogy | 3000W Inverter

A powerful yet cost-effective 3000W inverter from a reputable brand-name company. This inverter is ideal for powering larger equipment like a water boiler, microwave, and induction stove.

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Victron | 3000W Inverter & Charger

If you are serious about powering heavy-duty AC electrical equipment in a van, you get Victron. This unit will power a water boiler, air-conditioner, microwave, and more. It will also fast charge your batteries from shore power.

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Inverter Wiring Diagram For Camper Vans

This post will show you how to build the same inverter wiring diagram you see below. With all the different components involved, it can feel daunting initially, but if you take a slow, methodical approach, we promise you can build this system.

Throughout this guide, we’ll introduce these components and explain their function.

Wiring leisure batteries to the inverter
Complete inverter wiring diagram

Free resource: Download this exact wiring diagram for free. Or, go to our inverter parts list for a complete roundup of all the products and components you’ll need for this installation.

Need more complex Victron Multiplus schematics? Visit their wiring resources page.

Camper Van Inverter Installation Guide (6 Steps)

This chapter details a step-by-step inverter installation guide for a van conversion. We provide a list of materials, detailed wiring diagrams, and installation tips.

Step 1: List of Materials

Below is a summary of the tools and materials we will use to install an inverter in a camper van. We group materials together based on the connection type. This is just a summary, and we will revisit these products in the subsequent installation steps.

Note: The specific material sizes we recommend are for a 2000W inverter/charger. At the end of each step, we will recommend alternative sizes for larger and smaller inverters.

Step 2: Connect the Inverter to the Bus Bars

The first step is to connect the inverter to the leisure batteries. It is best practice, however, not to wire the inverter directly to the batteries but to bus bars instead. These are intermediary devices that collect and distribute battery power.

Bus bars are also handy for other sections of your van’s electrical system.

Bus Bars

Bus bars are power distribution centers that collect and distribute electricity to/from multiple sources. They simplify the wiring process and help keep electric wiring clean and orderly. Connects to batteries, solar charger, inverter, and DC-DC charger.

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Wiring Diagram

The diagram below illustrates how the inverter is wired to the bus bars. The bus bars will be connected to the batteries in a later step.

Wiring diagram connecting the inverter to the bus bars
Wiring inverter to the bus bars

Materials List

To complete this wiring step, you will need the following materials. You can locate each of the below materials in the above diagram.

  • Wire (2/0 AWG) – Thick battery cable that can handle over 300A of current. Ideal for inverters up to 2000W.
  • Lugs (5/16″) – Connects 2/0 wire to the fuse and most inverters.
  • Fuse (300A) – Protects the 2/0 AWG wire from overheating.
  • Lugs (3/8″) – Connects 2/0 AWG wire to the bus bars.
  • Bus Bars – Collects & distributes power to and from the batteries.

Alternative sizes: The above-listed materials are ideal for 2000W inverters. For smaller and larger inverters, refer to the recommendations below.

  • 1000W inverter (or less): Use 1/0 AWG wire and a 200A fuse.
  • 3000W inverter: Use 4/0 AWG wire and a 400A fuse

How To Crimp Lugs Onto Wire Ends?

To complete this step, you must learn how to crimp terminal lugs onto 2/0 AWG wire ends. Lugs help connect wires to the inverter, fuse, and bus bars.

Crimping a lug onto a wire isn’t tricky, but practice makes perfect. Below, we list the tools you need and provide an instructional video.

Our video below teaches you, step by step, how to crimp a terminal lug onto a 2/0 AWG wire end using the tools we listed above.

Step 3: Connect Bus Bars to Leisure Batteries

The next step is to connect the bus bars to the batteries. Once completed, the inverter can draw DC power from the batteries and convert it to AC power. We include a zoomed-in wiring diagram to show exactly what parts you need and how they fit together.

Wiring Diagram

The diagram below illustrates how to wire the bus bars to the batteries. The wire size we recommend is appropriate for up to 2000W inverters.

Wiring diagram connecting 12V leisure batteries to bus bars
Wiring 12V batteries to bus bars

Materials List

Many of the materials in the diagram above overlap with Step 2. We list only the additional required materials below.

  • Battery Switch – Disconnects the battery from the electrical system. Useful during long-term vehicle storage and when conducting electrical maintenance.
  • Battery Monitor – Displays the battery’s state-of-charge (SOC) as a helpful percentage and provides other useful battery data.
  • Lithium Battery – Recommended lightweight & compact lithium battery.

Unsure which leisure batteries to buy? In virtually every situation, you should be using lithium batteries. Read our Li Time vs. Redodo lithium battery review to see which budget-friendly lithium battery we recommend and why.

Step 4: Inverter To Power Outlets (AC Out)

The next step is to connect the inverter, via the AC out terminals, to the power outlets so that you can plug in and run your AC electrical devices.

Note: Many inverters, like Renogy’s basic inverters, do not have AC out terminals but have built-in sockets instead. This is more convenient since no socket installation is required, but more limiting since you cannot install your own sockets in your van’s walls.

Small Renogy 1000W inverter with two built-in sockets in the back
Renogy 1000W inverter with two built-in sockets

If your inverter has a proper AC out terminal instead of built-in sockets, this section will show you how to wire an inverter to standard household wall sockets.

Wiring Diagram

The wiring diagram below shows how the inverter is connected to a 15A circuit breaker and the power outlets.

Wiring diagram connecting the inverter to the power outlets
Wiring inverter to power outlets

Materials List

To complete this step, you will need the following materials. You can locate each of the materials in the wiring diagram above.

  • 10 AWG Triplex Wire – Connects AC out terminal to the breaker box. This is a ‘feeder’ line, so a larger gauge wire is recommended (for up to 2000W inverters).
  • Breaker Box – Holds the 15-amp circuit breaker(s).
  • Circuit Breaker (15A) – Ensures downstream 12/3 AWG wires don’t overheat.
  • 12 AWG Triplex Wire – Connects breaker box to the wall outlet. This is a “branch” line, so a standard 12 AWG wire is recommended.
  • Gang Box – Holds the wall outlet. This is a shallow-depth box that is space-efficient for camper vans.
  • Wall outlet – AC devices plug in here.

Step 5: Inverter to Shore Power (AC In)

This section shows how to connect an inverter to shore power. This is only required if you specifically purchased an ‘inverter/charger’ model capable of charging batteries from an outside power source.

Note: If you opted for a simple inverter and not an inverter/charger model, skip to Step 6 (ground wiring).

Wiring Diagram

The wiring diagram below shows how the inverter/charger is connected to a power inlet plug. You can connect the power inlet to a shore power socket with an extension cord.

Wiring diagram connecting inverter to shore power in a camper van

Materials List

To complete this step, you will need the following materials. You can locate each of the materials in the wiring diagram above.

  • 10 AWG Triplex Wire – Ideal wire size for up to 2000W inverter/chargers. This wire will transmit high currents for extended periods, so a thick wire gauge is recommended.
  • Power Inlet – Provides a socket to connect to shore power.
  • Extension Cord – Connects shore power socket to the power inlet. Get a suitable quality cord with thick inner wires. Cheap extension cords have thin wires and can quickly overheat.

Alternative sizes: The above-recommended products are for an inverter/charger rated up to 2000W. For a 3000W inverter/charger, change to 8 AWG triplex wire and a 30A power inlet.

Step 6: Wiring the Inverter to a Ground Point

In the final step, we connect the inverter to a ground point. Since we are installing this power inverter system in a camper van, we don’t have the same traditional ‘ground’ point as in a house. Instead, we will attach the ground wire to a designated point on the vehicle’s chassis.

We explain how to find these ground points further below in this section. But first, we will explain how to do the wiring, as shown in the diagram below.

Wiring Diagram

The wiring diagram below shows how to connect the inverter to a ground point on the vehicle’s chassis.

Wiring inverter to ground point on vehicle chassis
Wiring inverter to ground

Materials List

To complete this step, you will need the following materials. You can locate each of the materials in the wiring diagram above.

  • 4 AWG Wire – Recommended ground wire size for up to 2000W inverters.
  • Lug Terminal Set – A variety pack of lugs that is useful (and saves you money) for all parts of your van’s electrical system.

Alternative sizes: For 3000W inverters, upgrade to a thicker 2 AWG wire.

How To Locate A Vehicle’s Ground Points

You can locate your vehicle’s designated ground points in the van’s handbook or by searching online. Below is an image we found online with all the designated ground points for our Ford Transit van. We grounded our inverter by connecting to point #31 in the diagram below.

Ford Transit ground points on the chassis
Ford Trains ground points

Were Our Inverter Diagrams Useful? There are more electrical diagrams in our eBook.

Camper Van Inverters FAQ

How To Wire A Camper Van Inverter?

To wire an inverter in a camper van, you must connect the inverter’s positive and negative terminal posts to the corresponding terminal posts on the battery. You will need an appropriately sized wire, ANL fuse, and lugs to complete the installation. Lastly, ground the inverter by connecting the unit to the van’s chassis.

What Wire Size To Install A Camper Van Inverter?

The ideal wire size for an inverter depends on the unit’s power rating. To prioritize safety, pairing a 1000W inverter with 1/0 AWG wire, a 2000W inverter with 2/0 AWG wire, and a 3000W inverter with 4/0 AWG wire is recommended.

Does The Inverter Charge The Leisure Battery?

No, a standard inverter cannot charge a DC leisure battery. An inverter/charger combo unit will be required to convert the AC electricity from shore power to charge the batteries.

What Size Inverter For A Van Conversion?

A 2000W inverter is the most popular inverter size for van conversions. This is enough to power medium-sized devices like rice cookers, hair dryers, toaster ovens, and blenders. To run a water boiler, AC unit, or induction stove, upgrade to a 3000W inverter.

Do You Need An Inverter In A Van?

An inverter is only needed if you run devices requiring AC (alternating current) power. This includes laptops, standard kitchen products, and other common household appliances. You do not necessarily need an inverter if you only need to power a few lights, a smartphone, and a fan.

Conclusion: An Inverter Is Just One Piece of the Electrical Puzzle

If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations on successfully installing an inverter in your camper van!

If you did it while also installing sockets into your van walls, then that’s a fantastic achievement. The whole inverter installation process took us more than a week to complete and wasn’t easy!

But setting up the inverter is just one piece of the puzzle when assembling your camper van’s electrical system. We recommend reading our DIY camper van electrical guide to help with your solar, DC-DC charging, and 12V setup.

Please let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.

Happy building!

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