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How To Wire 12V LED Lights in a Camper Van (With Switches)

Whether you’re converting a luxury camper or aiming for a budget build, your van will require a lighting solution. This step-by-step guide shows how to wire 12V LED lights in a camper van. We include helpful wiring diagrams and material lists to help you understand how everything fits together.

If you haven’t already, we recommend picking up a set of ACEGOO RV Puck Lights. We use 12 of these lights in our van, and they have provided us with bright and reliable light for the last five years. These lights are energy efficient (3 Watts each), easy to install, and will easily brighten up your camper’s interior.

Top Recommendation
Acegoo | 12V LED Lights

We use 12 of these 12V puck lights in our camper van. They fill the van with bright, warm white light and only consume 3W per device. Slim profile means they take up minimal ceiling space. Easy to wire to batteries.

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If you’re ready, let’s get started.

Choose Location of Lights & Switches

Once you’ve selected your lights, you must decide where you want to install them in your van. The most logical place to install LED puck lights is within the ceiling boards and along the underside of overhead cabinets (if applicable).

Extra Reading: How To Install A Van Ceiling (With Lights)

It is critical to plan the location of your lights in the early stages of the van conversion because when you’re laying out your electric wires, you’ll need to know where to place the wire ends to attach your future lights. If you’ve already installed the insulation and ceiling boards and decide to change your lighting arrangement later, it’s difficult to rip out all your work and start again.

Need more lighting planning & inspiration? Read our camper van lighting ideas post for more information.

Below is a diagram we made of our van ceiling. You can see the individual cedar plank boards, how we made room for the vent fan (grey square), and how we planned to install six LED puck lights in our ceiling (black circles). Can you spot all six lights?

Camper van ceiling layout diagram showing location of LED lights, ventilation fan, and ceiling boards.
Van ceiling layout diagram

Want to create your ceiling diagram? Read our post on creating your own digital camper van floor plan for free.

After finalizing the location of your lights, it is equally important to plan the location of your switches before installing any insulation or wall boards. As with lights, this is because you will need to lay out your electrical wire so that the wire ends are in the correct places to connect to the future switches.

In the picture below, you can see how we laid out our wire so that the wire ends were where our future switches would be located. Once the wiring was completed, we mounted our walls and finally attached the switches to the walls.

Camper van lighting electrical wiring

More About Switches: There are many different types of switches to choose from for your camper van conversion. To learn more, jump to our light switch bonus material chapter at the bottom of this post.

Wiring Guide & Diagrams

To get your LED lights working, you’ll need to wire the lights to your batteries. We break up this process into three smaller sections.

  1. Connect batteries to bus bars.
  2. Wire bus bars to 12V panel.
  3. Attach 12V panel to switches & lights.

In the end, the wiring system should look like the diagram below.

Electrical wiring diagram for camper vans with LED lights and switches
Complete 12V LED light wiring diagram

So, let’s get started with our step-by-step LED wiring process. We’ll also include all the parts and components we used to complete this project.

Section 1: Connect Batteries to Bus Bars

If you have followed our 12V installation post, you’ll know that we first recommend wiring your batteries to bus bars. See our diagram below for connecting the bus bars to your batteries. We will also provide a material list so that you can recreate this same system.

Wiring diagram for camper vans connecting leisure batteries to bus bars. Includes fuses, battery switch, and battery monitor.
Wiring 12V batteries to bus bars

This diagram (battery to bus bars) is not solely for connecting your LED lights. This foundational system also connects other parts of the electrical system, like the solar system, inverter, and DC-DC charger.

What are bus bars? Bus bars are the power collection and distribution centers and are highly recommended to keep your wiring simple and organized. If you haven’t already, pick up a pair of these bus bars. They are exactly what we use in our van.

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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Download our free PDF electrical wiring diagrams to install an entire electrical system in your camper van.

Materials List

Below are the materials to connect the batteries to the bus bars.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Description:

Recommended size for 12V system & inverters up to 2000W. (YouTube review)

Description:

Crimps onto 2/0 wire. Fits on M10 terminal posts.

Description:

Crimps onto 2/0 wire. Fits on M8 terminal posts.

Description:

Protects wire from overheating. (Youtube Review)

Description:

Disconnects battery from electrical system. (YouTube Review)

Description:

Power distribution & collection

Description:

Displays battery state-of-charge percentage.

Description:

Recommended size for 12V system & inverters up to 2000W. (YouTube review)

Description:

Crimps onto 2/0 wire. Fits on M10 terminal posts.

Description:

Crimps onto 2/0 wire. Fits on M8 terminal posts.

Description:

Protects wire from overheating. (Youtube Review)

Description:

Disconnects battery from electrical system. (YouTube Review)

Description:

Power distribution & collection

Description:

Displays battery state-of-charge percentage.

Section 2: Wire Bus Bars to 12V Panel

Now that the batteries are connected to the bus bars, you can wire the 12V fuse panel to the bus bars. The fuse panel distributes power from the batteries to every 12V end device in the van. In this post, we only wire the panel to the LED lights, but remember that you can also connect the panel to a vent fan, water pump, fridge, and other 12V devices.

Wiring diagram connecting bus bars to 12V fuse panel
Bus bars to 12V fuse panel

Materials List

Below are the components you’ll need to wire the bus bars to the 12V fuse panel.

 
 
 
 
 
Description:

Recommended wire size for 12V panel wiring. Watch YouTube review.

Description:

This lug set Includes the 3/8" and 1/4" lugs for 4 AWG wires. Watch YouTube review.

Description:

Protects 4AWG from overheating. Watch YouTube review.

Description:

Distributes 12V power from the leisure batteries to each end device. Watch YouTube review.

Description:

Insert these blade fuses into the appropriate slots in the 12V fuse panel.

Description:

Recommended wire size for 12V panel wiring. Watch YouTube review.

Description:

This lug set Includes the 3/8" and 1/4" lugs for 4 AWG wires. Watch YouTube review.

Description:

Protects 4AWG from overheating. Watch YouTube review.

Description:

Distributes 12V power from the leisure batteries to each end device. Watch YouTube review.

Description:

Insert these blade fuses into the appropriate slots in the 12V fuse panel.

Section 3: Attach 12V Panel to Switches & Lights

The final step is to wire the 12V panel to the switch and LED lights. Note that different switches may require different types of wire terminals. The switch we recommend in the diagram below will use female spade connectors.

Wire Sizing: We recommend using 14 AWG wires to connect the 12V panel to all end devices. But if your wire runs will be longer than 20 feet, you may want to upgrade to 12 AWG wire to prevent voltage drop.

Wiring 12V fuse panel to LED lights for camper vans
Wiring 12V panel to LED lights

Materials List

Below are the materials for wiring the panel to the lights.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Description:

Recommended wire size for 12V wiring. YouTube review.

Description:

Connects 14 AWG wire to 12V panel.

Description:

Connects 14 AWG wire to switch.

Description:

Compact 2-gang switch with USB charging ports.

Description:

Connects 14 AWG wire to end 12V devices.

Description:

Power efficient, easy to install, and bright.

Description:

Recommended wire size for 12V wiring. YouTube review.

Description:

Connects 14 AWG wire to 12V panel.

Description:

Connects 14 AWG wire to switch.

Description:

Compact 2-gang switch with USB charging ports.

Description:

Connects 14 AWG wire to end 12V devices.

Description:

Power efficient, easy to install, and bright.

Correct Fuse Size: Jump to our fuse size calculation in the bonus material section below to learn what size fuse you need to keep your LED light circuits safe.

Conclusion

Hopefully, by this point, you have the information and tools you need to wire your 12V LED lights in your van. If you have chosen to follow our diagrams, you should have multiple light switches controlling different lighting zones in the camper.

Please let us know in the comments section below if you have any questions regarding our wiring approach.

Check out our DIY van electrical system guide for more van electrical information. We also provide free van build resources to guide you through your electrical, solar, and plumbing installations.

As always, happy building!

Bonus Material

1. Light Switch Types

For most van conversions, there are two types of light switch designs:

  • RV & boat switches
  • Standard household switches

RV & Boat Switches

Switches specifically designed for RVs, campers, and boats are generally more compact in design and more straightforward to wire. This is especially true if you want to install multiple switches in your van.

Models with multiple switches, like the 2-switch panel below, simplify the wiring process. Many of these switches also come with USB ports and 12V sockets for greater convenience.

Great For 12V Lights
Nilight Light Switch with USB A & C Ports
$29.99

Compact 2-gang light switch with USB charging ports. Easy to install and wire. Comes with useful voltage meter for battery state-of-charge (SOC) readings.

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02/17/2024 01:01 am GMT

Standard Household Switches

These are the same switches you can find in any standard house. Compared to RV-specific switches, there are many more design options. These include:

  • Rocker & toggle switches
  • Vertical & horizontal switches
  • Motion sensor switches
  • Different colors and designs

The downside of household switches is that they’re more challenging to install because each switch must be wired individually, unlike the recommended RV Nilight switch. Each set of switches must also be paired with an outlet box, which must be attached to the backside of your walls.

Carlon | Shallow Outlet Box

When installing standard "household" style light switches, you will need a gang box for the switch to mount to and protect the wires. We recommend this gang box for it's narrow profile design, which takes up only 1.25" in depth.

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Our Opinion: Though RV switches are more utilitarian and easier to install, we prefer household-style switches. These are what we use, and they make our van interior look and feel like a natural home and less utilitarian.

Dimmer Switches

It is possible to install a dimmer switch in your van to reduce the intensity of your LED lights. Here are two things to be aware of:

  1. Not all LED lights are dimmable – Confirm that the lights you want are dimmable.
  2. 12V dimmer switch required – You won’t be able to use any old household dimmer switch. You will specifically need a 12V dimmer switch.

Below are several popular examples of 12V dimmer switches.

2. What Fuse Size Do You Use for 12V Lights?

Assuming that you will wire the LED lights to a 12V fuse panel, you will need to insert a standard blade fuse into the part of the fuse panel that is connected to your selected group of LED lights.

Blade fuses typically come in amp-ratings of 2A, 3A, 5A, 7.5A, and higher.

Assorted Blade Fuses Set

Insert these blade fuses into the appropriate slots in the 12V fuse panel to complete each circuit.

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So, which size fuse do you need to keep your circuits safe? We show you how to calculate the ideal fuse size below.

  • Step 1: Identify the maximum Watts demanded by all lights on a single circuit.
  • Step 2: Divide total Watts by 12V to get max Amps.
  • Step 3: Add 25% to max Amps and round up to the next fuse size rating.

Example: Each of our recommended LED puck lights uses 3W of power. Four lights on a circuit use 12W max (3W * 4 lights). To get Amps, divide 12W by 12V to get 1A. Adding 25% to 1A we get 1.25A. Round up to 2A, which is the next available fuse size.

FAQ

Are Camper Lights 12V?

If you are in the USA or Canada, most lights made explicitly for camper vans and RVs will operate under 12V. Though you can find 24V LED lights, there will be less selection. It is recommended that your camper utilize 12V lights for increased power efficiency.

What Kind of Light Bulbs Does a Camper Van Use?

LED lights are the most popular option for camper vans and RVs. This is because they are energy efficient and don’t drain your battery as fast as fluorescent and standard incandescent light bulbs.

How Much Power Do Camper Van 12V Lights Use?

Each 12V LED puck light consumes approximately 3 watts of power (~0.25aH). So, if six of your puck lights are currently on, you would use 18W of power (~1.5Ah).

LED puck lights are some of the most power-efficient lights available for camper vans.

Are LED Lights Better for an RV?

Yes, we think so! LED lights are energy efficient and small, don’t take up much space, and don’t emit much heat when turned on. These lights are perfect for RV and camper van living.

Are Puck Lights Dimmable?

Some puck lights are dimmable, but not all. Be sure to check the user manual to ensure the puck lights you want are using are dimmable.

The LED puck lights we recommend are dimmable.

You must also be sure that the dimmer switch you are using functions properly for 12v lights.

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