I am building out a 2017 PM and we're just about to get to the difficult stuff- electrical! I'm looking forward to any advice you can provide on our build. We've found a lot very useful information on the forum over the past few months. Thanks! Sara
Search down for the heading: Electrical Loads Estimate
Electrical systems that people have used in van conversions cover a huge range -- everything from a simple Yeti 1000 that puts the whole electrical system in one off the shelf box up to systems with large lithium battery packs and enough technical sophistication to rival the space station.
You probably want to read up on some of the electrical systems that people have used and see what you think makes sense for your needs. This forum and the Sprinter and Transit forums have lots of examples.
Hi Sara! Please understand this is only my opinion, and I get no kick backs from any company, although I think I should. I did the studying, estimating and research for about a year before my "uninformed" son finally said, "why don't you just think about what your biggest energy user will be at one time and build for that?". So I did. Cooking seemed to be the single biggest user, so I found the the Instant Pot (3qt size for the two of us) uses about 750 watts. Cool. Microwave (low power model) uses about 750 watts. Even my induction "hot plate" can be trimmed down to use about 750 watts. So, the heart of any solar power system is the batteries. So I saved that for last. (reverse engineering?) After looking at and reading about this system and that system, I went with the Go Power Elite, 320 watt solar system. 2KW Pure sine inverter, shore power switch, 12vdc power converter, charge controller and most of the cables I needed. Not cheap, but everything in one box and more than enough to charge whatever batteries I wanted to spend money on. Next was batteries. Since most of the real efficient ones were "wet cell" and tended to produce hydrogen gas and required venting to the outside to help prevent explosions, I went with the more contained AGM type battery. Expensive, and not as efficient, but not too bad if they're picked up at Sams Club. (I joined just because of the batteries!) So a couple of those got me about about 240AH of battery power. More than enough to cook breakfast and dinner, run the lights, maybe a tv (I don't have one yet). While on shore power, I can use just bout anything including coffee maker, large electric frying pan etc. During our last three outings, (last one from Maine to Nevada and back) we ate and slept in the van two out of three days (no shower so hotel time just for a personal deep clean!) never plugged in and never went below 65% battery power. Oh, and I actually only mounted one of the solar panels, and things have been working just fine. Lots of sunny days though. I plan on mounting the other solar panel as soon as the snow melts off of that 9 foot high roof!
Sarah, the guys are right about estimating your loads first, but it's not necessarily that easy, depending on your prior experiences. If you have had any kind of campervan/RV before, you will be more calibrated than if you're coming from a tent. If you're coming from a tent, you are at more risk of underestimating. We have settled on a system very similar to Bill's, but it developed in stages instead of being planned from the beginning. It was not fun to take down finished ceiling to run wires for the solar I Initially thought I wouldn't want. When I was planning three years ago, this forum was just getting on its feet. Now it's robust. You have a lot of reading to do.