Day 68: The Electrical System in my Bus

We’re still on lock down and I’m still blogging, but today I’m going to recycle an old post. It’s about the electrical set up in my converted short bus. Here’s the scoop:

One of the major hurdles I’ve had to overcome is how to do the electricity.  There’s a plethora of articles and YouTube tutorials regarding how to set up electricity in a converted bus or van, but a lot of it is over my head.  I’m no expert in electricity, but I want this very important step to be done the safest, most cost efficient, most professional way possible. So I turned to my social groups and sought out a few electricians who gave me very useful advice and references.

Disclaimer: This is not a step-by-step guide for installing electricity in a camper van/bus. After doing the research and looking into it, I decided I was willing to spend the extra money to have a professional company do all the work for me. As much I’d love to say I built my own bus, I’m just not going to endanger myself by trying to do something I have no experience doing.  

That being said, I’ve developed a basic step-by-step guide that breaks down the electrical process. I admire the people on YouTube doing it all themselves, and I probably ended up spending more money having professionals do it, but at least I have peace of mind. 

Step 1: Determine your Amperage Use

So before you start shopping for your solar panels, outlet covers, and wires, you must first determine just how much electricity you’ll be using inside your vehicle. Once you’ve determined the wattage you’ll need to power everything (and I’m talking anything that might be plugged in), you can determine the best electrical system for yourself. Everybody has different needs, since I live in such a small place and I have so few needs, I boiled my list down to the following:

Portable AC/heater (could potentially run on propane)

Water heater (could potentially run on propane)

Stove top burner (could potentially run on propane)

Crockpot (I decided I can live without an oven)

Mini-Fridge (can I power a mini-fridge with propane?

Projector and Speakers (I won’t need a TV this way)

Lamps/Lighting (exact types to be determined)

Laptop and Cellphone (My main source for music, movies, TV, etc.)

According to https://itstillruns.com/install-electricity-school-bus-conversion-7858078.html this is how you determine what type of battery and inverter you need.

“Size your battery and inverter system by the expected numbers of amps that you intend to power through your mobile energy system. Identify the amperage for each device that you desire to power through your deep-cycle battery by looking for the metal plate on each appliance giving its amperage ratings. Multiply the amperage by the number of hours that you intend to run the device. This will give your amp hours figure. Your power inverter should be sized to handle 10 to 20 percent more amperage than the maximum amperage of your system. The battery system should be able to deliver the anticipated amp hours without being drained more than 50 percent of its capacity.”

Items in red could potentially run on propane but I’m figuring them in to be on the safe side:

Item

Amps/Watts

Hours

Total

Portable AC/heater

1350 W

12

16,200

Water heater

1000 W

1

1000

Stove top burner

1000 W

1

1000

Mini-Fridge

150 W?

24

3,600

Crockpot

500 W?

5

2,500

Coffee Maker

800 W

1

800

Kettle

1200 W

1

1200

Projector and Speakers

200 W?

5

10,000

Lamps/Lighting

500 W?

8

45,000

Laptop and Cellphone

200 W?

12

24,000

83,500 – 105, 300

I know this is probably grossly overestimated. In fact, my numbers seem downright outlandish, so I obviously didn’t do it right.  Thank goodness for professionals. The people at Camping World needed a basic list of everything I wanted and then they decided to go with a basic system you’d see in an RV. I figure if you’re not good at math, then you probably shouldn’t attempt the rest of the electrical. 😀 

Step 2: Pick your Method for Electricity

Generator? Solar Panels? Both? Other?

For my bus I’d like to have solar panels running most of the power and a back-up generator (preferably propane) in case of emergencies.  How many solar panels do you think I will need? And how do I hook them up to the regular electrical system? Well, after talking to two friends with experience in solar panels and doing some reading, I decided it might be easier to have the batteries and regular electrical system installed first, and then to find the solar panels that would match. 

Step 3: Buy Materials

If you’re the kind of person who feels confident to do this job yourself, the next step would be to buy all the materials needed for the project.  Build a Green RV has a great breakdown of everything needed, but I got overwhelmed with the process and couldn’t find an independent contractor, so I ended up trusting the professionals to do it all for me.

http://www.buildagreenrv.com/design-and-build-information-for-camper-vans/install-electrical/

Step 4: Have a Professional do the Installation

I don’t recommend doing the electrical yourself if you’re not experienced with it. Originally, I wanted to find a friend with a background in electrical systems that I could pay directly, but I couldn’t find one, so I went with Camping World and they did a great job. Here’s a link to them explaining my new electrical system in my bus. 

My next step will be to find solar panels that will work well with these batteries. Wish me luck in my hunt!

Cheers!

 

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