If you want to connect to shore power in your campervan, you’re going to need an electric hook up. In this guide, you’ll learn how to install an electric hook-up in your campervan, alongside diagrams, safety information, and more.
That’s because installing things like an electric hook-up requires that you make holes in your van. Which ideally, you want to do before you’ve fitted any insulation.
When you also consider the complexities of your campervan wiring, you’ll see why it makes sense to plan this all out in the early stages.
Nonetheless, installing a shore power electric hook-up on your campervan is a good idea. We take more about why later on in the article.
For now, jump into what you came here for. Here’s a step by step guide to installing an electric hook up on your campervan or RV.
How to Install a Shore Power Electric Hook Up on a Campervan
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Disclosure: I am not a qualified auto-electrician, and my advice shouldn’t be taken as such. I wrote this article based on my own experience, but it shouldn’t replace the guidance of a licensed professional.
What does it mean to have shore power in my campervan?
Shore power or mains power refers to the power that is delivered to homes and businesses through the electric grid.
We use this mains electricity to power everyday domestic items by plugging them into a wall socket.
Whereas the power we draw from our 12v leisure batteries is DC (direct current), mains power is AC (alternating current).
To be set up to use shore power in your campervan means you can connect to the electrical grid at campsites or anywhere with mains power.
You can then use that mains electricity to power AC appliances in your van. This is perfect for power-hungry AC appliances like microwaves or air conditioning units.
You can also install a 12v battery charger that will enable you to charge your leisure batteries when hooked up to shore power.
Do I Need an Electric Hook-Up in my Campervan?
Even if you plan on spending most of your vanlife days off-grid, I still recommend having an electric hook-up.
You might have the most reliable and powerful campervan solar system in the world. But there are a ton of factors that can influence the efficiency of your panels.
The weather, the time of year, shade cover, dirt on your panels, and even the parking angle of your van can affect how much solar power you generate.
Since installing a shore power electric hook-up is relatively straightforward and inexpensive, it makes sense to have one as a backup.
That way, on days when your panels aren’t generating much power, you can pull into a campsite and easily recharge.
What do I need to install an electric hook-up on my campervan?
Here I will list all the components you’ll need to safely install a shore power hook-up on your campervanvan.
The hook-up inlet allows you to hook up your campervan to mains power. This component will be fitted to the body of your campervan.
When buying a hook-up inlet, you’ll want to ensure that it’s watertight. You’ll also want one with a sprung front so that it doesn’t flap around when not in use.
To install your hook-up inlet, you’ll need to cut a hole in the side of your van. You’ll want to strategically place it so that it’s nearby where you house the rest of your electrics.
In terms of the other installation instructions, they may differ depending on the manufacturer. Always check the guidelines before attempting the installation.
Campervan Electric Hook-Up Cable
This is the power cable that will run from the mains power supply into the hook-up inlet of your van.
I’m not sure about the US, but campsites in Europe specify that your hook-up cable must be at least 25 metres long.
This is to ensure you can access the power pedestals, which are often located pretty far from your pitch.
If you want to hook up your camper using a local household socket, you will need an adaptor.
The same goes if you plan to travel to places with different hook-up sockets than those where you built your van.
For example, if you build your campervan in Europe but plan to travel around the USA. Since the US use a different set of connectors, you’d need the relevant adaptor.
3-core cable comprises three individual insulated wires – live, neutral, and earth. These are then covered by a protective PVC sheath.
You’ll need 3-core cable to wire your campervans shore power set up. We use arctic grade 3-core cable since it can withstand a wide temperature range and is suitable for outdoor applications.
Again, the colour of the wires in your 3-core cable may vary depending on where you buy it.
It’s crucial that you understand which wire is live, which is neutral, and which is earth before you attempt any wiring.
We used the same 2.5mm cable for all of our shore power set up. However, you might need bigger depending on how much power you intend on using.
Use this guide to help you calculate the wire size you’ll need.
Consumer Unit/Fuse Box
Most of you will be familiar with a consumer unit since they are commonly used in the home. You might know them as a fuse board, fuse box, or RCD.
Its primary function is to control and distribute the electrical supply throughout your property. Most importantly, however, it acts as a safety device.
If the consumer unit detects any issues with the electrical circuit, it will trip, protecting you and your property from an electrical hazard.
If you are to install an electric hook-up in your campervan or RV, you most certainly want to install a consumer unit.
In some countries, it’s a requirement. But regardless of that, you want to ensure that your shore power supply is as safe as possible. AC current can k!ll and is not to be messed with!
RCDs or consumer units come in various shapes and sizes. You’ll need to choose one that suits your requirements.
For example, we run only two AC circuits in our van (1 double & 1 single plug socket). So we fitted a 2-way consumer unit, with one 16amp and one 8amp MCB.
Depending on how many AC circuits you plan on having and the amp rating of your appliances, you may need larger MCBs and more of them.
So long as you buy a large enough consumer unit, you can have as many sockets as you like in your campervan.
I’d be wary of installing too many though since some campsites limit how much power you can draw from their supply.
Since we rarely hook up to shore power and don’t use many AC appliances, we have one single socket and one double socket.
The single-socket is for our battery charger, and the double socket is for plugging in any other AC appliances like laptops, camera chargers and hairdryer.
If you plan on spending most of your time on campsites, you may want to consider installing more.
12v Battery Charger
One of the biggest pros of having a shore power electric hook up in our campervan is having the option to charge our leisure batteries.
During the winter months and on cloudy days, we can struggle to replenish our batteries using solar panels alone.
Installing a split charge relay or battery-to-battery charger can help. But again, not always ideal since they are most efficient when driving long distances.
To charge your batteries using shore power, you will need to install a battery charger. Battery chargers take AC power and convert it to DC to charge your 12v leisure batteries.
We use the Victron Energy Blue Smart since we can monitor charging through the vanlife app; however, there are tons of brands and models on the market.
Whichever model you choose, be sure to check that it is compatible with your batteries and electrical setup before you buy.
Full Tools & Components List
|Hook-Up Inlet||Shop Now|
|Campervan Hook-Up Cable||Shop Now|
|Plug to Socket Adapter||Shop Now|
|Mains Testing Kit||Shop US / Shop UK|
|3-Core Cable||Shop Now|
|Consumer Unit||Shop US / Shop UK|
|Switched Sockets||Shop Now|
|12v Battery Charger||Shop US / Shop UK|
|Drill + Metal Drill Bits||Shop Now|
|Jigsaw + Metal Cutting Blades||Shop Now|
|Automotive Rust Paint||Shop Now|
|Sikaflex Sealant||Shop Now|
|Digital Multimeter Tool||Shop Now|
How to install an electric hook-up on a campervan – step by step
Now you’ve got everything you need for a shore power electric hook-up on your campervan, let me walk you through the installation process step by step.
Step 1: Identify where your hook-up inlet will go.
Keeping in mind that you’ll need to make a hole in your van to install it, identify the best location for your hook-up inlet.
I recommend having it nearby where the rest of your electrics are kept since it makes sense to keep everything together.
Once you’ve identified a spot, drill a small hole through the bodywork to use as your centre point.
Step 2: Make a template.
Following the manufacturers’ guidelines, make a template of the precise hole size needed for the hook-up inlet.
Using the hole you drilled earlier as your centre point, trace the template onto the body of the van using a pencil or washable marker.
Remember the golden rule, measure twice and cut once! Ensure your template is in the correct position before making any more holes.
Step 3: Drill guide holes in each corner.
To get the jigsaw to cut a perfect square or rectangle, you will need to make guide holes in each corner. This will allow you to cut four straight lines.
You’ll want to use a drill bit specifically for metal with a head that creates a large enough hole for the jig blade to fit into.
Step 4: Cut out the hole.
Using a jigsaw fitted with a metal cutting blade, cut straight lines from corner to corner.
A good tip is to add some masking tape either to the van body or the jigsaw to stop it from scratching the bodywork.
Take extra care with this step since cutting through metal can cause some resistance. Always wear safety goggles!
When it’s done, use a metal file to smooth around the edges of the hole.
Step 5: Pre-Drill Pilot Holes.
Next, take the hook-up inlet and place it over the hole. So long as you’ve measured correctly, it should fit just as it’s supposed to.
Now, take a pencil and mark where the screws will need to go to hold it in place. Then remove the inlet once again.
Using a slightly smaller drill bit than the screws, make pilot holes in the van body. This will make it easier to secure the inlet later on.
Step 6: Clean and Prep.
To help protect the exposed metal from rusting, you’ll want to clean around the hole using a nail varnish remover high in acetone.
Then use an anti-rust paint like Hammerite and sparingly coat around the edges.
Step 7: Wire the hook-up inlet.
Using 3-core cable, run a wire from the back of the hook-up inlet, through the hole and to the main switch of your consumer unit.
If your consumer unit isn’t in yet, you can wire it later. But it will be easier to wire the back of the inlet now, rather than when it’s attached to the wall.
The live, neutral, and earth points should be clearly marked on both the hook-up inlet and your consumer unit.
If they’re not and you’re unsure, I strongly suggest you seek professional advice.
You’ll want to mount your consumer unit somewhere in your garage with the rest of your electric setup.
Step 8: Secure and seal the inlet.
Once the paint is dry (around 30-minutes), apply sealant around the hole where the inlet is due to go.
Promptly position the inlet into place and screw into the pilot holes you made earlier. Any excess sealant can be cleaned off using a wipe and some polish remover.
I then recommend another rim of sealant all the way around the outside of the inlet to ensure it is 100% waterproof.
Step 9: Wire up your sockets.
Your next step is to take your 3-core cable and run them from the consumer unit to the sockets in your van.
If your sockets aren’t installed yet, you can still run the wires from the consumer unit and wire the sockets later.
Each socket should have its own MCB on the consumer unit. Again, live, neutral, and earth should be clearly marked.
Step 10: Ground consumer unit to vehicle body.
Most vehicles have a pre-fitted grounding point, but it might not be in a convenient location.
If not, it’s best to have your grounding point as close as possible to your garage. I did this by drilling a hole in the vehicle chassis (an area not exposed to the outside).
I then used sandpaper to sand off the paint and used a nut and bolt to secure the earth wires as per the photo.
Step 11: Test the circuits.
Use a digital multimeter tool to test each of the circuits. If you’re unsure, see this video on how to use a multimeter.
Once you’re confident that you have sound circuits and you’re appropriately earthed, you can test your AC system.
Connect your hook-up inlet to shore power, and plug an appliance into one of the sockets. Keep the socket switched off for now.
Now turn on the main switch and the relevant RCD of your consumer unit.
Finally, switch on the socket, and if all is well with the connections, that should be working just fine.
Things to Keep in Mind
Reversed polarity is when the live and neutral wires of a circuit are wired in reverse.
This can be dangerous since electricity continues to flow in a reverse polarity circuit – even if the switch or fuse is turned off.
It’s not uncommon to find hook-ups in Europe with reverse polarity issues. That’s why you need a multimeter, or even better, a mains testing kit to help you identify any problems.
A mains testing kit will also highlight if there is no earth connection, so it’s an excellent all-around tool to have.
Another safety barrier to help protect you from reverse polarity issues is to install a double pole MCB rather than a single.
Working with Different Voltages
Mains power voltages differ depending on where you are in the world.
For example, in the UK and most of Europe, the mains power voltage is between 220-240v. As such, our camper van system expects these voltages.
In the US, however, the mains power is only 110v. So if we wanted to take our van to the US, we couldn’t simply hook up to mains power there and expect it to be safe.
Generally, our consumer unit should trip to protect us and our system. However, I wouldn’t want to rely on that when working with different voltages than it’s set up for.
To overcome the fluctuation in voltage, you’d need to use a transformer. You can buy transformers that step up from lower voltages to higher voltages and vice versa.
Check Connections Regularly
Driving your campervan naturally causes a lot of vibration.
Especially some of the sketchy roads we’ve been down when hunting for park ups. I wondered if we’d have a van left by the end of them!
This can cause some of the connections on your electrical system to come loose.
You don’t want any exposed wires floating about in your van, so make it part of your routine to check your connections regularly.
I go over ours every month or so and give them a slight tightening. I’ll also take a good look inside the garage after a drive to ensure nothing has come loose before switching on any electrics.
Safety Info for Campervan Shore Power Hook-Up
Since I know how overwhelming electrics can be, I try to keep my guides as fluff-free and straightforward as possible.
There’s so much (often conflicting) information online that it can be easy to fall down a rabbit hole and doubt your capabilities.
That said, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you know what you’re doing before you attempt any wiring or electrics.
Especially when it comes to working with mains power. While an electric shock from a 12v circuit isn’t likely to do much damage, an electric shock from a mains power circuit can be fatal.
It took me countless hours of research before I finally could get my head around our campervan electrics. But it was worth it to be rest assured that we have a safe and reliable system.
If you’re prepared to put in the hours to research and learn, by all means, go ahead and install your mains power system yourself.
However, if not, and you’re unsure in the slightest, I strongly suggest that you call in a licensed professional.
Again, I am not a qualified auto-electrician, and my advice shouldn’t be taken as such. I wrote this article based on my own experience, but it shouldn’t replace the guidance of a licensed professional.
Thank You For Reading!
So there you have it. A step by step guide on installing your campervans shore power electric hook-up. I hope that you’ve found it helpful.
If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to reach out to us in the comments. Or drop us a message – we are always happy to help.
For more help with your campervan conversion, be sure to check out our van build series.
Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, where we share more travel advice and vanlife inspiration.
Charlotte & Natalie x
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through these links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. And we can continue bringing you free travel tips and advice. If you use our affiliates, you are awesome, and we thank you!