DIY Universal Power System
for Off Grid & Shore Power
Applicable for vans, tiny homes, RVs, etc.
for Off-Grid, Boondocking, Camping & Bug-Out
Electrical Control Center - Applicable for most vans and Tiny Homes. Between wheel well for better handling and traction; out of way from prime real estate. The 2 Gauge wire goes from the isolator, under the metal frame beside the hand brake, trough a metal shroud to the starter battery which has a 5/16" connector lug (Sprinter).
Recommended Components, Appliances, etc. with Tips
In order of recommended install sequence; no sales tax in Oregon and Montana; if no Costco, etc. near you, try Amazon.
- Fire Extinguisher, Small - can mount anywhere, but I prefer behind passenger seat next to sliding door.
- Vacuum,Cordless Trigger - $150 Costco - keep work areas clean from the start.
- Basic Electrical Components - $75 (varies) Harbor Freight - Extension cords, power strip, 16 gauge red & black wiring, wire straps, red and black electrical tape, liquid black rubber, connectors, wire nuts, grommets, etc.
2 gauge red copper wire 10' - $17 eBay or $37 Amazon (black and red) - Make only long enough to be able to keep out of the way and slightly move things.
2 gauge 1/4" copper ring terminals pack of 10 - $7 Amazon.
2 gauge 5/16" copper ring terminal single - $5 Amazon - use from to connect from battery isolator to main battery (on Sprinter).
- Inverter - - reason over others: Costco's best return policy, perfect size for most applications, comes with two good length 2 gauge cables. If you have highly sensitive electronics such as medical equipment, you will need a "pure sine wave" inverter Costco doesn't sell; cost much more than modified sine wave.
- AGM Battery bank
- A/C LED lights $70 (varies) your preferred hardware stores, etc. - A/C preferred over D/C to take advantage of shore power and they are cheaper with better selection. High priority so you can see what you are doing!
- 150 Amp Battery Isolator - $57 Amazon - Allows your auxiliary batteries to automatically charge when vehicle is running. Also allows, with the push of a button, jump starting your main battery from the auxiliary batteries if you left your lights on, etc.
- 150 Amp switchable circuit breaker - $20 Amazon - fire, smoke and component protection. Highly preferred over the types of fuses you have to replace. West Marine sells this, but more expensive.
- 40 Amp Solar panel charge controller - - necessary to keep from overcharging batteries. Mount as close to battery bank as possible while still being able to see / monitor it.
- Fuse Block (DC) with LEDs, quick connect / disconnect - $10 Amazon - For DC auxiliary loads.
- (Shore) Power Inlet Receptacle, Weatherproof - $51 Amazon
- 120 VAC (Breaker) Load Center - $14 Home Depot - buy 20 Amp breaker Air Conditioner and heater; 20 Amp other loads.
- Extension Cord, 12 Gauge 25' Outdoor - $18 Harbor Freight - use at campgrounds for shore power connection.
- Air Conditioner, 6,000 BTU -
- Diesel Heater, 2,000 Kw - $450 eBay / Amazon - [I installed the 4Kw version which seems to work too good / gets interior hot rapidly] Reason over electric: Don't have to run generator or depend on campground shore power. Reason over propane: Safer / no fumes, does not create moisture, but rather dries the air. Can tap into existing diesel fuel tank (if you have a diesel engine) for convenience. If not, can install a diesel fuel tank for this. Most units are sold with a fuel tank (not used in this case). Requires drilling hole in floor. Connect directly to battery bank. Install wired remote for easy access from both bed and living room (somewhere in middle). Since I had excess wire, I cut and used to extend the remote since the remote wire is too short.
- DC fan, Metal Blade - $20 Camping World - even though you'll have a roof vent, this is still nice to have to blow directly where you need it. May help prevent need for running air conditioner. Cut off the end plug and wire into fuse block.
- Roof Fan - $260 Camping World - by MaxxFan. Rainproof even when open.
Butyl tape - $10 Camping World. Necessary to install ventilation roof fan.
- Solar Panels, 100 Watt X Qty s - $240 (2) Home Depot - reason over flexible: More efficient, more durable and cheaper. Fit how many will fit after installing the roof air conditioner and roof vent.
- Aluminum Box - $75 eBay
Refrigerator / Freezer - $910 West Marine special order- Reason: Quiet, low amp/watt, efficient, reliable, auto switches between AC, high resale value.
- Microwave, Small - $40 (varies). Your favorite department or hardware store.
- Weather Station - $28 Costco - with outdoor temp & humidity. Use A/C power cord in addition to batteries.
Recommended DC Electrical Accessories Powered by Main Starting Battery
- Backup camera (if not factory installed)
- Dash cam
- Aux horn with alarm remote (mount remote by bed). Allows scaring away would be criminals before having to confront them. Also makes horn louder when tied into factory horn.
Tips for Avoiding Generators, Shore Power and Massive Battery Bank
(Maximize Energy Efficiency)
Here are the top tips to avoid creating noise and air pollution via generators or other dirty power sources. These tips will also allow you to camp off grid in more places to save money and enjoy better scenery vs. crowded RV parks and campgrounds.
- Remove any roof top air conditioners and replace with skylight and solar panels.
- Install window air conditioner -Tutorial
- Install window air conditioner -Tutorial
- Park in the sun as much as possible after maximizing solar panel capacity.
- Keep solar panels clean, wipe at least once monthly or after dusty conditions.
- Cook at least one hour prior to sunset. You can reheat your food after sunset.
- Avoid running other AC appliances after sunset that are not necessary.
- Switch to as many DC powered electronics as possible (use inverter as little as possible).
- Don't open and close refrigerator/freezer unnecessarily after sunset.
- Run errands on cloudy/rainy days or after sunset to recharge with a battery isolator (alternator).
- Upgrade battery bank if after all of the above you still need external power often.