12V vs 230V Systems in Campervans

12V vs 230V Systems in Campervans

Are you a campervan owner looking to upgrade or improve your electrical system? Understanding the difference between 12V and 230V systems is crucial to ensuring your van conversion is properly powered and equipped for your adventures.

In this article, we’ll delve into the basics of voltage, explore the characteristics and uses of 12V and 230V systems in campervans, and compare the two to help you make informed decisions about your campervan’s electrical setup.

Basics of Voltage in Campervans

Voltage, also known as electrical potential difference, is the force that pushes electric charge through a circuit. It is measured in volts (V) and is the key factor in determining the amount of power that can be transmitted through a circuit. In a campervan, voltage is used to power lights, appliances, and other devices.

12V DC Systems in Campervans

Simply put, these systems run on a 12-volt direct current (DC) and they’re used to power things like lights, fans, and other smaller appliances. They’re also handy for charging batteries, which can then be used to power other devices.

One of the best things about these systems is how simple and easy they are to use. They’re usually a more affordable option and require less maintenance compared to the 230V systems.

However, it’s important to remember that they have some limitations when it comes to powering larger appliances like air conditioners or microwaves.

Keep in mind that the 12V system relies on the campervan’s auxiliary battery for power, which means you need to keep an eye on the battery’s charge and make sure it gets charged up regularly. Otherwise, you might find yourself without power!

230V AC Systems in Campervans

In campervans, 230V AC systems supply power to larger domestic appliances and devices that require more energy than 12V systems can deliver. These appliances include microwaves, air conditioners, and other home-like conveniences.

To get power for these systems, campervans traditionally rely on an external hookup or ‘shore power’. In more recent years, however, onboard inverters have become the norm. These handy devices transform the typically 12V DC power from the campervan’s battery to 230V AC power, which can then be used to power appliances.

Inverters come in various sizes and capabilities, so it’s important to choose one that matches the power requirements of your appliances. But don’t worry, if you’re not sure, we can help size your system for you.

One of the main benefits of 230V AC systems in campervans is their ability to provide more power, making it possible to run larger appliances. They also allow you to use the same appliances you have at home, which can make your campervan feel more comfortable. However, these systems tend to be more expensive and complex to install and use. Additionally, the necessary components and battery storage can add extra weight to your vehicle, which can affect its overall weight distribution and fuel economy.

12V or 230V Systems in Campervans?

When it comes to choosing the best power system for your campervan, you need to think about what kind of stuff you want to power up. If you just need to keep the lights on and charge your gadgets, then the 12V system will do the trick. But, if you’re planning to bring along big-ticket items like a microwave or air conditioner, you’ll need to step it up to a 230V AC system.

It’s also important to think about how long you’re planning to be out on the road and how much juice you need to keep your devices powered up. If you’re planning a short trip and just need to charge your phone, then a 12V system is probably more than enough. But if you’re planning on living off the grid for an extended period of time, you’ll need to make sure you have enough power to sustain your needs.

Of course, you also need to think about the cost and upkeep of each system. A 12V system is generally more affordable and requires less maintenance, but a 230V AC system will give you more power to play with. Ultimately, you need to choose a system that fits your budget and technical abilities, and that will meet your power needs on the road.

Having Both 12v and 230v Systems in Your Campervan

Having both 12V and 230V systems in your campervan can offer the best of both worlds, as it allows you to power both small and large appliances. This is achieved by using a combination of a 12V DC system for low-power items and a 230V AC system for larger appliances e.g. the blender you can’t live without.

One common setup is to use an inverter to convert the 12V DC power from the auxiliary battery to 230V AC power for larger appliances. This can provide more flexibility in your power supply while keeping costs and complexity to a minimum.

Overall, the decision to have both systems in your campervan comes down to personal preference and your individual power needs. It’s always recommended to consult with a professional (cough, that’s us) to ensure that your system is properly sized and installed to meet your specific requirements.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between 12V DC and 230V AC systems in campervans is essential for ensuring your vehicle is properly powered and equipped for your adventures.

12V DC systems are typically simpler, more affordable, and easier to use, but have limited power capabilities. On the other hand, 230V AC systems can provide more power, but are generally more expensive, complex and require more maintenance. By considering your specific needs and the types of appliances and devices you plan to use, you can make an informed decision about which electrical system is right for your campervan.

Remember, a well-informed decision is the key to a successful and enjoyable campervan experience. Take the time to understand your needs, weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision that will serve you best. Happy travels!

Tom Alderdice

Hey, I’m Tom – founder of Tiny Build Electrics

My mission is to help sustainable-minded folks develop their electrical knowledge, giving them the confidence to do their own tiny build electrics.

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