Charlotte’s Volkswagen Crafter Electrical Build

Firstly, why did Charlotte choose Tiny Build Electrics?

“The van electrical system was the part of the build I found most confusing. I really like that Tiny Build Electrics offered personal consultations where I could ask questions and iron out any worries that I had. I like that I was being given answers by someone who was electrically trained as well as having built and travelled in their own vans. I also really like how everything seemed to revolve around safety and the best practices. I like that my individual power requirements were mapped out so I knew my system was going to be able to handle my personal usage rather than predefined usage profiles that weren’t designed around my specific build and usage”

Campervan with mountains

Tiny Build Electrics Consultation & Design

Charlotte booked her electrical design consultation with Tom at a time and date that suited her. During the consultation Tom asked Charlotte specific questions about her usage and where and for how long she plans to travel. The answers from these questions help Tom spec the system and build the personalised schematic.

Once the consultation was complete, Tom set about designing Charlotte’s schematic for her electrical installation. Along with the schematic, Tom also produced a component list with everything required to build the system. Charlotte purchased the components via Tiny Build Electrics.

Components were picked and packed by Tom and Tiny Build Electrics HQ and sent across to Charlotte’s address.

Tom Consultation
Tom Diagrams

Van Electrical System Installation

Charlotte decided to use Tiny Build Electrics as the electrical system installer. Charlie, our resident electrician, travelled to Charlotte’s unit where her build and fit out was taking place.

“I wanted to be confident everything was installed safely. So many things that can go wrong, and having spent so much money on the build so far so it seemed silly not to spend a little bit more and have confidence someone who knew what they were doing had installed it!

Also the time element – the build had already taken 5 months, I was desperate for my life back and to get on the road with the van and what took Charlie a couple of days, would’ve taken me quite a few weekends/late nights.. and no guarantee I would’ve done it right (or safely!!) so it seemed like an absolute no brainier to use the installation service too!”

Campervan
Cables

Charlie had Charlotte’s personalised Tiny Build Electrics schematic emailed across and from that he could design a layout.

The electrical system was to be fitted into the garage area, under the bed, within a pre-manufactured cupboard supplied by the furniture manufacturer. This made the layout a little tricky as space was a premium and heat dissipation of the electrical components needed to be taken into consideration,

Designs
More Cables

The bulk of the viltron energy components were to be mounted to a 18mm ply backing board supplied and cut to shape by Charlotte and her partner Gavin. This made the install a lot easier as the board could be taken out to do the majority of the fiddly work on the work bench.

Charlie mounted the Victron Energy DC-DC converter and Victron Energy MPPT solar charge controller on an aluminium backplate, this helps to better dissipate the heat produced by both of these electronic devices. Charlie also separated the devices by the 100mm recommended by Victron Energy themselves to help with the heat. The cooler that the devices run, the larger their charge current.

Orion Smart

The cupboard unit, planned for the electrical system, had been left out of the van, which made first fixing the electrical system very easy. Charlie was able to work around the cupboard adding all the components and cables that would be hard to get to once in place in the van. The main isolator was fitted to the back of the unit which was convenient for Charlotte and would also be within close proximity to the whopping 460ah lithium leisure battery,

Pre Wired Cabinet

Once both the cabinet and panel were pre-wired, Charlie could move the cabinet into the van and marry the two together. The panel trunking had been cut so that it would all line up creating ventilated cable protection within the installation. The time that had been taken to pre wire these units meant they seamlessly attached together.

Wired Cabinet

At this stage the vans electrical system really started coming together. The 230V AC circuits were terminated as well as the 12V DC circuits. Once all the final circuits had been terminated, earthing and bonding had been connected and panel trunking lid fitted, it was time to fit the battery and inverter. The reason these two units were left until last was because they were both the largest of the items and also had specific areas in which they were to be fitted.

The battery sat snug in under the unit next to the wheel arch of the van, while the inverter sat up on a shelf in front of the electrical system.

Victron Energy

The system had a Victron Energy Cerbo GX, a controller which integrates the whole system together as well as having a 5 inch touch display screen. These items were fitted and all associated cables ran between all the electronic devices, allowing Charlotte to see exactly what her system is producing in real time, both from the 5 inch touch screen and her mobile phone via bluetooth.

Cerbo GX

Tiny Build Electrics remote commissioning via VRM

Due to Charlotte’s system having a CerboGX, which not only interconnected the whole system but also connected to the internet, commissioning could be done remotely by Tom.

Tom logged into the system from Tiny Build Electrics office and could set all charging parameters for the chargers. The Victron MPPT solar charge controller, DC-DC converter and Multiplus inverter/charger needed commissioning so that the system knew what size and type of battery was connected to the system. A system thats not commissioned correctly is inefficient and has the potential to damage the lithium leisure batteries.

The installation also had a second DC-DC converter which was used for the sensitive LED lighting that had been installed. This stopped the LED lights from flickering and mitigates any potential damage that could be caused from higher charging voltages.

Bulk Charge
Absorption Charge

Tiny Build Electrics Test & Inspection plus Certification

A few weeks passed before Charlie returned to test the system, this was due to the Crafter being sent away to have various other components fitted such as the double bench seat and shower unit. Once returned, the van could have its 230V 3 pin sockets second fixed as well as a few lights around the van.

Once the sockets were second fixed the testing stage could take place. Charlie tested the 230V install and produced a Electrical Installation Certificate proving that the system was safe, the RCDs were tripping in the correct amount of time and the earthing and bonding were connected.

The results from the test were typed up and the certificates emailed directly to Charlotte to keep with her build should she ever sell the vehicle so that she can prove the installation was installed and tested by a competent person.

Megger
Megger

Living the van life!

Since the build finished in March 2024 Charlotte, her partner Gavin and their dog, Thor, have certainly been making the most of their tiny home on wheels. Taking it to Scotland for a shakedown tour, before heading to the Lake District.

Both lucky enough to have remote jobs, the Crafter enables them to be anywhere in the UK meaning their lunchtimes, evenings and weekends are spent in the mountains where these guys like it best!

The electrical system that was designed, installed, commissioned and tested by Tiny Build Electrics and what a pleasure it is to now see the van out on the road, enabling Charlotte and Gavin to work remotely with power on demand!

Think we could help you and your build? Get in touch and start your journey to owning your very own tiny home on wheels!

Van Life
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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Thinking about venturing into full time vanlife in your campervan?

 

Charlie & Tasha from weboughtavan give us their top tips on fitting a reliable electrical system as well as working nomadically from your campervan!

We are Charlie and Tasha and in 2019 we built our tiny home on wheels, a 2016 Mercedes Sprinter that we designed with the full intention of living and working from.

Charlie & Tasha

We knew right at the start of our van build that the van was going to be used for full time living as well as maintaining our careers so a strong off-grid electrical system was going to be key.

I, Charlie, by trade am an electrician so assumed the electrical installation would be a fairly straight forward and whilst the fundamentals are the same, the ever-growing world of campervan electrical systems can be a minefield!

Luckily for me, Tom from Tiny Build Electrics supplied me with an incredibly detailed wiring diagram (schematic) that enabled me to simplify the installation process.

Picos de EuropaLiving in a van gives us the freedom to travel all over Europe from the comfort of our home. Pico’s De Europa, Spain

The Foundation: Choosing the Right Van for Full Time Vanlife

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of design, our first step was finding the right van for us and our needs.

After extensive research, we settled on a spacious and reliable Mercedes Sprinter due to its ample interior space and reliable engine. We had previously owned a Volkswagen Crafter, which shares the same body as the sprinter, and although we loved that van, we didn’t particularly like the engine. We found a sprinter locally within our budget and there started our journey into full time van life.

Finished Van

Multi-Functional Lounge Area in our campervan

A key component of our campervan’s design was a versatile lounge area that would serve as both a workspace and a place to unwind. Our ‘horseshoe’ layout allows us to have a work and dining area by day and by night a queen size bed, with plenty of room for us both and, occasionally, Winnie, our cocker spaniel!

Layout is key to comfortably living in your van full time and everyone’s views and opinions on layouts differ. All you can do is what is best for you and what feels right. It’s you and you only that will be spending the majority of the time in the space so it may as well be tailored to your exact needs.

Van refurb

Electric Hot Water System in our Campervan

When designing a hot water system for a campervan the common practice, from our research, was to install a Truma Combi, a system that uses both gas and electricity to heat the hot water. We wanted to steer away from gas as we knew prices may soar in the future (they did!) and thought with my knowledge as an electrician it would be interesting to try something a little different!

So we opted for a unvented (pressurised) hot water cylinder, primarily used in the marine industry on yachts, to supply us with our hot water. The 16 litre tank is heated by a 750w heating element. We set about doing some calculations and realised it was feasible, we would require an inverter that could comfortably power our hot water system.

Energy Diagram

Originally we used a switched fused spur to turn the hot water on and off manually, and that was great, until one day we forgot to turn it off and the Victron Energy low voltage alarms started screaming at us!

So we sought a solution where by we could put a timer in place of the switch and once said timer was satisfied it would automatically disconnect the supply. We found a 16amp controller which has three timed settings. 15 minutes, 30 minutes & 60 minutes. We knew that our system could run our hot water for 60 minutes and therefore would be safe when controlled by the controller.

30 minutes gives us enough hot water for two showers and some washing up, using around 25% of our battery’s capacity in order to achieve this.

Hot Water controllerOur hot water controller with three timed settings.

Victron Energy Multiplus Inverter Charger 2000w in our campervan

Our Victron Energy Multiplus has been a game changer for living full time in our tiny home on wheels. The system allows us to be independent from the grid whilst feeling like we’re connected to it. From charging our laptops to our aforementioned hot water system this really has been a ‘fit and forget’ item.

We had a very small space in which to install the system. This is one of the reason we opted for the compact version as well has two reasonably sized batteries. It enabled us to fit everything under one bench seat, away from any water or anything that could potentially damage the system (paddle board paddles, snorkels, fins etc).

Campervan Victron

Reliable Off-Grid Electrical System in our campervan

A dependable off-grid electrical system was key to us living and working off the grid. We would both be using laptops, phones and a wifi system in our campervan, all of this needed to be powered by a reliable electrical system that had been meticulously designed.

Solar Panels: We installed two 270 watt monochrystaline solar panels on our van’s roof. After much discussion with Tom we decided to wire the solar array in series, which gives us a combined wattage of 540watts and would for us all year round, even in the winter months with shorter days.

Campervan in MontenegroOur two 270w panels fitted to the roof of our van. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro

Campervan’s Lithium Ion Batteries: We opted for two 100ah lithium ion batteries connected in parallel. Since installing these batteries we haven’t looked back, they are a ‘fit and forget’ item. High performance from such a lightweight item is staggering. Both batteries weigh 11kg which was great for our weight conscious build and fuel efficiency!

Campervan cabling

Campervan Inverter: The inverter we opted for is a Victron Energy Multiplus inverter charger which comfortably keeps up with our 230V requirements. We opted for an electric hot water system, a hot water tank with a 750w element within, designed for boats. Our multiplus combined with our 200ah of lithium batteries gives us more hot water than we know what to do with! And better still, its all heated by a form of renewable energy, our solar panels!

Campervan power VictronOur Victron Energy Multiplus Compact 2000w Inverter/Charger fitted under our bench seating.

Campervan’s Energy-Efficient Appliances: We opted for as many energy-efficient appliances and LED lamps as our budget would allow, mainly to reduce power consumption and extend the longevity of our battery system. One item in particular was a compressor fridge. We have now been on the road full time for two years and our little fridge has been a lifesaver, especially in 42 degrees celsius!

Campervan lighting

By investing in a well-designed off-grid electrical system, we never have think about our power consumption. Knowing that Tom from Tiny Build Electrics took care of all the calculations means we can sleep at night knowing in the morning we’ll wake up to cold milk and enough hot water for two showers!

If you’re at the planning stage of your tiny build then you have certainly come to the right place. With our experience living and travelling in vans as well as our extensive knowledge with electrical installations, regulations and industry experience Tiny Build Electrics are here and ready to help.

Tom from Tiny Build ElectricsTom from Tiny Build Electrics during a one to one consultation.

Find a slot below to book in for a consultation with Tom

Begin your road to living nomadically!

Nomadic Work: Working from our campervan to fund our Nomadic Lifestyle

Ultimately, we all need some sort of income to survive but leaving behind a conventional job doesn’t mean leaving behind financial stability. This is one of our most commonly asked questions while on the road.

How do you work from your campervan and make money?

Tasha’s line of work enabled her to easily take it on the road. It was simply a case of asking her employer and within a few weeks she was working from the van. She said that since working from the van she felt a lot more efficient due to removing the distractions that come with working in a busy office.

I, Charlie, found my electrical skills combined with the experience of building three vans, one of which we now live in, could be some what useful and that it did. An email to Tom at Tiny Build Electrics and I was brought onboard as a technical writer, writing articles, like the one you’re currently reading, for the website as well as assisting Tom with various projects throughout his company.

With the advent of remote working in the past few years, due to a virus we will not dare to mention, remote work opportunities have surged, making it easier than ever to earn a living while on the road. If you’re thinking of living a nomadic life these are a few popular choices for remote working:

Digital Nomad Jobs: If you possess skills in web development, graphic design, writing, or online marketing, you can find a vast amount of remote job opportunities on freelance platforms and remote job boards.

Online Teaching: If you have a background in education, platforms that facilitate online language tutoring or subject-specific teaching can provide a stable income stream.

Virtual Assistance: Offer your organisational and administrative skills to entrepreneurs and businesses seeking remote support.

Content Creation: Embrace your creativity and start a YouTube channel, blog, or social media presence. With dedication and engaging content, you can monetise your platform through ads, sponsorships, and merchandise.

Campervan in SpainWorking on the road never feels like a chore when you have views like this! Sierra Nevada National Park, Spain.
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.

Book A Consultation  
Common Mistakes to make

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Building a campervan electrical system is an exciting endeavour that requires careful planning and attention to detail. An efficient and reliable electrical system is essential for powering appliances, charging devices, and providing a comfortable living space on the road. We have put together some common mistakes that you should be avoiding. These are mistakes we…


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How to Kickstart Your Campervan’s Tiny Build Electrics System

The hardest part of your build is likely to be your electrical system. So let’s break it down into several stages. Your campervan electrical system is going to play a big part in the comfort of your van. Lighting, cold beers and movie nights all depend on a reliable, safe system that you can call…


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