230V Quick Guide

When we discuss 230V systems, we aren't just talking about hooking up on campsites. There's every chance that if you're one of our more adventurous customers, you'll be building an off-grid camper, looking to experience everything wild camping has to offer - so what does 230V have to do with that?


So whether you are looking to experience the luxuries that campsites have to offer, or if you are living life on the 'wild' side, this blog is for you!


Why Install 230V In Your Camper?


There are multiples pro's to fitting a 230V supply in your campervan! Here are a couple of our favourites:

  1. If you are planning to take a laptop (or any other tech) for any reason (editing film & pictures, streaming TV etc) you can utilise the 230V supply and use all your usual household chargers etc.

  2. If you aren't planning to fit an electrical plinth heater or a diesel heater, why not pack a cheap and cheerful household heater or maybe even an electric blanket. These will plug directly in to the 230V supply and you'll be toasty on your adventures.

  3. Should you be on a long tour and wish to take a break from the usual camp fire dinners and head to the local restaurant, you may want to get the household hair dryer/straighteners out. At times like this, you really will be thankful that you have a little piece of home with you on your adventure!

What are your options?


Now that you're convinced that 230V's is a great way to go, there are three options for achieving this?

  1. Using a 12v DC to 230V AC power inverter.

  2. Using a hook up kit to plug in to a 230V supply (usually a campsite).

  3. A combination of the two above!

Option 1 - Power Inverters


Power Inverter Overview


A power inverter is the sort of product that makes you think.. What a time to be alive! You connect your 12V DC leisure battery (or batteries) to the power inverter, magic happens and out the other end comes 230V AC.


Now that's great, but if you google "Power Inverters" you will be confronted by a huge array of different products. The difference not only being the brand, but the Power Rating (1000W, 500W, 300W etc).. Which to many of us, doesn't mean much at all.


Now despite the Power Rating being the standard way to 'grade' these products, what you will be interested in is what current can be drawn safely from the Power Inverter. Your first port-of-call here is to check the data sheet or product specification. However, this may not quote current. So to work this out you can use the following equation:


Current (Amps) = Power (Watts)/Voltage (Volts)


Example (1): If you have a Power Inverter rated at 1000W. The inverter will be producing 230V. So to work out the current, we calculate 1000/230 which equals 4.3 Amps.

So we know that our 1000W Power Inverter can supply our circuit consistently with 4.3Amps.


Note: We are talking here about the continuous power. Power inverters will also have Surge Powers (also known as Peak Power) that the inverter can provide for short periods of time. You should also work out the related current here for cable sizing etc.


Which Power Inverter Is Right For You?


To work this out, take the following steps:


1. Make a list of all the items you may wish to use or 'plug in' to your 240V system.


2. Next to each item, note down the Power Rating (You can often find this on the paperwork you received when you bought the product, alternatively - Google It!).


3. For each item, calculate the current draw (Power/Voltage). Don't forget the voltage is 230!


At this point you can add up all the current draw. You will notice it's likely to be pretty large, but don't worry! Remember, you don't have to plug everything in at any one time!


4. Carry out a check to make sure that the item with the largest current draw (likely a heater) doesn't draw more current than the continuous power provided by the inverter. If it does, you either need a more powerful inverter, or you need to rethink taking that item (we vote, larger inverter - future you will be grateful)!


5. The final check will be for any item you wish to take that has a Surge Power requirement. These are usually items with motors. Motors require higher currents at the very beginning (due to inertia - or so the nerds tell me). So make sure your inverter has a high enough surge power (and subsequent surge current) to deal with the surge power of the item.


What Next?


Now that you have selected the Power Inverter for you, you will need to select a consumer unit and begin to design the circuits, including cable size and number of switched sockets etc.


Note: In our kits we have already undertaken the circuit design. However, we will release further blogs on designing circuits in due course.


Option 2 - Mains Hook Up Kits


Hook Up Kit Overview


A hook up kit simply takes an input 230V supply (usually from a campsite) and passes it through a consumer unit and on to the final circuit. This is very similar to the way our houses are wired in the UK.


Hook up kits are fantastic for using when on campsites as they do not drain the 12v leisure batteries. It is also an ideal opportunity to connect a 12V battery charger to the circuit and recharge the leisure batteries.


When looking through our 230V kits, you will notice an array of consumer unit options from single-pole to double-pole and with multiple different RCD/MCB ratings. Understanding these ratings is very straight forward.


Note: For a full explanation of our consumer units, please see our "240V Consumer Units - What's The Difference?" blog.


Example (2): If you have a single 10Amp MCB, the maximum current draw on the final circuit would be 10 Amps.


Example (3): If you have a consumer unit with a 10Amp MCB and a 6Amp MCB. You will be able to draw a maximum current of 10Amps off the 10Amp MCB and a maximum current of 6Amps off the 6Amp MCB.


It really is that simple.


Note: When you add the total current rating of the MCB's, you should never exceed the current rating on the RCD.


Which Hook Up Kit Is Right For You?


To work this out, take the following steps:


1. Make a list of all the items you may wish to use or 'plug in' to your 240V system.


2. Next to each item, note down the Power Rating (You can often find this on the paperwork you received when you bought the product, alternatively - Google It!).


3. For each item, calculate the current draw (Power/Voltage). Don't forget the voltage is 230!


At this point you can add up all the current draw. You will notice it's likely to be pretty large, but don't worry! Remember, you don't have to plug everything in at any one time!


4. Carry out a check to make sure that the item with the largest current draw (likely a heater) doesn't draw more current than the current rating on your single MCB. If it does, you either need a higher rated MCB, or you need to consider a consumer unit with two MCB's, or you need to rethink taking that item (we vote for two MCB's - future you will be grateful)!


5. The final check will be for any item you wish to take that has a Surge Power requirement. These are usually items with motors. Motors require higher currents at the very beginning (due to inertia - or so the nerds tell me). So make sure your MCB has a high enough current rating to deal with the surge power (and subsequent surge current) of the item.


What Next?


Now that you have selected the consumer unit that is appropriate for your use. You can shop our collection of 240V kits and decide which one suits your needs!


Option 3 - A Combination of The Two Above


With all things considered, by choosing either option 1 or Option 2 the bulk of the work has been carried out. With the final circuits designed and current requirement calculated it is very little additional work or expense to consider both options.


This will allow you to have maximum versatility for your campervan with 230V being supplied seamlessly when off-grid or when hooked-up.


Note: We are soon to be listing a kit complete with 230V hook-up and a power inverter input. Should you wish to know more about this sooner, please send us a message and one of the team will get back to you!


Summary


230V has the potential to transform your campervan experience in to something quite magical! Whether it's cuddling up with a film streaming in the background, or getting comfortable with the heated blanket on, you won't regret the decision.


Whether you are going to use your 12V DC leisure batteries or a 230V hook up to supply the van, there is a little design work to be carried out to ensure you get the correct system.


We would highly recommend considering both options as this will provide you with the ultimate campervan experience.


Note: The Home Built Campers team are all members of this community and are passionate about all things campervan. So should you need any assistance, please feel free to reach our to us and we will be happy to help.


Thank you for reading, we hope you found this helpful!

The Home Built Campers Team.