How to install a power inverter in a van

How to install a power inverter in a van

By mounting a power inverter in your van, you get handy portable power for most of your electronics anywhere, anytime.

Below we look at how to install a power inverter in a van so that you can keep your appliances running during your stay in the wild or work trips.

How to install a power inverter in a van

Our first task is to pick an ideal location:

Choosing the best location to install the inverter

The good news is that you can install your power inverter practically anywhere you wish in the van as long as it will be within easy reach- you don’t want to struggle to plug in your gadgets.

I have seen people fixing an inverter under the dash, just behind the driver’s seat, beneath the passenger seat, and many other locations.

One of my friends loves to mount his in the back of the van so that it charges his scooter when traveling!

Despite the flexibility, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind when selecting where to mount the inverter as we will learn next.

What to keep in mind when choosing a location

Here are some questions to think about as you think of the best location:

  • How shall you wire the device to the power source? – You don’t want to end up with tangled wires all over and it’s advisable that your location is close to the batteries as much as possible to reduce the size of the DC wiring.
  • Is the site going to allow proper grounding? –Your position must provide for the inverter ground wire or other recommended ‘earthing’ procedure (most are grounded to the van’s chassis).
  • What about heat? -Inverters sometimes make overwhelming heat when in use and the best spot should have adequate airflow to prevent overheating.
  • Can you easily turn off the inverter? –Pick a site that will allow you to easily turn your power inverter off if it doesn’t have a remote control. This helps you preserve power as inverters draw some power even when idle.
  • Will the inverter go unnoticed? – An inconspicuous spot works well as it helps conceal the inverter’s location in your van.

Let’s tackle the next step now that you have found a good place to position your inverter.

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Tackle the wiring

For the most part, large inverters are directly hooked to the battery system.

And you know what you need here: a suitable wire (in terms of thickness and length) and an appropriate fuse kit.

The good thing is that some inverters come with the battery cables, battery clips, ground wire, and a fuse meaning that it’s just a matter of unpacking and getting to work.

In fact, the supplied battery cables sometimes come with the fuse installed to make your job easier.

Be sure to go for the right AWG cable if you need longer cables based on your application.

How to complete the inverter-battery wiring

Wiring isn’t a huge deal- simply run the cables as follows:

  1. Connect the black cable to the negative terminal on the battery. Tighten the connection securely.
  2. Route the black cable all the way to the inverter’s location and fix it on the black terminal on the power inverter.
  3. Connect the red cable to the inverter’s red terminal and route it to the battery. Note that you won’t be connecting the red cable to the positive terminal at this moment- that comes towards the end for safety reasons.
  4. The final step is grounding and you need to do a clean job again. There’s nothing to panic about anyway as you just need to attach the additional ground wire (buy grounding wire if not provided) to an identified ground point, for example, any spot on the van’s metal body.
  5. Like with the other wires, route the other end to the ground connection on the inverter.

Tip: One size does not fit all and its best to check the instructions in your owner’s manual for accurate directions about grounding otherwise you may find this part to be a bit tricky.

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Helpful wiring tips

There’s more you need to know about the wiring process:

  • Use the right crimper tool: For heavy gauge wires, a hydraulic crimper will help you quickly crimp lugs on and screw everything into place.
  • Protect the wires: Use grommets to shield the wires from rough edges after drilling holes to route the black and red wires through. This is not, however, necessary for the ground cable.
  • Install the fuse before wiring: If the fuse kit did not arrive already mounted, take it and install it securely onto your positive battery terminal (or where .
  • Use zip ties: Since you want a tidy connection, use zip ties (or something similar) to secure the wires in some areas as you deem it necessary.

And finally………

Put your connection to test

Now you’re through but before you congratulate yourself for a job well done, you need to be sure that your power inverter is working.

A small test will suffice for this.

Before you run the test:

  • Check all your connections once more– you especially don’t want the red wire (or any of its connectors) to be touching any metallic parts on your van or even the other (black) connectors.
  • Confirm that your power inverter is turned off– for precautionary reasons, you want the power inverter OFF.

Onwards now to making the trial run….

Remember we just want to verify that our system is working.

Steps:

  1. Connect the remaining end of the red wire (remember it?) to the battery. Stay woke as the connection typically triggers a spark.
  2. Turn your power inverter ON.

And voila!

If you followed the above steps to the latter, your inverter should come to life ready to your laptop, fan, game console, refrigerator, kindle, TV, breast pump, Christmas lights…you name it.

How to install a power inverter in a van: Precautions to take

In this section, I highlight a few safeguards and tips that may help you remain safe throughout the installation process.

  • The equipment should always stand on fairly flat surfaces although it doesn’t matter if you mount it horizontally or vertically.
  • Unless it’s waterproof, don’t expose the inverter to rain/moisture. Water is a good conductor and can cause serious electrical accidents.
  • Never install a power inverter in the engine or even battery compartments because of the risk of fire (think about the gas fumes and sparks from the inverter) and possible contamination by water, oil, or acid. It can also overheat while in there!
  • Still on preventing overheating, keep the inverter away from any heat sources- vents, radiators, or even direct sunlight.
  • Consider building a box. It helps the stability of your inverter besides making the arrangement to appear tidier.

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Final thoughts

The key to a successful installation is doing your homework and understanding both your inverter and the van.

And as mentioned earlier, power inverters differ significantly and the surest way of getting it right the first time is by observing the procedure given in your owner’s manual.

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