dinkydecor avatar image
dinkydecor asked

Starting from scratch VW Camper conversion - the basics

Hi All,

Apologies if these basic questions have been asked/answered many times before!

Converting VW t5.1 Caravelle into a camper (standard alternator).

We are intending to install the charging/power components in our camper in stages, party due to time and partly due to costs. We're keeping our electrical items simple, fridge, water pump, lighting, wifi booster, phone charging (no TV, microwave, kettle, hair straighteners etc).

Phase 1: Leisure Battery, Cyrix-ct 120A Combiner, BMV-712 Battery Monitor (individual electrical item switch/fuse board) and Phoenix 12/375 Inverter.

Phase 2: Solar Panels, SmartSolar MPPT

Phase 3: 240v mains (this is something we may consider in the future, and I've not really researched this yet).

Hopefully we're on the right track, but if there's anything crucial I've missed, or there's something we could install now that is multi functional and would save us time/money further down the road please let me know.

Thank you in advance for any help of advice!


2 |3000

Up to 8 attachments (including images) can be used with a maximum of 190.8 MiB each and 286.6 MiB total.

3 Answers
kai avatar image
kai answered ·

Sounds like at phase 1 the sole charging source is an alternator? If so have you given thought as to how much energy is provided on an "average day" from the alternator, and how much energy is needed for appliances on that same average day?

Also, from a planning perspective, think about much solar autonomy you want if the camper is not on the road and off grid. Size the battery off that, or at least reserve enough space for the batteries that you'll eventually need, and make sure the rest of the gear can also handle the requirements (so you don't end up ditching equipment from an earlier phase later on)

2 |3000

Up to 8 attachments (including images) can be used with a maximum of 190.8 MiB each and 286.6 MiB total.

dinkydecor avatar image dinkydecor commented ·

Hi kai,

They're really good points. Initially I'm relying on a fully charged battery at the start of the weekend, with some charging from the alternator, powering everything (the fridge being the biggest drain) for a couple of days. I realise I run the risk of over draining the battery and possibly wrecking it.

I guess need to add research into power output from alternators and batteries to my list of to-dos!

Thanks again,


0 Likes 0 ·
adev avatar image adev dinkydecor commented ·

The exact fridge type will be crucial. A 12v compressor fridge will be as economical as can be, but a coolbox type or three-way type running on 12v will drain a LOT of power from the battery.

0 Likes 0 ·
David avatar image
David answered ·

You have split the areas into 3 phases which is fair enough, but work out where you are putting things and at least run all the wiring to where it needs to go in one hit to avoid having to strip furniture out to run more cable.

As an example, a common place to have a 240V Hookup Plug on the T5 is under the bonnet. If you were planning to install yours there also in phase 3, run the mains cable from under the bonnet to the inside at the same time as the cabling for the CT-120 - it will follow the same route so may as well run both cables at the same time even if you don't connect up the mains cable.

You are talking about an inverter and also 240V mains later. Consider the small 12/500 Multiplus combo unit. Yes it is more expensive but it is superior to using separate Mains Charger and Inverter and has features very useful in a camper.

Of course you will need fuseboxes, Mains RCD, etc remember.

WiFi Booster. Do you mean Wi-Fi or maybe Mi-Fi (Mobile Data). Just asking as I have found the expansion of better and faster Mobile Data availability and the reduction in costs, especially of unlimited data contracts means the benefit of using Hotspots is reducing massively. I have a Ubiquiti WiFi Radio/Booster in my Camper but I have not actually used it to pick up Hotspots in well over a year and just use a MiFi Router with an unlimited Data Package instead.

2 |3000

Up to 8 attachments (including images) can be used with a maximum of 190.8 MiB each and 286.6 MiB total.

adev avatar image adev commented ·

Further to this, I would add cabling for the solar from somewhere near the roofand run it to the battery area. Specifics of that ie. cable type and connectors, how it goes to the roof is tricky as a preemptive thing though.

I’d suggest you join some of the self build campervan groups on facebook and ask about ideas on there...

0 Likes 0 ·
David avatar image David adev commented ·

For VW Conversions, the VWT4 Forum (covers T5 and T6 as well) is a very good resource and much better than facebook groups for finding info :)

0 Likes 0 ·
dinkydecor avatar image dinkydecor commented ·

Hi Wildebus,

Big thank you for your advice!

We've actually decided, based on how we intend to use the camper, that we'll never need a mains power supply, so we've knocked this part of the project on the head. We may still run a cable, as you suggested above (just in case) but we've realised that we need the solar in place from the start, so we've gone from 3 phases to just 1, so much for spreading the cost, eek!

As a compromise to not having the mains supply we may still install (some time in the future) the phoenix inverter, so we have 240v in an emergency. But I'm guessing it's ok to install this close to the battery, so we don't have to worry about pre installing the cabling?

Yes, you're right, we need a MiFi router. Like you, we're not going to be near hotspots anyway, and the 3/4G coverage is improving all the time.

I realise there's heaps on information on T5/6/7 forum and facebook pages, but sometimes it's hard to know if people actually know what they're taking about, or just guessing, I was hoping that this being a more specialist forum it's the former!

Thanks again for your advice and tips, it's deffo saved us time and money.


0 Likes 0 ·
adev avatar image adev dinkydecor commented ·

You’re absolutely right it’s OK to have the inverter near the battery - in fact it is prefferred to have it as close as possible.

0 Likes 0 ·
paulio avatar image
paulio answered ·

I would advise the solar from the start if you can. I run a similar setup and a 100w keeps me going for days off grid. Obviously need to use the fridge economically when solar gain is low.

2 |3000

Up to 8 attachments (including images) can be used with a maximum of 190.8 MiB each and 286.6 MiB total.

Related Resources

Additional resources still need to be added for this topic