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Traditional Electrical Installation Guide

Article by Peter Smith - Caravans Plus

The following information is intended as educational only, and will allow the DIY builder to source the parts required for a 240V electrical installation in a Recreational Vehicle. Government regulations insist the installation must be done by a qualified electrician.

Caravan RV Electrical Overview

Above: The traditional wiring where lights operate on 240volts

Extension Lead

You will need a 15amp Extension Lead to supply 240V power to your RV.
These are identified by a wider than usual earth pin, to prevent substitution with a 10amp extension lead. The wire within the 15amp cord is rated higher and allows for the flow of more electricity than a 10amp cord.
Modifying a 10amp cord with a 15amp plug should definitely not be done. Even a 'heavy duty 10amp cord' should not be used.

Caravan RV Electrical 15amp

Power Inlet

Power Inlets come in different styles and colours.
Ensure you use one with a cover for external use, and rated at 15amps. If you have more than one circuit in your RV, you will need extra Power inlets.
The connections at the rear must be covered and the Active or Live (red or brown) and the Neutral (black or blue) wires should then go directly to a double pole circuit breaker.

Caravan RV Electrical 240volt

Earth Connections

One earth wire coming from the power inlet must go directly to the chassis and be connected with a Bolt, Nut, and a Spring washer.
A second earth wire should then go to all power points, hard wired appliances, and any lights with an earth connector.
The wire should be at least 2.5mm and is normally green or green/ yellow. (Shown below as white for easy identification in some photos).

Caravan RV Electrical 240volt Earth


Circuit Breaker

You are legally required to provide (at least) one double pole circuit breaker for each separate circuit in your RV.
These are rated at 16amps. RV's with air conditioners typically have a second circuit.
Larger RV's with many appliances may even need three circuits. Both the Active and Neutral go through the circuit breaker, so both are disconnected when the circuit is broken.
The Earth does not go through the breaker and must be uninterrupted to each power point, hard wired appliance, and 240V light fitting.

Caravan RV Electrical Residual Current Device (RCD)

Residual Current Device (RCD)is a circuit breaker with the added safety of cutting off the current when a leakage to earth is detected from between HOT side and Neutral side.
A Circuit Breaker Cover is required to mount the breaker in. It contains two parts - the rear rack and the front cover. It is screwed to an inside wall or inside a cupboard. The breaker is then placed in the rack and wires attached, the front cover secured.

Switches

Each hard wired appliance and 240V light fitting requires a double pole switch.
Some lights already have their own switch - it must be double pole.
Switches are generally purchased with a cover as a complete single or twin switch.
Even where a Range hood contains its own switch, an additional isolating switch is required away from the stove top.

Caravan RV Electrical 240 volt switch

Power Points

The power points we sell have double pole switches.
They can be connected in series (one after the other) with the 3 wires terminating at the last power point.
Where the walls contain a cavity, you can generally use the low profile power points. There are mounting plates and DEEP power points also if there is a problem with wall thickness.
An external power outlet (e.g. in the annex) can be added to this series.
The number of appliances connected to power points on one circuit that are used at one time should be limited to the 16amps of the circuit breaker.

Caravan RV Electrical Power Points

Wiring Locations

240V sheathed wire can run through the walls.
Where timber wall studs are 19mm square (photo shows a camper trailer wall which are 42 x 19mm) some stepping or offsets should be used to prevent wall being weakened along a straight line of drill holes.
Where aluminium or steel frames are used, grommets must be used to prevent vibration wearing a hole through the insulation.
If not housed in a wall, all 240V wire must be in conduit. 240V wiring must not be under the floor.

Caravan RV Electrical Wiring


Outlets

Backing blocks should be placed in wall cavities and all wiring tested before cladding is installed.
It may be a good idea to take photos of wiring to ensure no screws or drills pierce the wiring once the cladding is installed.

Caravan RV Electrical Power Point Backing Blocks


A registered electrician will be required to certify any 240V installation in a new motorhome. As government rules and regulations can vary at any time, this information page should be read in the manner in which it was intended. It is not intended as a replacement for a qualified electrician.

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39 Comments

  • comment-avatar

    serena franklin

    240v Distance required from a heat source or wet area - can you help with this question?

  • comment-avatar

    Clearly laid down in the Aus Standard AS/NZS.3000 All such work in Aus, , initial installation or repair shall only be carried out by a liscensed electrician

  • comment-avatar

    Terry

    Am also trying to find the rules with regard to the location of a GPO near a sink. Cannot find a particular ruling for a Caravan, does rule 6.3.2(e) apply for a caravan?

  • comment-avatar

    Robert

    How to detect an earth leakage, I connect the power to the van and it keeps tripping the RCD

  • comment-avatar

    Dave

    Disconnect as much as you can. Preferably everything, and pull any 240V fuses. If it still trips, you should get professional help. Replace each 240V fuse, if it trips, you need help as above. Reconnect one appliance at a time and then disconnect it till you get a trip. This will be the faulty appliance. Get it checked by a professional. Cheers

  • comment-avatar

    You have an earth fault somewhere in the van , wiring or connected appliances. .For a start turn off & unplug all 240v appliances including the battery charger. If it still trips, you have a wring fault in the van wiring & will need a liscensed electrician to locate & repair. If it does not trip, plug in & turn on the 240V appliances one at a time until you find what trips the RCD Take that device to a repair shop or buy a replacement

  • comment-avatar

    Andrew

    Re: Covered power inlet Is there any regulation that they have to be on the outside surface of the vehicle, at a certain height etc? I find them quite ugly, and given that I’ll be using shore power infrequently, wanted to install mine in a covered box underneath the van. Is this ok from a regulatory perspective?

  • comment-avatar

    There are limits on where it can be located,as it must be easily accessible,.under the van is not one of them. any alteration in position requires a liscensed electrician to do the work

  • comment-avatar

    George

    240v power points are wired in parallel, otherwise voltage would drop in proportion to the amount of power points connected if in series

  • comment-avatar

    Ads

    This guide is the kind of information that can be misused. A little information can be a dangerous thing.

  • comment-avatar

    Lachlan

    The appliances need a Neutral to work any way. There isn’t a way to hook power points up in series without things not working. That’s why all the pictures show everything done in 2.5mm 2C+E. Red is the active to the point and black is the return :) I hope this helps everyone understand

  • comment-avatar

    Peter

    I want to switch input from 240v mains to 240 v from the inverter , can any battery three way switch do this or do I need a 240 V one if there is one...?

  • comment-avatar

    Dave

    Unplug your shore power, run an extension cord from your inverter to your power inlet. NEVER have the inverter on the same circuit as 240V at the same time. An electrician could install a change over switch for you, (manual or automatic) these usually incorporate a momentary off to allow for phase change. Don't diy this or there will be sparks and tears.

  • comment-avatar

    Peter

    Thanks Dave. I have done exactly that Regards

  • comment-avatar

    Dean

    Not sure this suggestion is safe. There needs to be a safety element between the inverter and whatever appliance you plug into it. An RVD would appear appropriate, my own research indicates an RCD will not work. Plugging straight from an inverter to the van inlet will cook it without the right protection and the van onboard RCD will not work. My understanding is it relates to the lack of earth in an inverter (and equally with a generator). Review the RVDsafe website for a better explanation (I have no affiliation with them, I have researched similar inverter options to ensure I setup safely(.

  • comment-avatar

    Dale

    Howdy all, Just thought I'd chime in. An RCD has nothing to do with earthing of a vehicle. Earthing a vehicle allows a path for the current to flow should the Active or Neutral lines contact the chassis of the vehicle. Older tecnology such as an ELCB (Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker) would monitor the earth side of the circuit and look for power and trip if it saw it. An RCD (Residual Current Device) monitors the current on the Active and Neutral lines. If it detects a difference it will trip. RCDs are much safer than ELCBs. In theory, there is no reason why an RCD would not work on an inverter. but check with an electrician for sure.

  • comment-avatar

    Matthew

    An RCD will not work with an inverter or generator as they have floating neutrals (not tied to earth). In a normal Australian electrical system the neutral and earth are connected together in the switchboard called n MEN. For an imbalance to occur between active and neutral through an RCD, you need another path (usually earth wire via a faulty device or through a person to ground. This earth/ground is an alternate path back to the supply via the MEN connection. An RCD can only work if there is an imbalance and to have an imbalance there has to be another path back to the source. Please leave this stuff to an electrician as required by law and for your own safety. (I am an electrician).

  • comment-avatar

    John

    You probably should use a "Double Pole" switch which must have "break before make" contacts to avoid any internal wiring short circuits.

  • comment-avatar

    Dianne

    Should the wiring to all power points be 10 or 15amp?

  • comment-avatar

    John

    If you use the (recommended) 2.5sq mm copper wire for your power point circuits, it is actually rated for about 20A, allowing more than one GPO to be connected.

  • comment-avatar

    Kaz McGill

    Is it required by law to have your van extension cord hardwired to a van that is on a permanent site in a van park?

  • comment-avatar

    John

    Not that I'm aware of, but why do you ask?

  • comment-avatar

    Kaz McGill

    Is it required by law to have your van extension cord hardwired to a van that is on a permanent site in a van park?

  • comment-avatar

    Leon sneddon

    Can anyone help me please. I have a 998 scenic galaxy. I had it plugged into my car and all lights were working fine. I noticed a side light was not working so pulled the cover off and reattached a loose wire. I have lost all of the external lights and cannot get them to work. I have changed all the fuses l could find but still no luck. All 240 power is working. Any suggestions please. Rgs Leon

  • comment-avatar

    Chloe

    Do you need double pole wiring for 12v systems too?

  • comment-avatar

    John

    Double Pole switching is not required for 12V, as it is not considered to be a lethal voltage.

  • comment-avatar

    Tracy

    I purchased a caravan which I lived in permanently for around 12 months, semi-permanently for around 6 months and then had stored in a caravan yard, while I tried to sell it, for 18 months. I have recently removed the caravan from the caravan yard and stored it at my cousins farm. When we plugged the caravan into the mains, we tripped the fuse between the transformer and the batteries. We changed the fuse (from a 30A to a 40A) and the wires started to smoke. We took the fuse out and checked the batteries to find they had drained. We removed the batteries and placed them on charge. They remained on charge for a week but refused to recharge. I'm assuming that the van wasn't plugged in for the 18 months it was at the caravan yard and the batteries weren't disconnected and therefore, the batteries have depleted. My questions is this... while my caravan is plugged into the main power, the TV, fridge and microwave work but none of the lights do (because they are all connected to 12v). Can I change the wiring so that everything runs from mains? Is this an easy thing to do (I have absolutely NO knowledge of caravan maintenance)? Should we do this or should we leave everything as it is? We have purchased new batteries, which we are still waiting to have delivered. Please, can anyone help me with some awesome advice??? P.S. We will only be using the van for recreational use from now on, but it will be left plugged into mains power while it is not in use.

  • comment-avatar

    Graham

    Can I have my solar system ie Batt and Inverter grounded to the chassis, as well as the external 15amp inlet? There maybe times when I’m utilizing both simultaneously.

  • comment-avatar

    Mike

    Great info, thanks for the writeup. Why do caravans always use a 15amp input? I'm completing a camper trailer build and would prefer to use a 10amp input so as not to limit the feeds I can use without needing a converter. Is there any concerns about this other than needing a lower rated breaker?

  • comment-avatar

    Steve - CaravansPlus

    Hi Mike. You will need to use a 15amp inlet to get it through rego. The 15amp will be needed anyway as that's what all the caravan parks have. Many people face the same problems with hooking up to a normal house GPO, the solution is the adaptors found here: https://www.caravansplus.com.au/guides/important-240v-introduction-to-rvs-a-2.html You will quite often need to draw more than 10amps anyway. Things like heaters, aircon, kettle & toasters really use a lot of power. Hope this helps.

  • comment-avatar

    Phill Lees

    Hay guys got a sparky mate of mine helping wire my van for 240 Do I need to earth each power point to the 25 mm aluminum frame as he is recommending with brass nut and bolt

  • comment-avatar

    Peter

    I have just had an inverter installed in my caravan I want to just connect this to a double outlet in the van via a heavy duty 10 amp extension cord . It will not be connected to the normal 240 v circuit in the van. What do I need to do to make this work safely?

  • comment-avatar

    Dean

    You will need to add an RVD between the inverter outlet and the new outlet (google RVDSafe for info). This will provide protection when using appliances with 3 pins (earth) as inverters do not have an earth.

  • comment-avatar

    John

    Can someone tell me the definition of uninterrupted earth and can 240v be soldered

  • comment-avatar

    Lachlan

    Can be soldered but should have heat shrink around connections, I wouldn’t personally as I’d use a BP connector Or inline crimps due to vibration. And the connection has to be contained in a box which is not easily accessible and a tool must be used to gain access to the connection. but the box can’t be stored behind a solid wall or ceiling as all connections should be accessible incase of servicing. Uninterrupted earth means it can’t be cut somewhere or damaged (same as the other cables)

  • comment-avatar

    Jayson

    I have a 93 jayswan and plugged to main 240v and was using the outdoor PowerPoint for a vacuous give the old van a good clean. I noticed later that no power 240v is in the van. The mains power is good and the socket tester only reads blue when I plug it in each power point. The breaker is on and I can’t work out what’s up, any ideas?

  • comment-avatar

    Michael

    Are caravan manufacturers/importers required to fit 15 amp inlets to vans? My son recently took delivery of a new imported poptop caravan and it has a 10amp inlet fitted rather than the standard 15 amp plug. All vans I've owned in the past had 15 amp inlets and don't know if 10amps are allowed to be fitted by law??? Thanks

  • comment-avatar

    Peter

    What type of wire should be used for 250 in a caravan? Same as a house or more flexible single ?

  • comment-avatar

    Greg

    Hi John and Lachlan - absolutely no way is it legal or safe to solder 240v AC. Cheers Greg

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