This is the area where the credit goes to my brilliant spouse. He studied various wiring diagrams and researched everything we’d need to turn our aluminum box into a functioning home away from home. He was able to teach himself how to wire the entire camper and then actually wire the entire camper in a little over a week.
The first thing we did was sit down and draw a diagram of the camper and talk through where we wanted switches, what kinds of lights we wanted (dimmers or normal, pendant or recessed, etc.) and then made a shopping list. The recessed lights were the first thing we decided we wanted in each room. The difficulty though was that the ceiling space in the camper is very limited compared to what you’d have in a home. So we knew we would need something low profile that didn’t require a bulky housing. After much research, we found these on Amazon for an affordable price.
These are great because not only are they extremely slim, they also have the capability to dim, which we thought would be important considering we’ve never lit a camper before and want the option to reduce the lighting if we find it’s too harsh.
The next step was purchasing all of the switches, switch plates, outlets, outlet plates, and the wiring boxes to accompany them. Adam also tracked down the wire necessary for the various applications (i.e. running a light switch versus wiring the hot water heater requires different gauge wire.) The details of which we have, but I probably won’t document here. If you have additional questions about how to wire your camper, leave a comment and one of us will be happy to tell you what we did.
All of the wiring was run to an 8 space breaker panel (seen below).
All the wires that run through the aluminum studs pass through rubber grommets to ensure they don’t rub and expose the copper over time. This is especially critical when wiring something like a camper that’s going to be bumping down the road.
Next was the truly scary and anxiety provoking part– running the feeder cable from the main breaker on our house to the pole next to the camper.
Hot tip: BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING WITH YOUR HOME BREAKER PANEL, SHUT THE MAIN BREAKER OFF AND TEST EACH WIRE WITH A SNIFFER TO ENSURE THERE IS NO PHANTOM POWER REMAINING.
First, we dug a 24″ deep trench (this is by code). Below you can see our foreman asleep on the job.
Here is the trench as it runs to where we eventually placed the pole (all 55 feet of it.)
Then we ran the length of the feeder cable to where we planned to put the pole near the camper and Adam crawled under the house to run the other side up into the breaker box. Below is a picture of the feeder cable before we put the conduit on the portion that is above ground. The type of cable we got is called “direct bury” which means you don’t have to encase it in conduit, but by code you have to encase the part of the cable that is exposed. (The second picture is the cable in the conduit.)
Once the main breaker was off, we removed the panel cover inside the house and used the sniffer to make sure the power was indeed off. Then Adam popped out one of the knockouts in the bottom of the panel to create a hole for the feeder cable to come up into the box and fed the cable up through the underside of the house and into the panel. The cable hanging out is the feeder cable, which is 6/3 gauge with ground.
He wired it into the breaker panel, reattached the cover and voila a 2 pole, 40 amp circuit breaker dedicated to the camper!
We buried the feeder cable with about a foot of dirt, ran a line of caution tape as a warning for future diggers, and left the remaining foot of the 24″ trench open to run the main water line from the house.
Then it was onto placing the pole which the camper will plug into (much like what you have at a typical RV campsite.)
Here is a pre-install picture of the 50 amp outlet box that the feeder cable runs into.
Once that was wired up, we plugged the camper in using a 25 foot, 50 amp RV extension cord and WE HAVE POWER!
Every light, outlet, and appliance worked beautifully so we were beyond excited. At this stage, the plumbing was all run in the camper as well, so next we ran the main water line from the house. More on this in the plumbing post.