Whether you are converting a luxury camper or are doing a budget build, your van will require a lighting solution. So, in this post, we show you how to wire 12V LED lights in a camper van. This involves connecting the LED lights to the camper batteries and installing a switch in the middle.
This is a step-by-step LED light installation post that includes helpful wiring diagrams and material lists. Our goal is to get you to install your lights (and switches) as quickly and pain-free as possible.
Recommended Lights For Van Conversions
If you are following this post, we recommend picking up a set of ACEGOO RV Puck Lights. These lights have provided us with strong, reliable light for the last 4+ years and we will be using these lights for this wiring tutorial. These puck lights are:
- Energy efficient
- Thin & take up minimal space
- Easy to install
- Bright enough for small interiors
We wouldn’t get any other ones if we built another van.
- Super Slim - Ultra thin, thickness 0.52", lightweight and compact body fits narrow places. Shock and...
- Full Aluminum - Made out of full aluminum, keeps radiating heat away from LED chip board so as to...
- Energy Saving - LED contributes to energy efficiency. It consumes lower power of your vehicle...
So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!
Confused where to start with DIY electrics? Check out our comprehensive camper van electrical system guide to start from the very beginning.
Decide Location Of LED Lights
Once you’ve selected your lights, you will need to decide where in your van you want to install them. The most logical place to install LED puck lights is within the ceiling boards and along the underside of overhead cabinets (if applicable).
It is critical to plan the location of your lights in the early stages of the van conversion because when you’re laying out your electric wires, you’ll need to know where to place the wire ends to attach your future lights. If you’ve already installed the insulation and ceiling boards and then decide you want to change your lighting arrangement, it’s difficult to rip out all your work and start again.
Below is a diagram we made of our van ceiling. You can see the cedar plank boards and how we made room for the vent fan (grey square) and how we planned to install six LED puck lights in our ceiling (black circles). Can you spot all six lights?
Want to know how we created this ceiling diagram? In another post, we show how to create your own digital camper van floor plan for free without the use of paid online software.
For more on planning light fixture location, check out our camper van layout guide.
Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.
Select Light Switches
Next, select the type of switch you will use with your lights. For most van conversions there are two types of light switch designs:
- RV & boat switches
- Standard household switches
RV & Boat Switches
Switches specifically designed for RVs, campers, and boats are generally more compact in design and easier to wire. This is especially true if you want to install multiple switches in your van.
Models with multiple switches, like this 3-switch panel [Amazon], make the wiring process simple and straightforward. Also, many of these switches come with USB ports and 12V sockets for greater convenience.
- Multi-function designed: this switch panel is integrated with 3 rocker switches and 4.8A dual USB...
- Efficient charge: dual USB charger enable you charge two devices simultaneously at full speed with...
- Led voltage display: the voltmeter is builted in the center of the usb charger, clearly shows the...
In our opinion, the downside of these switches is that their design has a more cold, utilitarian aesthetic. We opted to install standard household switches (discussed below) so that our camper van interior felt more like a house.
Standard Household Switches
These are the same type of switches you can find in any standard house. Compared to RV-specific switches, there are much more design options to choose from.
- Rocker vs. toggle switches
- Vertical vs. horizontal switches
- Motion sensor switches
- Different colors and designs
The downside of using household switches, however, is that they’re more difficult to install and require substantially more space on the backside of the switch. For example, you’ll need enough space behind your walls for a sizable gang box [Amazon], which the light switch will attach to.
In Our Opinion…
Though RV switches are more utilitarian, we prefer our household-style switches. They make our van interior look and feel like being in a real home. We also like the feel of our paddle switches when switching them on and off.
Decide Location Of Light Switches
Just like when planning the location of the puck lights, it’s critical to decide in advance where your light switches will be. This is because you will need to lay out your electrical wire so that the wire ends are in the correct places to connect to the future switches.
In the picture below, you can see how we laid out our electrical wire so that the wire ends were where our future switches would be located. Once the wiring was completed, we then mounted our walls and then finally attached the switches through the walls.
Wiring LED Lights To Van Batterie
To get your LED lights working, you’ll need to wire the lights to your camper van leisure batteries. We separate this process into three sections.
- Batteries to bus bars
- Bus bars to 12V panel
- 12V panel to switches & lights
In the end, the wiring system should look like the diagram below.
Below is our step-by-step wiring process to help you achieve this. We also include all the parts and components you will need to complete this project.
Wire Batteries To Bus Bars
If you’ve followed our 12V installation post, you’ll know that we first recommend wiring your batteries to bus bars. Bus bars are the power collection and distribution centers and are highly recommended to keep your wiring simple and organized. If you haven’t already, pick up a pair of these bus bars. They are exactly what we use in our van.
- Ideal for Automotive, Solar and Marine Use - Our 250 AMP 4-post power distribution block busbar is...
- Includes Both Red and Black Connectors - With this 2 pack of 4 post power distribution blocks, you...
- Anti-Corrosive & Even Consistent Flow - Our bus bars 12v are anti-corrosive and constructed to...
Wiring Diagram: Batteries To Bus Bars
With the parts we listed below, you can create the same setup as the wiring diagram below. In this diagram, we wired three leisure batteries in parallel and connected the batteries to the red & black bus bars.
Below are the materials you’ll need to successfully wire your leisure batteries to the bus bars.
- 2/0 AWG Wire – Recommended wire size to safely handle large amounts of current from the batteries.
- Copper lug terminals – Crimps onto 2/0 AWG wire ends.
- 300A ANL fuse – Protects wire and downstream devices from over-current situations.
- On/Off battery switch – Turns off entire electrical system. Great for when conducting maintenance.
- Bus bars – Provides clean and organized way to connect devices to the leisure batteries.
- Battery monitor – Displays the charged percentage of the leisure batteries.
|Victron Energy BMV-712 Smart Battery Monitor (Grey)||$201.00||Buy on Amazon|
Wire Bus Bars To 12V Distribution Panel
Now that the batteries are connected to the bus bars, you can now connect the 12V fuse panel to the bus bars. The fuse panel takes the 12V power from the batteries and distributes it to all the 12V devices in the camper van. In this post, we only wire the 12V panel to the LED lights. But you can also connect a vent fan, water pump, 12V fridge, and more.
Wiring Diagram: Bus Bars To 12V Fuse Panel
With these parts, you can create the same set us as in the diagram below. The same 2/0 AWG wire [Amazon] is used to connect the circuit breaker and fuse panel.
Below are the components you’ll need to wire the bus bars to the 12V fuse panel.
- Fuse panel – Takes 12V from the batteries and distributes it to each individual 12V device. This Blue Sea Systems model uses high-quality components and safely handles high amperages . It has 12 terminal posts so that you can wire up to 12 different devices to this unit. Highly recommended.
- 120A circuit breaker – protects electrical wires and all downstream devices from over-current situations.
- Blade fuses – This tiny fuses insert into the 12V panel to protect the lights from electrical surges.
Wire 12V Panel To Switches
The final step is to wire the 12V panel to the switch and LED lights.
Wiring Diagram: 12V Fuse Panel To Switches & Lights
Follow the diagram below to wire a light switch to the 12V panel.
Note: Different switches require different connectors. But for the exampled 12V switch below, spade connectors are required.
Below are the materials you’ll need to wire the panel to the lights.
- #8 Ring Connectors – These connect the 14 AWG wires to the 12V panel.
- 14/2 AWG wire – This is the correct size wire to connect to the lights.
- Spade connectors – Connects 14 AWG wire to the light switch.
- Nilight Switch – Popular RV light switch with USB ports
- Butt Connectors – Connects LED lights to 14 AWG wire.
- 12V LED Puck Lights – Our recommended LED lights for camper vans.
|acegoo RV Boat Recessed Ceiling Light 4 Pack Super Slim LED Panel Light DC 12V 3W Full Aluminum...||$25.90||Buy on Amazon|
And there you have it!
If you followed our diagrams above, you should have properly wired your LED lights to your van’s leisure batteries.
Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.
Installing Dimmer Switches In A Van
It is possible to install a dimmer switch [Amazon] in your camper van so that you can reduce the intensity of your LED lights.
There are just two caveats to know if this is what you want to do.
- LED lights must have dimmable feature – not all LED lights are dimmable. Make sure you confirm that the LED lights you want to get are dimmable.
- Need proper dimmer switch – You won’t be able to use any old household dimmer switch. You will specifically need a 12v dimmer switch.
- 12 Volt Dimmer Switch Is Available in Turn, Slider, and Large Slider Styles
- 12 Volt DC Dimmer. Dims up to 60 watts (4.2 amps) of incandescent, halogen, or LED lighting reducing...
- Commonly used for lights in RVs, Buses, Horse Trailer Conversions, Haulers, Travel Trailers, Boats...
However, dimmer switches can be problematic over the long run and may require maintenance. Instead of using dimmer switches, we like to manipulate the ambience of our van’s interior using two different methods:
- Having multiple light zones – By having five different light zones in our van, we can control where the light shines in our van and whether the light is direct or indirect. These five zones are:
- Front center (ceiling)
- Back center (ceiling)
- Front left (under overhead cabinet)
- Back left (under overhead cabinet)
- Back right (under overhead cabinet)
- Having multiple light solutions – We also utilize two LED reading lights [Amazon] and fairy lights [Amazon] to change the lighting ambience in our van.
Are camper lights 12v?
If you are in the USA or Canada, most of the lights specifically made for camper vans and RVs will operate under 12v. Though you can find 24v LED lights, there will be less selection. It is recommended to utilize 12v lights for your camper.
What kind of light bulbs does a camper van use?
LED lights are the most popular option for camper vans and RVs. That’s because they are energy efficient and don’t drain your battery as fast as florescent and standard incandescent light bulbs.
How much power do camper van 12v lights use?
Each 12v LED puck light consumes approximately 2 watts of power (~0.16aH). So if six of your puck lights are currently on, you would be using 12 watts of power (~1aH).
LED puck lights of some of the most power efficient lights available for camper vans.
Are LED lights better for an RV?
Yes, we think so! Not only are LED lights power efficient, but they are also small, don’t take up much space, and don’t emit much heat when turned on. These lights are perfect for RV and camper van living.
Are puck lights dimmable?
Some pick lights are dimmable, but not all. Be sure to check the user manual to ensure the puck lights you want are using are dimmable.
The LED puck lights we recommend are dimmable.
You must also be sure that the dimmer switch you are using function properly for 12v lights.
Hopefully by now you’ve successfully installed 12v LED lights in your van. If you’ve followed our diagrams, you should have multiple light switches controlling different lighting zones in the camper.
If you have any questions regarding our wiring approach, please let us know in the comments section below.
For more van electrics information, check out our DIY van electrical system guide. We also provide a FREE electric wiring eBook that can also help to install your solar and inverter system.
As always, happy building!
Go back: DIY Van Conversion Guide