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How To Wire 12v LED Lights In A Camper Van (With Switches)

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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 light 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.

Camper van ceiling showing LED lights
Can you spot all 12 LED puck lights?

So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!

Table of Contents
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    Not what you need? Check out our camper van “Electrical System”  page for more similar content.

    Choosing Your 12v LED Lights

    There are several different types of 12v LED lights you can install in your van. These include fairy lights, light strips, spot reading lights, and more. But for this post, we will specifically talk about how to install LED puck lights in a camper.

    We like puck lights because they’re energy efficient, low profile, simple to wire, and are easy to install.

    If LED puck lights are what you want to learn how to install and you haven’t yet selected your lights, we recommended getting these puck lights for your van. This is what we use.

    They work great and are easy to install.

    Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.

    Decide Location Of LED Lights

    Once you’ve selected your lights, you will need to decide exactly where in your van you want to install them.

    It is important to plan this early on because when you’re laying out your electric wires, you’ll need to know where to place your wire ends to attach your future lights.

    In our camper van, we installed 12 individual puck lights. Six in our ceiling and another six under our overhead cabinets. Can you spot all six of our ceiling lights (black circles) in our ceiling layout picture below?

    Camper van ceiling layout 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.

    Select Light Switch

    Next, you will want to select the type of switch you will use with your lights.

    For van life, there are typically two different types of light switch designs:

    • 12v switches
    • Standard household switches

    12v Switches

    Compared to household switches, 12v switches are generally more compact in design and easier to wire. This is especially true if you want to install multiple switches in your van.

    Multiple 12v switches, like this 3-switch panel, make the wiring process simple and straightforward. If you’re looking for a no-hassle solution, this is one of your best options.

    In our opinion, the downside of these 12v 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.

    But this is strictly our biased opinion

    3-gang 12v light switch with USB ports
    12v light switch (3-gang) with USB ports

    Standard Household Switches

    These are the same type of switches you can find in any standard house. Compared to 12v switches, there are much more design options to choose from.

    These include:

    • Rocker vs. toggle switches
    • Vertical vs. horizontal switches
    • Motion sensor switches
    • Different colors and designs

    To truly make a van feel like the interior of a house, we recommend getting household switches.

    Rocker light switch
    Paddle-style light switch

    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, which the light switch will attach to.

    Decide Location Of Light Switches

    When planning your camper’s floorplan, it’s important to decide in advance where your light switches will be located. This is because when you begin laying out your electric wires, you’ll need your wires to gather around your switches.

    In our van, we installed five different light switches on our walls. And you can see in the picture below how we planned our wiring for 2 of our light switches before we mounted our plywood walls.

    Wiring LED Lights To Van Batteries

    To get your LED lights working, you’ll need to wire the lights to your camper van batteries. Below is our step-by-step wiring process.

    Step 1: 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.

    Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Buy?

    2/0 AWG Wire

    Wire used to connect 12v system components.

    3/8" Lugs

    Connects 2/0 wire to most components.

    300A Fuse

    Protects 12v system from surges.

    Fuse Holder

    Holds the 300A fuse.

    On/Off Switch

    For maintenance and vehicle storage.

    Bus Bars

    Power distribution bars.

    Battery Monitor

    Displays battery's state of charge.

    With these materials, you should be able to follow the diagram below.

    Connecting batteries to bus bars for a 12v system build
    Connecting batteries to bus bars.

    Step 2: Wire Bus Bars To 12v Distribution Panel

    With the bus bars wired to the batteries, you can now connect the 12v distribution panel to the bus bars. The 12v panel distributes 12v power from the batteries to all your 12v devices.

    Below are the components you’ll need to complete this step.

    Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Buy?

    120A Circuit Breaker

    Protects 12v devices from surges.

    12v Fuse / Distribution Panel

    Connects all 12v devices to batteries.

    With these materials, you should be able to follow the diagram below. 2/0 AWG wire is used to connect all the components below.

    Connecting bus bars to 12v fuse panel for 12v system
    Connecting bus bars to 12v fuse panel

    Step 3: Wire 12v Panel To Switches

    The next step is to wire your LED light switches to the 12v distribution panel.

    To wire a light switch in a van you will only need to connect the positive (RED) wire. The negative (BLACK) wire goes directly from the 12v panel to the LED light.

    Below we detail the wiring process.

    Note: Different switches require different connectors. But for the exampled 12v switch below, spade connectors are required.

    Materials List

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Buy?

    Switch

    Switches lights on and off!

    14AWG Wire

    Connects 12v panel to switches

    M8 Ring Connectors

    Connects 14AWG wire to 12v panel.

    Spade connectors

    Connects 14AWG wire to switch.

    Follow the diagram below to see how to wire a light switch to the 12 panel.

    Wiring 12v distribution panel to light switch

    Step 4: Wire Switches To LED Lights

    In the last step, wire the light switches to their respective lights.

    Most puck lights will come with ~2ft of RED and BLACK wire. So you’ll need to attach your 14AWG wires to the puck light wires with butt connectors.

    Materials & Tools

    Product

    Purpose

    Where To Buy?

    Butt Connectors

    Connects 14AWG wires to puck light wires.

    LED Puck Lights

    Energy efficient lights for camper vans.

    Follow the diagram below to see how to wire an LED light to a switch.

    Wiring LED lights to light switches
    Wiring LED lights to switches

    And there you have it!

    If you followed our diagrams above, you should have properly wired your LED lights to your van 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 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.

    1. 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.
    2. Need proper dimmer switch You won’t be able to use any old household dimmer switch. You will specifically need a 12v dimmer switch.
    12v dimmer switch for camper vans
    12v dimmer switch

    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:

    1. 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)
    2. Having multiple light solutions We also utilize two LED reading lights and fairy lights to change the lighting ambience in our van.

    FAQ

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Conclusion

    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

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