For a while now I've been wanting a way to power my devices in my van that doesn't require me draining my house battery. I knew my needs would be relatively light, mostly charging camera batteries, laptop and I now have a ac/dc fridge I'd like to run as well) My search for a simple solution quickly lead me to the NOCO 15 amp AC Port Plug. This plug is essentially a short section of extension cord with a weather sealed end that mounts flush to the surface of whatever you are wanting to run an extension cord through. In my case it was the body of my van. Combining this plug with a nice extension cord and power strip, I was able to put together a simple shore power system for under $100.
Of course the simplest way to get "shore power" into your camper is simply by running an extension cord in through a window or closing it in a door. But this can be a bit unsightly and I wanted a bit cleaner of an install. (Even if my van isn't much to look at) Luckily the NOCO Port Plug is a nicely built and quality looking piece and installed in the body of the van, doesn't look too out of place.
The plug is made with 14awg cable so it's comparable to most good garage extension cords. It comes with a rubber gasket to seal the body of the plug housing with the mounting surface and a weather resistant rubber cap to protect the male lugs inside the housing. After Installing the plug on my van I gave it a shower with the garden hose and found no leaks coming into the body of the van. So it appears to be a good quality seal. I will amend this section if I find any leaks in the future.
The NOCO AC Port cost around $20 on Amazon: Click HERE to see Current Price
I spend plenty of time taking measurements from inside and out to locate where I wanted to install this plug. I knew I wanted it a few inches above a body line on the van and under one of the side windows in a spot where the cord end would be right next to the rest of my electrical system for my house battery.
By far this is the scariest part of the whole install. You have one chance to make it right. It's very difficult to replace a section of sheet metal once its been cut away, so refer to step 1 and MEASURE!
You will need a 2 inch hole saw with a center guiding bit and a good drill to cut this hole. I decided to drill from the interior of my van because I had two AC lines running right next to where I wanted the hole and didn't want to risk snagging one of the lines with the bit when I punched through.
I used a deburring tool or "burr whip" to smooth the sharp edges of the sheet metal.
Next I touched up the raw metal with some color matched spray paint that I had left over from a previous project. This will prevent rust from forming on the bare metal.
Feed the cord through the hole and insert the plug housing. I rotated the plug in the hole until it was straight and made sure the holes in the rubber gasket lined up perfect with the holes in the plastic housing. Next you use a drill and screw in the three self tapping screws that are supplied in the box. Be careful not to let the drill slip as you may scratch the paint (like I did).
Now you can plug in whatever you want to power and an extension cord and there you have a simple shore power system!
I wanted to power a power trip with this setup so I could have an AC outlet I could use for my laptop and anything else that can't charge via USB. The power strip I purchased was the Trond brand 5 outlet power strip with built in USB and circuit breaker. The built in USB ports are very nice as I have tried to move most of my gadgets over to things that can charge via USB for the sake of mobile charging. And I wanted a built in circuit breaker so that I know I can't over power the strip and cause any safety issues.
The power strip was about $20 on Amazon : Click HERE to see Current Price
I also picked up a 50 ft. 12awg heavy duty extension cord to keep in the van. I chose a black one so as to be a bit more discrete than say a bright orange or yellow cord.
The 50 ft cord was about $40 on Amazon: CURRENT PRICE
Once item that could come in handy if you stay at an RV campsite that has a 30 amp outlet is this little 30 to 15 amp adapter. It's cheap and small so I tossed one in my shopping cart just in case.
The 30 to 15 amp adapter was only about $6 on Amazon : CURRENT PRICE
WHAT WOULD I CHANGE
If I had to do it over I believe I would opt for the NOCO AC Port that has two outlets on the female side and add one of NOCO's On Board Battery Chargers plugged into the second extension cord outlet. That way my house battery is being topped off while I'm plugged in. In fact I Probably will do that soon.
That's all there is to it. After a couple hours of work my van now has a simple shore power set up that means I can plug in if I'm visiting friends or family or find myself in a campground with power (unlikely for me). But I can save my house battery and keep topped off no matter where I'm camped for the night.
Good Luck and happy camping!
WATCH THE INSTALL VIDEO! Click HERE to Subscribe on YouTube!