School Bus Conversion Electrical: Our Simple Setup Having NO electrical experience
Published May 26, 2018

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Hi friends! When Cece and I were first beginning our shuttle bus conversion, I was constantly asking “how the heck are we going to figure out the ELECTRICAL with no actual electrical experience?” 

This question haunted me. At that point in our conversion, we had NO idea where we would be parking our bus in Portland. We had NO idea what amenities we would have. We had NO idea what we were doing in general.

This made it extremely difficult to learn what we actually needed to do in terms of electrical work. Would we need batteries? Solar? Shore-power? And if so, what did these even mean?

Perhaps you are in a similar situation! With no electrical experience, are you stressing about figuring it out yourself without hiring an electrician?

Luckily, for our situation, we found a workaround that required no experience, no hard wiring, and no safety issues. Today, I am going to give you a rundown on our school bus conversion electrical, the easy way.

school bus conversion electrical

Disclaimer: We are NOT PROFESSIONALS! The content of this article and website is our opinion and we cannot be held accountable for anything that may occur to you while taking our advice. Always be careful and consult a professional before doing anything that involves construction, tools, and electricity.

First off, this is for “stay at home” skoolies

If you are planning on converting a school bus into your next full-time living quarters, chances are you won’t be traveling around too much.

We rent someone’s backyard in Portland, OR for our home. Cece goes to school, I go to work, and we rarely move our bus.

You see, there are two types of bus-dwellers. There are those who travel around and post everything on Instagram, and there are those who use their bus as a more permanent tiny home on wheels and also post everything on Instagram.

Both of these are wonderful. We happen to be from the latter. We don’t have enough money saved yet to travel the whole world in a bus.

SO, if you are also from the latter, here is some advice for you: don’t spend too much time or money fitting your school bus with solar, batteries, water tanks, and diesel heaters.

These are (mostly) for the travelers.

Why spend a TON of money getting these things when your bus will be plugged into the grid like a normal home?

If you are using your school bus conversion as a tiny-home in the city, you will likely have direct access to sewer, water, and electricity. USE THIS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE!

*For anyone wanting to truly wire their bus for travel: head on over to SkyWagonSkoolie’s Blog. They have some FANTASTIC tutorials!

Here is what we did for our electrical

Knowing that we would have access to 30 amps of electricity (think RV park outlets or dryer plugs), this is what we used to get electricity to our bus:

We used this 30 amp splitter cord from Amazon:

And this 30 amp extension cord from Amazon:

The splitter separates the 30 amps into (2) 15 amp circuits with 15 amp plugs (like in a house!) After that, all we had to do was use (2) 15 amp surge protectors as our means of plugging in!

Easy as pie!

However, it is extremely important to learn and understand how much power you will actually need (i.e. how much your appliances will use). It is BAD IDEA to overload the system (e.g. pull 20 amps from a 15 amp plug). Did someone say fire!?

Luckily, we have surge protectors and breakers to prevent this from happening.

Distribution + How Much Electricity Our Appliances Draw

We use one surge protector near our bed, powering our lights, phones, computers, space heater, record player, speaker, and anything else we may use recreationally.

The other surge protector is in our kitchen, powering our refrigerator, water kettle, toaster oven, double-burner, and blender (we will go over our kitchen in more detail in another post).

School Bus Conversion Kitchen

This system has worked quite well for us! Keep in mind that each surge protector provides 15 amps of power.

Our space heater draws about 8 amps of power on high, which is why we keep it with the recreational appliances as they draw low amounts of energy.

In the kitchen, our cooking appliances all draw about 5 to 8 amps each, meaning we can’t use them all at once. We can use two at a time, in any combination, without flipping off the surge protector.

If the surge protectors happen to fail (which they haven’t yet), our 30 amp RV plug outside has a breaker which will flip as a backup.

There you have it! Easy!

Someday, when we convert a real school bus, we are going to hard-wire the entire thing (and will document it here). As for now, this is what we did to keep our electrical QUICK and EASY! If you are struggling to understand your skoolie electrical system, consider ours.

As always, let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions! Check out these posts too!

Skoolie Wood Stove Installation and Review
How to Paint a School Bus
Top 5 Challenges of Bus-Life

Be well! 🙂
Riley & Cece

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