Climate Control

Phase 2.3: Climate Control- FanTastic Fan Install

2.3 Fan Installation: FanTastic Fan

This was by far the most nail bitting experience. I know van-life builders everywhere know what I am talking about. Cutting a hole in your van isn’t something anyone looks forward to. But, I was looking forward to cooling off with a fan, and getting natural light in the van thru the fan, and ventilating my smoke signals from letting my coconut oil get too hot. So, we pulled out the Jig Saw and got to cutting. 

We chose the Fan-Tastic 801200 Vent after hearing nothing but amazing reviews across all channels on this little dude. It has the manual opening vent, quiet operation, low draw (>.02A), 3 speeds and reversible airflow. It is one of the base models. We didn’t need the rain sensor or remote control models, as we’d rather spend our extra money elsewhere. 

Put these two items in your shopping cart if you purchase from Amazon:

  1. Camco 25003 Universal Vent Installation Kit with Putty Tape - $6.99

  2. Dicor 501LSW-1 Lap Sealant - 10.3 oz. -$13.57

In researching, you’ll wanna use this stuff specifically rather than a typical silicone sealant. It is made for RV installation; so, you’ll have less chance of leaks.

After our Amazon Prime orders arrived, we unboxed and started making a stencil. 

Once we were happy with our stencil, we traced it to the roof where we wanted it. We measured it with measuring tape to make sure it was correct and then placed the fan on the traced line to double, triple check. 

Then, we sunk some pilot holes on the inside corners of the box. Next, jigsaw it out with a “metal fast cut blade” (make sure this bade fits your type of jigsaw before grabbing it!) Get 5 or multiple. They will come in handy. I promise.  File down the fresh sharp cut-out in your van. Once the hole is filed, clean the area with alcohol. When the area is clean and dry, place the putty tape flush with the hole, all the way around. 

Then, sink that Fan-Tastic Fan in its’ new home on top of the putty. Then, make sure it is square and make sure the vent opens aerodynamically to protect yourself when you forget to put the fan down before driving.

You can pre drill if you want. We didn’t. Screw it into place and lap seal the edges, top, and bottom (interior side) of screws to further protect against leaks. 

We left the wires hanging for future electric install. 

Phase 2.2: Climate Control: Insulation

2.2 Insulation: Thinsulate and Reflectix

This is probably the most controversial van topic out there. We spent hours researching this, reading blogs, watching video after video on Youtube, then, scouring the comments section of peoples Youtube builds for hours. It was exhausting. There are various ways to achieve a climate controlled insulation in the van, but apparently no one online could agree on one way to do it, in a van. 

While yes, the desired r-value depends on what your needs are, but the method was the scary part. 

Apparently a lot of traditional insulation for houses such as, fiberglass and spray foam, according to many comments in response to YouTube builds, promote rust. No thanks, reading that once, was enough for us to pass on the idea of dealing with more rust. Wool, although it is moisture wicking, can apparently create wood rot in your frames. Again, hard no-thanks after dealing with wood rot in one of our first remodel/conversion adventures in the Toyota Dolphin back in 2012. That project went south after we had to tear the entire structure down because of wood rot. We are still planning to turn it into an Art Car for Burningman. (Stay tuned for that build)

Anyways, all scary scenarios that we read about aside. We had to make a decision and with all the conflicting information out there, we still felt we had informed ourselves enough to make an educated decision. 

What did we decide?

We went with Thinsulate 600ML. Thinsulate works not only as a thermal barrier, but also a sound barrier to muffle outside noises. It’s light and packs a pretty good R-Value of 5.2…it could be better, but we still like it. 

Some of the pros we came up with after long hours of research:

Thinsulate is safe and easy, like cutting quilting material. Thus, not needing a hazmat suit like fiberglass installations. It doesn’t hold moisture like denim as the “hydrophobic” fibers in Thinsulate resist moisture, mold, and mildew, if it did ever get wet. Thinsulate is removable and less messy than spray foam. We liked that the pros out weighted the cons on this choice. So, we went ahead and ordered 50 linear ft from eBay, found here as our Amazon friend didn’t carry it. 

All the videos and tutorials that we had watched before starting the project, people with the 144” wheel base that used 50 linear ft roll of Thinsulate had windows on their van. Our van does not have any windows. Supposedly, it was enough but we crossed our fingers anyways. We planned on doing the ceiling last and possibly using one sheet of Insulated Polyurethane R-Maxx Sheets on the ceiling, if we ran out, at that point. Luckily, we didn't have to do that. The amount we had cleverly cut was perfect. We even had some extra and shoved it where ever we could. 

First, we started with the bigger surface areas to make sure we had enough for those areas. We easily cut pieces to size, with some good scissors, labeled them, and set them aside. 

We then started at the bottom panels and worked our way around kind of just matching the weirdly cut pieces to a possible puzzle space on the van somewhere. Thinsulate is pretty rigid and really easy to work with. We kept saying it was like putting a custom fit sweater on the van. It expands from the packing to a pretty good size. 

To apply the Thinsulate to the walls we used 3M 90 Contact Adhesive Spray. This stuff is amazing! But, you do need to wear a really good filter mask and have the van very well ventilated. My dad had one of these lying around, 3M Dual Cartridge Respirator

We bought, opened, and used 5 bottles of the 3M 90 Adhesive spray. The 5th still has some juice, but has come in handy for other projects with it’s adhesive strength. 

Next, we added a little bit more to our insulation value (on a budget) to the Thinsulate by adhering, with the 3M 90 Spray, Reflectix to the Thinsulate. This should act as a good mositure barrier and add a couple R’s to our value. It was an inexpensive R-value addition. 


We purchased:

One 48”X 50’ Reflectix  Foil Insulation - $96

One 24"x10' Reflectix Foil Insulation -$28

Reflectix adds a bit more light weight and easy R-Value, at the small cost of $124 to do your entire van. Not bad, at that price we pulled the trigger. 

Phase 2.1: Climate Control - Sound Deadener: FatMat Rattle Trap

2.1 Sound Deadener: FatMat Rattle Trap

We ordered the FatMat Rattle Trap  because this is our third van build. And this time, it is our home in the US, not a temporary adventure rig to get us around a foreign country cheaply. So, are taking our time and we’re gonna do everything we wish we could have had in our past vans. Sound Deadener is one of them. It reduces road noise by absorbing vibrations giving you a nice smooth ride. Our slider door has a lot to say when we are driving. We are hoping this FatMat Rattle Trap will silence the slider road rattle.  

First, we wiped down the area with some alcohol to give the Rattle trap the cleanest surface to bond. 

The kit, from Amazon, comes with a roller and a box cutter. You can literally get started when it arrives at your doorstep. 

With this stuff, you don’t need to fill the whole surface. And word on the street is, there is no waste with this stuff…even a 1”x1” piece will trap a good amount of rattle. For some of the identical panel sizes, I pre-cut a couple of them to make the process go faster. The most awesome part about this stuff is the adhesive is amazing. It smells a bit like tar, but the smell doesn’t linger. There is no heat gun involved, just cut, peal, and stick. Give it a couple roll overs with the roller making sure to get out any bubbles. Careful with this stuff. Once it goes on, it stays on or it leaves a pretty sticky residue behind if you do get it off.

We made sure to hit all the insides of the slider door where it sounded like the rattle was coming from. We also concentrated heavily on the wheel wells. But the 50ft roll, from Amazon was more than enough for the entire van. 

What we used  -