Preparing for a hot summer – campervan ventilation

Summer is officially here, and the temperature has soared over the last few weeks (sorry to anyone shivering in the Northern Hemisphere). All through winter I was wondering if we’d have enough cupboard space to store a 25 tog arctic duvet during the day (answer: not a chance), and suddenly it’s a question of how we’ll be able to cool the van down, particularly at night.

The front of the van has air conditioning, but it only works when the engine’s running. So as extra ventilation, we have the ceiling fan which provides a good breeze, and even when it’s not switched on, the open vent lets some fresh air in. We also have an air vent in the door next to where we’ll sleep:

To fit a vent:

  • Draw an outline of your vent panel on the inside and outside of the van.
  • On the outside of the van, cut three 10cm diameter holes through the body work with a hole saw, and seal them with a rust proofer. Note – if you’re fitting a vent to a door like we were, you’ll find it has extra bracing and reinforcements than the rest of the van – be careful to avoid these when you’re drilling.
  • Drill 6 bolt holes around your outline on the outside and rust proof each one.
  • Squeeze a line of silicon around the inside edge of the vent panel intended for the outside of the van (to prevent water seepage).
  • Attach this vent panel to the outside and bolt through.
  • On the inside of the van (ours is hard board) cut a square hole a few centimetres smaller than the outline you’ve drawn, and tighten the bolts you’ve just screwed through with nuts. Take care not to screw them too tightly, as the outside body work will start to bend inwards.
  • Fit the inside panel over the template you drew and simply screw 6 bolts into the hard board.

We have two other vents in the van: in the battery compartment and next to the fridge. The fridge didn’t strictly need one, but it’s an added safety feature in case it ever overheats. These two vents were much more straightforward to fit; they’re not visible from the inside so the open hole can be exposed, meaning you only need to bolt a vent cover to the outside. Here’s the battery vent from the inside:

We also have an extractor fan above the gas stove:

Paul boxed in the top using the same gloss wood he’s used all the way through.

So that’s the campervan’s ventilation, but hopefully for most of the time we’ll be sitting outside under our lovely new awning!

For some reason awnings are incredibly expensive. This one is a Fiamma ‘bag awning’ from Caravans Plus and a really basic version, but it was still one of our most expensive campervan purchases. You have to roll it down manually, but it seems to work okay.

The frame is fixed to the van and you roll the awning in and out of its bag. You can then remove the cover and store the whole thing inside when you’re not using it.

So there’s not much left to do now: refit the ceiling, build a bathroom door, fit the door handles and then we’re almost there! Oh, and make 11 curtains.

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A breath of fresh air

When we first started building the campervan, a popular discussion was whether to install a pop-up roof to give us some extra head height inside. Actually, I’m not sure it ever really evolved into a discussion as such, it was more a case of:

Me: Please can we have a pop-up roof?

Paul: I’m afraid not.

It would have been a huge and expensive job to raise the roof, and seeing as we’re never going to spend a lot of time meandering from one end to the other, it’s been the right decision.

Yesterday though, we did enjoy a brief taste of vertical freedom, and were momentarily permitted to uncurl ourselves out of a nicely perfected stoop and stretch out to full height.

Admittedly it was a bit restrictive, and we couldn’t move our head for fear of being garotted but it was exciting nonetheless.

The hole is for our ceiling ventilation fan, which will provide a welcome through-draft during the summer months. Our fan is a Fiamma Turbo Vent P3.

So, how to install it:

  • Measure out a cardboard template to make absolutely sure the hole you’re about to cut in the roof of your van is the right size.
  • Draw around the template on the inside ceiling, and cut a 50mm diameter hole in each corner with a hole saw:

  • Using tin snips, cut out the rest of the hole according to the template.

  • Position the fan in place on top of the roof.
  • Drill 20 holes, 5 down each side, through the frame of the fan into the roof. Remove the fan.
  • Rust proof all the cut edges and exposed metal around the hole with a heavy duty primer.
  • Squeeze plenty of silicon around the edge of the frame and around the hole itself – we hopefully used enough to withstand a Queensland summer storm.

  • Place the fan in position on the roof with the hinge at the front (to stop it flying off when you’re whizzing along) and use stainless steel bolts to fix it in place.

At this stage Paul was on top of the roof screwing the bolts down while I was inside holding them from underneath, and trying to dodge the long drips of silicon that squirted through every time he put a screw in. (I can attest to its waterproof qualities though, it is still adorning my hair three showers later).

  • Wire the fan into the 12v circuit via the master switch.

You turn the handle to open up the roof, then switch it on. Ours provides an amazing breeze and should cool the campervan down pretty quickly. It does sound like we’re about to take off if we turn it up very high, so it’ll be interesting to see if we can use it at night.

As the pictures above show, Paul has now also insulated the ceiling using the remainder of the flooring insulation, so thankfully our hair no longer starts to sizzle when we bump into the metal ceiling. Next stage is the lighting!