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The Van Conversion Series: Roof Ventilation

Tuesday 17th December 2019
By Ely Power
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By Ely Power

Enjoy Year-Round Comfort With A Van Roof Vent

Ventilation is vital for anyone planning a van life adventure in a hot climate or with a pet on board. Essentially, a roof vent fan keeps your cabin cool by extracting heat as it rises to the top of your van, in turn drawing in cool air from below. It also sucks up any steam and scents while you cook, helping to remove excess moisture that can otherwise lead to issues like mould or rust.

The bottom line: A roof vent fan promotes airflow within your living space. That means you can enjoy fresh, clean air inside your van, no matter the weather.

So which type of van roof ventilation is right for you? It all depends on your travel lifestyle and layout. For instance, while a remote-controlled fan with sophisticated temperature control is great for a high-top van and summer camping trips, a more basic, affordable fan might be a better option if your destination has a mild climate. 

At the end of the day, every aspect of your van conversion is your call - and ventilation is no exception. To help you decide on the best roof ventilation fan for your van, we’ve weighed up some of the most popular models on the market!

As a van owner, you can earn over $10,000 each year by hiring it out on Camplify. As a holidaymaker, Camplify helps you to find the perfect rental so that you can experience the joys of van life without having to own one yourself. 

Interested? Learn more about Camplify here.

Things To Consider When Buying A Roof Vent Fan

Energy Consumption

Energy savings translate into dollar savings, which means more money to spend on other aspects of your van conversion! The lower the vent fan’s amperage draw, the less energy it consumes. Of course, you should consider the size of your van when determining how much power you’ll need to cool it down.

Air Circulation

The amount of air that a vent can shift, i.e. its efficiency, is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). In general, the higher the CFM, the better and more expensive the fan. The good news is that if you’re converting a smaller van, you won’t require as high a CFM for sufficient ventilation. 

Travel Frequency

The more time you plan to spend inside your van, the more important a ventilation system. Trust us, living in a stuffy, sweltering hot van is not fun! That said, if you’re only going to be taking your van away for the odd weekend, you may be able to get away without one. It’s all down to personal preference.

Extra Features

Different vent fans come with different designs, advantages and extras so you need to decide which features you value most. As with all things van conversion, ventilation can be personalised to your needs and wants. Read on for a more detailed breakdown of our favourites!

Our Favourite Roof Vents For Vans

From no-frills simplicity to high-tech luxury, you can find an awesome roof fan for every preference and at any price point. Discover our top picks below:

The 12V Fan-Tastic 3350 is an excellent option for campers with larger budgets. Lightweight and compact yet powerful and durable, this vent fan blends simplicity with functionality - while its 30.5cm blades run at only three speeds (low, medium and high), the manual and automatic control settings allow you to create an ideal airflow through your van. Essentially, you can expect nothing but premium, dependable features! 

  • Easy to install and simple to use, fitting into the usual 35.5cm x 35.5cm vent hole and operated with a manual lift dome
  • The built-in thermostat maintains the optimum temperature in your van
  • The built-in rain sensor closes automatically when it senses moisture in the air, only reopening when it dries
  • A reverse switch draws air in or out of the cabin
  • Some say it’s the quietest fan you can buy!
  • The most expensive option listed here
  • Supported by a single crank arm when the cover is opened, so it isn’t the most stable in strong winds 

MaxxAir is an industry leader in van ventilation. Manufactured from high-density polyethylene and boasting built-in UV inhibitors, their MaxxFan boasts the most advanced technology and high-end features (and a price tag to match). Thanks to its built-in thermostat and variety of speeds, you can enjoy the perfect temperature inside your van with minimal effort.

  • Installed with brackets so you don’t have to drill any holes in your roof
  • Fits a standard 35.5cm x 35.5cm vent hole
  • Includes a removable mosquito screen and a stylish smoke-tinted vent cover
  • The built-in raincover means your fan can run while it’s raining outside
  • 10 speed settings and the option to intake or exhaust air, even when the lid is closed
  • Lid can be opened and closed with a remote control, ceiling controls or an easy-grip tricorner knob
  • Not very wallet-friendly, hitting the higher price point for roof vent fans
  • The small remote control is easy to lose when you’re on the move
This roof vent is a more affordable option for campers with moderate budgets or who don’t need all of the bells and whistles of a fancier fan. The Turbo Vent is basic and compact, with a 12V variable motor that can run at five different speeds. Impressively, this small but mighty vent can circulate up to 989 CFM of air using only 1.1amp of power!

  • Affordable (without compromising on quality)
  • Comes with an insect screen and double glazing
  • Completely watertight, UV resistant and shockproof
  • The built-in thermostat automatically regulates the cabin’s temperature
  • Very energy efficient, which is great for off-grid camping!
  • With the Turbo Vent Premium, you can enjoy all of the above features plus upgraded electronic settings with signal LEDs and touchpad controls
  • Doesn’t include any screws or sealant
  • The vent opening ratchet can feel a bit frail
In this day and age, no list would be complete without a solar powered product! Luckily, Autobox have designed a budget-friendly yet effective option for explorers who want to reduce their carbon footprint. This extractor ventilator is fully powered by sunlight, needing no battery, wiring, plugs or electricity! 

  • Very affordable to buy and free to run once installed
  • Automatic operation - just add sunlight!
  • Environmentally friendly
  • No noise
  • When it’s overcast, a fully charged battery can still run your vent for up to 24 hours
  • Stylish stainless steel cowl with a low roof profile 
  • Fully water resistant 
  • Cloudy days are not your friend, significantly hindering the charging process
  • Solar panel cannot power the fan and charge the battery simultaneously

Installing Your Roof Fan

Photo by cetteup on Unsplash

Slashing a big hole in your beloved van’s roof is scary business. But we promise it’s worth it (and even a little fun, once you embrace the slice!). What’s more, you can install your vent fan in just five simple steps.

1. Marking The Hole

Do NOT freestyle this step! Instead, mark the area where you plan to install your fan. To do this properly, either use the provided template (which is only included with some fans), or trace a measured shape onto your roof with a plastic trim piece.

2. Joining The Dots

For a smooth slice, drill a hole at each of the four corners of your marking before connecting each one with a jigsaw. 

3. Mounting The Flange

Most fans include sheet metal screws, but these do not attach to fiberglass very well. For a sturdy mounting you can count on, line the hole with VHB Tape and insert the flange before drilling in screws around the edges. Then cover its perimeter with lap sealant.

4. Inserting The Fan

Attach your vent fan to the flange with screws.

5. Wiring The Fan

Use twist connectors to attach wires to your fan before wrapping them with electrical tape. Make sure to label these wires for easy identification (future you will really appreciate it) and then run them through the hole down into your van for later electrical setup. 

Head over to this helpful guide for a deeper dive into vent fan installation.

Now that your fan is securely attached to the roof, all you have to do is wire it up to your power system. Check out our handy tips on solar and electrical installation to get your van’s ventilation well and truly flowing!

To find out how Camplify can work with you and your RV, register today here.

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