When you live or travel in a van, one of the main challenges is being able to regulate the temperature within your living space. Whether this is for your own comfort and sanity, or whether you are travelling with pets who can also be sensitive to temperature changes, it is important to be able to keep the interior of your van from getting too hot. In the summer, this can be especially challenging due to something called the greenhouse effect, where energy passes easily through glass into the vehicle. Some of the energy is reflected back out, but some of it is absorbed by objects and surfaces inside, and then re-radiated as heat inside the vehicle. This can cause temperatures to rise quickly, sometimes to dangerous levels.
There are several things you can do to combat this phenomenon inside your home on wheels, and here are our best tips:
Insulation is one of the most crucial parts of your van build. Having a well insulated van will not only be your friend in the winter, but in the summer as well. Most heat transfer happens through the roof and ceiling, so insulation is essential.
Make sure that all of your windows in your van are covered with insulating covers to reflect the radiant heat when trying to keep cool (or warm!). We typically recommend getting a cargo van over a passenger van for the reason that windows can let in a lot of temperature, so it is much easier to keep your van at the temperature that you want without windows. If you do have windows, keeping them covered on hot days will greatly reduce the amount of temperature that they let in. You can buy window covers for Sprinter vans here, or you can make your own.
Exhaust and Intake Fan:
Adding a ventilation fan will help keep the temperature in the van comfortable by pulling cooler air from outside through your van. You can also use the option of blowing air into the van. If you are parked and need fresh cooler air inside, we think using the intake option is best. Overnight or when cooking, you can set the fan to exhaust mode. We recommend the Maxxair fan 6200k. This is the manual option, as we have found the computer in the deluxe, remote version is a little bit more temperamental – and when you need your fan, that’s not something you want to worry about. With 10 speeds, this fan gives you more control over circulation opposed to other fan options. The largest reason we recommend this fan is for the fan shroud. It has a waterproof shroud that can be open while driving, so you never have to worry about if you closed it or not.
You can read our blog post “What to Know about Vent Fans” for more information about fans.
At Freedom Vans, we put an air intake fan underneath the van with a filter and a blower motor. The air on the ground beneath the van is typically cooler on a hot day because it is shaded, so you can mount an underbody fan and have it bring in cool air from underneath the van into your living space. This fan also works with the exhaust fan to increase air circulation, cooling down your van more quickly.
How you park:
Parking the rear end of your van towards the sun so that any slanted windows will receive less heat is always a good idea, as well as parking in partially shaded spaces so that you get both shade, but also some solar power.
Once you have done all of the following, it’s a good idea to also get an air conditioning system if you are travelling in hot climates, or travelling with animals. For the AC unit to run efficiently, there is some strategy involved. It works best when you are keeping the space cool, but not so well when it’s playing catch up, such as trying to cool down an already hot space. Setting the AC unit to automatically turn on when it gets above a certain temperature inside the van will be helpful. The more battery power your AC system has to run off of, the longer it will run without needing to turn on the van. Our clients have shared with us that they have to be pretty strategic with running the AC system, but that it’s better than not having it. We recommend running the air filter paired with the exhaust fan to keep the space at ambient temp, and then turning on the AC system when it starts to get above 80 degrees inside. If the fans were not running prior to the AC system being turned on, it might have been 80 outside, but it may be hotter in the van, which makes the system work a lot harder.
You can install an air conditioner in your van that connects to your auxiliary battery, or you can also get a portable 12v AC such as the Zero Breeze.