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How to ventilate a campervan

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From preventing damage to keeping safe, healthy and hygienic it’s important to ensure your campervan has adequate ventilation and you know how to ventilate a campervan correctly.

The best way to ventilate your campervan is to ensure there is a sufficient air flow within your campervan. This will involve the installation of air vents and fans to ensure fresh air can be drawn into your campervan and hot air expelled.

Whilst living in a tiny or compact space such as a campervan it’s in your best interest to keep the climate within your van comfortable. Knowing how to ventilate your campervan is equally as important is knowing how to insulate your campervan.

Knowing how to control the humidity and internal temperature in a campervan can really make your van life experience or camping holiday alot more comfortable. 

This article is designed to guide you on the best way to ventilate a campervan as well as to look at some of the various different ventilation options available. 

4 Reasons why you should install ventilation

The 4 biggest reasons you should install a quality ventilation system within your campervan are:

  • Climate regulation – keeping your living space at a comfortable temperature. 
  • Reducing condensation caused from cooking facilities and a build up of  moisture in the air. 
  • Keeping the air healthy to breath 
  • Eliminating bad odours 

Climate regulation

It can really get hot and stuffy living in a small space such as a campervan. With poor ventilation and insulation it can actually become quite unbearable! 

During a hot night it always feels like a good idea to leave a window open but this isn’t always a safe option as it could encourage an intruder. 

If you have a good ventilation system in place you can not only sleep in peace knowing you are safe and secure but you can also sleep peacefully in a comfortable climate within your van. 

Fitting a campervan ventilation system and installing it correctly will control the climate within your van not only for night time but even during the day.

Hot air is less dense than cold air so naturally the hot air will rise towards the ceiling of your van. As this builds up it can really make the air turn clammy and really quite uncomfortable. 

Fitting a ceiling extractor fan will suck this hot air straight out of your van.

Reducing condensation

Condensation can be seriously harmful to your van as well as to your lungs so you really do need to know how to prevent condensation in a campervan. 

Having a humid climate in your van means you have a lot of moisture in the air, moisture means damp and damp means damage. 

Rust is one of the biggest killers of vehicles and is certainly a big thing to avoid!

Leaving a window slightly open sometimes just isn’t enough and having a well ventilated campervan with the right kind of vents installed in the right places you can keep a good circulation of air flowing through your van and eliminate humidity and condensation. 

What causes condensation in a campervan?

The main causes of condensation in a campervan are:

  • Breathing – The warm breath you expel from your body will instantly rise and condensate when it hits a cold surface. The human body expels approximately 200ml of warm water vapour per hour! 
  • Cooking – The gasses burnt during cooking in your van (particularly propane) will rapidly leave vapour in the air of your van. This warm moisture will rise and when it meets a cold surface it will turn into a liquid form and start to drip all over your van.
  • Hot water – Washing the dishes, washing your face and body and boiling the kettle will create steam which will instantly create moisture. It can be one of the fastest ways to condensate your van up.

Condensation is caused when the moisture in warm air meets a cold surface. An example would be when you breathe warm breath on to a cold glass window. 

Of course this condensation then starts to drip into the lining of your van and can cause serious rust damage.

Another outcome of condensation is the growth of mold and fungus which is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria which takes us on to the next section about health…

Healthy air flow

Damp inside your van can cause a whole host of problems but can also cause some serious and even fatal problems to your respiratory system. 

Mold spores can be very small and so fine that when breathed in it can cling to the inside of your lung and continue to grow. This could develop into breathing problems that could even cause long term damage and even be fatal. 

Fungus and mold is also a perfect environment for dust mites to breed and develop. These then contaminate the air and get into your lungs and even into your furnishings and bedding.

Despite the issue around moisture and mold, other health issues can become an effect of bad climate control within your van. These are mood swings, tiredness, fatigue and even depression. 

Let’s not also forget that you may be travelling and living a van life adventure and you will want to keep your energy up to enjoy your travels! 

Eliminating bad odours

Living in a tiny space such as a campervan usually means you are surrounded by a variety of bad odours. These could be emitting from your dirty laundry, your food waste and worst of all your toilet! 

These smells can greatly increase in a warm climate!

Having the right kind of ventilation in your van will help keep a constant flow of fresh air coming into your van and expel the warm fragranced odours. 

More on how to eliminate bad smells from your campervan

What are the best methods to ventilate a campervan

There are several methods of ventilating your campervan ranging from zero cost with basic ventilation to a more costly and more advanced fan based ventilation system. 

Open a window

The most simplistic way to reduce condensation and keep the air flowing in your van would be to simply open a window. 

It’s the cheapest option although not the most practical. 

A window open a few inches isn’t really going to be that effective in getting much air circulating around your van. It will however help let some of the warmer air out through the gap. 

Leaving a window open overnight can be a risk and be an invite for a break-in. It doesn’t feel good when you are trying to sleep whilst worrying about the possibility of an intruder.

The other risk to consider is overnight rain. You never can really tell when a rain cloud might pass over and you will end up with a damp seat or possibly get water into your electronic system come morning. 

However, if you do not have a very good ventilation system on your van, opening a window or two should be the very least that you do. 

Tip – Install wind deflectors. These will help hide the gap of having your windows open.

Zero costNot as effective as other solutions
No modifications to installSecurity breach risks
Helps hot air escape reducing humidity and condensationWeather dependent
Risks of water damage

Louvred air vents

This is also another cheap option and is quite straight forward to fit. However, you will have to cut holes in the side of your van. 

By fitting louvred air vents to your campervan you will be able to safely and securely keep a consistent air stream flowing through your van.

Cosmetically they look good and can give a professional appearance on the outside as well as on the inside. 

Louvred air vents can be left open at all times continuously keeping a steady flow of air both day and night and no matter what the weather.

The effectiveness of louvred air vents is superior to the basic opening of a window but is still only a minimal solution. 

Tip – install a fly screen behind each vent to avoid any creepy crawlies staying the night.

Low costNot as effective as other solutions
Basic installationInvolves cutting holes in your van
Helps hot air escape reducing humidity and condensationCan give a “campervan/motorhome” look which may not be desirable to vanlifers
All weather usage
No security risks

Rotating roof vents

A considerably more effective ventilation option for your campervan would be to fit a rotating air vent to your van roof. 

The rotating air vents will suck the hot air from within your van which will greatly increase the circulation of airflow. 

Rotating air vents are easy to install to a campervan, even if you have a ribbed roof. Cutting into your van roof will still be required.

As roasting air vents are powered by the wind, they aren’t always very effective. When you are parked up on days with little to no wind you may find they do not even work at all. 

Over time the bearings inside have been known to become noisy so when you purchase one be sure to look for a silent or low noise model.

Low costNot as effective when stationary and no wind
Basic installationInvolves cutting holes in your van roof
Helps hot air escape reducing humidity and condensationCan become noisy over time
All weather usage
No security risks
Discreetly hidden on the roof

Skylight roof vents

Certainly one of the best air vents for a campervan is a skylight roof vent. Not only do these provide a great circulation of air for your van but they also double up as a skylight providing a lot of natural light.

Roof vents are so effective due to the size of the vent. When the hot air in your van rises it has a large opening in which it can escape. 

Basic models require no power and are relatively easy to install but the more advanced models come with a built in fan and will require an electrical feed to power them. 

Doubles up as a skylight producing natural lightCan be quite expensive
Large and very effectiveInvolves cutting holes in your van roof
Helps hot air escape reducing humidity and condensationMay require professional installation
All weather usage
Low security risks
Discreetly hidden on the roof

What is the best ventilation system for a campervan

The best ventilation system for a campervan would be to install two fan powered roof vents. One vent drawing in air from the outside and the other extracting the warm air out of your campervan. Each fan would be installed at opposite ends of your van. 

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