Insulating your van may be one of the most important decisions you can make during your van build. Insulation options have surprisingly become one of the biggest areas of disagreement for van lifers.
Like insulating a home, insulation will help you manage the climate inside your van. Insulation works like an oven and you’ll be able to tell an immediate difference in maintaining your temperature inside the van. Heat will stay in during the cold winter months and your van will be easier to cool during the summer. Regardless of the material you use, insulation is key to making the most of your van’s power supply. You should be able to insulate your van for around $1000 or less.
You have a few options when deciding which type fits your needs, including fiberglass, spray foam, polyiso board, Thinsulate, wool, and more. Insulation is rated using R-value (the ability of the material to insulate, based on thickness). R-value is by the inch, so an R60 rating for a one-inch board and two R30 that are half an inch have the same effect. The thicker the insulation, the more you decrease your living space in your van. Condensation is going to be present in your van so it is important that your insulation is mold and mildew resistant.
Two of the most popular materials are Havelock Wool and Thinsulate.
- Features: A natural, sustainable product, Havelock Wool comes from New Zealand sheep. Its R-value is around 3.6 per inch and comes in 2” thickness. It controls moisture and is naturally resistant to mold and mildew. It is also effective for absorbing sounds.
- Drawbacks: While you won’t have chemical off-gassing since it's a natural product, your van may smell a little like a barn for a bit but the smell will eventually dissipate. Wool can attract insects, so it is treated with natural boric acid to repel pests. It can be a little challenging to install in large areas. You’ll have to order online and pay for shipping.
- Features: Made by 3M from synthetic fiber, it’s used in automobiles, clothing and cold-weather gear, sleeping bags, and more. It has an R-value of 3.3 per inch, with a 1.6” thickness. It meets flammability requirements. Odorless and not itchy, it doesn’t release chemicals through off-gassing. It resists mold, moisture, and mildew, and provides some noise insulation. In our opinion, it’s the easiest to install and we have it available at Unaka Gear Co. You also get a good R-value with Thinsulate without the added thickness of the wool.
- Drawbacks: It can be costly and has a lower R-value than wool.
Avoid costly mistakes when you install your van’s insulation. Be sure to fill any holes. Leaving a hole would be like leaving your window open. It will make your insulation less efficient and you less comfortable. You can always give us a call at 864-251-5430 if you’re unsure of how much insulation you need.