Planning and executing your van conversion can be complex, with many moving elements. While choosing paint colors and flooring is enjoyable, one of the most crucial factors is something that’s often forgotten: insulation.
Insulation may not be thrilling, but it is essential to year-round comfort. Choosing the correct van insulation is crucial whether you’re spending time in cold weather or combating the summer heat. Let us educate you on everything you need to know about insulating your camper van.
Why Every Camper Van Needs Insulation
Before you consider adding insulation to your camper van, it helps to understand why it’s a worthy investment. In essence, insulation is a method of controlling heat transfer. Whether it’s from the sun beating down on your windows or you’re brewing a pot of coffee, there are three forms (conduction, convection, and radiation) of heat transference that can occur in your camper van.
When choosing insulation, your objective should be to reduce heat transmission by selecting materials that tackle all three categories. Otherwise, you may not be the most comfortable if the temperature outside begins to affect your sleeping quarters from poor insulation.
If you are unfamiliar with insulation, the term “R-value” may confuse you, but it’s the key to finding the best option for your camper van. The R-value refers to its susceptibility to the conductive passage of heat. It assesses how effectively a material withstands the three forms of heat transfer—the greater the R-value, the stronger the material as an insulator.
It’s important to note that 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. Remember this tidbit of information when shopping for insulation, or you might stretch your budget too thin.
You can pack your walls in a home with the maximum R-value insulation available. However, you do not have that luxury in a camper van. Loading the vehicle with insulation is not feasible if it decreases your living quarters significantly. The inches begin to add up, and you don’t want to live in a confined area, even if it’s conquering heat transference.
We previously touched on the three types of heat transfer, but it’s worth a more introspective look at what they entail. Conduction is the passage of heat through solid surfaces in physical contact. For example, when the metal on your van’s exterior affects your vehicle’s interior. Conductive heating is your primary concern of the three because it helps keep heat in your van when it’s chilly and protects you from the sweltering heat.
Radiation is the transport of heat by electromagnetic waves without needing a carrier. Such as, on a cold winter day, you may feel the sun’s warmth on your skin even though the air is frigid. Or consider the warming impact of sunshine shining through your windows, providing a glare reflecting off the glass that can feel like a small campfire. The R-value is a significant factor in combating radiant heat transfer.
Convection is the flow of heat by the physical movement of a gas or liquid. For instance, warmth rises to the roof of your vehicle, causing cooler air to descend to the bottom.
Convection is inevitable in a camper van, so it’s integral to have insulation to aid in retaining warm air where it would otherwise escape. Consequently, most camper van conversions have minimal insulation beneath the flooring. The floor is the ideal spot to conserve space while not losing out on the benefits of an insulated camper van.
If every afternoon feels like a summer day and you don’t have air conditioning in your vehicle, you’re betting on only radiant insulation. On the other hand, if you’re up north, you’ll want to do everything you can to trap any warm air you can muster, leading to conductive insulation. A mixture of both is the best strategy for a constant traveler that goes through a hodgepodge of climates.
Staying Within a Budget With Environmentally-Friendly Materials
The nicest aspect of a DIY conversion or camper van project is that it requires significantly fewer resources than a home. Even with reduced materials, the cost of excellent insulation may rapidly mount up—and this is not an area where you want to cut corners.
Installing insulation isn’t an undertaking that you will frequently do. Ideally, you want it to last several years before considering adding new materials to your van. Additionally, the best insulation can help you save money.
Luckily, insulating a camper van isn’t as financially crippling as it is a home. You should be able to turn your camper van into a lean, mean, insulated machine for less than $1,000. You may have made a few miscalculations if you go over that number.
Using an eco-friendly material improves the performance of effective insulation. A green solution is critical for many folks since no one wants to install inexpensive insulation and introduce harmful compounds into their limited living area. Sheep’s wool is an excellent eco-friendly alternative, as are several other recycled materials often used in house insulation, such as cellulose and cotton.
Mold & Moisture Protection
Condensation is an unavoidable part of life in a van. When warm air meets cold air, moisture will begin to form, and there’s no way to remove that from the equation. But what you can do is reduce its effect on your insulation.
Some argue that adding a vapor barrier beneath your insulation is the best way to battle dampness. The purpose here is to shield the exterior of your vehicle from any wetness formed inside. Although this seems like a wonderful concept, it isn’t easy to completely keep out moisture.
If even a tiny amount of moisture penetrates your vapor barrier, it becomes confined, which may be much more dangerous. Choose a breathable insulating material, such as sheep wool, or an impermeable substance, such as a stiff foam board. Combined with sufficient air circulation, these products are the most efficient means of combating moisture.
You should also make sure that your insulation is mold and mildew-resistant. This is a significant advantage of sheep wool and foam board materials. If you do not want to battle mold, avoid fiberglass insulation.
Learning everything you need to know about insulating your camper van gives you the best chance to live your most comfortable life. Unaka Gear has several conversion van parts available to ease the transition to your new life.