Install a roof fan in your RV or camper van, man

The finished product, fully mounted, installed, and trimmed

If you have decided to enter into vanlife and you don’t have a fan, you’re missing out. And probably sweaty. Adding a roof fan will help tremendously with moving fresh air in or out of your tiny space. Running the fan with a cracked window creates an awesome draft to keep it cool for you and your furry friends—plus it clears out the smoke from whatever you’re up to in there.

When you decide to get a fan, and you should, you will have probably narrowed it down to a few different models—the big two are the MaxxAir and the Fantastic Fans. Both are great choices, and relatively the same in price and quality. If you spend an extra $100 you can get a remote that you can lose almost immediately.

The one I have in my everyday driver, The MaxxAir 5100/5200, is awesome. It works for intake and exhaust, air circulation, have 10 speed settings, 78-degree temperature thermostat, and have a built-in rain sensor.

I install these all the time and it’s an immediate lifestyle upgrade, everyone is so happy they did it. I charge $200 (BYOFan) or $500 if you want me to handle everything and order the equipment.

More of the DIY type? Here’s everything you’ll need:

What you need to install a fan in your RV or camper van

What to know before you get started

Before you get started you need to know what all you want to have on your roof. Things like solar panels and a roof rack take up a lot of space but nothing is more important than having your fan in the right spot.

Things to consider:

  • How much roof space do you have?
  • How many solar panels, if any, do you intend to install?
  • Where are the roof supports are on the inside of the ceiling?
  • Fan placement: Is it better to have it over the cooking area or the bed? 
  • Should you install two fans to create a draft?
  • Where are you going to run the wires?

Cutting a big hole in your roof

The actual mounting flange measures 16-1/2 x 16-1/2. The overall dimensions for the vent are 22-1/2 long x 16-1/2 wide x 5-inches tall. The opening for the hole that you are about to cut in your roof  is 14×14 which is the standard size for an RV roof vent opening. But you’ll need a few inches of clearance on all sides for the fan to be able to open and close correctly.

Once you figure out where you want to place your fan and have confirmed that you won’t be cutting through any ducts or wires, it’s time for the scary part. Drill the corners out with a bit large enough to fit the blade of a jigsaw. Cut out the 14” x 14” square. Clean up any burrs (and it’s not a bad idea to prime the fresh cut metal).

If you are just replacing an old fan, clean up the surface and proceed with the installation. 

Lay down a lap of the butyl tape close to the edge of the hole. If you are working on an uneven surface like the roof of a van you can buy a surface mount to even out the ridges before you put down the fan mount. If you decide not to purchase the mount you can add a few layers of butyl tape to level out and create a watertight seal before securing the mount. At this point you can either add a pass of lap sealant but if you are already using Eternalbond, it’s not necessary for waterproofing.

The roof mount comes with pre-drilled holes so it can be screwed down to the roof of your vehicle. Personally, I prefer not to drill or cut any holes that I don’t need to. That’s why I recommend using the Eternalbond. If you do decide screw it down, put silicon or lap sealant over the screw heads. Follow the same procedures for installing this fan into a fiberglass roof but definitely don’t screw it down. Use some adhesive/ sealant and clamp it down until cured.

Before dropping in the mount, make sure you pop up the little screw tabs on the sides and face them to the outside edges of the roof. Lifting the tabs helps with the mounting screws later. Drop the fan in the mount, with the long sides facing out and back. Put in the four mount screws. 

The wires should be labeled, cut to length, and crimped on the terminals. With power removed: Positive to positive, Negative to negative. A 5A is what the fan is rated for so use a 5A fuse. You will need to install a fuse holder or tap into your existing 12v fuse panel. Check for a positive 12V and send power.

The fan runs at about 4.5A.

The interior shroud that comes with it is standard for an RV, but has to be cut for other types of vehicles. It’s best to cut this to size before the final installation of the fan. If you are adding the fan to a custom ceiling it might be better to make your own moulding that goes around it.

The moulding adds a professional finish

This project takes about a half a day to complete and I charge $200 if you have a fan, or $500 if you want me to handle everything and order the equipment.

Contact me for more information about working together. 

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