Vanlife is a summer sport; road trips, lake days, hiking, and long days spent outside. Vanlife in the summer is most vanlifers dream. It also means that it is exponentially hotter in the van compared to most other seasons, where you can hang inside the van, without worrying about overheating. This is why having a campervan fan is crucial to staying happy inside your campervan.
When we began building our DIY Sprinter Van Conversion, we knew that having a good quality roof vent fan was super important in our build. We love to cook and as much as we love the outdoors, we are introverts at heart and don’t want to be constantly forced outside of the van because of heat.
To further help you decide which vanlife fan option is right for you we have made a guide that breaks down the most popular fans for your campervans. Read on to find out which fan we are huge proponents of and highly recommend!
Originally Written 04/19/2020 and Updated 03/25/2022
Why you Need a Fan in Your Campervan
Living inside of a van can be challenging. Some days you feel like you are baking in a tin can when it is hot outside; with the doors open, you are in paradise. For those hot days, a campervan fan is 100% a lifesaver. It creates movement when the wind simply isn’t helping. It also allows you to stay inside your van in a city without having any doors or windows open.
Also if you plan on doing any kind of propane or gas cooking you will need proper ventilation inside your van and a van roof vent fan is a way to do it.
The Top Campervan Fan Options
There are two main competitors for campervan fan options in the camper world; MaxxAir Fan and the Dometic Fan-tastic Fan. Both are acceptable options and both have many models to install in your conversion van but one of them tends to stand out in terms of reliability and features.
MaxxAir Fan (The Best Fan for Vanlife)
The MaxxAir 7500 fan is the best fan for vanlife in my opinion and for several reasons. The MaxxAir Maxxfan Deluxe is known for giving you the ability to be able to have the fan on while it’s raining since it has a vent cover.
The rain cover is absolutely essential since there are so many times when it is raining outside and the temperature is still warm, humid, and stuffy inside the van. Not to mention if it begins raining in the middle of the night, you will end up with tons of water on the floor if you do not have that cover.
The MaxxAir 7500 fan also comes with an electric lid with remote control, 900 CFM, 10-speed intake, and exhaust. We have had our Maxxair fan installed for two years now and have not had any issues. Even driving down the highway with the lid open we have not had any issues with the lid or fan breaking or not working at all.
I am YET to meet a vanlifer who didn’t regret buying a Fantastic Fan over a Maxx-Air fan. Save yourself the trouble and get a Maxx-Air to start.
The Fan-Tastic Fan 4000K is a great budget option for a campervan fan. It is made by Dometic so it is still a good product it just doesn’t have all the key features that MaxxAir fan offers. It is around $100 less than the MaxxAir fan and will definitely do the job. However, I have seen several people have issues with theirs and I think the benefits of the MaxxAir outweigh the savings of $100.
Budget Campervan Fan Options
I want to make it clear I have no experience with these fans and am not recommending them. These 12V fans can be used for camper vans and are budget options. If it comes down to having a budget 12V fan or having no fan at all, I would definitely choose to have a budget fan. If all else, you can add a higher-end campervan fan option later in your journey.
Where to Install Your Vanlife Fan
Before cutting a hole in your roof, make sure and have your van build layout complete. Consider where your kitchen will be, how the wiring will be laid out, and how you want your solar set up. You will need to decide whether you want your fan by your bed or by the kitchen. We opted to have our fan by the kitchen as we are constantly making food and wanted an exhaust fan.
You also need to consider if you want one roof vent fan or two. If you decide on only one, it is important to remember that you will need to have a window cracked or door open to have proper airflow.
How to Install a Maxxair Campervan Fan
Installing our campervan fan was probably one of the scarier things that we did. Although I obviously don’t recommend this behavior, we may or may not have had to drink a large amount of beer before having the nerve to cut a hole in the roof of our van. Although the process is scary, the steps involved are not super difficult. Basically, you need to cut a hole in your roof, put butyl tape down, and then put the fan in! Viola! right? Just in case you didn’t get that, I will try and break it down a little further for you.
Tools you will need:
Step 1: Measure out a 14″x 14″ hole on your roof
Your Maxxair roof vent fan needs a 14″x 14″ hole to fit onto your roof. It is super important that this is as exact as possible. We cut out a 14 x14 inch piece of cardboard and brought it to the roof to help to measure out the hole then marked it with blue tape. I recommend measuring several times.
Step 2: Cover Everything in Plastic
This step is actually a super important step as once you cut the ceiling, metal is going to fly everywhere. The reason this is such a huge problem is that if any of the small metal shavings stay on the roof, then they can cause rust on any other part of your van. We DO NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN! So make sure and be diligent and have plastic on top of the roof and have a bag hanging from the inside as well to catch any shavings.
Step 3: Drill Several Holes in The Roof
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to free cut a hole in the middle of your roof. So to get a cut started, use a high-powered drill and drill into the corner of the measurement you have made. Doing this a few times in a row will allow you to then use the saw to cut the rest of the hole.
Step 4: Cut a Hole in Your Roof
Now it is time to cut a hole in the roof of your van. Again one of the scarier moments of the build. Keep a steady hand and use the markings you put down as a guide. If you mess up a little, don’t stress too much, as you do have a tiny bit of wiggle room. Insert the frame piece that comes with the Maxxair fan in the hole to make sure it fits before moving on to the next step.
Step 5: Sweep up all pieces of Metal
Remember all that plastic I told you to put down? This is where that comes in handy. Before installing your fan, you need to make sure all of the metal shavings are 100% gone. Use a broom or vacuum and be meticulous in sweeping up. Whether it’s on the inside of the van or the outside, make sure you find all those little pieces.
Step 6: Butyl Tape
Next, lay down a layer of butyl tape around the entire outside of the hole on your roof. This is important as it will allow for your roof vent to lay on your roof without being uneven.
Step 7: Install Your Fan
It’s time to put your fan in folks! Now that your butyl tape is down you are ready to install your fan. Evenly place your fan through the hole, and make sure the fan is facing the correct way (we had the facing towards the rear so it was aerodynamic when driving). Attach the fan to the roof with supplied screws (best practice is to pre-drill all holes by marking the holes before attaching).
Step 8: Cover with self-leveling Sealant
This last step is important as the last thing you want is for rainwater to get inside your van from your roof. Once you have screwed fan to roof you are not quite done yet. You need to use a self-leveling waterproof sealant to eliminate any leaks. We used self-leveling SikaFlex from Home Depot or Amazon. Use a caulking gun and run a bead around the entire frame making sure to overlap the frame and cover the screw heads as well.
Be aware that Sikaflex is a self-leveler and if your van is not level the sealant will run all over your van roof.
Step 9: Run Your Wires & Frame in
Now on the inside of your van, you will grab the wires from your fan to the appropriate power source!
Finally, once your van ceiling has been built you can slide in the fan framing and screw it into the wood. You will have to trim the framing according to how deep your ceiling is made.
Picking out and installing your vanlife fan is one of the first big acts you will take, after buying the van itself. It can be a little scary but with proper preparation and a little skill, I know you can do it! Did I miss any steps or key components when purchasing a campervan fan? Let me know in the comments!
Your step-by-step guide makes the process less scary! Thank you for all your great knowledge.