Insulation For A Van: Step by Step - Complete Guide

Every camper owner knows winter is coming sooner or later and that good insulation is a number one priority on a to-do list before their four-wheelers hit the road. So the question isn’t whether or not you should invest in van insulation because you definitely should. The question is how to do it properly and what are the things you need to pay some extra attention to if you don’t want to end up freezing or boiling up in the middle of nowhere.

The very first thing you need to understand is that adequate insulation has the ability to maintain a desired temperature inside the van, no matter the outdoor temperature. It is based on keeping the heat transfer under control and well balanced. Adequate van insulation will provide you with a pleasant temperature during both hot and cold days, which is equally important in case you are an all-season traveler.

How to insulate a van

Insulation for a van includes taking several steps:

Insulate windows

Given that every camper has a significant number of glass surfaces, it would be best to start from there. You can insulate the van’s windows by installing some drapes, which is a good low-budget solution, or by using foam for sealing purposes (that is an option for those windows you don’t plan to open at all). Also, you can add some reflective sheets that will block the sun rays, or you can replace single-pane windows with multi-pane ones, which does cost a bit more but is one of the most effective ways of reducing heat loss.

Insulate the walls

The second step is to make sure the vehicle’s walls aren’t the reason you are losing or cumulating too much heat. The best way to do that is to cover all those surfaces with Prodex Total 5m, or Prodex Total 10m given their price and the ability to offer 4in1 service - radiant barrier, standard insulation, vapor barrier as well as an air barrier. In order to do the insulation properly, you will also need a double sided tape that will attach the Prodex to the surface. This is a great solution for both camper and sprinter van insulation. Spray foam is another option, but only for those tiny openings that are left after pipes and wires are installed.

Insulate the floors

Floor insulation is pretty similar to the one you did on the van’s walls. If you want to do it properly, you can use foam board flooring, which will provide you with great heat retention during cold months, but if you find this solution to be too expensive, you can always try with good old rugs that will keep the cold rushing from below.

Protect doors

The first thing in this matter is to check rubber seals around the van’s doors to prevent the moisture and air from getting in. Besides the fact that this way you will upgrade the general insulation of a vehicle, you will also prevent the floor from getting damaged by water and snow. You can get a door snake as well, which is a fabric tube that lies at the bottom of the door stopping the cold air from coming in.

Use the skirting

For those days when you are parked, you can use skirting in order to control the airflow around your camper. Van skirting can be custom-made, but you also can create your own from plastic sheeting, foam boards, or plywood. Clearly, this type of insulation is adequate only for summertime, given it will slow down the heat from entering underneath the vehicle. But it’s not helpful for adventures during the winter season.

Insulate the vents

One more necessary step in overall van insulation includes making sure the vents aren’t the reason your camper feels too hot or too cold all the time. The air from outside will constantly be entering the van unless you use vent cushions or some sort of covers to prevent that from happening.

Why is van insulation important?

The truth is not everyone believes vans should be insulated. There are some arguments against it that are based on claims insulation costs money and that it can take some space which is pretty limited from starters. And that’s the truth. However, you can choose not to invest in insulation only if you use your camper from time to time and for some short travels. If you belong to the other group of camper owners who like to spend weeks, or even months on the road, living inside of it, then the insulation is simply a must.

We mentioned how to insulate a camper for winter use, as well as how to provide van insulation for hot weather, but we didn’t fully elaborate on its importance. You need to know that there are three ways heat can transfer - conduction, radiation, and convection. Conduction is a heat transfer through the surface, in this case through the body of a van. So when the cold surrounds your vehicle, it will quickly be transferred inside, making a living in it unbearable. The next one, radiation, refers to the heat transfer through electromagnetic waves, which mostly affects camper’s windows allowing sun rays to increase the temperature of its interior. And finally, convection is a heat transfer through gas, and it pretty much refers to hot air inside the camper that would rise to the ceiling area and the cold one that would get to the floor section. Good van insulation will prevent all of that from happening, so the benefits of investing in this process are huge.

What is the best way to insulate a cargo van?

The fact is a cargo van doesn’t need as thorough and detailed insulation as a camper you plan on living in for a while, but this type of investment still has its reasons. Cargo van insulation will provide thermal resistance, which could be extremely important when it comes to protecting the goods you are transporting, but also a noise reduction that will allow a more comfortable and pleasant ride.

If you wonder how to insulate the inside of a cargo van the most adequately, we suggest you use spray foam to cover all the walls, ceiling, and doors. It is a pretty durable and effective solution, but you can always apply the same insulation materials you would use for a camper, such as fiberglass, wool, foam panels, or Prodex Total. In that case, make sure to use metal glue sealant given its ability to attach the insulation to any type of surface, including the van’s metal walls.

Now, your van insulation kit should also include reflective tape - an affordable and highly recommended item that has the ability to significantly improve insulation performance in your van. Reflective tape is suitable for both hot and cold climates, even for topical or sub-zero temperatures.

Is insulating a van worth it?

The main question - is the insulation worth it? We believe that it absolutely is, no matter the type of van you are owning or the main purpose of its usage. Clearly, insulation is a must if you are planning on living inside your van while traveling, but its benefits regarding sprinter or cargo vehicle are also in place. When it comes to the amount of money you are willing to spend on it, it can go from a couple of hundreds of dollars to a few thousand, depending on the extension of insulation as well as on the type of materials you are using in this process. But one thing is sure - you won’t regret it. The amount of comfort and reliability when insulation is in place is simply immeasurable.

How to install insulation for a van

When deciding on how to insulate a van, or more precisely, how to install insulation, you need to keep in mind an R-value. We are talking about a numeric indicator that shows how effective each insulation material is and how well it will respond to heat transfer. And the higher the R-value is, the better van insulation will be. So first and foremost, it is out of extreme importance to pick adequate insulation for your vehicle. We suggest using a popular insulation calculator that will provide you with the most important technical information regarding this subject.

The best van insulation will cover all the basis:

  • Check the damages

No matter how much your van insulation costs, it will be all for nothing if you don’t do the proper checkup on your vehicle and repair all the damages before applying insulation layers.

  • Decide on flooring

Many people decide not to insulate the van’s floor simply because the heat rises and there’s not much of a heat loss due to flooring. But if you plan on traveling to some extremely cold places, you should do this part as well. You can use any of the materials with high R-value you plan on applying on the walls, but simple plywood, attached with metal glue sealant or screws will, in most cases, do the work just fine. Don’t forget to cover all the seams with reflective tape in order to increase the insulation performance.

  • Insulate walls

After you have picked the right material for your camper’s walls, make sure to collect all the tools you will need during the process of attaching the insulation to the van’s construction. In case your choice is Prodex Total, which is ideal for vehicles with curvy lines due to its flexibility, you will need the heat gun as well as a roller.

  • Insulate the ceiling

When it comes to the ceiling of the van, foam panels and foam spray are some of the best insulation choices. But when it comes to this part, you need to plan your steps carefully, especially if you want to do some wiring in this area or install a vent fan. That’s something you will have to do before your ceiling is sealed with insulation.

  • Insulate windows and doors

We already talked about the ways you can insulate the glass surfaces of your van, so you are pretty familiar with all of the options. It is crucial just to remember this step is the one you cannot miss, given windows are one of the biggest sources of heat transfer.

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