Van Insulation: A Quick And Easy Guide!

Van Insulation: A Quick And Easy Guide!

One of the biggest and hardest considerations you need to make when building your own van conversion is what material is the best for you for your van insulation.

There are so many options out there and some may work for you whilst others might not.

But don’t worry, in this article we’ll point you in the right direction and we’ll also give you our professional opinion on what we are going to use and what we would recommend no one use.

 

Do you need to have van insulation?

Yes!!! We cant stress this enough!

 

We have heard horror stories of people spending thousands on converting their own vans but not using insulation because they think very won’t need it as they only plan on travelling around warm climate. only to be extremely uncomfortable and hot.

If you plan on travelling to hot climates without a properly insulated van, you will be sweating balls!

 

Here’s a quick comparison to give you an idea of how important insulation is. Have you ever gotten into your car in the morning and its so cold that you have to wear gloves for half your journey into work? and have you ever gotten into your car after an extremely hot day and you’re sweating all over, even with the windows down and the aircon blasting its still to hot to handle?

 

Insulating your van doesn’t just keep the cold from the outside coming in, it also prevents the heat from coming in. This is a fact that I think a lot of people forget.

 

Well without insulating your van, you are going to be living in these extremes a lot of the time! the only exception being is that if you are using up an enormous amount of energy constantly heating and cooling your van. But even then the temperature is just so hard to regulate its not worth your time, and nobody wants to live like that.

 

We recommend spending a couple hundred bucks upfront on good insulation and not have to go through all the heart ache and cold nights after you inevitably regret not having sufficient van insulation.

 

Do you need a vapor barrier

In our opinion, no.

If you are using Polyiso and spray foam then you will already have a vapor barrier as both of these materials are water impermeable meaning that no moisture should be able to get through them so there is no need to go through the extra effort of putting up another vapor barrier over this insulation.

If you are using sheep’s wool then there is also no need for a vapor barrier as moisture can pass through this insulation with ease and it is also hydrophobic so you don’t risk damaging your wool if moisture does get on it as it will not be retained.

One thing to keep in mind is always make sure that your van is properly ventilated so that you don’t risk any excess moisture build up.

 

Is it worth insulating a van floor?

The short answer is yes! the long answer is….

Vans are notorious for having really cold floors, especially in the winter time. This can be really uncomfortable and make it difficult to get a good nights sleep. Not only this, but if you don’t have a van floor insulation then you run the risk of your pipes freezing and cracking which would not be a fun repair job.

There are multiple ways that you can insulate your van floor, the most popular being to use XPS foam board. This material is great because of its compressional strength meaning you can walk on it without worrying about it breaking and will make a big difference in how warm your van is.

Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you seal any gaps or cracks in your van floor so that you don’t have any drafts coming in. This will make a big difference in how comfortable your van is.

All in all, we think that it is definitely worth insulating your van floor and would highly recommend doing so.

 

Our suggestion for the ultimate van insulation materials! (Budget and non-budget)

Its now time to decide what van insulation you’re going to use.

Having put hours and hours of research into the topic and after looking at all the options this is exactly what we would use in our van conversion:

 

Floor insulation:

XPS foam board

10mm XPS Foam Insulation Board

  • Easy to install
  • High R-Value, 5.0
  • High compression strength
  • Cheap to buy
  • Water impermeable

However, you have to be carful to make sure that you leave no air gaps behind it as it will create water traps which can lead to rust or mold in the future. We recommend taping the edges down with duct tape, or seal it off using spray foam to create a vapor barrier.

 

Wall and ceilng insulation:

Budget 

A mix of polyisocyanurate (polyiso) and spray foam

  • Has an extremely high R-Value (Polyiso 5.6, spray foam 6.5)
  • Relatively cheap
  • Easy to install
  • Water impermeable

Like the XPS foam board, you have to make sure that you leave no gaps behind them as it will create more water traps and rust and mold will accumulate over time.

This is why we recommend using the spray foam as well as the polyiso as it can fill out any air gaps that might have been left and seal any way to get in behind it to create a vapor barrier.

But apart from this, we think that polyiso and spray foam combined create one of the best options to insulate your van especially if you’re on a budget.

 

Non-budget 

Sheeps wool

  • It has a high R-Value 3.6
  • Sustainable and natural
  • Manages moisture
  • Deadens sound
  • Hydrophobic (doesn’t retain any moisture)

Havelock wool is almost twice as expensive compared to the polyiso and spray foam as you need to double up your thickness because of its lower R-value.

Another thing to note is that you can’t use adhesives to glue it in place so it is bit fiddley to install.

However it can manage the moisture levels in your van as it doesn’t create any form of moisture barrier and it won’t absorb and retaining moisture either as it is hydrophobic, so you don’t run the risk of creating rust and mold as long as you have vented your van correctly.

 

Windows/ Thermal Break:

Low-E

  • Deadens sound
  • Doesn’t absorb moisture
  • Reflects radiant heat
  • Doesn’t have an annoying foil noise

Low-E doesn’t have much R-Value at all which is why I wouldn’t recommend using it to insulate your entire van.

This is because it is designed as a radiant heat barrier. Radiant heat only travels through the air so you need to give it at least 3/4 inch’s of room away from your van walls for it to actually work well.

However, it is very useful to use as a thermal break as it is thin, and it is also extremely useful to reflect direct heat coming through your windows as it can be folded away and stored easily as it is thin and low profile.

We believe that Low-E is a better, alternative to Reflectix.

 

Other types of van insulation that you can consider

 

Thinsulate

Thinsulate is very similar to Havelock wool, in that it has similar properties, like being hydrophobic and moisture regulating, other than it has a slightly lower R-Value. But it is easier to install as it can be stuck in place using adhesives.

It is also more expensive and isn’t a natural resource like Havelock wool.

But all in all it is still a good product to use as a van insulator.

 

Rock wool

Rock wool is another material that you might consider using as your vans insulation.

It is easy to install and doesn’t off gas any harmful chemicals over time.

However, it can be very itchy as it releases tiny fibers which can irritate your skin and be extremely annoying.

As well as this, its R-value is considerably lower than our other suggestions and it is not as cheap.

 

Types of van insulation to avoid

Recycled Denim bats

Recycled denim bats are great from an environmental point of view but they just don’t work well in vans.

They retain moisture as they are hydrophilic so you do need to create a separate vapor barrier which adds on a lot more money and if everything is not 100% sealed off (which is extremely hard to do, if not impossible) then it will cause a lot of headaches in the future as you will have a moldy wall which is constantly damp.

This is extremely hard to deal with when everything else in your van is installed.

 

Fiber glass

Fiber glass is another material that is hydrophilic so it will create all the same problems as denim batts will. but on top of this, they are not good for the environment and also contain a lot of nasty fibers that can make you itch which is extremely uncomfortable.

As van insulation goes, I would say that this is the worst way you could insulate your van as the likelihood for it to go wrong is very high. If not done properly it will cause you a lot of problems in the future.

 

Lizard Skin

Lizard skin and other insulating paints have very little R-value.

not only this but they are also quite expensive if you want to cover your whole van in it as it is a large surface area to cover.

the only thing I would say is that it can be used as a thermal break as it is thin.

We hope that this quick overview on the best way to insulate your van was helpful for you.

 

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