The next step in our van build was installing a roof vent exhaust fan, which means cutting a hole in the roof. Fun!
A vent fan is an essential part of creating a comfortable living environment inside of a van. It keeps the van cool by sucking out hot air and creating airflow, and it also vents the living space when you’re cooking.
The vent fan was one of the first van components that we purchased, and installing it turned out to be easier than we thought.
What We Went With: Fan-Tastic Vent 7350
The fan we chose is the Fan-Tastic Vent Model 7350. This fan is top-of-the-line with efficient power draw, 14 speeds, a remote control, a thermostat, reversible airflow to pull air into the van, and a rain sensor that automatically closes the lid if it’s raining.
If you don’t need all these features, Fan-Tastic has other models down into the $100 range.
MaxxAir also makes the highly-regarded MaxxFan Deluxe that has a built-in rain cover so you can keep the fan running when it’s raining. If you want to do this with a Fan-Tastic, you’ll need to add an aftermarket rain cover.
The Fan-Tastic is capable of pulling in more air than the MaxxFan (920 cubic feet of air per minute for the Fan-Tastic vs 900 for the MaxxFan) and it comes highly recommended by other van-dwellers.
Update: We Now Recommend the Maxxfan Deluxe 5100K
After living in our van full-time and using the Fan-Tastic vent every day, we now recommend getting the Maxxfan Deluxe for your van build. The Maxxfan Deluxe has a built in rain cover, a feature that is vital when you live in a vehicle. Sure, you can add an Ultra-Breeze Vent Cover onto your Fan-Tastic vent, but it's very bulky and doesn't look great.
Installing the Fan-Tastic Vent Fan
Like when we mounted our solar panels, we had to work around the contoured shape of our high topper.
The big ridge in the middle meant we could only put the fan at the very back of the van where it’s flat, or at the very front of the living space where the ridge is wide enough for the fan. Since we had already mounted a solar panel at the back of the van, the front was the way to go.
The idea of cutting a big hole in our roof was a bit intimidating, but once we got started the install itself was actually pretty easy.
Step 1: Mark the Hole for the Fan
The first step is to mark where you want your fan. Fan-Tastic apparently includes a template in the box, but we didn’t see it at the time so we used the plastic trim piece to trace the shape onto our van’s roof.
Step 2: Cut the Hole with a Jigsaw
We started by drilling holes at all four corners, then used a jigsaw to connect the dots.
Note: Do yourself a favor and pick up a set of good jigsaw blades. We started off using the included blade on our cheap Ryobi jigsaw. It was slow going and the blade eventually snapped in half. Once we picked up this set of Bosch jigsaw blades we flew through the cuts. With the amount that you use a jigsaw during a van build, it’s worth it to get good blades.
Step 3: Marvel at the Giant Hole in Your Roof
You just cut a big hole in the top of your van. That calls for a victory yawp. But first, better make sure the fan fits!
Step 4: Attach the Fan to the Roof
Fan-Tastic includes sheet metal screws for screwing the fan down, but those don’t hold to fiberglass too well. We decided to use a combination of screws and 3M VHB tape to attach our fan. We lined each side of the hole with VHB Tape, inserted the fan, and popped in the screws around the rim.
Step 5: Seal the Edges with Dicor
We used Dicor self-leveling lap sealant to seal the edges of the fan. This stuff is highly regarded in the RV community, and it really does the trick. We covered the screw holes, the rim and the edges in Dicor, and while it sets it levels itself into a solid waterproof seal. Pretty awesome!
We Have a Fan!
That’s all it takes to install a Fan-Tastic fan in a high top conversion van. Now all we have to do is wire it up and we’ll have a cool breeze blowing through our new home. We’ll cover wiring in depth in another post, so stay tuned. Next up is laying down our flooring.