Cool Your Van By Installing The Best Vent Fan For Camper Vans
If you are thinking whether or not to install a vent fan in your campervan, we think the answer is obvious. Yes, go for it! Ventilation fans for van conversions are relatively inexpensive and provide so many valuable benefits for van life. In this article we want to share WHY the Maxxfan is the best vent fan for camper vans and HOW to install a vent fan in your own van.
But there are a number of different RV vent fans out there on the market with different shapes, features, and price points. So we understand that it can be a bit confusing as to which vent fan is the best for camper vans. We did all the research and have 2+ years of van life experience with our Maxxfan fan and we want to share everything we’ve learned about vent fans in this post.
So if you’re looking to learn why the Maxxair Maxxfan is the best camper van vent fan and how to install the fan in your own van, keep reading below. We also answer several of the most pressing questions you might have about having a vent fan.
If you’re interested to learn more, let’s get started!
Is A Vent Fan Necessary In A Camper Van?
If you’re wondering whether installing a vent fan in a campervan is REALLY necessary, allow us to persuade you why we think so! In fact, we believe that installing a vent fan is one of the best decisions you can make during your DIY van conversion build. The benefits are clear:
Cooling The Van
One of the biggest reasons to have a vent fan in your van is for temperature control. By expelling air out the top of the van, the vent fan helps to actively pull fresh, outside air into the van through the windows. This has a tremendous effect on cooling down the van during hot, and even warm, days.
Whether we were parked overnight by the beach or boondocking in uncomfortably warm streets in Mexico, having a vent fan to pull in fresh air at night was a godsend to us.
If you think your bedroom smells in your house, the problem of body odor and dust accumulation is only magnified in a smaller campervan space. This is especially true if your van’s bedroom is right next to your kitchen space and toilet.
In fact, we’re so obsessed about having constant airflow circulation that our Maxxair vent fan is on (usually on the lowest speed setting) 95% of the time that we are in the van.
Prevent Mold & Mildew Growth
Warm, humid, & stagnant air provides a prime environment for mold and mildew to start growing and proliferating inside a campervan. We know more than a handful of vans that have had their issues with mold growth.
In order to properly expel bad, mold-inducing air, we feel a vent fan is a must. But the fan doesn’t have to be set to the highest speeds to get proper air circulation. We usually set our fan to the lowest speed setting and we find that this is enough to pull in clean, cool air into our van.
It’s usually only when we are cooking that we increase the speed of our vent fan (up from the lowest speed setting). The fan helps us get rid of unwanted heat, grease, and cooking odors from our propane stove.
For us, we also use our vent fan when we cook for health reasons. From carbon dioxide, to carbon monoxide, to various nitrates, there are a number of byproducts from burning propane that are unhealthy to breathe in high concentrations. Learn more about what pollutants are released into the air when burning propane.
So we use our Maxxfan vent fan to expel those byproducts.
Great For Pets
While traveling in Guatemala in our campervan, we adopted a cat! Her name is Maya and we love traveling with her wherever we go. But there are times where we need to leave her in the van while we’re out. Don’t worry, our van is properly insulated, we try not to park in direct sunlight, and we’re never gone for too long.
But before we leave our van, we always fully open our small RV windows and turn on our vent fan to medium-high strength. And when we come back, we’ve never felt that the interior air temperature was anywhere near uncomfortably warm.
If you plan to travel with a pet, we believe that installing a vent fan in your campervan is an absolute must.
“...But Won’t A Vent Fan Reduce My Stealth?”
Great question! We are keenly aware that installing a vent fan on your van’s roof acutely reduces a campervan’s ‘stealthiness’. In fact, one of the first things I look for when deciding whether a standard-looking commercial van is a campervan or not is to look for a vent fan on the roof.
Unfortunately, a vent fan is usually a dead giveaway that a van is, in fact, a camper.
But while we don’t prefer to draw blatant attention to ourselves with some fancy B-Class RV or flashy paint job, we agree that sacrificing certain campervan installations (like a vent fan, solar panels, and windows) in order to become a 100% stealth campervan is a terrible idea. It’s just not worth it.
Read More: Why We Don’t Believe In Stealth Campervans
Is A Rain Cover Necessary For A Vent Fan In A Van?
When we were first shopping for a vent fan we asked ourselves whether having a rain cover for the vent fan was necessary. The Maxxfan is the only fan that comes with a built-in rain cover. Other fans, like the FANtastic Fan, do not have such an attachment.
The only reason to not purchase a vent fan with a rain cover is because of stealth. A vent fan with a rain cover is considerably easier to spot from the roadside than a fan without one.
But since stealth camping is not important to us, the decision to go with the Maxxfan, which comes with a rain cover, was an easy choice. And 2 years later, we are immensely happy with our decision.
Arguments For Having A Vent Fan Rain Cover
There is really only one reason for purchasing a vent fan with a rain cover, it’s so you can continue to use the fan when it rains. And for us, this is a HUGE reason.
When it rains, being inside a van becomes so much more uncomfortable. The air gets more humid and sticky, the floor gets moist if we’re going in and out of the van, and we have to keep our windows and sliding door closed shut. It feels like you’re trapped in a coffin. Seriously, take it from us; van life during the rainy season isn’t nearly as fun.
But because our Maxxfan comes with a rain cover, we’re able to keep our fan on, even during torrential rainstorms. And having proper air circulation while it’s raining outside has been a boon to living and traveling in our campervan.
This is why we believe the Maxxfan is the best vent fan for camper vans. We’re extremely happy we went with the Maxxfan and it’s built-in rain cover.
Arguments Against Having a Vent Fan Rain Cover
Likewise, there’s only one real argument against having a vent fan rain cover. And the reason is that a rain cover reduces a van’s stealth. And it’s true. When we raise our rain cover, we admit that it does look a little strange from the roadside.
Although, when used on the lowest speed setting, we’ve been able to use our Maxxfan with the rain cover in the closed position without problems. So even if we were trying to be more discreet, if we’re boondocking, we could still use our fan.
However, as mentioned above, we don’t think sacrificing elements of your van build in order to be a completely stealth campervan is worth it. Having a vent fan that we can use, rain or shine, has boosted our campervan’s livability and allowed us to travel long term.
Our MaxxFan Product Review - The Best Vent Fan For Camper Vans
We’ve traveled for 2+ years (and counting!) in our campervan and have used our MaxxFan extensively. In hot weather, cold weather, tropical rainstorms, and hurricane season, we feel like we’re ready to give an extensive review about what we like and what we don’t like about the MaxxFan.
So let’s get to it!
Which MaxxFan Model We Have
We have the Maxxair 5100K MaxxFan.
- Color: White
- Manual Controls: All buttons and knobs are on the fan. It does not come with a remote, like the fancier 7000K model.
- Rain Cover?: Yes!
- # Of Fan Speeds: 10. But we only ever use the slowest 4 speed settings. The rest are too strong and too loud.
- Fan Direction: Both intake & exhaust. But 99% of the time, the fan is in exhaust mode.
- Thermostat?: Yes. But we’ve never used it once.
What We Like About The MaxxFan
What can we say? The MaxxFan Deluxe Roof Fan just plain works!
The Rain Cover Works! – From just a light pattering of rain to some of the worst torrential rainfall we’ve ever experienced when in southern Mexico, the MaxxFan and rain cover held up brilliantly. Just be sure to properly seal your MaxxFan during installation, or else water might leak inside. We talk more about how to install a MaxxFan vent fan further below.
Quiet Operation – At night, we usually turn on our MaxxFan to the lowest 1-2 speeds. At both these speeds, the fan is silent. We never hear our vent fan when we’re asleep.
Low Power Draw – At the lowest speeds, the MaxxFan draws less than 0.2 amps/hour. This is important because even though the energy draw is so low, a vent fan tends to be one of the highest energy usage devices over a 24-hour period because a fan tends to always be on. So having a roof fan that uses little instantaneous power is crucial.
What We Dislike About The MaxxFan
No product is completely perfect and we do have a couple of critiques of our Maxxfan roof fan.
Hard To Clean Rain Cover – More parts means more things to clean. And because the Maxxfan comes with a built-in rain cover, it just means there’s another part to clean. But cleaning the rain cover means having to get onto the roof and detaching the cover from the main fan unit. It’s not difficult, just inconvenient.
Plastic Cover Tearing – There is a thin silicone layer that covers the 4 different buttons on the fan’s control panel. But after literally hundreds of pushing the on/off button, the silicone is starting to tear right below the button. It doesn’t affect the usage of the fan, but it’s just annoying.
No Sealant Tape Included – Our RV windows came included with sealant tape to prevent rain water from leaking in through the sides. We wished Maxxair would include something similar since these fans are almost exclusively being installed on campervan and RV roofs. Instead, we had to purchase our own Butyl Tape to create a watertight seal. More about this in our roof fan installation section below.
The Verdict - Is The Maxxfan The Best Vent Fan For Camper Vans?
Yes! We absolutely believe that the Maxxfan is the best vent fan for camper vans.
We understand that it’s important to do your own due diligence, but we did hours of research and realized that the Maxxfan was the best fan for our van life needs. And to save you the hassle we wrote this post to tell you exactly how we feel about our Maxxfan.
How To Install A MaxxFan In A Camper Van (Step-by-Step)
- Outline the cut with the provided cardboard template
- Drill ½” holes in each of the 4 corners of your tracing
- Use your jigsaw to connecting each of the ½” holes
- Sand the sheet metal edges & apply Rust-O-Leum
- Apply butyl tape to the underside of the fan unit’s flange
- Secure the fan unit to the metal roof with screws
- Seal around the exterior of the flange with Dicor Lap Sealant
- Attach the rain cover to the main fan unit
A More In-Depth Installation Explanation With Pictures
If this is your first time, don’t sweat it. The entire process of installing a vent fan on your campervan’s roof is not nearly as difficult as it initially seems.
1. Outline The Cut With The Provided Cardboard Template
Our MaxxFan came with a 14″x14″ cardboard template, which we placed on our van’s roof at the exact location we wanted to install our roof fan. We then traced around the cardboard template with a black marker.
We then placed blue painter’s tape on the outside of the black marker cut line to protect the roof frame.
2. Drill ½” Holes In Each Of The Four Corners Of Your Tracing
A jigsaw (with blade saws for sheet metal) works great to cut along the marker cut line, but in order to initially insert the blade saw through the van’s sheet metal roof we drilled ½″ holes with a drill bit on each corner of our cut lines.
Drilling these ½” holes first is essential because even though a jigsaw can cut around curves, the jigsaw won’t be able to make such a tight curve. With these ½” holes, the jigsaw only needs to cut 4 straight lines, from ½” holes to ½”. This makes the process much easier.
3. Use A Jigsaw To Connect Each Of The ½” Holes
Once you’ve got your ½” holes drilled, simply use a jigsaw to connect the holes at each corner. Slow and steady, you can do this!
4. Sand The Sheet Metal Edges & Apply Rust-O-Leum
Now that you have your perfect 14″x14″ square hole cut out in your van’s roof, you’ll need to clean and rust-proof the cuts.
We took our metal file and sanded down the rough edges along the cut lines and then applied Rust-O-Leum paint along the edges to prevent rust. You’ll likely never see these bare metal edges again, so it’s a good idea to properly take care of the area to prevent rust for peace of mind.
5. Apply Butyl Tape To The Underside Of The Fan Unit’s Flange
Before setting the entire fan unit into the 14”x14” hole, we lined the bottom of the flange with butyl tape to prevent any future water leaks. This is an important step to prevent water from leaking into your van from around the edges of the fan unit.
Tip: As you’re wrapping the butyl tape around the underside of the flange, finish the job by overlapping the butyl tape by about ½” to get a good waterproof seal.
6. Secure the fan unit to the metal roof with screws
Carefully lower the roof fan unit into the 14”x14” hole. Then, once everything is read, secure the fan unit to the roof with the 16 provided screws.
When screwing the flange down, the butyl tape putty should start to squeeze out the edges of the flange. This is a good sign and means that a water-tight seal is forming under the fan’s flange.
7. Seal around the exterior of the flange with Dicor Lap Sealant
With the flange screwed in, apply Dicor Lap Sealant over and around the flange area to further prevent any water leaks into the campervan. The particular lap sealant we used was great because it is quite liquidy, which helps to easily fill all the gaps and crevices around the fan.
The sealant needs about 48 hours to properly cure and dry. We protected the sealant by throwing a tarp over the roof for 2 days.
8. Attach the rain cover to the main fan unit
After the sealant dries and cures, attach the rain cover onto the flange with the provided bolts and you’re finished!
Allow the public to marvel at your good work.
How To Clean A MaxxFan Vent Fan
When cleaning a Maxxair vent fan, there are 4 parts of the fan to clean.
Interior Flange & Controls Area
From time to time, we clean the interior flange area with a wet wipe. This is the easiest part of the fan to clean.
The mesh fan needs to be removed to be properly cleaned. To remove the mesh, simply rotate the 4 retaining knobs 180° outwards. You may need to jiggle the knobs a bit, but they should eventually rotate around.
If time is tight, I simply lightly press my fingers on the mesh and move my hand in a circular motion to loosen up and gather all the greasy dust. Quick and easy method cleans the mesh pretty well.
For a more in-depth clean, we wash the mesh in warm water with a light detergent. This method really helps to loosen all the grease that is attached to the mesh. We will still use our hands to work in the detergent. We avoid using any hard abrasives against the mesh because we’ve heard that the mesh’s exterior coating can be rubbed off, leading to rust.
If you’ve already removed the Maxxfan’s mesh, you might as well remove and wash the fan’s blades as well. But to remove the blades, you’ll need the proper size Allen wrench. And just like with the mesh, we only used warm water with a light detergent. A lot of grease gets stuck on the blades, so it’s important to be thorough,
Cleaning the Maxxfan’s rain cover is easily the hardest part of the roof fan cleaning process.
To remove the rain cover, you’ll need to get onto the roof of your campervan. Unfortunately there’s no other way around this. Once you get to the roof, remove the four nuts holding the vent cover to the main fan unit. You can then remove the rain cover and wash the cover with warm soapy water.
The Competitors - More Vent Fans For Camper Vans
Fan-tastic Fan - The Closest Competitor To The MaxxFan
The Fan-Tastic Fan is another commonly used vent fan for camper vans conversions. It’s a popular fan for van conversions because of it’s low profile, which makes it easier for stealth camping. Fan-Tastic fans are also cheaper than their MaxxFan counterparts.
But the lack of a rain cover means it’s not realistic to use this fan when it’s raining outside. And for us, this is a deal breaker.
Heng’s RV Roof Vent - The Best Value Vent Fan For Camper Vans?
For the budget conscious, Heng’s RV Roof Vent might just be the best VALUE vent fan for camper vans. The fan unit fits into a standard 14”x14” hole, is quiet, and provides great value. However, for such a budget model, it’s worth reminding that you ‘get what you pay for’.
People have reported receiving minimal product support and even that the plastic components on the fan aren’t UV stabilized. Meaning that the plastic starts to degrade when exposed to continuous sunlight. Since a roof fan is on a van’s roof and thus constantly exposed to the sun’s rays, we don’t think this makes much sense to us!
Also, the fan’s 6” blades are smaller than the Maxxfan and Fan-Tastic Fan, which means Heng’s RV Roof Vent is able to move much less air than its competitors.
MOOSUNGEEK Vent Fan - The Stealthiest Vent Fan For Camper Vans?
If you’re still looking for a way to circulate air in your campervan but stealth is of utmost importance, the MOOSUNGEEK RV Vent Fan may just be what you’re looking for.
This fan is small and unassuming. In fact, the MOOSUNGEEK fan might just be the STEALTHIEST vent fan for camper vans.
It also has a tiny rain cover so that it can still be used when it’s raining outside.
However, before you pull the trigger on this tiny fan, we don’t think this fan is capable of moving anywhere near the amount of air needed to properly ventilate the inside of a campervan. We encourage you to visit the Amazon page to check this product out yourself and read their reviews.
FAQ About Vent Fans & Camper Vans
Is it better to install two vent fans in a van?
We’ve heard that installing two roof vent fans on a campervan does wonders to REALLY circulate air all throughout the interior and to bring down internal temperatures during the hot summer months.
Our only hesitation is that having a second roof vent fan takes away valuable roof real estate that could be used to install more solar panels. If you already properly calculated your solar array requirements and figured you can still fit a second vent fan on your roof, then we say go for it!
Is a rain cover worth it?
Yes! And a million times yes! After 2+ years on the road, we’ve spent many days and nights stuck in our van when it was raining decently hard outside. Venting the inside of your van during the rain is arguably even more important and so we feel getting a vent fan that comes with a rain cover is absolutely necessary.
Will these fans keep my pet cool in the RV all day during summer?
While a roof vent can keep your van’s interior cooler for longer during a summer day, we definitely would not recommend leaving your pet inside your van ALL DAY under a blistering sun. It also depends on how well you insulate your camper van and if you’re able to find a shady spot to park.
Manual vs Electric vent fans
Some of the higher-end vent fans come with a remote control so you can operate the fan without having to operate the manual button on the physical fan unit. In our case, because our campervan is so small, it actually doesn’t take much effort (or distance) to go and manually turn on or off the fan.
What size wire should you use?
We used 14 AWG wire to connect our fan to our batteries. Though you could use 12 AWG no problem, we wouldn’t go smaller (e.g. 16 AWG).
Can you drive with the Maxxfan’s rain cover lifted?
While we wouldn’t recommend it because the headwind would put a lot of pressure and stress onto the joints of rain cover, we’ve definitely done it before by accident! But once we realize what we’ve done, we always pull over so we can lower the rain cover.
Does the MaxxFan come with butyl tape and sealant?
Final Thoughts: Installing A Vent Fan In Your Campervan Is Easy And A No Brainer To Do
We hope you enjoyed our MaxxFan vent fan product review. We believe the Maxxfan is the best vent fan for camper vans and think you will agree!
After over 2+ years on the road we still love our MaxxFan and wouldn’t do anything different with this part of our van build. We did van life in Mexico for an entire rainy season (spoiler alert: it rains A LOT) and the rain cover on our MaxxFan was perfect for our needs.
And being able to circulate fresh air, while pushing out bad air, really increases the long-term livability of our campervan.
If you have any questions on how to install a vent fan on your van, please let us know in the comments below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
Other Great Van Conversion Build Articles
Or, back to our van conversion build guide for more great articles on how to build your own DIY camper van!