In a small space like a van, controlling airflow is one of the most important factors that is seldom talked about. Exhausting stale air and introducing fresh, dry air will not only make the inside of your van feel less stuffy, but will also prevent condensation on the inside of the exterior walls, in turn preventing mold and mildew.
What is condensation, and why is it so bad? Imagine a cold glass of water on a summers day: when the cold surface comes in contact with the warm, humid air, water droplets begin to accumulate on the outside of the glass. The same thing happens in reverse on a van: On a cool night the metal exterior of the van becomes the cold surface, and the warm, humid air inside the van begins to condensate on the interior of the vans metal skin. When this water condensates, it can become trapped in your walls (between the wood paneling and the metal exterior) which allows mold and mildew to take root. Though we take measures to prevent mold from ever happening, it can still occur is moisture is present for a prolonged period of time. Circulating air throughout the van via a vent fan and window will help mitigate this.
Every van that we build at CVB includes a vent fan; in fact, we wont build a van without one! We use the Maxxair 6401k and its upgraded brother, the Maxxair 7500k, with 10 speeds and reversable fan direction to help keep fresh air moving throughout the van. We tell our customers to run their fan often even in the cooler months when it doesn’t seem as evident to do so, this is when condensation occurs the worst.
Both the Maxxair 6401K and 7500K will exhaust air out, and its important to crack a window to allow fresh air in. We install a CR Laurence T-vent window on the sliding door on all our vans which is equipped with an awning style window that can opened safely in the rain. Ideally the fan is placed in the rear of the van so that a good draft is established from the sliding door window in the front to the fan in the rear, exchanging all of the air in between.
Aside from proper air flow, minimizing humidity inside the van in the first place will also cut down on condensation. The most common causes of humidity in a van are:
- Hot showers: this one is obvious and will introduce a tremendous amount of moisture into the air in a short period of time. When we install a shower in our Carolina model, I like to install the vent fan in the front by the shower to help draw that air out quickly.
- Cooking: boiling water, sautéing veggies, and running an instapot will all add to the airs moisture content.
- Propane heaters and cooktops: Though super convenient, the burning of propane results in the release of water into the air. We do not recommend these to be used indoor since CO can also be an issue. We install Webasto heaters that do not introduce moisture into the air.
- Existing: The most unavoidable, just existing inside of your van will introduce humidity into your van via breath and perspiration. Its important to run your vent fan while hanging out in your van or sleeping.
It is important to remain mindful of the humidity inside your van while doing these activities. Remember to run your vent fan to help evacuate stale, humid air to not only make the van feel less stuffy, but prevent potential mold and mildew related issues. You can monitor humidity with a hydrometer, which you can purchase on Amazon for under $10. Many experts state that ideal humidity in a home is between 40% and 60%, which promotes comfort, health, and air quality.
So, we’ve covered what condensation is and why it is undesirable, how and why to circulate air through your van to mitigate condensation, what activities introduce moisture into the air, and how to monitor humidity. I hope that you remain mindful of these things in your travels to help maximize your vanlife experience!