Traveling in an uninsulated van over long distances can be uncomfortable. Even if you have protective clothing and more layers, the cold temperatures inside a van chill you to the bone. That’s why you need good insulation in your van to protect you from the frigid winter months and hot summer season.
The best materials to insulate your van are sheep’s wool for the walls, Polyiso foam boards for the flooring, and Reflectix for the windows. These materials are usually made without toxic chemicals, making them safe for a van build. Of course, you should consider the R-factor when building.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know:
Is insulating a van worth it?
There are people who prefer not to insulate their vans. They believe that it takes up too much space to make it worth it. However, I don’t like uninsulated vans for a few reasons.
First, they promote moisture build-up and condensation. Which can lead to mold. Yucky. Second, it’s uncomfortable to have to wear heavy winter clothes inside your van. It makes it a bit harder to navigate in such a small space.
There’s a lot of benefits to insulating a van, so it’s definitely worth it. For example, you’ll lose less heat in the winter season and you’ll keep the summer heat outside where it belongs.
What to look for in van insulation
Here’s a quick rundown:
- High R-value per inch. Space is limited in a van, so you want something that will insulate your vehicle without taking too much space.
- Resistance to mold and mildew.
- Able to withstand vibration.
The best insulation for your van will be safe-to-breathe materials with minimal chemicals. You want to avoid toxic materials at all costs. These are bad for your health and in such a small space (especially one exposed to a variety of different temperatures), symptoms can be exacerbated.
You want to find a material with a high R-factor.
The R-factor basically tell you how well the material insulates. The higher the R-factor, the better the material will be at regulating the temperature within your vehicle.
What’s the best insulation for van walls?
Here are some types of insulation that I recommend. They’re all viable options:
1. Sheep’s wool
It’s natural, relatively healthy, and comes in a variety of designs. You don’t need protective gear to install it. It breathes well, absorbs moisture, and is biodegradable. You can even recycle it if you ever need to replace it.
Then wool in any format is naturally fire-resistant and soundproofing. This can limit the amount of sound that you hear if you park by a busy parking lot or street.
It has an R-factor of 7.
2. Polyiso foam board
This option has an R factor of 6. It’s non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and easy to work with. Unfortunately, to install it you need to use adhesive. This means that it’ll be harder to remove if you ever need to replace it.
I have found that it doesn’t reduce sounds as much as sheep’s wool. However, it is a bit more cost-efficient.
Reflectix works great as a barrier for windows and large cavities. However, it’s fairly ineffective when used behind a camper wall. It needs about an inch of a gap between the wall of your van to work properly. Considering that it has an R-factor of 1 (which is pretty low), I’m only recommending because it because it takes up way less space than the other types of insulation on this list.
What’s the best insulation for van floors?
The best insulation for van floors are Polyiso foam board.
It’s very important to insulate your floors and there are some very good reasons for doing this. First, you need to do it as you lose a lot of heat through your floor. If you do not insulate it, you undermine the other insulation you have in your van.
Second, it is not that costly to do. Some estimates place the total cost at around $40 depending on the materials you use. Third, if you have a heater inside the floor insulation will cut down on the amount of propane or other heat fuel you use.
These savings pay for the cost of the insulation. It also makes your van more comfortable. The only downside is that it takes a bit of space.
What’s the best insulation for van windows?
The best insulation for windows is reflectix.
A lot of heat loss takes place through the windows. Doesn’t matter if it is a traditional house, RV, or a van. Stopping that heat loss is important when you need to stay warm at night.
Most people recommend removable solid insulation that reflects the heat back into your van or reflects it away. These thermal boards can easily be placed on your windows and removed the next morning.
Or you can use insulated curtains and some are also reversible so you can manage your heat levels. Plus, the fabric is easy to customize to fit the size of your windows. Finally, you can use windshield covers to make sure no heat escapes through that window.
What is the best insulation that doesn’t take up a lot of space?
Saving on space is important which is why many people use materials like reflectix. It is thin, but its R rating is 1. Sheep’s wool is pretty warm, but it is thicker than most other options.
The thinnest insulation you can get with a high R-rating is a Polyiso foam board. It is less than an inch thick and has a 5.6 R rating under ideal conditions. The drawback is that in less than ideal conditions, the R rating goes down.
The best thing to do is talk to those van insulating experts in your area and see which option is best for you. They all have their positive and negative points and while one looks good and has a high R rating, it may not fit your upcoming activities.
Is it expensive to insulate a van?
It is possible to insulate a van with high-quality materials for $300. So, no this is not expensive. It’s pretty cheap considering how it will provide you with so much value.
Why is it important to choose good insulation?
Vans are used for a variety of purposes. You can use them for camping, touring the nation, or just plain hauling cargo. If you plan on using your van long term and living out of the back, it is a good idea to insulate your vehicle.
It can make or break your comfort levels.
The good news is that you can insulate any van no matter its make, model, or design. All the insulation options you have at your disposal should work for all vans with some working better with one type of van over another.
The key to insulting a van is to be careful. You need to make sure the insulation gets into all the right spots and is evenly distributed. This can be a problem as not all van interiors are the same and some have frustrating nooks and crannies that are hard to insulate.
Insulation to avoid when building a van
Here’s are a few types of insulation that you should avoid:
1. Fiberglass batts
This material is similar to the fiberglass you put in your home and it can cause itchiness, irritation, and lung issues during installation. You may find small bits and pieces of fiberglass in your van months after installation.
2. Spray foam
This option may be good for some purposes but it has far too many chemicals inside of it to make it a healthy option. Plus, it’s messy to install and may not go on evenly.
Insulating your van is a big project and it takes skill, as well as the right insulation. If you found this article useful, please check out my other articles. I share everything that I’ve learned while living in a van including my favorite van life hacks.
NOTE: If you're looking to purchase a new tiny home, but aren't sure if it's right for you, be sure to check out Escape Campervans. They allow you to rent unique vans and RVs all around the US. Book today!