No matter the size of your camper build, you need adequate camper van ventilation. It fights heat, humidity and pollutants that can lead to a whole host of potentially icky problems in your conversion.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to keep these issues at bay. By ensuring your campervan is well ventilated, you can enjoy lovely fresh, clean and cool air in your conversion.
This post is the ultimate guide to camper van ventilation and has everything you need to know. So, if you want to know how to create an effective ventilation system, no matter the size of your conversion, then read on!
We explain why camper van ventilation is important; what happens if you don’t have it; the difference between active and passive ventilation; and how to create an effective ventilation system.
But that’s not all! From our own experiences and honest reviews from other vanlifers, we can give you the pros and cons of the most common ventilation solutions.
Regardless of your budget, this post will help you discover how to create the most effective camper van ventilation system possible for your rolling home.
Don’t have time to read the whole article? That’s OK! This table gives you a brief overview of the ventilation solutions.
This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning, if you make a purchase after clicking one, we may earn some commission. This pocket money will help Vandercamp Adventures continue to grow at no extra cost to you. It’s a win win situation!! Learn More…
£ - ££££
|Window Vent Grills||Passive||£ - ££|
|Additional Windows||Passive||££ - ££££|
|Mushroom Vent||Passive||£ - ££|
|12V Mushroom Vent||Active||££|
|Wind Powered Vent||Passive||££|
|Campervan Skylight||Passive||££ - £££|
|Fan Assisted Vent||Active||££ - ££££|
Table of Contents:
Why Is Camper Van Ventilation Important?
Ventilation regulates airflow in and out, bringing in fresh air while getting rid of the old, damp, funky air. Ventilation also regulates the internal climate, reduces stuffiness, and combats odours.
Without adequate ventilation, excess heat and water vapour cause condensation, which in turn causes further humidity. In addition, odour and pollutants will also begin to build up.
Condensation occurs when warm, moisture-filled air collides with colder surfaces and converts into a liquid from vapour. It mainly occurs on uninsulated surfaces, such as glass windows and any exposed metal in your van.
Not only this, but some areas of the van (under-seat storage compartments or dark corners) can create “dead air space”, meaning the air doesn’t move very much. This can lead to condensation, damp and mould growth.
Some condensation is, unfortunately, unavoidable in a campervan. Still, if the moisture it causes can’t escape, it will contribute to humidity. This can cause health problems as well as general grossness in your camper.
Humidity is excessive water vapour in the air; caused by washing, showering, cooking, boiling the kettle, and even breathing. Humidity and condensation go hand in hand, as they both increase the amount of water vapour in the air.
Humidity causes dampness, which promotes the growth of mould and fungus and creates perfect conditions for dust and mould mites to thrive. These things are especially hazardous if you suffer from allergies or asthma.
Humidity can cause mould or mildew. A humid van will feel clammy, smell fusty, and mould will grow on fabrics, clothing and even the vehicle itself. Mould and mildew can stain or discolour surfaces and warp the wood in your van.
Odour and pollutants
Without ventilation, odour and pollutants will hang around in your camper. For example, natural body odour, smells from the rubbish bag, dirty laundry, and (if you have them) kids or pets will cause a pong.
For safety, constant ventilation is vital if you’re installing gas to run your cooker, fridge, water heater, etc. It stops harmful gas or carbon dioxide from building up in your van.
If you plan to cook inside your van, installing a vent near your cooking station will allow unburned gas and cooking smells to escape.
Passive and Active Ventilation
Ventilation works by circulating air. As air is drawn out of your camper, fresh air moves in to replace it. This constant movement of air in and out is what keeps your camper van fresh and ventilated.
Proper ventilation in your rolling home will help you avoid living in a damp, mouldy fester box. But how do you get adequate ventilation? And what are your options?
Passive ventilation allows air to circulate in your camper using natural air currents and the buoyancy of hot air. So as stale air leaves your camper through a passive vent, fresh air will naturally be drawn in to replace it. Whoo, science!
It works naturally and doesn’t require any power from your van. However, if it’s a hot, still day, the temperature and air pressure inside and outside your van will be similar. Subsequently, the natural movement of air won’t be as efficient.
On the other hand, power-driven fans constantly work without relying on natural air pressure. So as long as there is a power source, the fan will ventilate your camper.
As the fan expels stale air, fresh air is drawn into your camper to replace it. In any van, vents work best in pairs to create a circulatory system.
In larger vans, two power-driven fans, placed at either end of your van, would work best.
Choosing the Right Camper Van Ventilation
Hot air moves around on convection currents. Essentially, hot air rises while cooler air sinks. Using this principle, you can create effective ventilation in your camper by pairing up two ventilation solutions.
Having one ventilation point low down in your camper draws in the cool, fresh air. Meanwhile, another sits higher up, giving the hot, stale air somewhere to escape. This creates a circulatory system
Although all camper vans need ventilating, where you go and what you do will affect your ventilation needs. If you’re travelling in hot climates, for example, you’ll require a lot of ventilation to keep your camper cool and fresh.
If you’re travelling to colder places, on the other hand, you want a warm snuggly van. But with a big difference between outside and inside temperatures, you’ll need ventilation to combat condensation and humidity.
Doing a lot of cooking inside means you’ll need good ventilation to reduce cooking smells, heat and gas build-up. Similarly, having an onboard shower will create a lot of humidity that needs expelling.
Cubic metres per hour or minute (m3/h or m3/min) only applies to fan-assisted ventilation solutions. It is the volume flow rate of ventilated air (the volume of extracted stale air per hour or minute).
For example, a roof fan that works at 26m3/min can theoretically expel 26 cubic metres of air per minute.
However, similarly to air conditioning, the space needs to be sealed for the fan to work most effectively. So if you have a window or side door open, the rate at which the fan works will be compromised.
Essentially, the higher the m3/min (or m3/hr) the quicker, and more effectively the air in your camper will be circulated. But a higher number doesn’t automatically mean a better ventilation solution.
|Van Size||Such As||Internal M3|
|Short Wheelbase||VW T5||7m3|
|Medium Wheelbase||Ford Transit||10m3|
|Medium Wheelbase with |
|Ford Transit High Top||12m3|
|Long Wheelbase||Mercedes Sprinter||16m3|
|Extra Long Wheelbase||Extra Long Wheelbase|
If your campervan is 10m3, then consider whether you really need a (costly!) vent that works at 28m3/minute.
Camper Van Ventilation Solutions
Anything that allows air to circulate within your camper van will be beneficial for a healthy, fresh environment.
Some camper van ventilation solutions are certainly more effective than others, but there are options available to suit every budget and every style of van conversion.
Any opening window will provide passive ventilation. This can either be the cab windows, or additional ones you’ve installed. As long as it isn’t a fixed window, it will provide some airflow into your camper.
Campervan windows that are installed near the gas hob, or oven, will allow steam, heat and cooking smells to escape quickly. In addition, it will also dispel any unburnt gas.
Simply opening the cab windows is both the easiest and cheapest way to ventilate a van. But don’t get too excited, as it’s also the least effective, especially in larger vans.
A bulkhead will inhibit airflow from the cab, and leaving windows open leaves your van unsecured at night, or while you’re away from it.
Window Vent Grills
These are light, aluminium grills that allow you to have the cab windows open while keeping your camper safe and secure, as the grills are only removable from inside the van.
They are cheap and easy to install – they just slot into the gap between the open window and the frame. Similarly to opening the windows though, this isn’t a particularly effective way to ventilate a camper.
REIMO campervan window vent grill from Jackson Leisure Supplies
Window deflectors alter airflow while driving with the windows open. They were designed to decrease noise and wind force while driving at high speeds, in addition to stopping rain and insects from invading.
As a ventilation solution, their only benefit is to disguise the fact that the windows are open if your only ventilation is coming from the cab windows.
Wind deflectors for your vehicle
Additional Campervan Window
Rather than just relying on cab windows, a more effective ventilation method would be installing additional opening windows in the van’s panels.
This allows air to circulate more freely around the living space of your camper. Install more than one, or use it in conjunction with another vent. It will create a more effective circulatory system.
Tinted sliding campervan window from Camper Glass
Campervan Wall And Floor Vents
Floor and wall vents allow constant air circulation without the need for open windows. They are more secure than windows but don’t let in any natural light.
Most types of wall and floor vents passively ventilate your campervan, which means they can work continuously. In addition, the vast majority don’t have moving parts, meaning they are silent and maintenance-free.
Louvred vents work most effectively if installed as a pair or installed opposite another type of vent to keep air moving by creating a circulatory system.
Although they work to create a passive ventilation system in your camper, if it’s especially cold or windy, then it will create a cold draught in your camper.
Louvre air vent with flyscreen for passive ventilation
Floor vents aren’t visible from outside the van. This makes your camper more inconspicuous, which is ideal for stealth camping. They work by drawing fresh air in from below.
They’re essential if you’re installing either a fridge or gas supply. In this instance, they’re known as “gas drop out vents” and are designed to let any gas escape from your van.
A small round vent can be installed like a louvre vent or fitted inside your camper under a bench. This will make it easier for air to circulate all around your camper, keeping all areas fresh and ventilated.
Because they are small, the hole in the van only has to be small. It can be made with a hole cutter making it much easier than cutting a large round hole (for a porthole, for instance).
The 12V vent is small and the only type of wall vent to be powered, therefore providing active ventilation. The motor powers a fan, drawing air in or expelling air out. It is, however, quite noisy if they’re on the higher setting.
These vents are ideal in bathrooms so that any extra moisture in the air caused by showering can be quickly removed. Alternatively, one could be installed near a hob to extract heat and cooking smells.
Campervan Roof Vent
There are several different types of campervan roof vent; some use passive ventilation while others use active ventilation. The cost of roof vents varies wildly. Some only cost a few quid, while others cost a few hundred quid.
Some large roof vents double up as skylights; these are extremely effective for ventilation and provide lots of natural light to your camper, but they are the most expensive of the ventilation solutions.
The mushroom vent works in the same way as a round/louvred wall vent; using passive ventilation to circulate air through your camper van. They work best in conjunction with another type of vent.
The top of the mushroom protects the inside of your camper from the rain, and because it’s small, you can use a hole cutter to cut into the van.
12V Mushroom Vent
This vent looks identical to a mushroom vent but uses a fan, which quickly extracts heat, condensation and odours from cooking areas or bathrooms.
This small vent would be best suited to smaller vans, which don’t require a huge amount of air circulation to keep ventilated. As with the mushroom vent, it works most effectively when paired with another vent.
This is the only passive ventilation, voltage-free vent that has moving parts. As a result, it is more effective than other passive vents but is more expensive. However, it’s still cheaper than most active ventilation options.
The outer fins are pushed by the wind, spinning the vent. There are more fins inside the vent, which pull air out of the van. This creates constant air circulation in a very effective, economical way.
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This vent pushes open and can be left slightly ajar for constant ventilation. A clear or translucent vent doubles as a skylight, bringing natural light into your van.
These vents vary; solid white ones are generally the cheapest, although they only let light through when open.
Fan Assisted Vent
There are many different types of fan-assisted roof vents on the market; some are fairly basic, while others are extremely high tech. They can be set up as a pair to have an extremely effective circulatory system.
Although they perform the best, some of these vents come at hefty prices. Before splurging, consider your needs – smaller vans won’t need huge motor power, and extra high top vans may need one with a remote control.
Camper van ventilation keeps the air in your van circulating, constantly delivering fresh, clean air into your environment while expelling hot, damp, musty air.
Passive ventilation systems are usually the cheapest option. Because they use the forces of nature, they don’t require any additional power source from your van, making them a more eco-conscious option.
But, nature is fickle; on super hot still days, your ventilation system won’t work effectively, as it relies on differences in air pressure. And when it’s cold and chilly, you might get quite a draught blowing into your space.
On the other hand, active ventilation can work around the clock, as long as there’s an adequate supply of power, and can provide you with constant ventilation.
These ventilation solutions tend to be more expensive. The prices climb and climb the fancier and the more technical the ventilation product gets.
No matter your budget, you can create an effective ventilation system in your camper to keep the air around you fresh, cool and clean.