Roof vent fans in conversion vans aren't absolutely necessary (vehicles aren't airtight so you won't die of carbon monoxide poisoning, despite what your mother tells you), but they are great to have.
Vent fans provide much-welcomed airflow that can not only cool your living quarters, but they can also help dissipate some of the unpleasant smells that come with living in a van, especially if you have a composting toilet or do a lot of cooking with your doors closed. On top of that, they are great for keeping things dry(er) in humid climates. And finally, if you plan to leave your cat or dog in your van for extending periods of time, a vent fan is essential to keeping them safe.
For this Gear Guide, we're going to run through the best vent fans for van life. We'll be completely honest, there are really only two companies that cornered this market. So we'll talk about there best models and also provide some cheaper alternatives.
In general, van vent fans aren't very expensive. Even the top-of-the-line models come in at less than $400. Install can be a little pricey, but it's nothing you can't do yourself. That's why we suggest that you don't skimp on a van. Splurge and get something that opens automatically and comes with a remote.
The Fan-Tastic Vent 807351 is by far one of the most popular vent fans for van dwellers (at least van dwellers with a little money to spend). Fan-Tastic Vent makes a wide assortment of fans, including some that plug into cigarette lighters, but if you had to pick only one, we'd go with the 807350 because it is the most full-featured.
It has 13 speeds (while most fans come with 1 or 3), a rain sensor that automatically closes the lid when wet, and a remote control, making it perfect for even the laziest van lifers. And unlike some vent fans, the blades can be reversed to cool or heat your vehicle depending on the outside temperature.
One thing we should mention: be very careful with vent fans with rain sensors if you are keeping your animals in the van. You don't want them to automatically close with your pet inside. I would rather have a wet van than a dead dog...
Fan-Tastic is also owned by Dometic, which is a huge producer of van life gear, including one of our favorite 12V fridge freezers.
Cheaper Fan-Tastic Alternatives:
Next to Fan-Tastic Vents, Maxx Air is the other king (or queen!) of van vents. And the MaxxFan Deluxe is the mack-daddy of their lineup. The MaxxFan Deleux features a built-in rain shield (a lot of other fans require a separate protector), thermostat control, and 10 control speeds for maximum customization.
And while you certainly shouldn't pick a fan on looks alone, the MaxxFan Deluxe is definitely one of the sexier vent fans on the market (I can't believe I just typed that!).
Cheaper Maxx Air Alternatives:
More Affordable Alternatives:
As you have seen from our selections, there are a few features to keep in mind when buying a roof vent for your camper vans. Roof vents are not a necessity, but are a great, inexpensive way to cool your camper van down in warm weather, and to let out some of the bad smells that can accumulate because of it!
But what features do you need to look out for, so you can buy the best possible roof vent and make the most of its benefits? Below, we’ll take you through some of the most important features, so you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to buying your own camper van roof vent!
While you can buy roof vents that are actually customized to your camper van, most have a standard size of 14 x 14 inches.
The width and length of the fan will generally be a standard size, but you should measure the height of the fan to make sure it is compatible with your roof size. This is particularly critical if you have roof racks installed.
Size is important as you wouldn’t want to cut a hole in your roof or make other adjustments, just to find out that the vent is the wrong size and doesn’t fit.
Just like all other appliances, vent fans need a source of power to operate. This can be from a 12v van battery system or via solar panels.
Roof vent fans don’t consume a lot of power, and usually use about three or four amps when on their highest setting. But if you have a larger van conversion, you may have to opt for a more powerful fan.
Amperage draw and energy efficiency are crucial factors to consider if you regularly travel to warm locations and are likely to leave the fan on all day.
The more powerful and sturdy vents will have a wide range of adjustable settings to choose from. The vent should also have different fan speed settings to give you more control over the temperature and airspeed.
The vent may also have a reversible blade retention, which blows air out of the roof of the van.
Even more advanced fans may have automated temperature control, that lets you set the exact temperature you want.
The vent will then regulate the speed and turn on or off automatically in order to adjust the temperature inside.
Replacing your camper van’s roof vent is an easy enough project to do by yourself. There are also plenty of tutorials online, such as this video that takes you through the whole process.
In fact, the trickiest part of replacing your roof vent is removing the putty and garnish of the old van, or cutting a new hole in the camper van roof that can support your new vent.
This is very important, as while roof vents can make your humid van more comfortable to stay in, it’s hard to enjoy that with a roof vent that is unbearably loud! Especially if you’re living in your van full-time.
Generally, fans with smaller blades tend to produce more noise, while sturdier vents tend to be quieter. However, these often come at a higher price.
The basic fans will only suck the air out of your camper, but more advanced vents will have reversible functions that not only take air from your camper, but bring fresh air in.
There is nothing wrong with a non-reversible fan of course, and it will still ward off condensation, but a reversible function blows fresh air around the camper, and lets you use your fan without having to open the lid.
These features aren’t a necessity, but are extremely convenient and are worth considering if you want to get the most out of your roof vent.
These are plastic shields that can be placed over the top of the roof vent fan and stop rain from getting inside your van, all without affecting the fan’s functionality.
However, rain shields can be pretty bulky, and you will need to make sure that they won’t interfere with other essential features of your rooftop. For example, if your camper van is solar-powered you don’t want the rain shield to potentially obstruct the panels.
However, if you often travel to wetter locations, then a rain shield could be a lifesaver. It lets you safely vent your campervan after you’ve taken a shower, or when you’re cooking.
Built-in rain sensors are alternatives to rain shields, and they automatically close the lid of the fan when moisture is detected, protecting your roof vent from getting damaged and keeping the inside of your camper van dry.
If a rain cover takes up too much room a built-in rain sensor is a great, space-saving alternative.
Some roof vents can be controlled remotely, letting you change the fan speed, open and close the fan lid, or even turn the vent off with the push of a button.
These remotes are usually battery-controlled and come in handy if the fan buttons are in difficult to reach places. If your roof vent doesn’t come with a remote, you will just have to operate the vent with the buttons provided.
The lid may also open with the push of a button, or you may have to open it manually.
Some roof vents come with thermostats that can turn the fan off and on automatically based on the temperature inside the camper van. For example, you can program your vent to turn on whenever the temperature is over 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
This helps to keep your campervan at a comfortable temperature without having to turn the fan on and off and fiddling with the thermostat yourself. It also means that after you’ve been out for the day, you can come home to a camper van that is already at the optimal temperature for you.