Heat and Insulation

It is very important that the van be warm. While we try to be sun chasers, it's not always possible for us to avoid cold weather, so I built the van to be toasty warm.

First, I chose the cargo model, because with more windows it's going to be colder, no matter what.

Then I covered the bare metal in Dynamat. Probably way too much Dynamat, but our first trip in the van was on the same day it was purchased. We threw in a mattress and a cooler and headed to SF for Creative Live. It was a rattly, loud trip that informed my decision to apply a lot of sound dampening materials. I also did not want the sound from the inside to travel out. When on the road, it's important to still feel that you have privacy in your home.

Over the Dynamat I then cut out and glued up foam board insulation with a high R-value (read all about R-value and why it's important) where the window cutouts were. I used spray-in gap filler around that and I stuffed wool into the places that the board couldn't go. Then I rolled out Reflectix to top it all off.

Insulating was a lot of work.

Knowing what I know now, I'd likely just hire someone to spray in foam insulation everywhere for maximum coverage.

Still, the number of windows and types of insulation weren't the only things to consider.

The van still needed heat.

I'd already been talking to Sprinter Tech about installing solar, and it turns out that he'd been developing a radiant floor heat option for vans! I was in.

Radiant floor heat was a great option because:

  • It's efficient- the system was designed to use very little power and to just sip some of the diesel from the main tank through a small pump and back to the Espar, where it combusts outside.

  • It's coupled with air heat- if the floor heat is not reaching the set temperature, then a fan coil unit blows warm air until the temperature is reached.

  • Control- the thermostat can be set to a regular schedule or controlled remotely using an app. So, if we are returning to the van early, but the temp was still set to an away setting, I can pull up the app and increase the temperature; ensuring we always return to a nice, warm van.

  • Warm floors are simply delicious.

It wasn't without complications:

  • If drilling into or through the floor, you need to be really sure not to hit one of the heating tubes.

  • It was a new option, and there were some kinks to work out, which is tough to do while traveling and living in the van, and is why there is a backup heater in the van.

  • It was not the least expensive option.

As is the theme with our tiny house on wheels though, it's not about going without. This is our home, and it's important that it be comfortable, and being warm is a very integral part of that.