Fantastic Fan Install – Camper Van Build 1

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It seemed like the van prep work would never end!! We finally got to a point where we were somewhat satisfied and ready to move on to the official build. Step 1: CUT A HOLE IN THE ROOF! This ought to be fun. πŸ™‚ The plan was to first install the Fantastic Fan.

Tools and Supplies Needed

  1. Fantastic Fan (Many models available)
  2. Power Drill
  3. Marker
  4. Template (should come with fan)
  5. Jigsaw
  6. Hammer (optional – see below)
  7. Plumber’s Pipe Pliers (optional – see below)
  8. Sheet Metal Screws (should come with the fan)
  9. White Silicone Caulk
  10. Support Board with padding for knees

Fantastic Fan Install – Build 1

Fantastic Fans are a product line of Roof Vent Fans made by Fan-Tastic Vent. I’ve been researching van builds for a few years now and Fan-Tastic Vent is the industry leader in my opinion. They have a number of models and some really cool features. Personally, I went with a fairly basic model – see it below:

Fantastic Fan 1250

Model 1250 Features – Click to Research Fans

The fan we chose had the manual opening vent, quiet operation, 3 speeds and reversible airflow. Sure, we could have bought one with a remote control, a rain sensor and thermostat features but that would have cost much more and it really isn’t necessary in such a small space. Turning on the fan for me will just be extending my arm, so no need for a remote. The rain sensor would have been cool though. Basically, the vent closes automatically when it senses rain to keep from getting the inside of your Van/RV wet. I guess I’ll just use the manual method – turning the knob. πŸ™‚

Watch the Build 1 Video – Fantastic Fan Install:

Fantastic Fan Install – Step 1

The first thing you need to do is determine where in your Van or RV is the best place to put the vent/fan. You will need to cut a square hole in your roof to install this vent/fan, so you REALLY want to get this right the first time. Whatever you do, don’t cut through a ceiling beam. They are there for a reason, to hold up the roof. πŸ™‚ I’ve seen people do this. Not smart, but it may have been their only option, so who am I to judge?

When you get your Fantastic fan, it will come with a styrofoam template to help you trace the area you need to cut out of your ceiling/roof. The opening for our 1250 model was a 14″ X 14″ opening. In my Astro van, there were two options, towards the back or more centered. Centering it sounded like a good idea at first, but when thinking a few steps ahead, we realized we also needed to fit 3 solar panels up on the roof. It turned out putting it towards the back end of the van was best for our application.

Here is a look at the template:

Fantastic Fan Template

Fan Template Placement

It’s best to cut the hole out from up on the roof. In the picture above, we are determining where we will need to cut. We made a center-line, then put the template in place and marked the 4 corners. Next, we used the power drill to drill the holes in the corners from inside the van through the ceiling. We then, moved the template up to the roof, lined up the holes we just drilled and traced the square template.

drilling holes

Drilling Fan Template Holes

We used a jigsaw to cut the square hole out of the roof’s sheet metal.

Jigsaw Cutting Sheet Metal

Cutting Sheet Metal w/Jigsaw – Click to Research Jigsaws

When using the jigsaw on the sheet metal roof, try to keep straight lines on your cuts. It’s not crucial though as the fan assembly will hide any slip ups or uneven cuts. πŸ™‚ Below is my “steady hand” Dad finishing up with cutting out a big hole in my roof.

Cutting out hole with jigsaw

Completing the Jigsaw Cut

The roof of your Van/RV will either have ribs like my van or possibly a flat and curved surface. Your fantastic fan install may vary from my install based on the type of roof you have. In the case of having roof ribs, you should either build on top of the ribs and build a dam or flatten out the ribs along the fan install. We actually placed our fan in a spot that was flat on 3 of the 4 sides, so we just needed to flatten out one side to allow the fantastic fan to sit flush with the van’s roof.

To flatten the roof ribs, we first cut along the edge of the ribs with the jigsaw about 2 inches, then we used a hammer and plumber’s pipe pliers to flatten the ribs. See the finished look below:

fantastic fan install - flatten roof ribs

How we were able to flatten the roof ribs

Next, we placed the fan inside the hole and made sure it fit properly. As expected, it fit well, so we marked all the fans screw holes to be drilled and pulled the fan out of the hole and pre-drilled all the screw holes.

The next step was to apply a layer of white silicone caulk along hole where the fan would be placed so that it would provide seal between the fan and the roof. We then screwed the fan to the roof which compress the silicon caulk and created and even better seal. Some of the excess squeezed along the outside edge of the fan cover which we neatly formed it around the edge. We did the same with then inside area as some excess caulk squeezed into the interior.

Here is a look at the Fantastic Fan after it has been installed, caulked and screwed into the roof:

Fan install

Fantastic Fan Install Completed

We put the vent hinge towards the front of the van to hopefully prevent the vent hood from ripping off if we were to drive away without closing the vent.

fan vent hinge location

Our vent hinge faces the front of the van

Below is an inside look at the fantastic fan install which shows where the caulk squeezed through to the inside and it shows where the screws penetrated the sheet metal.

fantastic van interior view

Inside view of the fantastic fan installation

This is as far as we plan to go at this point on the fan install as we need to add insulation to the van and a power source.

Click Here to Research Fans

Next up – Flooring Insulation – Build 2


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22 Responses to Fantastic Fan Install – Camper Van Build 1

  1. Kent July 22, 2015 at 3:49 PM #

    Catching up on some of your posts. In your email you said you plan do a write up about each part of your build. That is a really good idea. I like to read more than I like to watch video. Liking your new posts. Keep up. Kent

    • Troy Wiedeman July 22, 2015 at 4:45 PM #

      Hey Kent! Thanks for checking back with me. I have a lot of projects going on right now and sometimes I have trouble figuring out which ones to focus most of my time on. This website, unfortunately, was put on hold when I stopped traveling and then again when I started building the van. I was making more videos than blogging.

      Finding the time to run my business, vlog, blog and still have time for family and friends can be challenging. Maybe I need to do a post on time management, though, I’m not the best at it. πŸ˜‰

      More coming Kent, so stay tuned my friend.

  2. Liz July 22, 2015 at 7:19 PM #

    Troy how has the vent fan been working for you. We have been considering upgrading our roof vent to a fan. My husband thinks we are just fine with what we have. I want a fan.

    Let me know,

    Liz

    • Troy Wiedeman July 23, 2015 at 7:57 PM #

      Hi Liz! My Fantastic Fan is working great. I will eventually do a full write-up and video on how I use the fan to keep my van cool. I rarely use it to blow air in, but mainly use it to suck the hot air out with the windows cracked and rain visors covering windows.

  3. Ellen July 23, 2015 at 8:07 PM #

    Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and never seem
    to get nearly anything done.
    Ellen recently posted…EllenMy Profile

    • Troy Wiedeman July 23, 2015 at 9:13 PM #

      Thank you for the kind words, Ellen. I can procrastinate too, but I really have a hard time deciding which project deserves most of my attention. I find that I work better when I focus on one thing, get it done, then move on to the next. I can multi-task, but I prefer not to. πŸ™‚

  4. Luc September 29, 2015 at 6:22 AM #

    Why did you end up going with the fantastic fan? They seem priced much higher for not much reason than something like this? : http://amzn.to/1Wvdznn

    • Troy Wiedeman September 29, 2015 at 6:40 AM #

      Hi there Luc. Well, there are many options and brands to go with for ceiling ventilation in a van, but I chose the fantastic fan based on reviews, warranty and referrals from other camper van owners. My fantastic fan has a reversible fan which I mainly use to pull the hot air out through ceiling and I crack the front windows to create a fresh airflow.

      It looks like the item you are linking to is just a vent with no fan which would explain the lower price. I use my fantastic fan every single day, so it’s well worth the investment.

      Thanks for checking out the site. πŸ™‚

  5. Bubs January 28, 2016 at 8:20 PM #

    Hi Troy!

    So how did you end up powering this fan?

    Thanks!

    • Troy Wiedeman January 29, 2016 at 7:56 AM #

      Hi there, Bubs. My next post, some day, will be detailing the power setup in my van. I had planned to do a post on the entire power setup, but the completion has been delayed. Currently, I have shore power only with two AGM batteries and a battery charger, but I plan to add solar panels and an alternator charging setup.

      I hope to add my power setup post soon, but until then, you can take a look at this update video where I talk about powering the van. Skip ahead to the 9:24 mark for power talk:
      https://youtu.be/6J-53kXwK50

      Thanks for checking out the blog! πŸ™‚

      Troy

      • Bubs March 23, 2016 at 3:05 PM #

        Thank you! I am loving your blog! I am working to make my van summer ready and this has been quite helpful!

        • Troy Wiedeman March 25, 2016 at 7:36 AM #

          Cool deal Bubs! I’m hoping to get mine rolling this summer as well. I’m glad the blog has been helpful.

  6. Kat April 13, 2016 at 4:38 PM #

    Hey! First off – love your site. super detailed and helpful! Thanks!

    Question: the fantastic fans are puzzling me… how do you power the fan?! I have a secondary battery and converter in my van, (I watched your ‘powering the van’ video already also) but I am unsure of how the fans are powered?

    Thanks!

    • Troy Wiedeman April 16, 2016 at 12:36 PM #

      Hi Kat. Great question. The fan comes with just a positive and negative wire. We ran a set of wires up to the fan, hidden under the ceiling paneling from our power center.

      Our way was much more complicated, but you could do something simpler like run a set of wires to your fan, splice them to the fans wires at one end and add on a cigarette lighter connector to the other end of the wire. The cigarette lighter connector could then be plugged into your vehicles cigarette lighter plug or you could plug it into a portable battery. ** Don’t run your car battery down, though.

  7. Kat April 13, 2016 at 4:40 PM #

    How is the fan powered? can you just plug it into the cigarette lighter in the van (i dont have as fancy a power rig as you have πŸ™‚

    • Kat April 13, 2016 at 4:41 PM #

      I watched your video on powering the van but am just unsure of how complicated installing the power for the fan is.
      Thanks a lot!

  8. SoCal Tom July 7, 2016 at 5:59 PM #

    I’m assuming it opens to the rear of the vehicle. I may have missed that part but this is a great add on for sure once you get it wired up which always scares me personally due to partial color blindness. Nice Video and write up Troy.

    • Troy Wiedeman July 8, 2016 at 10:10 AM #

      Hi Tom. Yes, the fan open towards the back of the van to prevent it from getting torn off by the wind when on the highway and I forget to close the lid. πŸ™‚ Thanks for checking out the blog.

  9. Kellee August 7, 2016 at 1:23 PM #

    Hi There!

    Just getting started on our van build and are wondering about the screws that come with the fan. Have you had any issues with rust or have you heard of anyone having issues with the screws rusting?

    Thanks for the awesome post. Very helpful. πŸ™‚

    • Troy Wiedeman August 9, 2016 at 7:50 AM #

      Hi Kellee. Thanks for checking out the blog and good luck with your build. As far as the screws go, I don’t recall if they are rust-resistance, but after the installation, all the screws were covered with waterproof silicone. So I expect the screws will be ok. I will keep an eye on the silicone layer over the screws and replace it with a new layer when needed down the road.

  10. David Roderick August 27, 2016 at 6:46 PM #

    Hi Troy,

    Your videos and explanations are terrific.

    I’m ready tyo install a fantastic fan this next week. My question has to do with the screws sourrounding the fan cut into the metal. Did you just leave them exposed and then cover them with insulation and the pine boards, or did you add four short boards so the screws would go into them on the inside of the roof bordering the fan?

    Keep up the great work!!!

    • Troy Wiedeman August 28, 2016 at 8:02 AM #

      Hi David. We used two layers of insulation, Ultra Touch first up against the screws and then we added the foam board. Finally, we added the pine paneling. Hope this helps.

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