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. 🙂 The plan was to first install the Fantastic Fan.
Tools and Supplies Needed
- Fantastic Fan (Many models available)
- Power Drill
- Template (should come with fan)
- Hammer (optional – see below)
- Plumber’s Pipe Pliers (optional – see below)
- Sheet Metal Screws (should come with the fan)
- White Silicone Caulk
- 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:
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. 🙂
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. 🙂 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:
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.
We used a jigsaw to cut the square hole out of the roof’s sheet metal.
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. 🙂 Below is my “steady hand” Dad finishing up with cutting out a big hole in my roof.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.