I began today by packing more pink stuff into the door cavities. I want to fill as many gaps as I can to help maintain the temperature inside the van. For the rear doors, I also plan on making magnetic inserts to cover the windows which will double as both insulation and a blackout / privacy screen. The side doors, which don’t have windows, will have permanent insulation added to the area the window would normally go. The doors were immensely dirty, so I also gave them a good wipe down while I was at it.
Right now the doors have molded plastic panels that snap in place, with the exception of the driver-side rear door which is missing the panel. I haven’t decided if I want to keep the panels or take them off and cover the doors with wood. If I keep the panels, I need to find a replacement one for the one rear door that’s missing it.
Next I started working on getting my skylight / vent installed. It’s as if I hadn’t cut enough holes in the van yesterday, here I go cutting an even larger hole into the roof today. This was one of those moments when I was really hoping I wouldn’t mess up because there’s no undoing what I was about to do.
My vent / skylight is a basic Ventline model and doesn’t have a fan like some of the more expensive models do. It probably would have been easier to install if I took the time to make a template like I did yesterday, but for whatever reason I decided I didn’t need to today. I just used the plastic trim piece that goes on the interior of the van and traced around it with a marker. I made sure it was as centered as possible and far enough forward that it shouldn’t be in the way of my solar panel. Once I had it traced onto the ceiling, it was the moment of truth – time to start cutting. I used my 2″ hole saw to punch out each corner of the square.
Update: After spending the summer living in the van in the southwest heat of the US, I would definitely recommend buying a vent with a fan built into it. They cost a lot more, but it really would have helped pull in the cool air during the nights.
Now that I had the corners done, I used a jigsaw to play connect the dots. Since I was worried about cutting too large of a hole, I actually cut the hole smaller than what was needed and then made a few passes gradually taking off a little more each time until the vent dropped in place. With the hole cut, it was time to make a small frame so that I had something to screw into to hold the vent to the roof – I wasn’t gonna trust just screwing it into the fiberglass top.
I put a couple layers of putty tape on the bottom of the aluminum plate that contacts the roof surface and popped the vent back in place. I then secured the wood frame underneath the vent on the inside using some clamps and blocks of wood on top; this way it stayed in place as I was drilling down from the roof.
There’s 28, 2″ long screws to secure the vent and to make sure it has a good hold of the wood frame. I was very pleased with how well the vent made contact with the surface of the roof, as the roof has a slight arc. Once installed, I ran some water over it to ensure it sealed correctly and then I trimmed off the excess putty that squeezed out when screwing it down.
Since the ceiling isn’t finished (or even framed out), it looks a little odd with the 2×2 frame sticking down on the inside. Once I get everything framed out, insulated, and boarded up, it’s going to look much better and will actually end up being recessed a little compared to the rest of the ceiling.
The last thing I did today was run the wires that will attach to my solar panel down into the van. This literally only consisted of drilling a small hole, running the wires through it, and sealing it up with some construction / roof sealant.
The only important thing here is knowing which wire will be which when it comes to attaching them to the charge controller later. I put a little tape “flag” around what will be my positive wire and left the negative wire as is. Once connected to the charge controller, it’s extremely important these are correct! I’m not a solar expert, but I’m confident that an incorrect polarity could really mess things up.
As of right now, I’m not able to attach my solar panel to the roof. The brackets I ordered are only 3/4″ high and when putting a level across the roof, there’s over a 3″ space on either side, due to the curvature in the roof. I need the panel to sit flat and I want it to be at least 1/4″ above the center of the roof, so my brackets need to be 3 1/4″ to 3 1/2″ or more in height. So, I either need to order new brackets (if they even make them) or have some brackets custom made, assuming I can find a metal fabricator around here. The only other option is possibly finding some square tubing thick enough to use as a spacer. I can’t insulate the ceiling until I have the solar panel installed.
Tomorrow I want to either start framing the ceiling or start working on the battery box / couch frame. I might also test out my water tank and if everything is working, anchor that down. Since the tank will weigh over 80 pounds when full, I want that thing bolted to the floor really well in the event of an accident. Same principle will be applied to my batteries and power inverter.