Insulating the Walls

Insulating the Walls

April 27, 2015 Categories Camper Van

After putting up the first layer of insulation onto the walls yesterday, I finished them today with four inches of fiberglass “pink stuff,” which has an R-15 rating. Combined with the Reflectix, that brings me up to an R-18. This is the rough equivalent to a new home built with 2×6 exterior walls filled with DOE minimum rating of R-19 insulation. Now, for colder climates, I’m nowhere near the recommended R-40 level, but with it being such a small area, I’m not too worried about heat loss. I’m confident the heater I bought will be able to heat the space without much trouble, if I ever need to use it.

To attach the insulation to the walls, I first had to put up some 2×2 strips of wood in order to have something to staple to. After cutting the 2×2’s to length, I drilled holes about a third of the through the wood so that the screw heads are recessed. I used 1 1/2″ long, #10 self-tapping sheet metal screws to anchor the wood to the metal pillars along the walls.

Now it was time for the pink stuff. I used Owens Corning EcoTouch because it is formaldehyde free (here’s the data sheet for more info). Since a van has metal walls, unlike a house, there’s less opportunity for the walls to “breathe” and insulation that has formaldehyde in it can create toxic gases that can become more easily trapped inside the van. I’m trying to keep the toxic possibilities to a minimum, especially since I’ll already be introducing propane (cooking/water heater) and hydrogen (battery off-gasing) to the van interior. Granted, I will be venting both of those sources to hopefully avoid any explosive outcomes.

The insulation came in 8′ sections, so it was pretty easy to work with. Little by little, I began stapling it to the walls. While I was at it, I also added a layer of Reflectix over the wheel wells.

The whole process sounds easier than it was. In reality, I had to stop before I started on the passenger’s side wall. Other than I ran out of sheet metal screws and had to go get more, I also had to stop to install my fresh water inlet and my power inlet.

I bought a Marinco 15 Amp power inlet which was fairly easy to install. It requires you to drill a 1 7/8″ hole, however I drilled a 2″ hole because I couldn’t find a 1 7/8″ hole saw. Then I voided the warranty on my Tripp Lite power inverter by cutting the power cord in half in order to connect the cord to the power inlet. After feeding the newly cut power cord through the hole, I screwed the hot, neutral, and ground wires to the appropriate holes in the power inlet and then slid on the protective rubber booty.

Once I had that done, I put a little caulk around the back of the seal and positioned it into the hole the way I wanted it. There’s a giant nut that screws onto the back of it that I tightened from inside the van. I think it looks pretty good. I made sure everything was working by bringing out my iPod radio and plugging it into the inverter since it has a couple of AC outlets on it. Works like a champ.

Installing the water inlet was a little bit more fun. Since it requires cutting a larger, rectangular hole, I created a template so I knew exactly what size of a hole I needed to cut. There was already a circular hole near the back of the van and is why I chose to put my water tank where it is; that way I didn’t have to patch an existing hole and create a new one, I could just expand the one that was there. I used a marker to trace my template onto the outside of the van. Now came the fun part – cutting the hole. Normally, it’d be a good idea to use a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade, but I didn’t feel like driving back to town (again) just to get a blade. So, I used a reciprocating saw because I had the appropriate blade for it already. I don’t recommend doing it that way, but it got the job done. Now I had a large, gaping hole in my van.

My water inlet hatch has both a gravity tube and a city water hookup. It also came with putty tape to help keep it water tight. After sliding it into place, I used the eight screws that were provided to anchor it down and then I ran a bead of caulk around the edge to seal it up. It definitely looks a lot better than the previous hole that was there.

I also attached the water intake tubes, which you can see in the insulation pictures; I still have to attach the vent tube.

Anywho, that’s all I did today. I’m pretty pleased with the progress so far. I have a feeling I won’t get as much done tomorrow as I want to because I’m still debating where I want to install my shower. Originally, I planned on having it on the exterior but now I’m thinking otherwise. The biggest downside to having it on the exterior is the risk of it freezing during cold weather, though I could just disconnect it during those times. I dunno. Hopefully I’ll figure it out by tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Insulating the Walls”

Jake · October 25, 2015

Your conversion blog has been super helpful and I’m keeping it bookmarked so I can reference it later when I start my conversion. I may hit you up for advice here and there if you don’t mind? I’m working with an ’85 vandura 2500. Working on floorplans at the moment. Cheers!

Ed · October 30, 2016

I am thinking about converting a van. I am learning a ton from your projects. I have a question about adding a power outlet. I don’t know much about the subject but is a 15 amp outlet what you you need to charge your house batteries if you were at a campsite? I have never use one but I thought read once that most are a 30 amp connection. Does that matter at all?

Luke · October 30, 2016

Most RVs have either a 30 or 50 amp power connection, because RVs use a lot of juice (lots of lights, fans, AC, TV, stereo, etc). A van is much smaller and I designed mine with only a few outlets, most of which I never used. The inverter/converter combo I bought from Tripp Lite was designed to use a 15 amp connection and that’s the connection I wired to the outside of my van. I trust Tripp Lite that the converter does its job properly using the connection it came with.

On the road, I only ever plugged the van in once while camping out at an RV world and I only plugged it in because the power was there and free. I mainly relied on the solar panel and charging the batteries while driving. Before I hit the road, I did keep the van plugged in and the batteries charged up perfectly fine using the 15 amp connection.

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