I put off installing the air-vent for a long time – it was just an awkward and difficult prospect, but hey you gotta do what you gotta do.
Choosing the fan
The good thing about the American air-vents is how large they are and therefore how much air they can move. I chose the Maxxair fan since it’s big, it’s quiet, there are all the features such as temperature setting, changing airflow direction, AND most importantly, you can use it in rainy weather. You can even leave the air-vent open while you drive apparently. Until someone else comes up with something better; for me it’s Maxxair all the way.
(Note – I have zero affiliation with Maxxair or any other company!)
Where to cut the hole
The first thing to do is to decide where you will be placing the air-vent so you can plan accordingly. I decided to have it near the back for two reasons; 1) because it offered me more space at the front of the van for the large single solar panel I plan to install and 2) because the fan would be above the bedding area.
Installing the Maxxair fan
Tools and materials:
- Permanent marker
- Duck tape
- Electric drill
- Drill bits (I used 4mm and 8mm drill bits)
- Jigsaw with blades (for cutting metal)
- Hammerite anti-rust paint (and paintbrushes) for rust protection on cut edge
- Adhesive window bonding agent i.e. Winbond
- Mastic tape (max 40mm wide)
- Security bolts and self tapping nuts
- Sikaflex sealant
- Aluminium strips (to cut and place on top of fan housing)
- Adapter (or buy circa 50cmx50cm Polyethelene sheet and cut yourself – note this is high density and hard to cut)
- Maxxair fan (along with included frame and screws)
Once you have chosen where the fan will go, you’ll have to begin by drawing the outline for the hole. I used the housing of the fan and a ruler to draw the outline and to make sure it was centered. After masking the outline, drill a hole in each corner and cut along the marker lines with a jigsaw (if you used the fan frame to draw the outline you may need to cut just outside of the hole’s outline to accommodate for the thickness of the frame). Once the hole is cut, remove the masking tape and use a metal file to smooth out the edges of the cut. Finally paint the bare metal, on the edge of the cut, with the Hammerite anti-rust paint.
I chose to attach the custom made adapter to the frame of the fan with the mastic tape before clamping it together to make sure it stuck fast. Once complete, I clambered back onto the roof of my van, put a nice thick bead of adhesive on the bottom surface of the adapter (now attached to the Maxxair frame) and planted it all firmly onto the van together.
The next thing to do was to drill the holes in the van via the holes in the attached Maxxair frame (I used 4mm drill bit) for the bolts to go through, but before attaching the bolts, I placed the aluminium strips onto the surface of the frame, which is supposed to reinforce the plastic housing long term (see video below for a clearer understanding). If, like me, you are attaching bolts rather than the usual self tapping screws provided, you’ll need someone underneath to hold onto the nuts while you screw them on.
Now when attaching the actual fan itself to the frame I used the provided self tapping screws. There was still however a difficulty doing this since the holes of the frame and the fan don’t match up exactly – you have to push the fan down into the housing while forcing in the screw. As you attach the self tapping screw you will need to leverage it yourself to make it screw it straight.
The final stretch was applying the Sikaflex sealant. I just put a nice bead along the side of the housing of the fan and used a spatula to smooth it out (again see video). I also added a bead of sealant over the top of the bolts.
A that’s it – done!