Importance Of Ventilation In Your Van: The 101

Vanlife is more than just a means to plenty of people living it. It is the answer to their lifelong dream of being mortgage-free, traveling, seeing, and experiencing what the world offers firsthand. However, this lifestyle does not come without challenges. For some, it is finding the perfect vehicle while others struggle with more pressing issues like how to keep cool inside the van and what to do to eliminate bad odors inside. The answer to that is proper van ventilation.

Ventilation is important because it makes your vanlife more comfortable by increasing the air quality inside. It also helps in cooling your interior, releasing moisture-laden air, and keeping your van smelling clean. 

Living and sleeping in your van are fantastic because you can be waking up on a beach one morning and then waking up to a stunning mountain view by the end of the week. The number of vlogs that showcase the beauty of vanlife is rising, and one of their main pieces of advice is to get your van proper ventilation – which is what this article is all about. You’ll read about the importance of ventilation, the safety of sleeping in your van, things you need to watch out for, and things you may want to consider when choosing a ventilation system.

Ventilation Is A Must For Better Air Quality

The simplicity of living in a van, not having any mortgage, and the adventures you can have is what really lure many into this life. Some are willing to downsize their life and trade their typical home for a more compact and straightforward lifestyle. When switching to a vanlife, the topic of ventilation and insulation will always pop up. These two always go hand in hand, but for this article, we will be discussing just ventilation – more specifically, its importance of it.

Besides the fact that having proper ventilation can help you sleep comfortably inside your van, I think the most important thing about having proper ventilation is that it elevates the air quality inside. Yes, your ventilation system can help cool down your interior during those hot summer days, but the fact that you live and breathe inside your van means that you are creating or excreting harmful gases into the air. 

When we talk about the air quality inside your van, we are talking about the safety of spending your downtime inside your van, knowing the indoor air pollutants, the sources of these pollutants, and how you are going to keep your air quality to a level that is suitable for living inside your van.


When it comes to the safety of living inside your van, the number one rule is to have proper ventilation. You will be sleeping and doing a bunch of stuff (like cooking) inside your van, and these can cause some problems. You need to have a good ventilation system to swap out the hot, polluted air inside your van with the cold fresher air from the outside. Yes, it is safe to sleep inside your camper only, and this is only when you have a proper ventilation system in place.

There are different ways you can do this, and depending on how you want to live inside your van, you can choose between the traditional bulky-looking ventilation systems or the more discreet-looking solutions. And if you’re going to take this a step further, you can custom build or make your own ventilation system according to your specifications. Find the solution that works for you and your van and make sure that it works properly.

Better Air Circulation: No Stale And Hot Air Inside

Remember that you will be sleeping in your van and, therefore, should really think about how you are going to create a cross breeze that would allow fresh air inside your van and vent stale air out. With better air circulation inside your van, you also make sure that you stay cool inside when the weather is hot outside. It also allows you to get more sleep during the mornings. You don’t have to wake up so early because you feel stuffy and warm inside your van at 6 in the morning.

Lack of air circulation can cause allergies, breathing problems, mold build-up, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sometimes can lead to death if untreated immediately. So be sure that your vanhome ventilation is installed, working, and does its job perfectly.

Decrease Indoor Air Pollutant Levels

Whether you like it or not, you are one of the primary sources of why air pollutants increase inside your vanhome. You breathe, move around and cook inside your van, and these actions produce CO2, moisture-laden air, nitrogen dioxide, and bad odors. Your hobbies, space heaters, and even your ventilation system can contribute to air pollutants inside your van. So before these air pollutants cause you allergies and respiratory problems, it is better to have a clean ventilation system or have a ventilation system installed in your van if you don’t have one yet.

The Culprits: Indoor Pollutants To Watch Out For

When proper ventilation is not present in your van home, you invite many bad things to happen to you. Air pollutants will accumulate easier in hot-humid interiors. This can cause you some discomfort in the form of allergies, nausea, dizziness, and respiratory problems if not addressed right away. The most common indoor pollutants are the following:

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Radon
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Indoor Particulate Matter

Of the list above, Carbon Monoxide is the most well-known. It is dubbed the “silent killer” because it is an odorless, colorless, highly toxic gas. Inhaling this gas can cause difficulty in breathing, nausea, headaches, fatigue, disorientation, and loss of consciousness which can lead to death. Because it is hard to detect without the use of special instruments, it is one of the causes of mortality for people sleeping inside their cars. Consider installing Carbon Monoxide detectors inside your vanhome to get a warning if this toxic gas is on a toxic level.

Radon is known to be a cause of cancer, but you can buy testing kits to measure the radon level inside your vanhome. Nitrogen Dioxide, Indoor Particulate Matter, and VOCs can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat and cause respiratory and lung problems. And if you are exposed to these harmful pollutants regularly and for a more extended period, you can expect much more severe complications to arise. The only way to keep the levels of the mentioned pollutants is to keep your vanhome well ventilated. 

Now, remember that molds can be added to this list if you often cook and shower inside your van.

The Mastermind Behind The Culprits: Sources Of Air Pollution

Many have started converting into vanlife because of the simplicity and compactness of living inside a van. The same reasons you pared down your life are also why you need to have proper ventilation installed. The small space where you live, breathe, and cook can be the perfect grounds for bacteria and other air pollutants to thrive.

There are some of the most common sources of air pollutants inside your van home. The first is the people inside the van since you breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon monoxide. You also move around and sweat in your van as well as exhale moisture-laden air that can lead to air pollutants. Most of all, you won’t always be smelling great and it can also cause air pollutants.

Aside from the people inside the van, stoves, heaters, fireplaces, chimneys, and even your ventilation system can be a cause of air pollutants. All of these are excellent sources of indoor particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide. Another factor is the cleaning solutions in your van which releases VOCs in the air when used.

Lastly, the stored fuel, hobby supplies, automotive products, aerosol sprays, and even your dry-cleaned clothing are sources of VOCs. Since you live in a small space, it is much easier for these air pollutants to reach high concentration levels. Ventilating your vanhome is the best solution to this dilemma.

You can air out your van by opening all the doors and windows to let out the fumes, stale air, and bad odors. At the same time, you are letting in the fresh air. But if you plan to live in your van full time, then having a ventilation system installed is a better option.

If you have a shower installed inside your van, you can add that to the list of air pollution causes inside your van. The moisture created when you shower needs somewhere to escape, and if you don’t have proper ventilation, you can expect molds and mildew to form. 

Getting the Right Van Ventilation: Everything You Should Know

Choosing a good van that has a ventilation system will use a combination of methods for the most efficient airflow. When your van is not airtight, then you won’t have proper ventilation. The dash vents, door, and the body should be sealed to provide an amount of fresh air into the van and this is not enough though.

Opening your windows once in a while can increase ventilation in your van. You don’t need to make any adaptations to your van so it is cheap and trouble-free to do. Now, it might not be the ideal solution at all times but it will definitely help out for you to get ventilation in your van.

Adding air vents in your van in strategic positions such as in the walls of your campervan will provide constant fresh air intake. It should also be placed on the bottom of the walls of your van which will help bring in the cooled fresh air. Placing vents at the top of the wall will allow the hot air to escape quickly and will provide great ventilation.

Before you start on your DIY van build, it is best to plan where you would install the vents. It will avoid placing vents behind your furniture as much as possible. Install roof vents over your cooker, bed, or both. You can also install vents in any indoor shower area. It will aim to extract all moisture before it condenses so make sure it is powerful enough.

Insulation can also help in keeping the best ventilation possible in your van. The following will talk about how much insulation you would need when it comes to your van build.

How Much Insulation You Need for Proper Ventilation

Now, the insulation would depend on where you plan to take your van. You will need better thermal performance when you plan to live in your van during the cold winter months. Your primary aim of insulating should be to reduce heat loss in the cold weather and keep the inside cool when it is hot outside.

The climate you plan to spend most of your time will make a huge difference when it comes to installing insulation in your van. Too much insulation is great for keeping the heat out for longer and also great at keeping it in during the cold days. However, this may be a huge problem when it comes to the summer season.

You can also use reflectix as insulation for you to achieve the proper ventilation in your van. If you want to know about insulating your vans with reflectix, here is an article that I have written for you. There are other ways on how you can provide proper ventilation in your van and make sure that you follow the tips that are provided online then, you are good to go.


Now that you know the air pollutants to watch out for and what or where they come from, you have a clear and precise idea of why proper ventilation is necessary for your van. It boils down to two simple reasons: to help you live comfortably and safely inside your vanhome. Your next step is to look for the perfect ventilation system that works for you. There are plenty to choose from, or you can DIY your own if none of the available products fits your style.


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