In episode 3 of “Building Dory,” we install the solar panels on the roof as well as an awesome ceiling fan/ skylight and some more well-needed ventilation in the van.
We are building a completely self-sustained off-grid home, so the solar energy system is really the heart of our build. Figuring out how much power we need and what kind of system to get was quite a process of its own, so we will do a dedicated video with all the details on that soon. Here we cover the first step, installing the big solar panels on the roof, always a bit nerve-wracking since it involves making holes in the outside of the van.
We wanted to put our panels as far back of the bus as possible to leave room in the front for our fan/ skylight as well as a potential future roof rack. We are also hoping the panels will provide an extra layer of sound insulation over the bed where we sleep, because to be honest, even with insulation the fiberglass high-top shell acts a bit like a drum when it rains. The two 160W panels fit perfectly and the installation, though a bit stressful, went smoothly. We are super excited to see the panels up and they are working beautifully charging our house battery! More on this later on in the series.
Ventilation, in combination with good insulation, is an important step of any van build. Not only does it keep the van cooler in the summer, but it also helps with condensation issues, creating a more pleasant living space.
Improving airflow will help keep condensation down and rust or mold problems at bay. We have a lot of windows in our van, but none of them open, so they rather add to the problem more than anything. We do love the views and natural light they provide however so we are willing to work with them rather than close them off. To provide adequate ventilation we chose to install a ceiling fan/skylight towards the front of the bus and a couple of air vents in the back to help circulate the air throughout the whole space. We found some really cool marine vent covers that slide open or closed so we can control the vents at will.
We chose the Fiamma fan for a few different reasons, but primarily because at 28 cm it is a bit smaller than the standard 40 cm camper fans and would be a better fit in between the ribs of our high-top roof. Another nice feature is that this vent provides permanent air flow, even when the fan is off and skylight is closed, and we can also choose to draw air in or expel it out with the flip of a switch. This feature is especially nice when we are cooking in the van and another reason why we chose to install the fan in the front of the living space, right behind the kitchen. It is not the quietest of fans mind you, but we will most likely use the skylight more than the fan, so we appreciate the bug screen included.
The build is progressing nicely and it is starting to pick up speed now! We cannot wait to show you what is up next… a beautiful vinyl floor, lights, stereo, and the furniture is starting to come together too. So stay tuned!