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Fitting MaxAir Fans, Windows and Solar Panels

Fitting MaxAir Fans

One of the most nervous jobs was having to cut the first hole in the structure of the van for the MaxAir fans. I decided to fit two; one at the front and one in the back sleeping area. This would allow a flow of circulating air and keep the condensation to a minimum. On researching fans, MaxAir seemed to be the best.

The process involved cutting a hole, sealing the raw metal edges, bonding a wooden frame to the inside of the hole and fixing and sealing the fan into place. Then connect the pre-installed 12v feed and test! Sounds easy but when doing it for the first time it's good to take your time at each step because you don't want to have to do any alterations after it's installed – for instance if there is a leak.

Both MaxAir fans fitted
Both MaxAir fans fitted

One of the main things when cutting holes in your van is to ensure that you capture all of the filings because these very quickly turn to rust. I taped a polythene bag underneath the area I was cutting out to catch any filings and made sure I hoovered any remaining that were inside or outside the van.

First thing to do is mark the hole on the panel to cut. Drill out the corners and then, using a jig saw with a steel cutting blade, run round the rest. I tape the area being cut out in order to stop it from falling – I did this too for the window cut outs. Then seal all the exposed edges with a suitable paint.

Make a wooden frame the size of the hole and using a strong adhesive like Sikaflex 552, bond the frame to the ceiling of the van. On the roof of the van go round the edges of the hole using a malleable mastic. Insert the MaxAir fan ensuring it has been sealed using a good waterproof adhesive suitable for external use (again something like Sikaflex 552) and screw the fan down into the wooden frame. Seal the screws with Sikaflex – there's a theme here!

Installing Windows

Essentially installing the windows and fans is the same process except the windows are more visible and therefore more care has to be taken in terms of lining them up. I decided to install four windows – two small ones in the sleeping area and to larger ones in the forward area. There are many different types, sizes and prices. I decided on Dometic Seitz simply because they were self-contained and had built in fly screens when opened.

The first stage was to remove the metal struts on the panel with a grinder that will house the window. These are not structural but are for reducing vibration and therefore noise. Be careful not to pierce the outer panel. I created an area around the cutting area to stop the filings flying and ending up in the cavities about and hoovered them up them up.

It's important to note that if you are fitting two windows to one side of the van then you should ensure the lines they "hang" from are parallel. So think of both windows when fitting the first. Draw on the exterior of the van where you wish to cut out. Drill holes at each corner and with a jigsaw and an appropriate blade cut out the hole. Tape over the panel that will become free to stop it falling in or out. Once the hole is cut seal the raw metal edges with an appropriate paint.

Build a frame and bonded to the interior and then fix the window ensuring there is a good seal all round. It's important to remember that the thickness of the wooden frame will have a knock on effect when fitting the internal fascia of the window.

If you are fitting a window to the side door the internal facings can be quite tricky and I'll cover this in another blog and remember to allow for your ply plating that is still to be applied when complete the internals – more on this later.

Solar Panels

This stage involves bonding the panel mounting brackets to the roof, wiring up your panels in either series or parallel and feeding the cable through the roof down to your solar charge controller through a cable entry gland.

The panels use specific wiring and attachments and a hole has to be drill in the roof where a cable entry gland is bonded which stops water ingress.

Depending on the voltage/amps you wish going to your solar charge controller you wire up your panels as series or parallel – series adds the voltages of each panel and keeps the amps whilst parallel works the other way. You can of course mix series and parallel and you should search on the web for a fuller explanation of the pros and cons.

You also have different types of PV panels which vary in wattage, efficiency and of course price. There are ways of working out how much PV you'll need and how much battery storage (AH) you require and this is also available to view with a search on the web. I have 450W and 480AH since Scotland in the winter doesn't have a lot of sunshine.

I loosely fitted the mounting brackets and panels on the roof and drew round the brackets. You can screw the brackets down but this puts more holes in your roof. You can just use a strong adhesive bond to secure them to the roof but ensure you have enough brackets to ensure they stay secured. The last thing you want is to be driving along and the panels to fly off.

After they are secured simply fix the panels to the brackets with screws and run the cables through the entry gland and down to the solar charge controller.

WARNING: Once the panels are connected together they are generating electricity so beware. I fitted connectors on the roof wires near the entry gland so that I could disconnect the panels until I had completed the rest of the electrics.

Next stage: electrics and plumbing


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