What Does Your Build Require?
Approximate amounts of wool needed to thoroughly insulate walls, ceilings, doors, cab, cracks, holes, channels and all those hard to reach spots of your van:
|Van Type||Coverage||Number of Bags|
|Sprinter 144||325 square feet||3|
|Sprinter 170||375 square feet||4|
|Sprinter 170 Extended||425 square feet||4|
|Transit 148||325 square feet||3|
|Promaster 159||325 square feet||3|
|Mercedes Metris||250 square feet||2|
|Chevy Express||250 square feet||2|
|Nissan NV||350 square feet||3|
We are an Industry Leader in Van Insulation Technology
- Condensation is inevitable, therefore moisture presents a serious challenge to long-term living.
- Space is confined, this makes air quality an elevated consideration.
- Vans can be loud; sound absorption is important.
- Vapor barriers may pose significant risks.
Consider what happens to your indoor air quality when you insulate with subpar insulating materials – particularly when surrounded by exhaust fumes. Optimally, you should have a chemical-free passive filtration insulating material that manages moisture and reduces sound.
Van Insulation Material Comparisons
Thinsulate seems to be a common van insulator, but does it actually work? Thinsulate’s marginal insulating properties are outweighed by its acoustical deadening ability. Wool is an insulator, but also outperforms Thinsulate when it comes to acoustics and sound deadening.
Rigid foam is not ideal: it’s flat – your van’s walls are not. The rigid foam and the glue used to install it are petro-chemical based products that shouldn’t exist in your van. They are bad for your indoor air quality and for the environment. These materials also produce a squeaking sound while driving.
Don’t bother with fiberglass insulation. When inevitable moisture finds its way to the insulation layer, fiberglass will slump – reducing rvalue, and create an environment conducive to mold growth.
Ditch the Reflectix. It is only effective with a consistent air gap. This material actually acts as a vapor barrier and is better suited for covering the windows in your van.
Why You Should Use Wool for Van Insulation:
Unparalleled Health & Safety
Know What You’re Putting Behind Your Walls
Whether you’re doing a sprinter conversion or you’re working on a VW bus, moisture control should be your central consideration. Condensation will form on the inside walls. This moisture will find a way into your van’s wall space.
This means that you need an insulator which actively manages moisture.
Fiberglass insulation releases fibers into the air. This is the last thing you want to breath in your confined space. Do you know what kind of chemical binders are being used in your insulation? Additionally, when Fiberglass insulation gets wet it slumps and becomes a breeding ground for mold.
Rigid foam may seem like a viable solution, but consider first that your van’s walls are typically curved. This means that installation will require adhesion with a toxic glue. Beyond toxicity, this medium is known to squeak when the van is in motion.
Thinsulate, originally designed as a acoustic buffer, is yet another marginal insulating material. Wool insulation actually has better noise reduction coefficients.
Passive filtration, mold resistance, moisture management, sound deadening – does your insulation do this? It should – wool does.
We Take a “Farm to Wall” Approach to Insulation
At Havelock Wool, we connect nature to our daily lives through our all natural wool insulation. Our “farm to wall” approach to insulation is revolutionizing how others think about the insulation and building materials that go into their living spaces.
According to the EPA, your indoor air quality is 2-5 times worse inside your home than outside. Consider the building materials that contribute to your indoor air quality in such a confined space as a van.
Living a healthy lifestyle starts with surrounding yourself with wholesome foods and frequent exercise – what if you applied this same practice to home building and van insulation?
Frequently Asked Van Insulation Questions:
Do you (Havelock) have any experience with van conversions?
Yes, we have a high-roof Sprinter 144 crew van. We fit it ourselves and are just now on a second round to enhance our experience. Note ours is more winter than summer given the passion to ski. Either way, we appreciate preferences vary and there is no playbook for how conversion should unfold.
Why should we use wool in a van?
This answer is both simple and complex. The former is easy – the alternatives are toxic garbage. Conversely, there is nothing like a wool fiber. Nature’s R&D department looks back some 10,000 years. Wool fiber has evolved to protect sheep from the elements – hot and cold; damp and dry. The same goes for your van. Wool inherently manages moisture against 65% relative humidity (see below for more), absorbs harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, NOx and SO2, crushes road noise and can be reused or composted (to grow award-winning heirloom tomatoes) should you choose to move into a new rig.
What does moisture management mean?
Simply put: to temporarily absorb excess moisture and then release it back into space when conditions change. Moisture in a cavity is inevitable, even an airtight one, given the simple properties of condensation and vapor drive. Taking its presence as a given, moisture needs an escape path. While in the cavity it can either be managed or degrade what it comes in contact with. If it is the side of your van, then rust enters the equation. If it is a sub-par material, then reduced efficacy and mold are both an issue. If it is wool, then you have a wildly dynamic fiber working in your favor. It will take moisture in when the ambient air exceeds 65% relative humidity. When those levels drop below the threshold, moisture is dissolved adding to temperature control and indoor air quality.
Do other insulation's manage moisture too?
NO! Cotton absorbs water and is treated with chemicals to be temporarily hydrophobic. Fiberglass acts like a sponge and then turns into a moldy science project gone bad. Cellulose is paper, attracts moisture and this too will become a moldy disaster waiting to happen. Rock Wool is laden with chemical binders and uses an absurd amount of energy to create the product while emitting particulate and harmful chemicals into our fresh air as part of the process. And it does nothing to manage moisture. Thinsulate do not absorb water, but then where does the water go? It collects in the bottom of the cavity. Foam will not absorb water either but instead forces the water into the cavity to collect and corrode. Wool absorbs and releases moisture – absorbing too much when it is present and releasing it back into your space when dry.
What is thermal bridging?
If a highly conductive material like metal reaches from the exterior to the interior of a building it will carry temperature differential in either direction. To simplify, think of a metal beam exposed to the inside and outside of a building. Now imagine cold wintry temperatures. The beam will carry the cold exterior temperatures within an inch (or finished wall thickness) of your living space and create noticeable cold spots. This is thermal bridging in its most simplistic form. Now fast forward to your van. The whole thing is a thermal bridge. Ideally, you will find ways to create a gap or thermal break between the metal structure and your finished wall.
What is condensation and why should I care?
Condensation is the conversion of a vapor or a gas to a liquid. It most often refers to the cycle of water. Think of it this way: you just bought a loaf of bread at a bakery and are sitting at a table having a coffee in the sun. The bread and the (plastic) bag it is in started dry; as it heats in the sun, suddenly there is noticeable moisture inside of the sealed bag. Say hello to condensation. This is one example of many for this occurrence. Now think of the environments you and your van are likely to frequent and you’ll appreciate the inevitability of condensation.
Also, we suggest you let condensation concern you more than road noise. In the space between your van interior and the walls, condensation will flourish. If you insert the wrong materials so too will mold. Exposure to whatever grows inside your rig is unhealthy at best and dangerous at worst.
What should I do with a vapor barrier?
Put it in the garbage. Condensation is inevitable and entirely unavoidable. Plan for escape routes not a feeble, misguided attempt at barriers.
How much insulation do I need?
Casting aside complexities, the easy answer is to say as much as you can fit in the space. The structure is a metal box; it changes temperature rapidly. Mitigating contact between the living space and the exterior elements is paramount to an enjoyable environment. Insulation will help dramatically and should be placed across the entire thermal bridge for the best results. That said, there is a chart with suggestions that draws from our experience in the space on the Havelock Wool #vanlife page.
Should I stuff every little hole (nook and Cranny)?
Yes, although time-consuming this is a terrific way to increase thermal efficiency and relieve your OCD tendencies.
How do I measure for insulation?
Keep it simple. Measure the area you plan to insulate (height and length) and take note of the average depth. Once you have the square footage apply the associated depths and you will have an idea for insulation needed. An average build uses 2-3 bags of batts. Any overage should be used for stuffing all the various holes, door panels, headliners, nooks and crannies.
What if I order too much?
That is a fair concern and easy for us to say, but assuming you have windows- it is rather easy to make Havelock Wool insulated blackout curtains. Also, there are so many places to stuff excess wool for more complete R value and especially sound attenuation.
What should I do in the walls, floors and ceiling?
Insulate each of them with wool. Our experience would suggest building the floor up slightly from factory specs to allow for extra insulation to reduce road noise and minimize a cold/hot floor depending on the season. Walls can vary based on the finish – panels or T&G. The same goes for the ceiling. Wool does well in all scenarios, it can just require varied creativity to keep the batts in place until the finished product is installed. Call us for ideas.
What thickness of batts do I use?
Everyone does it differently. However, we do believe that 2” batts are quite universal and can be peeled apart to create any thickness needed for the ever-changing thicknesses vans are known for.
Is reflectix a good product?
No. Well maybe if you put it outside your van or in the windows. It is designed to reflect the sun. It has no place inside for all sorts of reasons – not least it needs an air gap to work properly, which is highly unlikely to be consistent in a van.
I hear lots of people use thinsulate, do you have an opinion?
Yes, we do. Thinsulate was originally purposed in automobiles for sound attenuation. Wool is a better insulator and also better at minimizing sound. Thinsulate is certainly the lesser of other insulation evil mediums but similarly under-performing by comparison to our favorite natural fiber. Also, why would you want to support a chemical company like 3M? They are trashing our environment. 3M / Thinsulate pollutes groundwater Demand more from the companies you support!
Any thoughts on foam board or spray foam?
Yes. Why would you ever put a toxic, petrochemical-based material in a confined space? Foam is a nasty material that should be discontinued. It does not address moisture challenges, is unsafe to breathe, makes noise when driving and is likely to spend a few thousand years in the ocean once your van is re-purposed. Please use common sense and don’t use foam. Foam board is cheap! we get it. you may find that the lure of cheap materials is outweighed by the headache and time needed to install. Havelock Sheep’s wool is quick to install, you can’t get it wrong and is so much more effective in the real world environment of a van facing moisture challenges. Using 15 cans of “great stuff” to glue the foam board in seems very counter-intuitive to a healthy space.
What about sound deadening?
Wool has excellent sound deadening characteristics. You would be hard pressed to find a higher performing material for sound abatement. Noise reduction coefficients are out-performers when tested. Anecdotally we constantly hear folks telling us how quiet their vans become once the wool is introduced – note the ability to stuff wool in the headliner and voids indoors as a true difference maker.
What about air filtration?
Talk about a standout for wool. Other forms of insulation will emit something not good for you. Wool, conversely, will irreversibly bond with formaldehyde, NOx, and SO2. There is NO OTHER INSULATION material available that will provide this service to your space.
Do I need a fan?
Yes, if you are sleeping or cooking then you will want one of these. Again, you live in a metal box and it needs some ventilation.
I live where it is hot, will wool insulation still help?
The same principle applies for all insulation’s in hot or cold climates. It serves as a barrier for thermal transfer.
Insulation works both ways – keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. An additional benefit of wool: the release and capture of moisture will help modulate the temperature making you feel warmer in colder environments and cooler in warmer ones.
How do I install Sheep’s Wool insulation?
Easy. Use hugely versatile 2″ batts. They are fast and easy to install as they rip into “puffs” and can be peeled into thinner layers or layered to make thicker. Batts in walls, floor and ceiling and “puffs” in nooks and crannies. Also, don’t be afraid to be creative. A string can hold batts in place, you can stuff behind T&G boards or finished wall coverings as they go up. Said another way, we support creative alternatives over adhesives and other forms of ‘traditional’ methods.
Do I need to be concerned about insects?
No. We apply a minor amount of boric acid, which is all-natural and non-toxic, as an insect repellent. In addition, it is often the lanolin that attracts pests. Our wool comes from NZ where the most advanced scouring (cleaning) techniques in the world are employed to ensure a consistent, clean fiber is provided for our process.
Does wool insulation smell?
No. As noted above the Kiwis are the best in the world at cleaning wool. The smell is left behind after scouring.
How thick should my insulation be, how much should I buy?
Your insulation should be as thick as your build will allow. We typically see 2” batts used across the van. Some spaces more some less. There is a surprising amount of room in the headliner. Measure the square footage and note the desired depth; you will then know what to buy and how much. Each bag of 2″ covers 125 sq ft
Should I use batts and/or loose fill?
Use batts. They are versatile, meaning they can be used easily in any application. No chemical binders make for a pleasurable experience.
Where can I buy it?
At a distributor near you or on our website. Or come visit us at the shop!
What do I need to know about shipping?
Shipping is a nuisance. Havelock Wool Shipping is NOT a profit center. We use Fedex and pass on our costs.
We compress two 2″ batt bags into one big bag before shipment to help make the package denser/smaller and cost less to you. When you receive the bag please cut open the outer compression sleeve immediately and allow the wool to expand into the larger inner bag. The wool might need to acclimate for a day to regain its loft.