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Beat the Heat: 1) Add Screens 2) Paint the Roof of Your Van 3) Buy a Fan

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Gloria and I know the REAL secret to stay cool in the heat: ICE CREAM!

Spring is here, and with it we are all thinking about how to stay cool in the heat. The temperatures here in the Prescott area have pushed up into the upper 80s and have been in the 90s in the van. So I thought it was time to post on how to beat the heat. This is a topic I have written about a lot and so I am not going to cover it all again. Instead I am only going to concentrate on three specific ideas. For many more ideas go to these pages:
A new friend, Gloria, just arrived in camp and needed some relief from the heat, and these are three of the steps she has taken which have made her much more comfortable. There are more pictures at the bottom of the post about painting the roof. In a later post we will cover how she insulated her van.
Roof-Heat-Screen1) The bugs are bad here so she covered all the windows that opened with bug screens so she could leave them open without getting bitten. Gloria found some very fine netting that was designed to keep out no-seeums so she bought it. She wanted to be able to take it on and off, so she used industrial strength Velcro to apply to around her windows. For the most part that worked very well, but she reinforced it with duct tape just to be sure.
My friend Charlene has a truly brilliant system of adding netting to her front windows. She bought the netting and sewed it into the form of a “sock” that fits perfectly to her front doors. She just slides them down over the door and the shuts the door. Perfection! But, you have to be able to sew, so it won’t work for everybody.

Here is basically everything you need: 1) tape 2) pan 3) roller 4) Kool Seal,

2) If you have a dark van, paint the roof white! Gloria has a dark green van and even though her van is well insulated it was still too hot inside, so decided to paint the roof white. We found all the supplies she need at Walmart and Ace Hardware. The total cost was $63 (plus tax):

  • ($15) She had some rust in the gutters of her Ford  extended van so she needed sand paper to sand it off, rust fighting primer to cover it and a cheap throw-away paint brush (she got it at Ace Hardware).
  • ($40) She bought 2 gallons of Kool Seal elastomeric paint to paint the roof with. (She started with one, but it wasn’t enough so she had to go back and buy a second.)
  • ($3) She needed one roll of the blue painters tape to prevent drips.
  • ($5) She bought a painting kit from Walmart with a roller pan, roller frame and cover.

It is really a pretty simple project:

  1. The first day she sanded the rust and carefully wiped it off. Next she applied the tape. Finally, she painted the sanded areas with the Rust Preventing Primer and let that dry for a day.

    I carry an 8 foot step-ladder for jobs just like this one.

  2. The second morning she thoroughly cleaned the roof and started painting it with the Kool Seal. It was apparent she wasn’t going to be able to get it on thick enough with just one coat so she decided to apply multiple coats. In some areas it was easier to just pour some of the paint right out of the bucket onto the roof and then spread it with the roller, but in others she needed more control so she applied smaller amounts from the pan to the roof.
  3. She let the paint draw overnight and applied a second and third coat the next two days. She just left the tape on the whole time and took it off when she was done. It turned out great! It looks reasonably good and dramatically reduced the temperature inside the van. Even during the hottest part of the day under full sun you can put your hand on the white Kool Seal and it literally feels cool to the touch. If you then reach down and touch the green paint you can’t even leave your and on it because it is so hot!!  It’s a miracle of modern technology.

Gloria’s Fantastic Fan hard at work!

3) One of the best and cheapest ways to stay comfortable in the heat is to use a fan! Gloria was fortunate that her van came with a Fantastic Fan powered vent already installed. She says that between painting the roof white and her roof fan she is staying very comfortable in the Arizona heat.
Powered roof fans work really well, but I prefer portable fans because they are more flexible. As I am writing this I am sitting on my bed and my fan is literally a foot away from my head turned on low. By being close I can set it at the lowest of three settings, saving power from my batteries. Later on if I drive into town I can plug it into the cigarette lighter of the van and aim it at me as I drive. In other words, because it is portable I can move the fan to where I am instead of being forced to sit underneath it.

My fan sitting right beside me. Notice that my hair is blowing in the “endless breeze.”

I have an Endless Breeze fan made by Fantastic Fan. It is the exact same fan she has on her roof, except it is in a portable housing and has a long cigarette lighter plug. Fantastic Fan makes some of the very best RV products and I have been using mine for many years. Above that, they have one of the very best reputations for customer service of any company in the RV industry. I’ve heard of people sending in their fans for repair and the company simply sends them a new one for free. They stand behind their product! They have a premium product but they charge a premium price! My Endless Breeze is $68 on Amazon.
Fan-Tastic Vent 01100WH Endless Breeze 12V Fan
If you need to add a cigarette lighter plug-in receptacle to your battery bank, get this one:
Roadpro 12V Battery Clip-On and Cigarette Lighter Adapter
And the roof vent is $132
Fan – Tastic Vent® Model 4000, POLAR
Both those fans are low draw, I know they draw 3 amps per hour on high so I assume they draw 2 amps on medium and 1 amp on low. With my 190 watt of solar power I have no problem with running mine all day. I turn it on at 8:00 am and it’s on all day until 8:00 pm: 12 hours a day. I like to keep the hot air moving out so it never accumulates inside. Generally it is on low, but sometimes I’ll turn it up to medium if it is getting hot. It works extremely well for me; so well that homer wants to come inside during the day because it is so much cooler inside than it is outside. Even cooler than the ground under the trailer!

Her Ford van has very deep windows making it easy for her to cut Reflectix to fit in them and then just press them in. They stay very well.

But what if you don’t have solar power like I do, how can you have a fan? O2 Cool makes fans that run on both 12 volt and D batteries. That way you can set up a house battery that charges off the alternator while you drive and plug the fan into that battery. But what if you don’t drive enough to keep your house battery charged? Buy one of those and rechargable D batteries and a charger for D batteries and you have many options for power.
O2 Cool Fans on
I am a huge fan of rechargeable batteries, the have improved to the point that they are very practical and save lots of money. Mostly I use AA and AAA, but I also have rechargeable Ds and they work really well.
8 pcs of Tenergy D Size 10,000mAh High Capacity High Rate NiMH Rechargeable Batteries
I’ve been using a Tenergy battery charger for years to charge all my cells, including Ds, but they have replaced it with an upgraded model. This is it:
Tenergy Advanced Universal Charger TN190-4 Channel AA/AAA/C/D/9V Ni-MH Charger with LCD Display and USB Power Outlet
Here is a battery charger with its own solar panel to charge four D batteries at a time. Just set it on the dashboard and it will charge your batteries.
Solar Powered Battery Charger Charges 4 D, C, AA and AAA Batteries
To recharge the D batteries without solar or a generator do this:

  • Have multiple sets of the Ds so you always have a full charged set ready to go in. Once one set runs out, put in the fully charged set and start charging the discharged set right away.
  • Put the charger in your purse or backpack and run just the cord out and plug it into a wall socket and recharge while you are at work.
  • Go to the library and put the charger in a backpack and plug it in at the library to charge.
  • Buy an inverter and charge them while you drive.

To use the fan in the van, place it close to you and aimed right at you. If it is really hot, get a quart spray bottle and mist yourself while the fan is blowing at you. Or, take a wash cloth and get it wet and wear it draped around your neck or head.
Walmart sells the O2 Cool fan at a good price, generally less than I think they are in the camping section.

The finished product looks great and really cools the interior. A roof vent is a essential if you can afford the loss of stealth. It allows you to leave the vent open in the rain, while driving and in the worst winds.

The finished product looks great and really cools the interior. A vent cover is essential if you can afford the loss of stealth. It allows you to leave the vent open in the rain, while driving and in the worst winds.

In some areas she poured the paint right on and rolled it, in others she used a brush or the roller and pan.

In some areas she poured the paint right on and rolled it, in others she used a brush or the roller and pan.


  1. Martin Hamilton

    I’m luck that I have a white van. It still gets really hot so the fan works great. I’ve found that cooling towels and a cooling bandanna soaked in water and wrapped around my head and neck work very well. They are made out of a new elastic fiber and can be found at Lowes and at Wal Mart. The temperature on them is 30 degrees less than the air around them due to evaporation. These and the fan feel like air conditioning!! That’ll cool your a.. off!! Thanks for the post Bob!

    • Bob

      Martin, I also have a white van and there’s no doubt they stay cooler. The new gel packs are also a really good idea. I know Walmart has them in the camping section.

  2. Kim

    Love the ice cream photo! Timely post for me. I’m here in Scottsbluff,NE on my way to the Rockies where it has been warm during the afternoon. I was just thinking that when it climbs to the 80s outside, it must be in the 90s inside. I have a Fantastic fan and, boy, is it ever! Fantastic I mean. I’m always amazed at how efficiently it cools the van down.

    • Bob

      Thanks, Kim. It’s odd how when you are out of town so much that a weekly trip into town and the SAfeway can turn into being like a day at the county fair. It’s just all so bright and busy. Even a simple ice cream is a delight. Made all the better when you are with 2 attractive, intelligent, vibrant (single) vandwellers like Judy and Gloria!

  3. marshall

    Fantastic vent is a lifesaver. Tried the shroud, but it did not work for me. With the fan off it just stopped air flow to a great extent. When it rains I open it to just a couple of inches and it works fine. I also use 12V computer fans (3 in parallel) on my side window that I can flip over to blow in or out using it as an exhaust when I cook. Works like a champ and looks cool, too! It really works great at night as it will pull in cool air from the other windows over us at way less power than the fantastic vent. Bought them at a used computer shop for $0.50/each.

    • Bob

      Marshall, I have heard other people say that about the Vent Covers, but I’ve never noticed it. I just like being able to open them in the spring and leaving them open until the first cold day of fall. But that is because I am really lazy!! I have two of them in the trailer, both have covers. The Arizona sun and desert wind will quickly destroy those thin plastic covers, so I tolerate some loss of air flow.

  4. Al Christensen

    As far as screens on the windows go, there’s this product.
    They shouldn’t be too hard to make oneself.

    • Bob

      Al, that’s a good find! They’d be perfect for boondockers, but because they go on the outside, I would be afraid of them being stolen in the city. They also might destroy your stealth. With a cargo van you could probably put them on the inside, but with all the plastic on passenger vans it would be complicated. They are $40 for my Express van.

    • Al Christensen

      I just noticed another page of the Skeeter beater site offering the materials to make your own version.
      No doubt there are other sources for the no-see-em mash and magnets. If I were to make a set, I think I’d use long strips of magnetic stuff in order to completely seal the edges.

      • Bob

        Al, the one problem is vans with lots of plastic on the doors and walls, there is no metal for magnets to attach to. But on cargo vans magnets work really well.

  5. Walt

    Bob, a less expensive (up front) option to the Tenergy D cells you mention would be to buy some of the Sanyo Eneloop AA cells and a package of the Enelook D spacers. We use more AA batteries than D cells in our home, but do occasionally need a larger battery for things like powering a portable stereo. This combination gives us the best of both worlds and for less money (C cell spacers are also available).
    The Eneloop batteries don’t hold a charge as long as the Tenergy batteries but are rechargeable hundreds of times (they advertise up to 1500 recharges), and they hold a charge for up to three years while sitting unused. Just a thought.

    • Bob

      Hi Walt, all my AA and AAA are Enloops and they are outstanding batteries!! However, the spacers only hold one AA and I really doubt that would give you enough voltage to even run the fan, and if it did it wouldn’t run for long. I have the spacers but have never used one, they just seem like a bad idea to me. On the other hand I have been very happy with the D rechargables. I have to admit though my Ds are from Harbor Freight because somebody gave them to me. I’ve been pleased with them in a Energizer lantern. They last quite awhile. When they die i will buy the Tenergy Ds.

      • Walt

        True that each space holds one AA battery, but then each space become a C or D cell battery. We use six of them to power a portable stereo, and they work just fine. Not sure how many D batteries your fan requires, but that’s how many spacers and ‘AA’ batteries you would need.
        We bought the AA cells because that’s what we use the most of, then bought the spacers to use with those AA batteries because every so often we need to power something that does not use AA batteries. In our case, it wasn’t worth buying another size battery for that occasional use. Your mileage may vary.

        • Bob

          Walt, apparently I underestimate the value of the spacers because several of you have written in saying how much you liked them. Thanks for the feedback.

  6. Charlene Swankie

    You just have a thing for women and rooftops, don’t ya, Bob!!! tee hee All kidding aside, good write up. I have photos online somewhere, my Facebook or Blog?? of my window screens. I would advise against anyone using tape in a van, in or around windows… as the heat will cause the adhesive to stick to the plastic (coming off the tape itself) and then you will have goo to mess with. The slip cover type screens I made, could be sewn by hand… and the camo screen material I got in Hunting Section at Walmart for about $35. My side door screens are also from Walmart, in the As Seen On TV section… for $10. They have magnetic pieces that hold the two sides closed… and are so cool. My back door screen is just one solid piece of plastic screen which I bought at Lowes or Home Depot.. and only goes across one of the rear doors, which is all I leave open anyway when weather is suitable. There gives me lots of options in managing not only bugs, but air-flow, by exhausting air out my Fantastic Vent Van. Close front windows and side door, and leave rear door open… I have a wonderful breeze across my bed. It is a system that is working very well for me.

    • Bob

      Charlene, you get the best views when a woman is up working on a rooftop!! Of course I mean the beautiful scenery all around the van and nothing else!! That’s my story and I am sticking to it!!
      An awful lot of my ideas and knowledge came from you Charlene. I still think you are one of the smartest and most inspiring vandwellers I’ve ever met! Everybody should go check out your story on my website:

      Also check out her blog–there is a link in her post.

  7. Dazar

    Hey bob, i was planning to paint my roof white. I grabbed like 7 cans of white enamel from the dollar general, they were like 1.20 a piece. Do you need a special paint for the roof? I figured this would work fine.

    • Bob

      Dazar, I am no expert on paint, so i assume that should work fine. Kool Seal is specially formulated to be used on mobile home roofs with 2 special goals. It’s flexible so it expands and contracts with the metal and it insulates to keep heat out. I honestly don’t know if any of that is true or not or is it just an advertising gimmick. I do know it last extremely well and it is astounding how cool it stays in full sun. It is very thick so you can just pour it on and spread it. After 3 coats, I bet it is an 1/8 th inch think on her roof.
      I’ve used it numerous times and have always been happy with it so I jut keep using it even though it costs more.

      • Dazar

        Hmm…think ill try the rattle cans for now, and see how they work out. Can always just repaint it later if it doesn’t.

        • Bob

          Dazar, I think it will work fine. I think the color is the main thing that works and white is white.

      • Scott_1776

        Can you paint fiberglass roof on a hi top for instance, with this product or is it meant only for metal roofs?

        • Bob

          Scott, I’m sorry I don’t know the answer to that. Next time I am in Walmart I will look at a can to see what it says.

      • Diane

        It’s my opinion that Kool seal is well worth the price. My last grooming van was a box van (white) and the roof radiated heat while I was working inside. I could not touch the inside of the roof for more than a second…was extremely HOT. One can of Kool seal solved this problem.

        • Bob

          That’s good to know Diane! I’ve never done a direct comparison so I am glad to know someone who has! Usually you get what you pay for. It costs a little more but it seems like it is well worth it.

  8. ILDan

    Bob-I’ve really enjoyed your last few posts. I use O2 fans in my Caravan (no air) and have been quite pleased with their battery usage. I’ve notice that while my larger is rated at 12V, it will run with half that.
    I have a small(cheap), dedicated solar charger which runs directly to the fan during the day…no battery drain. You’re right, it is so much easier and cheaper to keep the temp down all day rather than to try to bring the temp down 25+ degrees at the end of the day.
    Personally, I LOVE the D or C to AA adapters! Same voltage, but they charge faster and cost less. I understand that they’re not ideal, but boy can they save you in a pinch!! I always have AAs. I also like to use some Radio Shack parts to wire up a rechargable 9V option. Yes less voltage, but lots less weight. The computer fans are another GREAT idea for cheap airflow.
    As always, thanks for the effort on the site. I cannot tell you how I look forward to reading your posts. My body’s lack of cooperation forces me to “see” much of the world from my Barcalounger. And I think CheaperRvLiving is some of the sweetest “mind-candy” available!

    • Bob

      Thanks for that feedback IL Dan. Maybe I am not giving the AA to D adapters a fair shake. But since i already have the Ds I have not had any reason to use them.
      I’m really glad to help make your life a little better!

    • Bob

      CAE. it looks great on a van. For me the key thing is to have moving air hitting me directly. I would wonder it it was good for that. But I have never seen one so I don’t know.

    • dominoconsultant

      Particularly useful suggestion. thanks.

  9. Beth

    If it’s hot, you’re not high enough!

    • Al Christensen

      One of the great mysteries: you get closer to the sun but it gets cooler.

    • Bob

      of course you are right Beth. The summer I spent at 10,400 feet at Leadville was never hot!! But I am stuck here waiting for my new eBike to arrive. Fortunately it really isn’t hot yet, low 80s most days and we will move by this weekend. We go to Williams AZ next and it is at 7000 feet, so it will be cooler.
      But your new property isn’t that high is it, less than 8000? I bet it is going to get plenty hot there!
      Everybody should follow Beth and Forests blog, there is a link on hr post! I’m glad I do!

      • Beth

        We’re at 7800′ but I have legs, a Jeep, and 14ers around. 🙂

        • Bob

          No shortage of high country around Ridgeway! I think the Mt Sneffels area is one of my favorite anywhere.

  10. Al Christensen

    On one (or more) of your posts, Bob, you mentioned awnings when boondocking. They don’t need to be only over the side door. They could be on all sides, particularly over the front to block sun from the windshield. You could even attach mylar space blankets on top of the awnings

    • Bob

      Al, you are right there is no limit to what you can do. I have a friend who has a huge piece of mesh like a mosquito net and he drapes it over the entire trailer. He says it drastically reduces the temperature inside. Or if you have a ladder rack you can drape a very long tarp (30-40 feet)over the entire van and and 10 feet off all sides. The ladder rack would hold it off the van so air would circulate. In quartzsite you can buy white tarps that size. For poles I would just use PVC poles and cut them to the right height. The poles need to be big, at least 2 inches.

  11. Traveling Troy

    I love your paint the roof idea, though I have never been a fan of dark colored vehicles due to the heat they draw. I do think an all black van would really look cool and an all white van would be so boring, but I guess keeping cool is more important than keeping cool.

    • Al Christensen

      There’s a silver van for sale here. It’s tempting mostly because it’s not white.

      • Al Christensen

        (I should have specified that it’s a cargo van, not a passenger van.)

      • Bob

        al, I think silver is a great color, not as boring as white but not dark either. Cargo vans are easier to insulate and convert so that is a plus to me. A silver cargo van is kind of unusual too.

    • Bob

      Troy, being hot in a van is miserable!! So finding a way to be cool is my top priority! Much more important than “looking cool.”

  12. Diane

    how difficult is it to cut the 14X14 hole in the roof top to install a fan/vent? Is it better to pay a service place to do it????

    • Bob

      Diane, it really is not hard to do at all! The vent will come with a template that you set on the roof and use a magic marker to mark the hole. You just need a drill to drill a starter hole in each corner then a jigsaw to cut the lines. The hardest part is cutting the lining so it looks nice. Fortunately I have never had to do that!

      • Diane

        Thanks for the quick response Bob, There is no lining…just bare sheet metal. Once the vent is in, I will use either foam sheet insulation or the silver bubble wrap, and most likely use thin wood paneling over that. One more question for ya…I have a dome light with wiring right where I want to put the fantastic fan…I will ditch the light but want to tie into the wires, I don’t imagine that would be too tough…right??? Thanks Bob 🙂

        • Bob

          Diane, no, the light won’t create a problem, in fact it will make it easier by giving you an easy place to get power. Soon I will do a post on how my friend Gloria insulated her van and she did exactly what you are thinking of. She put a layer of reflectix next to the metal skin of the van, then a layer of styrofoam, then used Luan (also called doorskin) as a finishing touch. So far she is pretty happy with it.

  13. Steve N Zeke "Da Mountain Dog"

    Ok now where in the heck are you two eating that 1/2 gal of ice cream… And did ya finish it, cause none of us have a freezer…???
    Looks real good though, even Zeke is drooling…

    • Bob

      Gloria wanted a new container to use to wash her hair and the containers that chocolate syrup comes in was the perfect size and a dark color so it would get hot in the sun. So she bought one and was going to dump it out. We thought that was a terrible waste so we decided we might as well buy some ice cream and use it. So we went back in to Safeway and bought it and ate it in their little food court. Not even we could eat it all so Homer and Rochelle (Glorias dog) got the rest. They were very happy dogs!! Too bad you and Zeke weren’t there!

  14. Blars

    Fan-Tastic charged me $13 shipping for a new lid on my 17 year old vent, almost has much as the replacemet lid for the low-quality vent in my bathroom. The RV parts places do not stock them as they cannot compete with “free”, and charge $36 to special order one. Since I was migrating north I did not have a place to send it to for over a month, and it almost missed me at my permenent address. I was using a trash bag taped up to plug the hold for a couple of months, including several rain storms. Fortunatly I got it installed before I had 2 inches of snow on my roof. (The places we go for a job.)

    • Bob

      Blars, sounds like you are another satisfied Fantastic Fan customer. of course that $13 probably covered the cost of shipping AND their cost of the cover. But it is still good deal for you. have a great season!!

  15. dave

    great series of posts Bob, your hitting them out of the park!
    In the southwest, don’t forget about evaporative cooling. The mighty kool “swampys” or the turbokool roof mounted rv evaporative coolers are also options though they are pricey, and use a lot of water, obviously. Some people use a fantastic fan as an evaporative cooler, put it on exhaust, open one window and put a water soaked sham wow (with some extra ventilation holes cut in it)or a piece of cooler pad in it. You’ll have to continually add water to the pad somehow, an IV bag on slow drip with holes cut in the line would be one method.

  16. Gloria

    Thanks, Bob, for this thorough and great post! It’s a privilege to share camp with you and the crew. I really have appreciated the guidance along the way to bring me to a full timer.
    So far my screens are working out great. I did try strip roll out magnets first – FAIL! So, I chose the velcro method. If I run into the adhesive turning to goo, I’ll probably try Charlene’s sewing method. Would be tough for me, but, I’m sure I could hand-sew if I put my mind to it. Perhaps the industrial strength velcro won’t turn to goo after all, is my hope. I’m a newbie, so, bound to not get things right the first time. Another thing I’ve recently learned after the fact is using really strong round magnets. That would mean I’d have to apply A LOT of them and only from the outside. I really enjoy the luxury of having the screens on the inside because I can just leave them up through the summer all the time and still close the windows with them still on. I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving them up on the outside going 60 mph.
    So, here’s to an exciting summer with Bob and crew! Cheers all!
    Thanks everyone for your input on here!

    • Bob

      My thanks to you Gloria for sharing your learning experience!

  17. Chrispy

    I am guessing that a shiny metallic paint will be much cooler than white, but I’m not seeing people talk about that. I’m also considering chrome vinyl film on the roof. Closest you can get to mirrors would be ideal. Can anyone comment?

  18. Thomas The Vinh

    Martin, I often use plasti dip for my car. Plasti dip is more flexible and remove plasti dip more easier.

  19. Ana

    Bob Love your photo with ice cream I really feel taste your ice cream as your impression…

  20. Zoom Visual

    Zoom Visual offers a wide array of LED display screens, Digital Touch Screen & Outdoor Video Wall in Singapore & also provide digital signage with QR code.

  21. Lauren Pham

    When it comes to applying the roofing material, you will find that you have several choices available to you. Use RV Roof Magic and see just how much better they can make your roof. It is highly reflective to reduce surface temperature and cooling costs of your RV.

  22. James

    Thanks for sharing so wonderful tips.
    Nothing like keeping cool in summer, good insulation and a fan are essential.

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