Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van Conversion: Installation and Real-World Data

Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van Conversion: Installation and Real-World Data

Here is our guide on insulating a van with 3M Thinsulate. The Thinsulate insulation, the EZ-Cool insulation, the insulated window covers, the Webasto AirTop 2000 STC air heater and the Maxxair Fan are the key elements to make our campervan conversion comfortable during cold winter days and during hot summer days. We’re happy to report that after living for more than a year full time in the van, the Thinsulate insulation is keeping us nice and warm at temperature down to -15F (-25C) and is keeping the moisture away even when drying our skiing gear! Perfect!


HEADS-UP: THINSULATE IS CURRENTLY ON SALE! 16% OFF THROUGH THE END OF OCTOBER 2019!

Thought we’d bring that to your attention 😉

 

Get it now on the Amazon Store or eBay Store.

(there is no mention of “sale” on Amazon or eBay, but the price shown is actually 16% less than the regular price)


 

How does our insulation performs? Please read “On Second Thought” at the bottom of this page! We have a thorough discussion about that 🙂

You might also be interested in these articles as they’re very related:

 

 

TIME SPENT ON THE JOB

16 hours

 

TOTAL COST

900$ USD

 


DISCLOSURE:

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant, we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not.

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Buying through our product links is the best way to say thanks if we were of any help for your conversion! Thanks for supporting us and for keeping this website alive 🙂

 

Alternatively, you can visit our Say Thanks! page.


 

 

MATERIAL

  • 3M Thinsulate (SM600L) Insulation, 70 linear feet (Buy on Amazon)
    • Note that we have the High-Roof, Extended-Length; you might need less than 70 linear feet if insulating a smaller van!
  • 3M 90 spray adhesive, QTY = 4 (Buy on Amazon, it should be around $10-$15 per can)

 

TOOLS

  • A good pair of scissor

Installing the Insulation in our Van

Notes:

  1. The floor thermal insulation is covered in our Floor Installation post. So let’s focus on the van walls and ceiling here.
  2. Our thermal insulation is comprised of Thinsulate and Low-E EZ-Cool. The Thinsulate installation is covered in this post while the Low-E EZ-Cool installation will be covered in Part II (wait for it…). 

 

As much as the decision to go with Thinsulate was difficult, the installation was an easy task:

  1. cut thinsulate to size (using kitchen scissors)
  2. apply 3M 90 spray adhesive to the van wall & on the white face of the thinsulate
  3. wait 30-60 seconds for the adhesive to become tacky
  4. press the thinsulate against the wall
  5. That’s all!
Insulation for Camper Van Thinsulate
Cutting Thinsulate (Buy on Amazon) to size

 

OVERHEAD STORAGE ABOVE DRIVER & PASSENGER SEATS

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-3_ps

There is about 1.5″ gap between the van ceiling & overhead storage, that’s perfect to insert some insulation in there. We did not use adhesive since the gap is about the same as the Thinsulate thickness.

No need to completely remove the overhead storage; we slightly lowered it a few inches to fit the Thinsulate as follows:

 

First, we removed both foam pieces on each side of the overhead storage

We used vise-grip and raw power to remove the pins (they were not damaged in the process and we were able to reuse them)

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-6-ps

 

Foam pieces removed

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-10-ps

 

Then, we removed the four screws (total) under the left-side and right-side handles

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-8-ps

 

Next, we unsnapped the three pins in the center of the overhead storage

To unsnap them, the overhead storage must be pushed forward. This is quite tricky, keep calm! Some people have damaged them in the process, but they can be glued back in place later…

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-4-ps
THREE!

 

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-9
BAM! (third one not shown in picture)

 

It is now possible to lower the overhead storage a few inches and install the Thinsulate

We used tree pieces of insulation to fill the gap: one on the left-hand side, one on the right-hand side and one in the center.

Insulation Camper Van above Headliner Thinsulate
Sliding-in the large Thinsulate center-piece

 

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-12
Sliding-in the insulation right-piece (left not shown…)

 

Reinstall the fasteners and VOILÀ!

 

 

CEILING

The challenge with the ceiling is to work against gravity. However it proved to be fairly easy for 2 people. We won’t go in details here, because there is not much to say…

Insulation Camper Van Thinsulate Cargo
Admiring the work in progress!

We left the Thinsulate as shown in the picture above for several months and we did not loose a piece. The 3M 90 spray adhesive is doing a great job!

 

 

WALLS

Large cutout were filled with insulation.

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-18
Applying the 3M 90 spray adhesive

 

We also filled the van cavities where possible.

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-2
Sliding the Thinsulate in

 

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-14
It’s in!

 

SLIDING DOOR

The plastic panel must first be removed.

The panel is fastened with several push pins. They are fairly easy to remove with a flat screwdriver, or you can do it with a push pin pliers.

 

push-pins
Pulling the tab will “unlock” the push pin

 

Since the sliding door is exposed to exterior elements, there is a plastic sheet to protect the door mechanism. The plastic sheet can be removed simply by pulling it; the goo should remained glued to it for later re-assembly.

Sliding Door Plastic Sheet

 

Thinsulate was then placed in the cutouts.

sliding-door-before
Before…

 

Insulation Camper Van Thinsulate Slider Door
… after

 

Then just reinstall the plastic sheet and the plastic panel.

 

 

Thinsulate Insulation Camper Van Ford Transit
We’re done with the Thinsulate!

 

EDIT: “We’re done with the Thinsulate”. Euh, no we’re not! We also added some under the passenger seat base (after installing the Webasto Air Heater) and to the driver and passenger doors (while upgrading the factory speakers).

 

ON SECOND THOUGHT…

We could go on forever about R values, thermal bridge, etc, but here are the real questions:

Q: How does our insulation solution (Thinsulate, EZ-Cool and Insulated Window Covers) perform in real life?

A: It’s GREAT! It does what it’s suppose to: keep us warm in winter, keep us cool in summer.

Q: If we had to start over, would we go the same route again?

A: Yes!

 

Now, here is a more thorough discussion:

Summer:

1- On a very hot and sunny day, the Magnetic Grey sheet metal of our Ford Transit is burning hot. The Thinsulate is warm-hot, but the wood paneling is warm-cool. It shows that Thinsulate alone is fine, but the finished van (thinsulate+ez-cool+wood paneling) is even better! (It might be wise to choose a van with light color if you are living in a hot and sunny region)

2- If the van is left in the sun without the insulated window covers, the temperature will increase beyond our comfort level (ventilation or not); if the window covers are installed, we can keep the van within our comfort level (with the help of the Maxxair fan).

 

Winter:

On any cold day, it’s possible to keep the van to our comfort level (66-68F / 18-20C) when running the Webasto heater. Below -18°C (0F), inside temperature starts to lower; for example at -30°C (-22F) the maximum inside temperature is 15°C (58F) which is actually not that bad considering how cold it is outside!

But what if we turn off the Webasto heater? Does our insulation solution will maintain the ambient temperature for a while? The answer is YES, if the insulated window covers are installed (if the window covers are removed, the temperature drop much faster AND it gets uncomfortable near the windows). In fact, we took the habit of turning the heater off when going to bed to turn it back on when we wake up (or use the MultiControl timer to automatically turn it on 30 minutes before we wake up). The temperature drop during the night, of course, will vary a lot with the outside temperature:

-Outside temperature of 50F (10C) in the evening dropping down to 28F (-2C) in the morning: the temperature inside the van will go from about 68F (20C) in the evening and will drop down to about 50-53F (10-12C) in the morning. (remember, we turned off the Webasto heater when going to bed)

-Below what outside temperature do we need to leave the Webasto heater running all night? We still don’t know, wait for it! We spent a week at -10F/-15F (-20 to -27C) last year in the Chic-Chocs (faroutride.com/chic-chocs-winter-wonderland-december-2016), but we didn’t have insulated window covers at that time and our insulation was about halfway done (no ez-cool), so we cannot draw real conclusions from that trip.

 

Conclusion

We can conclude that insulating a van is not only about Thinsulate, or spray foam; it’s about the combination of different items. In our case: Thinsulate, Ez-Cool, Wood Paneling and Insulated Window Covers.

 

About thermal bridge:

This photo was taken during the conversion without ez-cool installed; it means all the frames inside the van had no insulation on them:

ford-transit-camper-van-thinsulate-installation-19

It was a cold and damp morning (37F) and we were heating the van with the Webasto heater (55F). Note that there was condensation everywhere outside (on the van, on the ground, etc).

We observe that condensation remains where Thinsulate is installed, but this condensation is “evaporated” at the frame locations where there is no Thinsulate. This is because the frames are forming a thermal bridge for the heat to be conducted from the inside to the outside of the vehicle, thus providing enough heat for the water to evaporate. In other words, there is heat loss where there is no condensation.

We also observed inside the van that the Thinsulate is warm to the touch, while the adjacent “bare” metal frames are cold to to the touch. The Thinsulate is doing it’s job, the bare metal form a thermal bridge.

To minimize the thermal bridges, we will apply Low-E EZ-Cool to the “bare” frames (the wood finish will helps as well). The EZ-Cool is a closed-cell foam sandwiched between two aluminum sheets.

 

 

(Very) Related Articles:

 

 

 

 

 

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ABOUT US

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

 

 

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CHEERS!

 

 

 

73 thoughts on “Thinsulate Insulation for Camper Van Conversion: Installation and Real-World Data”

  1. I didn’t notice it mentioned anywhere in the article, but did you guys double-layer the Thinsulate anywhere in the transit? Seems that at least the wall panels are pretty deep with respect to the frame “posts” and that another layer would probably fit fine behind the (eventual) furring strips, although not sure if it’s needed/useful. We’ll also put the EZ-Cool in there eventually anyway so not sure it would make too much difference. We don’t plan on doing anything too extreme like your adventures in the sub-zero teens (we currently have a < 1 y.o. in tow, after all) but will probably use the van to post up in parking lots at ski slopes from time to time, so would like it to be as comfortable as possible in the above-zero teens 🙂 Thanks for all your awesome content!

    • We doubled it in the “cavities” on the wall, near the ceiling. We had some extra Thinsulate left I believe.
      If you go ahead and double it, just make sure not to compress it; it must be all expanded to be fully effective.

      Cheers!

  2. Hi! Thanks so much for being an excellent resource! You two have made my van conversion super smooth. I’m wondering why you didn’t insulate the back doors with Thinsulate or EZ- Cool. I’m curious if it will impact my experience in the desert for a week. What are your thoughts/ recommendations?

    • Because it was last on the “to-do” list and we just never did it haha 😉

      So we’ve been travelling without insulation in the back doors for the past two years down to -15F sometimes; you’ll be fine in the desert 🙂

      Cheers!

  3. Hi guys,

    Love the blog and all the data points! I was wondering how you measured that 70′ linear amount. I’m planing on the Ford Transit without the extended back, not a huge difference but if I can end up getting away with less that’d be better.

    Did you have a lot of the thinsulate left over? Did you end up just cramming it where it needed to be?

    • The amount was based on recommendation from others, pretty much. I just emailed the supplier (Hein) to ask him if he could provide a table with recommended amount for each van/length. Hopefully we get an answer soon!

    • We considered it, but we went for Thinsulate because:
      1) If not apply properly, spray foam can create “ripples” on the sheet metal (seen from outside)
      2) Spray foam is permanent, while you can remove thinsulate fairly easily
      3) Thinsulate is MUCH easier and cleaner to install

      That’s pretty much it. Here are all the material we considered and why: https://faroutride.com/insulation/

      Cheers!

  4. Hello! I was wondering how much you are supposed to buy for the transit high roof extended cab?
    which combination of what they have available on amazon equals 70 linear feet?
    thanks very much =]!

  5. Hi Antoine and Isabelle,

    Q on the van cavities in various places esp. near the roof line:

    Did you try to spray/glue the Thinsulate in, or did you just stuff them in like you did over the front overhead? And, so much room, did you ever do two layers?

    The access is so dodgy that it seems that pushing pre-glued Thinsulate in, it would just stick to everything/anything as you are pushing it in. Or maybe I am over thinking this, and it’s easier than I think.

    Cheers, and when will/did you tackle your new side window!

    Don

    • Hi Don,
      – We didn’t glue Thinsulate in the cavities. Like you said, it would be too hard to install!
      – We had some Thinsulate leftover, so we did double it in the upper portion of the walls (near the ceiling).
      – No heat wave so far this summer, so we haven’t feel obligated to add a window! Maybe later… 🙂

      Hope you’re progressing well in your conversion!

      • A&I,
        Thanks for the response.
        Re the conversion, I have some picts, I might send them by normal e-mail when I think my progress is not too embarrassing.
        -d

    • Do u need to minimize the amount of thinsulate you put in to get the loft to do the insulating or can you pack it in and the more the better.Thanks

      • To be fully effective, the Thinsulate should not be packed; it should be fully expanded. So you can add two layers if you want at some places, but don’t compress it.

        Cheers.

  6. Thanks for this amazing resource. I’ve referenced your posts many times during my build.

    I wonder if you have thoughts about the prospect of eventual removal of Thinsulate? I did testing with application and removal of Thinuslate and 3M 90 spray on my Transit cargo walls, and found the removal process to be *extremely* messy. I used WD40 and Goo Gone, both of which loosened 3M 90 considerably, but the process was very time consuming. It took 15 – 20 minutes to remove a 1 foot square test section of Thinsulate from a completely flat surface, and I think non-flat surfaces would be difficult. White side toward the metal is the way to go, though, and is defintely the easiest for removal.

    Although Thinsulate is mold resistant, I could see mold forming in nooks and crannies where separation between the wall and insulation occur months or years down the road, depending on conditions and ventilation. Currently, I am using Thinsulate for spaces that need no adhesive (beams, holes in walls, etc.), and polysio with insulation tape for wall and ceiling panels that can be easily removed (thanks to crossnuts!) for cleaning. I have cut Thinuslate to fit in areas that require adhesive, but haven’t installed them yet and would love to hear your thoughts!

    Thanks again for sharing with us! Love your site!!

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