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If you have ever spent time in a van or RV during the hot summer months, you know that having a fan is essential. Not only is a roof fan needed but other ways to introduce a steady stream of air will add some extra comfort on hot days. While a fan is certainly a far cry from a proper air-conditioning system, it can make the van life experience much more pleasant.
Even when the weather is pleasant, a fan can help circulate air and make it less stuffy inside. I keep a few fans running in my van at nearly all times unless it’s wintertime. There are plenty of great fans on the market that come in handy and are small enough to be stored out of the way when not in use.
What To Look For in a Portable Fan
You may have a box fan or a pedestal fan at your house but you’ll need to consider something different for your van. There are few key areas of concern when searching for the perfect solution.
Low Power Consumption
A fan with low power consumption can be used off-grid as well as when you are plugged in. A typical solar battery bank provides plenty of power for nearly any fan but it’s always important to use as little electricity as possible when out on the road.
Being conscious of this when shopping for a fan will help you to stay cool and conserve power at the same time. USB fans are often the way to go if you are looking to use as little electricity as possible. However, finding the right balance between low power consumption and high airflow can be tricky.
There isn’t much room inside a van and having big fans sitting around will just take up that precious room. You’ll want to keep your fan as small as possible so it doesn’t get in the way more than it helps. You won’t need such a large fan since you’ll be in much closer quarters than you might usually be in.
Flexibility in Mounting
Rather than just sitting in the corner all the time, a portable fan in your van should be flexible enough to allow you to place it anywhere you need it. You may want it on the floor, counter, in bed, or even outside.
I love the sound of a fan and sleep with one nearly all year round just for that noise. However, the small living space of a van can make the fan noise sound even louder so you may want to consider this in your search. You’ll probably be pretty close to the fan at all times so a super loud fan may be more annoying than it’s worth.
Although not a portable fan, it’s worth mentioning the king of all fans for the RV lifestyle. A roof fan is the absolute best way to move air through your van. These are a must and are extra helpful when combined with windows. As an example, the Maxxair fan that I have installed in my van allows me to reverse the fan and pull air out. When the windows are open, it pulls a steady flow of air through the van and gives it a comfortable feeling, especially at night when the air is cooler.
I often use only the roof fan at night combined with an open window. Even on hot summer nights, the airflow that this creates can make me a bit chilly. When combined with other portable fans in your living space, you may find that van life can be more comfortable than you thought.
The following fans are some of the best that I have found during my searches. Rather than overwhelm you with a big list of fans to buy, I’ll only show you the best I have personally found from each of the categories below.
Best Portable Fan For Van Life
After the roof fan, a mountable fan is one of the best ways to add additional airflow. These can be mounted near where you sleep and pointed directly at you while you are in bed for the night. Many people mount these underneath cabinets or directly onto the wall. With each van layout being different, the mounting location is up to you.
The Caframo Sirocco II is by far the best mountable solution that I have found on the market. While you may initially balk at the price of this fan, it has some benefits to consider. First of all, it is a 12V or 24V fan that is ideal for the mobile lifestyle. The maximum power draw on the 12V system is 0.35A (4.2 Watts) on high speed. That’s nearly nothing and won’t be a problem for any type of electrical system in a van.
Another great feature of this fan is that it can stow flat against the wall or underneath the cabinet when not in use. Rather than having it hanging all the time, you can simply fold it up out of the way when not in use.
Once you are ready to use the fan, you can unfold it back into position. Additionally, you can rotate the fan at any angle to point in any direction you need.
This is a popular fan amongst RVers and Boaters and for good reason. It’s a useful fan that delivers great airflow without using a lot of electricity. It can easily be wired into your existing 12V electrical system.
If you want a more budget-friendly option, you may opt for a different type of hanging fan or a clip-on fan that can be mounted anywhere you choose. These types of fans will provide a similar experience but won’t be quite as elegant as the Sirocco II.
Floor Fan / Air Circulator
If you need something that can sit on the floor or a countertop and provide airflow, you’ll want something a bit different than the mountable option above. The idea with a fan like this is to move air around the van rather than pointing it directly at you. Sitting a fan like this on the floor and then pointing it towards the ceiling will move cooler air from the ground level around your van, creating a cooler environment.
I use the Honeywell Table Air Circulator for this purpose. It moves a lot of air and works perfectly for this solution. It’s an affordable option that doesn’t take up a lot of room.
The only downside I have found with this fan is that it uses more power than I’d like. On low, it uses around 34 Watts, medium uses 38 Watts, and the high setting uses around 44 Watts. However, if you have a shore power connection, this won’t matter and I usually find myself only setting it up when I am plugged up in a campground.
A USB fan will solve the problem of high power consumption but you may also find yourself struggling to find one that blows enough air. Many of the USB fans are so low-powered and small that they don’t make much of a difference. However, there are a few on the market that do a decent job.
I use a 9-inch portable desk fan that is flexible with its placement. There are times when I have it sitting on the kitchen counter and times when I have it hanging on my back wall pointing at me while I sleep.
The fan that I own uses very little power. On low, it uses 2 Watts and on high, it uses 3 Watts. However, it blows a decent amount of air and works great as a personal fan that can sit close by.
Portable Battery Powered Fan
If you want something that can be charged and then used anywhere you want, without cords, a battery-powered fan is what you are looking for. Like most other fan types, these come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and brands.
A portable battery-powered rechargeable standing fan is a great choice since they are useful in a variety of situations. The Elegear Fan can be charged and used for 4 – 10 hours, depending on the speed you use. This 11-inch fan provides a steady flow of air that can keep your living space cool and comfortable.
This fan also folds away easily which is great for the small environment of a van. When it’s ready to use, you can simply unfold it, place it where you need it and turn it on. If you need a breeze outdoors while grilling out and enjoying the day, you can bring it outside as well.
One would think that a fan would be easy to shop for but there are so many on the market that it can be a challenge to pick the winners from the losers. You need to consider your space and at what times you’ll need the fan most. You may find that you only need your roof fan most of the time but occasionally need some additional airflow from a personal-sized fan.
However, there may be other times that call for a strong airflow to ward off the heat. This list above should cover you no matter what you need and I have found comfort in most situations by using the combinations of fans I have recommended.
Whichever type you choose, be conscious of the energy it consumes and how it will affect your overall power supply. Home fans aren’t designed with low power consumption in mind and may not be the best choice for this lifestyle. You’ll want to stay away from these types of fans unless you have shore power available.